November 8th was an important day for our parish and state. Many of our public officials were up for election or re-election, including all nine seats of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.

We are pleased to share that five of the seven school board candidates endorsed by students, teachers, parents, and community members won their election or a spot in their district’s runoff! This is very promising for the future of East Baton Rouge Parish Schools, and we know that EBR is on the Rise! These five endorsed individuals believe in expanding access to quality early education, improving school safety, passing policies to ensure there is a quality teacher in every classroom, and that a child’s future should never be determined by their zip code. These candidates ran clean, positive campaigns focused on our most important resource: our students.

District 1: Incumbent Mark Bellue defeated challenger Dr. Kimberly Bainguel by a narrow margin. Mark’s return as a quiet and steadfast leader will be important as the district continues to implement its student-centered strategic plan.

District 2: Incumbent Dadrius Lanus defeated challenger Vereta Lee with a landslide 66% of the vote. Dadrius is a champion for equity in our district, and we look forward to his continued service in support of students across District 2 and the whole of East Baton Rouge Parish.

District 4: Shashonnie Steward will be in the December 10th runoff against Monique Wicks Robinson. District 4 is an open seat (no incumbent running) and in the November 8th primary, Shashonnie secured 47% of the vote to Monique’s 28%. Some of Shashonnie’s most exciting ideas including bringing a dedicated Pre-K facility to District 4 and continuing to build on the district’s efforts to improve workforce readiness opportunities for all students.

District 5: Challenger Cliff “Coach” Lewis defeated incumbent Evelyn Ware-Jackson with 54% of the vote. Coach Cliff worked incredibly hard throughout his campaign to ensure every District 5 voter heard and understood his vision for EBR students: one that uses his experience as a Coach to unite schools and families toward the common goal of supporting and educating our students.

District 7: Incumbent Mike Gaudet will face challenger Cathy Carmichael in the December 10th runoff. Despite false negative ads attacking Mike’s character in the last days and weeks of the election, he stayed laser-focused on the facts and his undeniable student-centered track record. We will continue to support Mike in the runoff because his experience with balancing the district’s budget, level-headed and student-focused approach to every issue, support for teacher pay raises, and unwavering commitment to expand access to quality early education are too important for our district to lose if we are to keep EBR on the Rise.

Now, we cannot let off the gas. Two Stand-endorsed candidates are in runoff campaigns. They have another four weeks of campaigning until the December 10th runoff. We believe Shashonnie Steward and Mike Gaudet will be important members of the school board and we will continue to elevate their student-centered platforms and support their efforts.

Thank you, Baton Rouge, for showing up for students. We are inspired by the opportunities ahead of us.


To learn more about the good things going on in EBR and what’s still coming, please visit

If you have questions about how, when, or where to vote in the run-off, please visit the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Geauxvote webpage or the GeauxVote app.

If you would like to donate in support of the two parent-, student-, community-, and teacher-endorsed candidates who are in runoff races, please click here.


October 29, 2022

Contact: Brigitte Nieland

Phone: 225-603-5668

Email: [email protected]


Educators from across the state selected to hone their skills as advocates for students and teachers.

(BATON ROUGE) – Stand for Children Louisiana announced today the selection of its 2022-2023 Foundational and Advanced LEAD Fellows. The LEAD Fellowship is a six-month experience that allows education professionals to work together to hone their craft, study education policy, find and elevate their voice, engage with local and state policy makers, and advocate on behalf of all students. In its eight years of operation, more than 130 educators from across the state have completed the program, many returning for multiple years. This year’s application and selection process was the most competitive to date.

“The LEAD Fellowship has equipped well over 100 of our state’s most effective educators with the information, tools, and connections they needed to take their work beyond the classroom and positively impact the processes and policies of our state’s education systems. The LEAD Fellowship allows Fellows to identify issues they want to influence, then empowers them to study the issue and address it as they see fit,” said Stand for Children Louisiana Executive Director Carrie Griffin Monica.

“If one cares about the educational success of students in our state, joining the LEAD Fellowship is a must,” said 2021-22 Foundational Fellow and 2022-23 Advanced Fellow Yulinda Marshall.

For the second year, the LEAD Fellowship will be facilitated by Kimberly Eckert. Eckert was the 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year and currently serves as Dean of Undergraduate Studies for Oxford Teachers College at Reach University and is an employee of West Baton Rouge Schools where she serves as the Educators Rising Instructor & Innovative Programs and Instructional Coordinator. Eckert is deeply committed to building educator networks across the state, elevating educators’ voices, and ensuring educators are involved in every education-related decision being made in our state.

“I am continually impressed with the dedication, passion, tenacity, energy, and strength shown by the LEAD Fellows. I am a firm believer that teachers and students can do anything they put their minds to, and I truly believe this year’s Fellows are capable of making truly impactful student-centered improvements to our state’s education system,” said Eckert.

This year’s LEAD Fellows are:

  • Ssb Becnel, 2nd Grade Teacher, Orleans Parish
  • Shalonda Berry, PreK-6th Grade Principal, Avoyelles Parish
  • Justin Broussard, 6th-8th Grade Teacher, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Anna Cain, Secondary Science Teacher and Department Head, Morehouse Parish
  • Tammy Chaffin, Librarian/Technology Coordinator, Livingston Parish
  • Tyler Colson, 6th Grade Educator, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Dannon Dauzat, K-6th Grade Instructional Coach, Avoyelles Parish
  • Timberly Deville, LANG Education Programs, Rapides Parish serving Louisiana
  • Nagham Elbizri, 6th-8th Grade French and Math Teacher, Jefferson Parish
  • Ashley Everett, Educator & Senior Program Manager of Adolescent Health, Orleans Parish
  • Breanna Guidry, 9th Grade Teacher, West Baton Rouge Parish
  • Lyn Hakeem, School Board Chair, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Tara Henderson, Assistant Principal, Tangipahoa Parish Schools
  • Teran James, 6th Grade Teacher, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Paula Johnson, 8th Grade Teacher, St. John the Baptist Parish
  • Brandi Lee, 3rd Grade Teacher, Avoyelles Parish
  • Daven Lewis, 8th Grade Teacher, Jefferson Parish
  • Rachel Little, 9th-12 Grade Teacher, Orleans Parish
  • Alayna Maberry, 3rd-4th Grade Interventionist & MTSS Coordinator, Orleans Parish
  • Vasy McCoy, PreK-8th Grade School Director, Orleans Parish
  • Jessica Netterville, 9th-12th Grade Librarian, St. Tammany Parish
  • Carla Powell, 9th-12th Grade Teacher, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Lisa Staples, Former Pre-K and K Educator and Current Mental Health Program Administrator, Orleans Parish
  • Anthony Turner, 10th-12th Grade Teacher, Pointe Coupee Parish
  • Dr. Turner Keller, K-12th Grade Teacher, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Raven Veal, English I Virtual Educator at University View Academy, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Sabrina Washington, 9th-12th Grade Teacher, Avoyelles Parish
  • Gretchen Wiltz, 1st-4th Grade Teacher, Zachary Community School District
  • Erikka Wishom, Head Start-2nd Grade Principal, East Baton Rouge Parish

For the second year, we are proud to also share the 2022-23 class of Advanced LEADers who are returning to the Fellowship to continue their advocacy journey and further elevate their collective voice to improve education throughout our state. Advanced LEADers will leverage what was learned during foundational years of the LEAD Fellowship to gain more in-depth understanding of the Fellowship’s three areas of study: Literacy, Quality Schools for All, and Juvenile/Criminal Justice.

“This is one of the most educationally invigorating programs I have ever been involved with,” said 2021-22 Advanced Fellow Lovie Howell.

The 2022-23 Advanced LEAD Fellowship will be facilitated by a team of education advocates, from left to right: Khalil Roy, Educator, Avoyelles Parish; Faten Ahmad, Educator & Adjunct Professor, Jefferson Parish; Hollis Wilson-Davis, M.Ed.-Asst. Principal, St. Mary Parish; and Keonte Wells, Educator, Avoyelles Parish.

“Some of our Advanced Fellows have been with us since 2016, challenging us to grow and adapt our programming to serve them and their experience,” said Executive Director Carrie Griffin Monica, “and we have seen some truly incredible projects and results from these exceptional educator advocates.”

This year’s Advanced LEADers are:

  • Kelsye Baudoin, K-5th School Librarian, Lafayette Parish
  • Melissa Bordelon, 1st Grade Educator and K-2nd Literacy Content Leader, Avoyelles Parish
  • Wiley Brazier V, Professor & Consultant, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Kristen Bruce, 7th-12th Grade Teacher, Vernon Parish
  • Robyn Butler, English 1 Teacher and ACT Prep, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Dr. Suresh Chiruguru, 9th-12th Grade Teacher, Peer-Coach, Mentor, & Teacher Leader, Calcasieu Parish
  • Keisha Fleming, 4th-5th Grade Teacher, Iberville Parish
  • Marian Jackson-Scott, Former Teacher, St. Landry Parish
  • Jennifer Kelly, The Center for Literacy and Learning, Ouachita Parish supporting Northeast Louisiana
  • Yulinda Marshall, 6th-12th Magnet Site Coordinator and 9th Grade Dual Enrollment Facilitator, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Dr. Tiffanye McCoy-Thomas, PhD – Curriculum Content Supervisor, East Baton Rouge Parish
  • Nicole Nelson, Consultant and Instructional Coach, Caddo Parish supporting Louisiana
  • Karen Parrino, K Teacher and Coach to K-3rd Educators, Livingston Parish
  • Dr. Tonya J. Rose, Dean College of Education and Human Development at Southern University at New Orleans, Orleans Parish
  • Victoria Rosser, Educator and Educator Consultant, Orleans Parish
  • Mary Elizabeth Thibeaux-Clay, 9th-12th Career and Technical Education Administrator, St. Martin Parish
  • Lauren Trahan, 10th Grade Teacher and Administrator, Vermilion Parish
  • Jennifer Underwood, Assistant Principal, Calcasieu Parish

The LEAD Fellowship kicks off in November and will conclude in April for both Foundational and Advanced LEADers. To learn more about Stand’s LEAD Fellowships, please visit To be notified of future application deadlines, please complete this short interest form.

About Stand for Children Louisiana
Stand for Children Louisiana is a unique catalyst for education equity and racial justice, to create a brighter future for us all. For more information, please visit


The current discussion in Baton Rouge is largely centered on the budget for the 2022 – 2023 school year, which will be adopted in the next few weeks. To get a better feeling for community desires for our education system, Stand conducted a poll of 1,823 likely general election voters in EBR. The poll was conducted in May of 2022 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.68%.

Respondents were asked about five specific priority areas from the district’s strategic plan and whether a candidate’s support of that priority area would make them more or less likely to vote for that candidate. While all five priorities had over 80% of people saying a candidate’s support would make them more likely to vote for that candidate, the single highest scoring priority was investing in effective teacher training and coaching on early literacy to help children read by third grade (89%).

The second most important priority was expanding access to quality preschool so more students start kindergarten ready to learn (82%). Less than half of EBR’s kindergarteners start school ready to learn, so Stand agrees that expanding access to quality early education programs is of the utmost importance.

Providing more career and technical education courses and ensuring mental health supports/counseling resources both came in at 81% support while expanding opportunities for high school students to take advantage of courses that enable them to earn college credit received 80% support.

The data above is district-wide and there were no significant differences in support between district, party, race, or gender.

This overview of community and likely voter perspectives provides a crystal-clear picture of the community’s priorities. When considering the budget and direction of our district, Stand calls on board members to both follow the evidence of effectiveness and overwhelming level of community support for these priorities and vote in favor of the student-centered initiatives listed above.

If you would like to email your school board member and ask them to support the proposed budget, which priorities these five priorities and more, please click here.

Last week, Stand for Children Louisiana partnered with Louisiana Policy Institute for Children to host a virtual Parent Advocacy Training as part of Louisiana’s Early Ed Month. The Training was a huge success and 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year and the event’s facilitator Kimberly Eckert summed it up incredibly well:

So much fantastic content packed into just one hour. Families care about their children and want to be involved in their communities and education. Sometimes the “how” is withheld, though. THank you to organizations like Stand for Children Louisiana and Policy Institute for Children for enlightening, engaging, and equipping.

I learned so much during this training and hope you’ll take about an hour to watch the recording here ( Perhaps most importantly for me, a single thread wove through every discussion: when parents talk, elected officials listen.

This thread was shared by three of our esteemed guests including Louisiana State Senator Beth Mizell, City of Monroe Mayor Friday Ellis, and BESE Member Ashley Ellis, all of whom are elected officials. They confirmed that as our elected representatives, they want to hear from us. They want to address our priorities and pursue our interests. In order to do that, they need to hear from us.

During this event and all of #LAEarlyEdMonth, we’ve been talking about the state of early education in our state and the opportunities we have to invest in our children and improve our offerings. Right now in Louisiana, 114,000 in-need children ages birth to three years are without access to a high-quality early care or education program. This impacts our state’s education outcomes and our state’s current economy. Did you know Louisiana employers face annual losses of $760 million due to childcare-related employee absences and turnover?

As we reflect on the recently adjourned special legislative session and look forward to the regular legislative session (which starts March 14), I hope you’ll double check who your elected officials are and ask your legislators to support early education this year.

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to spend three inspirational days visiting and learning from the Miami-Dade County Public School System ( Two members of Stand’s staff were invited to join the educational trip and joined EBR Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse, members of the EBR School Board, as well as business and community leaders. We are so glad we went.

Fifteen years ago, before current Superintendent Dr. Alberto Carvalho and his team brought renewed energy and a laser focus on students to the district, the Miami-Dade system was failing students, with nowhere to go but up.

As we toured schools, heard from students, and talked with teachers, it was amazing to hear how the district’s transformed from failing its students to one of the country’s top-rated districts in the country in just 15 years. To put Miami-Dade into perspective, they have about 334,000 students, compared to 41,000 students in EBR and 700,000 students in all of Louisiana. Miami-Dade has been an A-rated district for two years, and 98% of all schools are rated A, B, or C. Their graduation rate is 93%, compared to about 69% in EBR and 80% in Louisiana.

Miami-Dade’s budget is about $5.5 billion, compared to approximately $490 million in EBR. And while Miami-Dade is much larger than EBR, there are also parallels that are worth noting. Miami-Dade is a diverse, multilingual urban district facing many of the challenges we see in EBR. And also like EBR, Miami- Dade has vibrant, passionate people and families who want the best for their students. The possibilities imagined and realized in Miami-Dade are why we are so inspired to see how Dr. Carvalho and his team took the district from failing its students to one of the country’s top-rated districts.

When Dr. Carvalho came to Miami-Dade, he brought in many student-centered changes and to this day, frequently talks about the importance of choice. His team has established over 1,000 academic offerings for students and adult learners including bilingual programs, fine and performing arts, biotechnology, workforce, magnet programs, engineering, robotics, aviation, forensic sciences, and so many more.

Before Dr. Carvalho’s arrival, Miami-Dade longed for a leader who could unite all stakeholders around the most important goal: equitably serving all students. EBR could be transformed by a culture of strong leadership; continuous improvement; and student-centered decision-making with laser focused, mission driven resource allocation. Add to that a mindset that failure is not acceptable, and the results seen in Miami-Dade could become our reality.

With Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse, Baton Rouge now has the leadership to make Miami-Dade’s story ours. But with our people, our culture, and our hearts, we’ll add our own special twist.

Whether or not you have a child in an EBR school, every one of us is impacted by district leadership and educational quality.

Economic development, workforce readiness, crime, health, and every other quality of life indicator is directly impacted by the quality of our schools.

So, let’s come together around one vision of how to best move forward for students. This isn’t the same old, same old. Let’s distribute resources in a way that supports our vision, embrace choice, and promise to work together with new leadership to bring about a new day for EBR. Let’s drop our collective cynicism left behind by the ghosts of superintendents past and decide we will not accept failure. Otherwise, we will miss this opportunity.

I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe as we continue to recover from Hurricane Ida. I know things haven’t been easy for any of us lately but, in times of crisis, our children can be especially affected. Research shows that reading is an excellent method of therapy for our little ones; it allows them to escape to magical worlds, learn something new, use their imagination, and reflect on things that make them happy.

Reading also builds emotional intelligence, makes us more empathetic, and allows us to better understand one another.

With today being International Literacy Day, I ask that you and your child do this is evening — sit side by side and take a few minutes from our busy lives to read, whether it’s a few pages or a whole book. Or, if they’re too young to read on their own, I hope you cuddle up on a couch and read with them today. The time I spend reading with my children every night is priceless, and lately I’ve found that it’s not only great for them, but it’s healing for me too. Reading is a gift that we should share with kids as much as we can.

Please join me in celebrating International Literacy Day and help grow your child’s love for reading.

P.S. Are you interested in learning about additional ways to cope with these challenging times? Click here ( for State mental health resources and remember that you can always call 211 for help. It’s OK not to be OK — never hesitate to ask for help.

As a veteran teacher with more than twenty years classroom experience, I am often asked by parents and caregivers how they can assist in readying young children for kindergarten. I can’t overemphasize the importance of the kindergarten year and how vital it is for young learners. Research shows that brain development is faster in the first five years of life than at any other time. I hope the list below will assist in answering some questions and hopefully ease some anxiety.

It’s important to note that young children master skills at different points in their development. Don’t fret if your young child hasn’t mastered a skill yet.

The most important activity you can do to assist your young child in being kindergarten ready is reading aloud.

Children who are read one book a day will hear about 290,000 more words by age 5 than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver. Positive early experiences with books provide opportunities for children to to develop critical emergent literacy skills. Students who are read to develop a more expansive vocabulary and begin school with greater background knowledge. In addition, students who hear more vocabulary words are better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school. Reading aloud and talking about what you read is a precursor to assisting children in picking up reading skills more quickly and easily.

Below are some additional skills that can assist young learners beginning kindergarten:

  • Recognize and name numbers 1-10 (out of order).
  • Count orally to 20.
  • Count up to 10 objects with one-to-one correspondence.
  • Recognize lower and uppercase letters of the alphabet (out of order).
  • Identify basic colors.

Correct grasp when holding a pencil and crayon – “tripod” grasp (thumb, middle, and pointer fingers pointing to the tip and resting the crayon on the side of the middle finger with the last two fingers curled into the hand).

  • Identify and write first name.
  • Properly holds a book and turns pages.
  • Correctly use safety scissors.
  • Tend to restroom needs.

In closing, I hope this summer you enjoy reading aloud with your child and find time for open-ended and active exploration, play, and investigation. It is wonderful to see the world through the eyes of a child.

Wishing you a safe and fun-filled summer.

Ms. Parrino is a kindergarten teacher at North Live Oak Elementary in Livingston Parish. She is a National Board- Certified educator in early childhood and holds a Master’s + 30 in curriculum and instruction, as well as her Reading Specialist and Teacher Leader Certifications. Ms. Parrino works as a mentor assisting new teacher candidates. Additionally, she is passionate about integrating science into her kindergarten curriculum. Mrs. Parrino is eager to begin her 25th year in kindergarten this August.

The facts are dire. Louisiana is the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated nation in the world. Too many of our students are involved in the school to prison pipeline. We can put a dent in that pipeline by supporting House Bill 216 (, authored by Rep. Royce Duplessis. HB 216 would eliminate the harmful imposition of administrative costs and fee and families in Louisiana's juvenile justice system. In practical terms, that means we can stop the ineffective use of government funds attempting to collect often uncollectable fees, allow probation officers to stop acting as bill collectors and do their job, and allow system-involved families to retain their money for necessities like food, shelter, and medical services. Did you know that outreach from just 10 people can impact the outcome of a bill? That's why we're asking that you reach out and ask members of the House Committee on Judiciary to support HB 216. Click here to take action now! ( Ending juvenile fees is a common sense juvenile justice reform with bi-partisan support. HB 216 will be heard by the House Committee on Judiciary on Wednesday, May 6th. We are proud to work with Ubuntu NOLA, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, the Louisiana Center for Children's Rights, and others to support this important legislation.