On Tuesday, January 19, Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Sandy Holloway, Vice President Kira Orange Jones, and Secretary-Treasurer Ashley Ellis will be sworn in by Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice John L. Weimer as Board officers for 2021. The Chief Justice’s participation in the virtual installation ceremony underscores the growing partnership between BESE and Louisiana’s highest court to promote awareness and understanding of the legal justice system in K-12 classrooms.
The installation is scheduled for 8:30 a.m., prior to the start of BESE’s regular January meetings in Baton Rouge and will be streamed live through the websites of BESE (https://bese.louisiana.gov) and the Louisiana Supreme Court (https://livestream.lasc.org).
”It is a true honor for our leadership team to be sworn-in by our new Chief Justice,” said Holloway. “I am excited about the work BESE will undertake in 2021 to expand literacy, improve accountability, and conduct a comprehensive review of academic standards in social studies. As we work to build standards that equip students to be informed, responsible citizens, we also embrace the opportunity to collaborate with the court system to enrich civics learning experiences and help ensure positive outcomes for our children.”
Chief Justice Weimer, himself a former teacher of law and ethics at Nicholls State University, commented, “It has always been important to me as a judge to get out into the community, to encourage personal responsibility and respect for the law, describe how our judicial system functions, and extol the benefits of treating all people with dignity and respect. Through this partnership between the Louisiana Supreme Court and BESE, we look forward to having our state’s judges continue their involvement in the Louisiana Center for Law and Civics Education’s ‘Judges in the Classroom’ program to share lessons on the law and civic education in our schools, and the Adult Civics Education (ACE) program to reach out to adults in local communities. These initiatives, combined with others such as the ‘Don’t Let This Be You’ program spearheaded by my colleague, Justice Scott Crichton, can be achieved either in-person or through a web meeting, given any limitations which might be in place due to the pandemic. Judges and teachers share the commonality of being public servants, touching lives in a positive manner and, in most cases, using two-way communications for achieving successful outcomes; combining resources is monumental in affecting those we serve. It is my hope that through this collaboration we will be effective in influencing young minds by equipping them with additional tools for a brighter future.”
In 2001, then-Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Benjamin Jones, in his role as president of the Louisiana District Judges Association (LDJA), gained overwhelming support for the “Judges in the Classroom” program. Judges developed materials to assist judge/teacher partners in designing their lesson plans to fit class levels, topics of interest, and learning objectives. Chief Justice Weimer plans to further implement and enhance the program by encouraging judges to visit public schools in their districts while welcoming student visits to their courtrooms. In his first act as Chief Justice on January 1, 2021, he communicated by letter to all judges, encouraging them to become active teachers.
In addition to establishing statewide, academic standards for social studies in K-12 education, BESE is active on the Louisiana Commission on Civic Education, established by the state legislature to educate students of the importance of citizen involvement in a representative democracy, and to promote collaboration among organizations in the state that conduct civic education programs.