(COVINGTON, LA, January 26) – Former educator and special education facilitator Gia Baker was chosen by the St. Tammany Parish School Board on January 21st to fill the vacancy of the District 9 seat until a public election can be held in October.
Baker was one of the five eligible people of District 9 to address the school board in support of the appointment to fill the seat left vacant when former board member Sharon Drucker resigned last month. The other four candidates up for the position were Lora Haddox, Dr. Judith Champagne, Doris Heckert and Lance Lalanne.
District 3 member Michael Dirmann nominated Baker, and in the first round of voting, she received votes from five of the 12 School Board members. Champagne received three votes while Haddox and Heckert each received two. Lalanne was the only candidate who did not receive a vote.
In the second round of voting, Baker received the majority vote with a total of eight votes from Dirmann, Matthew Greene, Beth Heintz, Jack Loup, Brandon Harrell, Michael Nation, Tammy Lamy and Lisa Page.
“What impressed me so much about Gia is that she had a resume that gave different perspectives,” Dirmann said. “From the standpoint of being a teacher, a special education coordinator and serving as a board member for the CAC, I think she offered a more rounded viewpoint than some of the other candidates.”
According to Baker, she has an extensive history of working within the school system at Little Oak Middle School, Mandeville Jr. High and Covington High School.
“From the time I was in grade school, I have always been fascinated by the learning process and I never imagined pursuing any career except education,” Baker said.
Baker said that once she began teaching, she was hooked.
According to District 2 member Beth Heintz, she voted Baker to fill the position for several reasons, one being her current community involvement with Hope House.
“Gia’s involvement with Hope House shows her dedication to ensuring the health and safety of children,” Heintz said.
Baker currently serves on both the executive and strategic planning committees at the 22nd Judicial District Children’s Advocacy Center/Hope House.
“I am extremely passionate about the work of the Hope House,” Baker said. “I work on fundraisers and community outreach for awareness of child abuse to help these abused children get the help they need.”
In Baker’s last 10 years of service, she has served as a special education IEP Facilitator for the district, mostly serving junior highs and high schools.
According to Baker, working with students who learn differently is even more rewarding than teaching regular education.
“Once I came to understand that learning disabilities have such little to do with intelligence,” Baker said. “I set expectations high, believed in my students, and they worked and achieved.”
According to School Board President Brandon Harrell, Baker’s work history including many years focused on special education leads him to believe that she could provide the board with a “unique insight into the special education needs of both students and teachers.”
According to Baker, she feels as though the most pressing issue facing District 9 is making it a priority to be there to support the families, students and teachers in the trenches struggling to live amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In my approach to address this issue, I plan to first identify the struggle and categorize it by most immediate and urgent need,” said Baker.
The next step, she said, will be working with the school district to offer solutions to these concerns.
According to Baker, she promises to be easily and readily accessible to the community she represents.
“I have already gone to each school in my district to introduce myself as their school board representative and spoke to each principal to see what their immediate needs are,” Baker said.
Baker said, “I plan to frequently visit and stay in touch with my schools while also being available to the general public to listen to their concerns and be a voice at the table.”
Baker’s term will run until a special election is held for the seat in the fall.