Endorsements for Congress-6, Judge, Constable, School Board

In this edition of the Capital City News and the Istrouma Journal, our newspapers are proud to endorse the following candidates:
Congress – 6th District
Garret Graves (R)
Baton Rouge City Judge
Chris Hester (R)
City Constable
Gordon “Trey” Bargas (R)
East Baton Rouge Parish
School Board – District 2
Vereta Lee (D)
District 3
Dr. Kenyetta Nelson-Smith (D)
District 4
Dawn Collins (D)
District 5
Evelyn Ware-Jackson (D)
District 6
Jill Dyason (R)
District 7
Michael Gaudet (R)

United States Congress
6th District of Louisiana
Exemplary Service
Garret Graves is now completing his second two-year term representing the people of the Baton Rouge area in the United States Congress. During that time, our country has experienced historic change in Washington. At the same time, the people of the Baton Rouge area experienced the devastating flood of August 2018. It was a unique local disaster that affected only us but in a monumental way.
Throughout all these unexpected events, our new Congressman performed at the highest level. With a solid conservative voting record, he faithfully represented the views of most people in the 6th Congressional District and developed a very positive relationship with the leaders of Congress, President Trump, and members of his administration.  The flood of August 2016 gave Congressman Graves an historic opportunity to make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of real people living here, and he did not disappoint.  He worked tirelessly day and night to address the needs of people, some of whom had lost everything and all of whom had lost something. During this time, his performance as a Congressman was far above what is normally expected.  It was exemplary!  We are proud to endorse Congressman Garret Graves for reelection.

Baton Rouge City Judge
Proven Track Record in Court
Chris Hester is a life-long Baton Rouge resident with a proven track record in the courtroom and a passion for solving critical issues to improve our community. He has spent most of his career as an Assistant District Attorney with the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office. He currently serves as Section Chief and most recently held the positions of Chief Homicide Prosecutor and Section Chief of the Violent Crimes Unit. He previously served as a misdemeanor assistant, junior felony assistant, and senior felony assistant for the DA’s office. For nearly nine years, he has handled thousands of cases — from misdemean-
ors to murders.
Immediately after graduating from law school, Chris Hester began his career at Watson, Blanche, Wilson and Posner, a law firm practicing primarily in the area of medical malpractice defense. There he honed his skills in civil practice. Drawing upon this experience, he will bring justice to the civil and small claims matters that are handled in City Court.
Chris Hester is a graduate of Catholic High, LSU, and LSU Law School. He is active in the community as the head coach of the 8th grade basketball team at St. Aloysius Catholic School, past chairman of the Baton Rouge Bridge Academy Board, and a member at First  Methodist Church. He has pledged to address the concerns about the operations of City Court. We believe Chris Hester
will be an outstanding City Judge.

Baton Rouge City Constable
Law Enforcement Experience
Gordon “Trey” Bargas was born and raised in Baton Rouge. He has been married to local attorney Valerie Bargas for 15 years, and they have three children. They are parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy church. Mr. Bargas has an active real estate license and works in his family’s real estate business.
Trey Bargas started with the Baton Rouge City Police in September 1997. He retired from the department in April 2018. He spent more than 10 years in the traffic division, riding solo motorcycles. He worked in uniform patrol; security under Mayor-President Kip Holden, and in administration as supervisor of criminal records and supervisor of professional standards. He concluded his career in uniformed patrol, 3rd District, as a shift supervisor. In these roles, he always tried to bring law enforcement and the com-
munity together.
The Constable’s office deals with civil matters. Mr. Bargas hopes to change that by actively assist members of the community with criminal, traffic, and civil issues. He believes evictions and small claims garnishments need to be a higher priority. Mr. Bargas believes that everyone should have proper access to justice and that city court should not be financed by the poor and indigent.
He has said he will maintain all current community outreach programs and expand such programs. He favors having some Constable reserves train for rescue during natural disasters. Mr. Bargas has extensive ties to the Baton Rouge community and looks forward to helping the City move forward as Constable. We believe he will do an excellent job as City Constable.

East Baton Rouge Parish
School Board
In considering endorsements for the school board, we weighed many factors including support by incumbents of Supt. Warren Drake, who has brought major reforms and improvements to the system.

EBR School Board District 2
Putting Children First
School board member Vereta Lee works closely meet with Supt. Warren Drake, board colleagues and committee members to ensure that the board and staff stay committed to high expectations for improving student achievement.
She is proud of having two National Blue Ribbon Schools in District 2. She is also proud of East Baton Rouge being No. 1 in the state on AP tests, scoring three or above the state and scoring three points of growth this year on growth to Mastery. This was the 6th best in the state. She works to ensure the staff and committee members take part in team development and training to ensure that everyone puts faces on all students and that they are not just treated as data. She seeks feedback from staff on interventions, progress tracking, professional development, Tier 1 curriculum resources, and other information programs. As a member of the State and National School Board Association, she remains abreast of all policies and trends as they impact children. Throughout her tenure as a school board member and as a parent, she has been a committed advocate for a quality education for all children.
She communicates with her constituents, colleagues, the media and local organizations to keep them well informed on a variety of issues. One example of this was an opportunity for the Glen Oaks community to express their desire for restoration and refurbishment of the high school that was devastated by the Great Flood of August 2016. Vereta Lee listened to the members of that community and served as an advocate for the voiceless.
She is a life long educator who has advocated for the best instructional materials and teachers available. She supported pay raises for all employees. As a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, she tried to ensure that all students receive the best education to enable them to become high achievers and productive citizens equipped with the communication and technological skills necessary to preserve this democracy. She strived to put children, families and communities first.  We believe Vereta Lee is the best candidate for School Board District 2.

EBR School Board District 3
Quality Education for All
Dr. Kenyetta Nelson-Smith currently serves as the Vice President of the East Baton Rouge School Board. She is completing her second term representing District 3. Dr. Nelson-Smith is the mother of one son, two-year-old Clifton “Ace” Smith, III and one daughter, Jewel I. Smith, a sophomore at Louisiana Tech. She is an active member in her church, Zion Travelers Baptist Church in New Roads. Dr. Nelson-Smith is the second eldest of six siblings to parents, Pastor Isiah Nelson, III and Annette Robinson Nelson.
Dr. Nelson-Smith is a graduate of Glen Oaks High School. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Southern and her Masters and PhD. from LSU. She is an assistant professor and program leader of Child Development in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Southern University.
In her role on the school board, she has fought for fair and equal wages for all who work with district children. She is an advocate for public education and firmly believes all children can learn. “We just have to meet them where they are,” she says. Dr. Nelson-Smith represents the only approved “Family of Schools” in the EBRP School District, which includes a STEM tract throughout the Scotlandville community.
She worked with district office to correct the salary schedule in hopes of retaining and recruiting highly-qualified educators to our district. Since her tenure, two Magnet Schools of America have been named in her district, Scotlandville Magnet High School and Scotlandville Middle Magnet School, and one Blue Ribbon School, Ryan Elementary. Dr. Nelson-Smith hopes to continue to work with her constituents, principals, district staff, and her board colleagues to continue moving this district forward, and we believe she is the best choice in District 3.

EBR School Board District 4
High Student Achievement
As a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, Dawn Collins fights for equitable distribution of resources across the parish in programming and teacher quality. As a relatively new member of the board, she already has some accomplishments under her belt and has goals for the future. She wants to unite citizens in support of public education.
She is the mother of two public school graduates and grandmother of a future student of East Baton Rouge public schools. She is a strong advocate for high student achievement, parental involvement, resource equity, educator pay increases, and community engagement.  She believes keeping families and the community engaged in the school system is an integral part of improving our schools.
Dawn Collins believes “Education is a cornerstone of citizenship.”  She has a Bachelors of English Liberal Arts and Masters of Public Administration from Southern.  She is also a Certified School Board Member having completed 27.5 hours of continued learning units in 2016 and 57.5 hours in 2017.
One of her first observations as a school board member was that our schools had not been getting the attention and resources they needed to be schools of choice for all families. She said, “In the past year, many schools in District 4 have made great progress, but there is still a lot of work to do.”  She said District 4 progress includes:
•    Villa Del Rey Elementary, Park Forest Elementary and Middle, and Belaire High are all now Creative Sciences & Arts Magnet schools with assistance from a $15 million grant.
•    Brookstown Middle has become the only middle school in the state with Aquaponics and Hydroponics programs.
•    La Belle Aire Elementary was chosen by Louisiana DOE to implement Dual Language immersion.
Dawn Collins is working hard to serve the people of District 4, and we believe she deserves reelection.

EBR School Board District 5
Erasing Lines that Divide Us
Immediate past East Baton Rouge Parish School Board president Evelyn Ware-Jackson is a person who brings people together. She did an outstanding job as board president and helped end many controversies to the satisfaction of all.  She says, “I appreciate it when people ignore lines that often separate us to do what’s right for our entire parish. That’s the way I operate as a school board member.” Evelyn represents the only school board district that is roughly 50-50 racially and says that sometimes sets her apart on the board. In a sense, her district is a microcosm of the parish.
She says, “I believe I’ve been elected by the people living within the boundaries of District 5 to not only serve them, but to do what’s best for our entire parish. We take interest in strengthening neighborhood schools no matter where they are in East Baton Rouge Parish. We should lend our hands to those who may not live near us to make our city stronger as a whole.”
Evelyn is proud of helping to bring Aquaponics to Brookstown Middle School, a school outside her district, but a school in transition and in need of innovation after its magnet program was moved to Istrouma.
She says, “I’m proud of its successful partnerships. Now families have a strong feeder pattern and a unique program for our future scientists. It’s because of our similarities, our interests in working across invisible lines to do what’s best for our entire parish.”
Evelyn Ware-Jackson has proven to be a courageous spokesman for our students in public education and a wise leader in our community. We are proud to endorse her reelection.

EBR School Board District 6
Neighborhood Schools
Jill Dyason has a distinguished record of service to our community as the longest serving member on the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. When Jill took office, EBR schools were still under the oversight of a federal judge and the Justice Department in Washington. Jill and her colleagues on the Board worked tirelessly to end federal oversight, restoring local control of our schools, a monumental feat after nearly 50 years. She remains the only member of the EBR School Board who was part of this effort. She has a perspective that can only come from long experience. This is just one of the reasons why she  is still needed on the Board and in our community.
Jill has served effectively and distinction, taking strong stands for fiscal responsibility and prioritized spending. She tries to make sure tax dollars follow the student into the classroom. Jill has crusaded for those hallmarks which make great school districts:
•    Neighborhood schools with community-sensitive attendance lines;
•    Specialized academic programs not previously in Southeast EBR schools, including Gifted & Talented, Academic Magnet, Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment offerings for our brightest, and Developmental Reading programs for students in need.
During Jill’s time on the board, the growing Southeast area finally received the new schools it had long-needed:
•    The new Woodlawn High School and the new Woodlawn Elementary and Woodlawn Middle schools.
Under her watch, the consistently well-performing Shenandoah Elementary has continued to prosper as a neighborhood school. It is a National Blue Ribbon School ranked by niche.com as one of America’s Top 500 Elementary Schools.
We have watched Jill for a long time. From our vantage point, she has always placed the needs of students and families first. Jill has advocated for high-quality charter schools as the innovative options they are meant to be, giving parents greater educational options.
Jill Dyason is one of the strongest advocates for neighborhood schools on the board. We believe Jill Dyason will continue to fight for better schools which is why we endorse her for another term as School Board Member for District 6.
EBR School Board District 7
A Focus on Accountability
A new member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, Mike Gaudet is no stranger to the fight for quality education. He has always shown a great personal interest in education as shown in his service to Episcopal High, Teach For America and helping found the Thrive Academy Charter School.
His career background includes having held positions of great responsibility in major industry. This taught him much about large organizations and financial analysis and decision making, as well as how to embrace and manage change.  While he knows that a school system cannot be run exactly like a business, he also knows there are many aspects that are similar.  For example, he participated heavily in the renegotiation of the services contract with Aramark which resulted in a savings of about $6 million per year for the school system.
He has promised that, if elected, his focus will be on accountability.  He says, “We need to hold ourselves accountable for improving performance in our low-performing schools while maintaining the progress we have made in the higher-performing schools.”
“We must hold ourselves accountable on the financial side by reaching and maintaining a balanced budget while still improving the quality of the education we provide to our students.  This will not be easy and will likely require significant change in how we operate.”
“Finally, we need to be accountable in the area of charter schools by approving only new charter schools which provide significant change and by increasing our oversight of existing charters, particularly in the area of student achievement.”
Mike Gaudet’s experience and wisdom are indispensable to the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, and we endorse his reelection.

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