There is much work to be done to improve our K-12 public schools in Louisiana. One of the most vital ways to enact change and improve our schools at the local level is for citizens and community leaders to ask the tough questions to those running for school board. That is why we recently released questions that voters should ask their school board candidates.

Recently the Northshore Business Council took a leading role in examining the campaign platforms of those running for school board in St. Tammany Parish and highlighting the local school system’s top needs as voters begin engaging with candidates. “People move to St. Tammany because of the school system. We wanted to find out why we are where we are,” said attorney Ross Lagarde, president of the council. With a vested interest in the education and future of St. Tammany students, the council wanted to know how the region’s future workforce is being prepared to flourish.

The council engaged Southeastern Louisiana University’s Business Research Center to examine the school system’s strengths and weaknesses, and to identify opportunities for growth. The resulting 96-page study compares the performance of St. Tammany public schools with other in-state and out-of-state school districts with similar characteristics, an important step to see what the district could and should be doing to improve.

The council also asked each school board candidate to sign a pledge to uphold ten key principles that will move the school system forward, including accountability, public engagement, and preparing students for the workforce. The principles align closely with Pelican’s questions for school board candidates.

Other community leaders around the state should take note of the Northshore Business Council’s efforts and do the same. The quality of local K-12 schools determines the economic future of communities in so many ways. It’s everybody’s business, and it takes a village. Let’s pull together across our state for our kids.