Missed Opportunity: College Student Almost Elected to School Board
Okay. I’m about to write a story praising a Xavier University of Louisiana student. This isn’t a new thing; I have praised students from lots of schools, especially HBCUs. So while we may be arch rivals on many things, in the end we’re all on the same time trying to educate a new generation to lead our communities.
But don’t get it twisted. I have yet to begin dragging Xavier for leaving the GCAC (the only NAIA HBCU athletic conference) for the Red River conference. But that’s a conversation for another day…
I just found out that one of the school board races yesterday involved a 21 year old Xavier student, Antoinette Williams, who was a candidate for the Orleans Parish School Board, district 5. She is a graduate of McDonough 35, Youth Educating and Advocating for Voting, and had an internship with NOLA Public Schools, having a chance to work with Superintendent Lewis. She probably is more qualified than most who serve on school boards.
This race was under the radar. I missed it because I can’t vote for her. I’ve seen stories nationally when students run and sometimes win seats on school boards and city councils. But this race got lost initially because of the main event, Biden vs. Trump. Williams was one of 3 candidates vying for this seat. There wasn’t a true incumbent as the current person was filling out of a member who moved.
She made the run-off! This seems like it should have been bigger news than it was, but regardless I think an impressive feat for a college student and first time candidate. The story was lost though as Trump continued to contest the election, and the big race locally was for district attorney.
We didn’t get a feature story until December 1st (you should read it). She confidently discusses her qualifications in the interview:
“I’ve worked for the current school board, I’ve worked for InspireNola, I’ve worked for The Alliance for Diversity and Excellence, and I’ve worked for Central City Renaissance Alliance, and there I was working on grant writing to get facilities in place to help at-risk families. In addition to that, my degree is in political science and education. All of my research has been on literacy, literacy programs, developing literacy rates…”
Again, her story never got a lot of traction. We didn’t see lots of social media supporting her, even though she racked up a number of impressive endorsements, including Congressman Richmond and the incumbent she defeated. She could have used funding to have a strong ground game to help her campaign. Plus since most college students left town at Thanksgiving this year, she probably had fewer campaign volunteers.
Unfortunately, she lost. By only 813 votes. Half as many people voted in the run-off. If everyone who voted for her the first time returned, she could have won. Anyway, she should be congratulated for a great effort. And she set a great example to her peers.
I think college students should run for a range of positions in every local election.
Tiffany Cross, who will have a new Saturday morning show on MSNBC, made a great point this weekend about being engaged in the process, and when people understand government better they can understand their agency in the process. She said, “You have to become part of the system even if you want to disrupt it. Even if you want to reimagine it.”
Too many people’s advocacy stops at Twitter. You can tweet all you want but policies don’t change by tweet alone. You need people who are in the seats of power who can approve policies and laws that make things better. She clearly understands that hashtag activism won’t make schools better.
It won’t make anything better.
We have to have better people on school boards. I have been working with the attorney representing Ka Mauri Harrison, the 9 year old suspended because he picked up a BB gun off the floor in his house while doing virtual classes. They considered expulsion. They gave him six days of suspension plus ordered a social worker to investigate the home.
Using the law, and forming a diverse coalition which includes the Louisiana Attorney General, the ACLU, and the NRA, a new law was passed, the social worker was cancelled, and the suspension is down (officially) to 3 days. But it will be on his permanent record, so we continue to fight to clear his record.
We’re in this mess because of the poor leadership represented on the Jefferson Parish School Board. We need people on these board who actually care about kids. Jefferson Parish does not have that. We need people who can use critical thinking (policies written for in school can’t possibly apply to someone in their own home). Jefferson Parish does not have that either.
While OPSB has not had these kinds of issues, having someone like Antoinette would have been great. I wish her much success in the future, and that she will run again.
Next time let me know so I can send you some money!