BY HEIDI KINCHEN
Florida Parishes bureau
October 11, 2012
LIVINGSTON — Donna Alleman, outreach director for the Louisiana Schools for the Deaf and Visually Impaired, and John Watson, one of Livingston Parish’s two assistant superintendents, told the Livingston School Board’s committee of the whole Wednesday why they believe they should take the reins following Superintendent Bill Spear’s retirement later this school year.
Interviews with all three school superintendent applicants concluded Wednesday night, with the School Board scheduled to vote on the candidates Nov. 8. The committee on Tuesday night interviewed Charles Michel, supervisor of special education for Lafourche Parish schools.
Alleman stressed the broad scope of her educational work history, noting in particular her work with at-risk children and their families as an outreach director.
She has worked with the Board of Special Schools since 2010 and served as interim director from 2009 to 2010.
Prior to that, Alleman worked in Assumption Parish schools as a preschool coordinator, assistant principal, transition consultant and teacher.
“I believe I bring to the table the capabilities and leadership skills necessary to help improve the schools and drive this district forward and upward,” she said. “Every experience I have had has brought me to this point in my career.”
Watson said his experiences during the past year almost kept him from applying for the post.
“Having read the (new education regulation) laws and heard all the teacher bashing and public school bashing, it’s taken a while to get over my anger, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can discuss it rationally now,” he said to laughter from the committee members.
Watson, a Walker native who has worked in Livingston Parish schools since 1983, said he believes he can help the district wade through those changes and offered himself up as “a guinea pig” as the roles of the School Board and superintendent are redefined through state legislation.
Both candidates cited funding as one of the biggest challenges the school district will face going forward and said students must be prepared regardless of whether they are headed for college or straight into a workplace career.
“We don’t need every student to be a doctor or lawyer or teacher,” Watson said. “We need people who can go into the community and work, go out and earn a living. That’s what makes this country go.”
The challenge will be figuring out a way to provide vocational courses on static funding, he said.
“It would be very difficult for us to put an auto class on every campus, a culinary class on every campus, especially when funding is being decreased,” he said.
The district’s funding priorities must remain the same — focused on the classrooms in the form of teachers, paraprofessionals, instruction and buildings, Watson said.
Alleman said support for educators must also be a funding priority, particularly during the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which represent “a new paradigm” for teaching.
“It’s our responsibility to provide them with the professional development and support they need to be the best teachers they can be,” she said.