Four people have expressed an interest in filling Orleans Parish School Board member Ben Kleban’s seat when he leaves in June, according to records obtained by The Lens.
Letters of interest for the soon-to-be-vacant seat were submitted by Katie Baudouin, Jonas Chartock, Grisela Jackson and Emeka Dibia. Reached Tuesday, Dibia said he is not pursuing the position.
Because Kleban is leaving with less than a year in his term — which expires in January — the board will select his replacement. Kleban, his wife and three children are moving to Washington State to be closer to family.
Kleban represents district 5, which covers parts of Central City, Uptown and the Lower Garden District. Orleans Parish School Board members serve four year terms and the full board is up for election in November. The seven-member school board oversees the NOLA Public Schools district and hires and evaluates its superintendent. It also sets policy, but those policies generally don’t apply to independent charter schools that set their own policies. This fall, all but one school in the district will be charters.
Among the interested persons are two educators, a city council staffer with experience working with Medicaid and a charter school board member who co-owns a local company.
Katie Baudouin is New Orleans City Councilmember Joe Giarusso’s land use and policy director. As an interim board member, Baudouin said her three priorities would be to help guide schools through COVID-19, maximize the use of Medicaid funding and ensure financial transparency. Her daughter attends International School of Louisiana, a state-authorized charter school in the city.
“Public service has been something that I have been doing for most of my career and I think when this position became available it seemed like a great opportunity to continue that on the school board,” she said in a Tuesday interview. “The success of the New Orleans public school system is important to everyone in the city. And it’s personal to me as a public school parent as well.”
Baudouin worked with Medicaid programs at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and would like to see an expansion of school-based services.
“I know that many of the children that are served by medicaid in New Orleans also attend public school. Some of the best practices are for students to receive school based health care. It’s beneficial for families, for students, and keeps students in schools.
Jonas Chartock has worked in education for 20 years, he wrote, beginning as a teacher, later working for Teach for America and then working as the director of the State University of New York Charter Schools Institute, which evaluates charter schools for authorization in New York state. For eight years he served as the CEO of Leading Educators, a professional development organization for educators that works with several local charter groups.
“Most recently, I have focused on assisting boards and education organizations in clarifying strategy and enhancing communication,” he wrote.
He said he would focus on a safe reopening of schools, the district’s budget amid forecasted funding issues due to COVID-19 and ensuring students have access to meals, trauma services and technology. Chartock also said the district must attract and retain well-trained educators.
“When teachers start their careers in a quality district, they should receive the support and training to become successful in their practice,” he wrote. “This requires a coordinated city-wide approach to recruitment including a strong relationship with schools of higher education from which future teachers might be recruited.”
Chartock’s son attends International School of Louisiana. Asked if he would run for election in the fall, Chartock said, “I have not yet decided that.”
Grisela Jackson is the co-owner and CFO of Young Engineering Company. She attended local schools, graduating from Alcee Fortier High School and has an M.B.A. from Tulane University. Her children attended Lusher. She helped write the initial charter for Crocker Arts and Technology School which opened in 2008 and lobbied for a new facility for it. She now serves on the board of New Orleans College Prep, a local two-school charter network which took over Crocker in 2013.
Jackson’s top three priorities for the district are supporting students during the pandemic, ensuring teachers have quality training and support and building parental engagement and support.
Distance learning is no longer a function of higher education,” she wrote. “It’s here to stay as a part of our elementary and secondary schools; and we have to become proficient in providing this service and support to our schools, our students and their families.”
Additionally, she wrote, quality professional development and teacher training are a must for ensuring students’ academic achievement. Parents, also must receive support, she wrote.
“Many of our parents face real-life struggles without a lot of support,” she wrote. “They need to know that we are here for them, just like we are here for their children.”
In an email, Jackson wrote she will seek the seat for a full-term in the fall election.
A fourth letter of interest was submitted by Emeka Dibia, a high school music teacher. But reached Tuesday he said he was no longer in the running.
Kleban’s resignation is effective June 15, after which the board has 20 days to choose his replacement. If they fail to meet that deadline, Gov. John Bel Edwards would make the selection. The board has been meeting virtually amid the pandemic. Its next meetings are scheduled for June 9 and June 11.
Update: This story was updated with additional information from Grisela Jackson.