Several members of the Ouachita Parish school board, who are seeking re-election, drew contestants in the qualifiers last month, staging a handful of school board races in the Nov. 8 election.
In last month’s qualifier, only two members were re-elected unopposed: School Board President Jerry Hicks, representing District D, and School Board member Harold McCoy, representing District E.
In the District A race, incumbent Tommy Comeaux, a Republican from West Monroe, drew a challenger: Karla Bendily, a Republican from West Monroe.
Bendily, who co-owns a small real estate business with her husband at John Rea Realty, is a mother of three who attend the Ouachita Parish School. Bendily said she had never worked in the school system before and her goal was to get parents more involved in something.
“Since 2020, parents have been almost completely shut out of their children’s lives Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Bendily said. “I was very discouraged by the lack of involvement, lack of communication and lack of compassion with parents in some schools and the school board.”
Bendily said there are three big changes she would like to see in the school board: respect for educators, inclusion of parents, and discipline in the classroom.
“I decided to run to show my daughters that you can do whatever you want, but also to get parents involved again,” Bendily said. “I look forward to being a good communicator with the public about what is happening, and I want to be involved in the process of fighting for children to have the best learning opportunities in the safest environment possible. “
Comeaux was unavailable for comment.
In the District B race, outgoing school board member Shere May, a Republican from West Monroe, will face Aaron Hoyle, a Republican from West Monroe.
May is nearing the end of his first term on the school board. She has worked in the Ouachita Parish School System for 37 years as a teacher, counselor, principal and principal of secondary schools. May also worked as a board member for the Ouachita Valley Credit Union and said her business background has helped her serve the people of District B.
“My personal experience as an educator and in business has given me a unique understanding of all facets of the education process,” May said.
If re-elected, May said she hopes the school board will be able to upgrade facilities, build new facilities, increase the use of technology in schools and install security systems. update.
May said she was confident voters in her district knew her and what she stood for.
“They know I worked hard for them when they entrusted their children to me as their teacher, counselor and principal,” May said.
Hoyle, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Group One Realty, said he thought he could be a school board member because he has two children in school and a background in business management and has never worked for the school system. .
“Personal relationships and friendships can lead to conflicts of interest and make it difficult to be objective when making decisions,” Hoyle said. “Someone like me, who works outside of the school system, can see things from a different perspective and make fair decisions more easily.”
In an interview with The Ouachita Citizen, Hoyle addressed his remarks to May.
“Ms. May is a proud former educator and administrator,” Hoyle said. “She has many friendships and personal connections in the school system that make it difficult for her to make objective policy decisions. As we speak, one could even say that she has a clear conflict of interest.
Hoyle did not specify what potential conflict of interest he was referring to.
In the District C race, outgoing school board member Scotty Wagoner did not seek reelection. Michael Batey, a Republican from West Monroe, and Samantha Fowler, a Republican from Eros will face each other in the election.
Wagoner, president of Wagoner Services Inc., an oil and gas services company, decided not to run for office because his business needed more time.
“I don’t like missing anything from the school board and I certainly didn’t like missing anything from my company,” Waggoner said. “We are very busy at the moment. It takes a lot of time that I have to devote to our business.
Wagoner said he tried to donate the money he earned from the school board to the schools.
“I really wasn’t doing this for the money,” Wagoner said.
Wagoner said if Batey hadn’t run, he would have asked for re-election. Wagoner said he thinks as the former vice-principal of West Ouachita High, Batey would “absolutely” be a good addition to the school board.
Batey was a biology teacher and coach for 35 years in several schools in the parish of Ouachita. His parents and siblings also all worked in the school system.
“I grew up in education,” Batey said. “I feel like education has always given me, and I just felt like it was my time to give back. I want to get back into the community.
As a school board member, Batey said her first priority would be the safety of the children.
“I want children to learn as much as possible and have a chance to succeed. To be successful, you need to have a good education,” Batey said.
Fowler works in the accounting department of Hunt Guillot & Associates LLC, an engineering firm. She said she had never worked in the school system, but had three school-aged children.
“I think there are several changes that need to be made starting with getting parents back involved in the kids’ school,” Fowler said.
In the District F race, outgoing school board member Dabo Graves, a Monroe Republican, will face Thomas Ngar, a Monroe Democrat.
Graves served on the school board for four years and has been involved in the school system for 40 years. He said he did the work for the children, no matter what neighborhood they lived in.
“I’ve always been very active in helping schools on both sides of the river,” Graves said. “It doesn’t have to be in my district. If someone needs something, I try to help them do it.
Graves took aim at his opponent. Graves praised Ngar as a “good teacher” who taught his three children in school, but claimed Ngar was running “for the wrong reasons”.
“I run to help kids, he runs because he has a personal grudge against people,” Graves said. “School counseling is a full-time job. It’s not a part-time job. You have to want to do it and you have to like it. »
Citizen Ouachita contacted Ngar and received no comment.
In the District G race, incumbent Greg Manley, a Monroe Republican, will face Reginald Fontana, a Monroe Democrat. David Bryant, who qualified to campaign, withdrew from the race last week.
Fontana has worked for the school system since 2018 in the Sterlington Schools Transportation Department. He said that as the father of an Ouachita Parish student, he wanted to work with other school board members to “build bridges for the future.”
“As a successful owner of many businesses, I know that I have established strong and lasting ties with the diverse communities of Ouachita Parish,” Fontana said.
Manley was unavailable for comment.