The St. Charles Parish School Board did not have to look far to find the successor to Dr. Rodney Lafon when they named assistant superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker as the new superintendent of St. Charles Parish Public Schools.
For the past 17 years Gomez-Walker has been in the central administrative office just down the hall from Lafonís.
After 18 years as superintendent and 40 years in the school system altogether, Lafonís tenure at St. Charles Parish Public Schools officially came to an end on July 1, just a day before the School Board appointed Gomez-Walker in his place.
Not only has Gomez-Walker spent her entire 36 Ĺ year career in St. Charles Parish Public Schools, she was also born and raised in St. Charles Parish where she attended the public school system and graduated from Hahnville High School.
"I have a vested interest in St Charles Parish. I live and I work in St. Charles Parish. My children graduated from St. Charles Parish schools," she said. "I have a passion for St. Charles Parish and this school system is as much a part of me as I am of it."
Gomez-Walker said her deep roots in the community and historical knowledge of the school system gives her a good perspective from which to shape the way our schools function in the future.
"This learning organization touches every single person in our community," she said. "Itís important to preserve the public schools in St. Charles Parish and I think that having a person that understands this community, who has built relationships within this community, who understands the history of this community, who understands the vision of this school system is critical at this time. That would be me."
After graduating with her Bachelor of Arts in education from Nicholls State University, Gomez-Walker received her first job as a teacher in 1976. She served 14 years in the classroom before working her way up and into school administration first as principal at A.A. Songy Kindergarten Center and then as principal of Luling Elementary.
In 1996 Gomez-Walker joined the central administrative staff as executive director of restructuring, curriculum and instruction. In 2008 she was promoted to assistant superintendent for secondary schools and quality assurance where she was before being appointed superintendent. During her career Gomez-Walker also returned to Nicholls State University to get her Master of Education, School Administration and Supervision.
In her time as superintendent, Gomez-Walker said she hopes to invest more in teachers and less in unproven educational programming.
"Our investment needs to be in the development of our teachers," she said. "We need to always look for things that will improve our school system, but more investing in the development of our teachers, of our workforce, is where we need to go."
In addition, Gomez-Walker said she intends to keep up the fight against sweeping education reforms that have been passed through the state legislature in recent years.
Gomez-Walker also pledged to preserve school funding.
"One thing that we definitely have to do is to work with the legislature to make sure that our funding is solid," she said. "Every year there is someone who looks at the minimum foundation program, which is our source of funding in St. Charles Parish, and attempts to manipulate that funding so that some districts receive less."
In addition to a vote by the school board, the superintendent candidates faced a community advisory committee consisting of local industry and business leaders, clergy members, educators, students and parents. The committee met with and interviewed all three candidates on Wednesday, June 26 in a forum moderated by former WGNO-TV news reporter Glen Boyd. Following the interviews the committee ranked the candidates by order of preference and Gomez-Walker was ranked first.
The other two finalists for the job were Joey Comeaux, an administrator with Assumption Parish Public Schools, and Dr. Rick Williams, an administrator with a regional education oversight body in Texas, who was the only candidate with a doctorate as well as the only candidate with previous superintendent experience.
|Felecia Gomez-Walker faces questions from a community advisory committee who ranked her first out of the three in contention for the superintendent position.|