Port Arthur ISD School Board of Trustees

Q1: How can the district best support teachers as they work to decrease students’ learning gaps caused by the pandemic?

Q2: As is the case across the state, there has been a drop in test scores in Port Arthur ISD. How should the district address this and how long do you think it will take to make up for pandemic-caused learning loss?

Q3: What do you bring to the table as a candidate that makes you best suited for this position over the other candidates?

Dianne Brown (I)*

Age: 67

Occupation: Retired

Highest level of education: High school

Volunteer work, endorsements or other elected office (up to 3)


1. PAISD School Board Secretary

2. Port Arthur Rotary Club member

3. Title I parent involvement program

Graduate or has children who have graduated or are in PAISD: Two sons and two grandchildren who graduated from the district

A1: By supporting the teachers, first of all. They need to make sure that new teachers have experienced teachers to guide them through class. Just be there for the teachers when they need us, most of all.

A2: Due to the pandemic, we already lost like a year of schooling for the kids because we went virtual and a lot of the kids did attend virtual and a lot of them didn’t. So, I think it’ll be a couple of years before they get on the right track again because we have to reteach a lot.

A3: I worked for the school district for 25 years. When I started I was a pre-kindergarten aide, then I went to an office clerk to a clerk in shipping and receiving where I served 16 years in that department. I got to know a lot of kids, a lot of teachers and see the problems. It’s my passion to try and create an environment in which all students and employees can be successful. My biggest goal for PAISD is for students to be able to read at an early age, like three or four years old — not just to be able to read the words but for comprehension. I want all employees to be proud of their district. Recently, I think we have a done a good job in creating atmospheres of which our employees can be proud. It’s going to take some time, but I think we can continue to improve the perception of the district.

Yadi Cardenas

Age: 45

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom

Highest level of education: Two associate degrees from Lamar State College Port Arthur

Volunteer work, endorsements or other elected office (up to 3):

1. Serves on the Board of Directors of Gulf Coast Health Center

2. Member of the Parent-Teacher Association

3. Band booster president at Memorial High School

Graduate or has children who have graduated or are in PAISD: Two children graduated and three currently in PAISD

A1: I think we need to work with parents so we can bridge the gap. So, we can understand how we can best help our children together and provide support for the students and teachers as needed. We also need to focus on mental health because I think that’s one of the most overlooked necessities for our students and everyone after the pandemic.

A2: We have to, again, work as a team and address mental health because if we keep going without addressing certain issues, we’re not going to see any improvements. I think a lot of students have been affected with stress, with the changes. They lost the first year, the two, three months of school and then the next year was everyone trying to adjust and staying home and doing online. So, everyone’s trying to adjust, but we have to address certain issues before we move forward.

A3: Being a parent and having children at the school district makes me the best (candidate). I have the ears and the eyes that no one has had in a few years. When you look at the other candidates, they don’t have children in our school district and they haven’t experienced firsthand what is we have as parents experienced with teachers and our children during these last two years during the pandemic. And I think being a parent and not just a parent but a parent that has been there volunteering for many years and been very involved with other parents, teachers, I think that’s what makes me the best candidate.

Jacori Narcisse

The Enterprise contacted Jacori Narcisse, but received no response.

Nina Stelly

Age: 62

Occupation: Substitute teacher/ tutor

Highest level of education: Doctorate of Divinity

Volunteer work, endorsements or other elected office (up to 3):

1. Dean of Congress of Christian Education

2. Silver life member of the Beaumont chapter of the NAACP, gold life member of the Port Arthur chapter

3. Lifetime membership in the Parent-Teacher Association

Graduate or has children who have graduated or are in PAISD: Graduate

A1: Teachers’ salaries should be raised. They can assure that the teachers have what they need and you have programs, but you need to implement the programs that you have. And that there is enough staff to cover the ratio of students at all times.

A2: There was a two-year gap. So, the thing that the district should do, again, is make sure that there’s adequate staff and that if these students need individual instruction, that they will be able to get whatever they need. We have programs in place, but again, we need to push those programs.

A3: First of all, I’ve been in the classroom, I am currently in the classroom. So, I know what happens in the classroom. I’ve been outside as a volunteer of the classroom and the PTA and parental involvement. I think I bring the voice of experience to the table, along with my education.

Kimberly Wycoff-Johnson

Age: 36

Occupation: Process operator at the Valero Port Arthur Refinery

Highest level of education: Bachelor’s degree in communications from Lamar University

Volunteer work, endorsements or other elected office (up to 3):

1. Member of Valero’s Volunteer Council

2. Member of the non-profit Linda’s Lighthouse

3. Member of the Young Emerging Leaders for the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce

Graduate or has children who have graduated or are in PAISD: Graduate

A1: Renewing the communication throughout the district between the administration and the faculty is vital. So, we have to simply by listen to educators’ concerns. Faculty members feel like their concerns are falling on deaf ears sometimes. Of course, with them being on the front line with the students, they know what is needed, whether it be resources, additional help or attention or supplies. Having an open ear and actually hearing and listening to their concerns and trying at all costs to provide what’s needed, is key to make educators feel comfortable in bouncing back from the pandemic.

A2: The district should do an in-depth data analysis of testing concerns. I saw research with some districts in Houston and surrounding areas, they actually did a data analysis of all the schools and what subjects were lacking and they actually started implementing some after-school programs. They’re focused directly on those specific categories that they may be lacking, just providing a more training for educators to give them different insight and approaches on how to teach those lessons. Of course, you know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results. So, if you want to get different results than what we’ve been having, which is a drop in scores, you’re going to have to implement different learning initiatives for the students and different ways to try to get them motivated and ways for you to know that they’re understanding the information a little better. 

A3: I don’t like to actually say how much better I am than the other candidates because to be honest, all of us in the running are really good. But from my personal perspective, I will say that I am a 36-year-old lifelong resident of Port Arthur. I got my entire education from Port Arthur ISD. I’m a very outgoing and very on-the-scene person. So, I have a good rapport with educators. I’m familiar with the administrators, and I’m also very active with the students. It’s not that I’m just sitting at home looking on the outside in, but I actually get involved not even being in a position. Given the opportunity and a higher platform, I’ll bring a fresh new insight and ideas to keep our district going forward.

*(I) incumbent

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"I Voted" stickers at a polling station on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on November 6, 2018, in Irvine, Calif. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
“I Voted” stickers at a polling station on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on November 6, 2018, in Irvine, Calif. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

ROBYN BECK/AFP, HO / TNS


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