The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) recognized outgoing members at its December 11, 2019, meeting in Baton Rouge. Resolutions were presented highlighting the dedication and service of Board President and District 5 Member Dr. Gary Jones, Secretary-Treasurer and District 8 Member Jada Lewis, District 6 Member Kathy Edmonston, and At-Large Member Dr. Lurie Thomason.
Joining the Board in honoring the outgoing members were Representative Steve Carter, Senator Beth Mizell, and Representative Pat Smith, who offered thanks for the members’ leadership and commitment to Louisiana’s K-12 students and educators over the past four years.
District 1 Member Jim Garvey presented the Board resolution highlighting Dr. Jones’ dedicated service over four decades in public education and his term as BESE president. In his remarks, Rep. Carter cited Dr. Jones’ ability to establish common ground with education stakeholders, his willingness to tackle tough issues, and his commitment to always putting students’ welfare and academics first.
District 2 Member Kira Orange Jones presented the resolution honoring Ms. Lewis, emphasizing her commitment to strengthening resources for students and insightful leadership as Board secretary treasurer. Rep. Smith recognized Ms. Lewis for her contributions to special education and the development of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education initiatives in Louisiana.
At-Large Member Doris Voitier presented the resolution honoring Ms. Edmonston, which highlighted her two decades of service as a tireless advocate for students and families. Sen. Mizell thanked Ms. Edmonston for her professionalism, diplomacy and conviction in working in the best interests of students throughout the state.
At Large Member Thomas Roque presented the resolution honoring Dr. Thomason, recognizing his compassionate leadership, balanced and judicious decision-making, commitment to public service, and important work as a mentor to disadvantaged youth.
Prior to his term on BESE, Dr. Jones served 44 years as an educator and administrator in Louisiana public schools, working in virtually every capacity during his career. He was Superintendent of Claiborne Parish and Rapides Parish Schools, Assistant Superintendent in the Monroe City Schools system, and was recognized as 2010-11 Louisiana State School Superintendent of the Year. His public service also included a parallel military career in which he attained the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Army.
Ms. Lewis is the Executive Director and Vice President of City Year Baton Rouge, leading the organization through its strategic growth plan with the goal of providing more tutors and mentors to the students of Baton Rouge who are struggling to get back on track to high school graduation. She is recognized as a leader in the area of diversity and inclusion in STEM education, and served as Assistant Dean of Diversity for the College of Engineering at Louisiana State University.
Ms. Edmonston is a member-elect of the Louisiana House of Representatives, representing District 88. For the past 25 years she has served as Parent Resource Facilitator with the Ascension Parish School Board. A lifelong educator, she has served on numerous boards, commissions, and task forces related to education including Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board, Special Education Advisory Board to BESE, and the Department of Education Task Force for Alternate Diploma.
Dr. Thomason is an assistant professor at Grambling State University, appointed to BESE by Governor John Bel Edwards in January of 2016. He has served on two National Criminal Justice Boards, and earned several awards for teaching and advising students, including the Owens/Bell National Award for outstanding student advising and development. Five times he has been nominated by students to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and has been named Criminal Justice faculty of the year.
BESE extends its best wishes to these members as they continue in service, and thanks them for their vision, leadership, and dedication to the students and families of Louisiana.