BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The future of the East Baton Rouge school system is on the ballot this weekend, with voters getting to decide who will fill one seat on the school board.
Three candidates are vying to replace Barbara Freiberg, who was elected to the EBR Metro Council. The District 7 seat represents the part of the parish stretching from LSU to the Gardere neighborhood.
The three candidates are Michael Gaudet, a Republican, along with Belinda Davis and Brian Adams, both Democrats.
Gaudet, a retired former vice president of Albermarle, is currently serving as an interim school board member. He has filled in Freiberg's seat since January. He said District 7 needs more community schools to keep up with development, especially in the Burbank area.
"We really need to get people back to the EBR school system by getting them involved at the elementary school level," Gaudet said.
Davis is an LSU professor and mom to three students in the EBR public school systems. She touts her experience volunteering in her children's schools, saying it gives her a unique perspective on what is working and what is not in the school system.
She said helping the parish's at-risk students should be a top priority.
"If we could do more to bolster those kids, we would see better impact on our education outcomes as well," she said.
Brian Adams, who works with Teach for America, said he has nieces who attended McKinley High School. If elected, he said he would work to get outside groups involved to help boost the parish schools.
"Are there nonprofits that can come in to provide assistance and help? Are there faith-based that can come in and help?" he asked.
Both Gaudet and Adams have backgrounds working with charter schools. Gaudet helped establish the Thrive Charter School. Adams was employed by and served on the board of Advance Baton Rouge.
"Those parents who can't afford to send their kids to private schools who believe the public school system isn't doing the best job for their kids, they now have a choice," Adams said.
Davis meanwhile for greater scrutiny of those schools.
"They really need to be under the control of our locally elected school boards, so we have taxpayer accountability," Davis said.
Reflecting on the increased diversity of the district they would represent, both Davis and Gaudet stressed that there must be greater investment in helping the population of English language learners.
"We need to greatly upgrade how we work with those students to get them up to grade level," Gaudet said.
Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 14. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.