Antoinette Williams is the Youngest Person to Run for School Board and That’s an Advantage

While finishing up her studies at Xavier University, Antoinette Williams has been pursuing an unusual extracurricular activity: running for the Orleans Parish School Board, District 5. 

Student representation has been an issue on the school board for while, with students feeling like their voices and experiences are overlooked by older board members. 

Williams hopes to change that in her bid to become the youngest member of the board to date. She will be facing off against Katie Baudouin in the upcoming December 5th runoff. 

Below is our interview with Antoinette Williams in which we asked her why she is specially qualified for the position, and what she hopes to do with it. 

Q.What inspired you to run for school board? 

Williams: “While I was working with students they would tell me about their experiences not only with current board members but with other elected officials too, who would use them as props and wouldn’t listen to the things they had to say or acknowledge their experiences when making decisions. 

I thought that was horrible. It was kind of hypocritical of me to teach my kids about standing up for yourself and making change if I was in a position to do that on their behalf and I didn’t.” 

Q. What experiences do you have that make you a good candidate for the school board? 

Williams: “As far as experiences go, I’m the only candidate that has experienced New Orleans public schools post-Katrina, so I’ve gone to both a direct run school and a charter school which is not the experience that the other people running have had. 

Even more so, with me still being young and being able to work with our kids, many feel comfortable having conversations with me and actually expressing their concerns about our school district. I’m still young enough to be relatable but at the same time old enough to be dependable on the board and when it comes to making those decisions that will best serve our kids.” 

Q. What are your goals as a school board member? 

Williams: “One of my priorities is holding organizations accountable for having faith in an equitable learning environment. We spend a lot of time telling teachers how to teach, what to teach, and what to use, but we don’t spend enough time understanding that the learning environment plays a large part in the amount of instruction students can actually repeat. 

We have a lot of distraction in our school systems currently and I think that plays a large factor in our kids struggling to gain the information that they need to….how early they have to get up in the morning, if they are not paying attention in class, or if they are hungry, or having police in schools, all of these things are distractions that vary their learning that we need to dismantle.” 

Q. What will you bring to the table that your opponent, Katie Baudouin, won’t? 

Williams: “Experience in education. She’s experienced in public policy which is valuable… but my work history has been in education. I’ve worked for the current school board, I’ve worked for InspireNola, I’ve worked for The Alliance for Diversity and Excellence, and I’ve worked for Central City Renaissance Alliance, and there I was working on grant writing to get facilities in place to help at-risk families. 

In addition to that, my degree is in political science and education. All of my research has been on literacy, literacy programs, developing literacy rates not only in the US but in additional countries and I’ve also done research in education in other countries. So, my extensive background in education is what makes me more qualified for this particular position.” 

Q. Have you met any resistance because of your age? 

Williams: “It’s easy to try to target my age, but my age isn’t a barrier it’s actually a positive thing. With my age, comments have been made about the amount of experience I would have, but I’ve been working in our system officially for a little bit over a year, but unofficially since high school. 

So the amount of experience that I have doing the job, working with our teachers and other stakeholder groups, is there, regardless of what my age is. 

Q. Why do you think now, more than ever, that it’s important student’s voices are heard? 

Williams: “Well, I think, in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, when we look at diversity and inclusion, on the school board and in various other offices, this summer and this year has showcased a lack of representation of African American people in a lot of other areas, and something else that’s important to acknowledge is the lack of diversity when it comes to age.

I think it’s important that we acknowledge that we need both older people and younger people to move forward and to make progress. When I speak about diversity I’m always including age.” 


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