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JP School Board fills vacant seat after social media fiasco

All but two members voted in favor of Schnell’s appointment after the board disagreed on three other candidates.

HARVEY, La. — The Jefferson Parish Public School Board has filled the seat left vacant after a controversial member stepped down earlier this month. 

Diane Schnell becomes the new representative for District 6. She’s a former teacher, a mother, a Telemundo employee, and the only woman of color on the board.

All but two members voted in favor of Schnell’s appointment after the board disagreed on three other candidates.

“I feel like this all lined up at the right time. And I think it’s just time for a Latina to have a voice in the community. And it’s not just for the Latinas, it’s for everybody,” said Schnell after she was appointed.

Schnell is a Spanish speaker and first-generation American. She believes it will give her a unique advantage to connect with the Hispanic families in JP Schools, which make up about 31% of the district. 

Credit: WWLTV
Diane Schnell

For the board, filling this position has been a chess game since January 5th. That’s when the board appointed Rafael Rafidi, the only candidate for the job.

The next day, Rafidi’s far-right and obscene social media posts were published by our partners at Nola.com. Rafidi was asked to resign and stepped down on Jan 10.

The publicity drew the attention of nine new candidates, including law professors, four current or former educators, a pharmacist, and a recent college graduate.

But board members first nominated two candidates who were not teachers. Educators in the audience were not pleased.

Kelser Camese-Jones, president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, spoke up during public comment.

“You have an opportunity to get this right,” she said to the board.

In the end, Schnell was nominated by member Ricky Johnson and was voted in and sworn in by the end of the meeting.

She says she’s ready to get started.

“I can’t wait to get out there in the community to see what I can do to help and what I can bring to the board,” she said.

Schnell will be in her position at the next school board meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 2.

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