UTNO Endorses Highly Qualified Candidates for Orleans Parish School Board

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    AFT Local 527, the United Teachers of New Orleans, takes every election seriously. UTNO’s core values are education, democracy, and justice—all of which converge on election day, particularly for school board elections. The decisions made by school board members can shape the landscape of this city’s system of schools to improve the quality of education, give school constituents a greater voice, and ensure that all students are treated justly, celebrated for who they are, and provided equitable pathways to success after graduation.

    Every cycle, UTNO invites candidates for the school board to be interviewed by a committee of union members. Questions are developed by the committee and the same four questions are asked to each candidate. Based on these interviews, the committee makes recommendations, which are then considered by both the Executive Council and the general membership. UTNO is proud to announce the candidates its members have endorsed for the 2020 Orleans Parish School Board election.

    Long before he stepped up to serve as a school board member for District 1, John Brown earned the respect of teachers and students in his long education career, starting as a special education teacher and ending as a principal. As a school leader, he sought and found a productive relationship with UTNO. He has continued to show leadership on the Orleans Parish School Board, where he has pushed to make charter school boards more democratic. He continues to listen to school constituents, noting, “I anticipate that the pandemic will not have a down trend, so I will advocate to continue online school to keep teachers and students safe.” John’s campaign website is johnbrownforschoolboard.com.

    Dr. Chanel Payne brings a wealth of experience in education to this race. As a teacher, literacy specialist, interventionist, and administrator, she knows firsthand the challenges our schools face. As the most qualified candidate for District 2, she believes school board members should be hands-on and actively engaged with the schools they oversee; “the position should be taken seriously to ensure that students are educated effectively, treated equally, and are safe and secure in our schools.” She stressed the need for culturally relevant pedagogies, noting that too many resources are not designed to serve the students our schools serve. Dr. Payne’s campaign website is drchanelmpayne.com.

    Born into a family of teachers, Olin Parker took up the calling himself and eventually moved into an administrative role at the Louisiana Department of Education, where he witnessed the consequences of schools that were not serving the needs of students with special needs. As a parent of children in charter schools, he knows firsthand the difficulties parents face with a decentralized system of autonomous schools. His candidacy for District 3 is focused on a “quality education, which is academically rigorous; recognizes and values students of all backgrounds; ensures appropriate curriculum and services to kids with special needs; provides excellent extracurricular opportunities; and values the history and perspective of students of color.” Olin’s campaign website is olinparker.com.

    Algiers native Winston “Boom” Whitten, Jr. has dedicated his career to serving students with special needs, first as a paraprofessional and then as a teacher. He cares deeply about the students and parents of District 4 and looks forward to serving them—and their counterparts across the city—as a member of the Orleans Parish School Board. Working in schools, he’s too often seen students of color face harsher consequences than their counterparts. “I would like to see that change,” he says. “There is a lack of the use of empathy in our schools.” He’s also concerned about the OneApp and the confusion it causes families. Boom’s campaign website is everybodyvote4boom.com.

    Antoinette Williams is the only candidate in any of the races for school board who has experienced being a student in New Orleans charter schools. As a student, she saw firsthand how the current system works for some students and not for others. Those persistent inequities continued to trouble her after she graduated McDonogh 35 as valedictorian, so she’s focused her college studies on education. She’s worked with New Orleans Public Schools and InspireNOLA to ensure that students’ voices are valued and heard. Her election as District 5 representative will bring a powerful—and much needed—voice for students throughout the city to the school board. She says, “We need to ensure that each charter is providing a real, quality education to their students.” Antoinette’s campaign website is antoinettefor5.com.

    As a parent and former teacher, District 6’s David Alvarez appreciates the creative solutions teachers must constantly find to meet the needs of all students in every situation, with the remote learning of the pandemic at the top of his mind  David has worked in the service of young people for his whole career, both in schools, as a counselor, and as a consultant. He’s also helped organize and secure funding on behalf of Latinx families in New Orleans. His insurgent campaign against a dynasty candidate in 2016 nearly put him on the school board then. Never one to walk away from a challenge, he is back on the ballot again this year, noting, “It is a travesty that our community has an educational system that is governed on paper but not in practice by our school board.” David’s campaign website is electdavidalvarez.com.

    The name Nolan Marshall is well known to generations of New Orleans who attended public schools. Nolan was in the business of making memories. His work supporting yearbooks and selling class rings brought him into many schools and he developed many, lasting relationships with teachers and administrators. As a school board member for District 7, he’s been raising a wide variety of concerns for years. “Funders believe that quality education is passing tests and getting kids ready for college or career, but it’s much more than that. Too many kids get out of school without a sense of their own identity.” He knows that school board members must work in communities to forge solutions, such as stronger PTOs and broader coalitions of stakeholders in our schools. Nolan’s campaign website is https://www.nolanmarshalljr.com/

UTNO represents the collective voices of teachers, paraprofessionals, clerical workers, school counselors, social workers, nurses, and coaches at schools across the city of New Orleans. Through a fair, democratic process, its members have chosen to endorse the above candidates in their races for the Orleans Parish School board. When elected, these candidates will work hard to serve the students, parents, and school employees of this great city. UTNO encourages support for these knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated individuals when voters cast their votes this fall.  Early voting is October 16-27, excluding Sundays, and election day is Tuesday, November 3.