Empower PAC backs Centanni for school board

by Patrick Flanagan

The Chamber's Empower PAC is throwing its support behind Justin Centanni in his bid for the District 6 seat on the LPSB.

Justin Centanni

The Chamber's Empower PAC is throwing its support behind Justin Centanni in his bid for the District 6 seat on the LPSB.

The District 6 incumbent is Greg Awbrey, a member of the board's obstructionist contingency who's opted against defending his seat, leaving Centanni to face off against one other candidate: Kathleen Schott Espinoza, a candidate with an anti-charter school focus, strong ties to the local teacher's union by way of her husband, and a favorite of the retired teachers.

On Tuesday, the Empower PAC a political action committee created by the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce announced that it was officially endorsing Centanni's campaign for District 6, marking its first endorsement out of this year's slate of 20 candidates vying for seats on the school board.

"The status quo of the Lafayette Parish School System is failing to meet the needs of our children and the aspirations of our community," says Empower PAC Chairman Frank Neuner in a prepared statement. "In Justin Centanni we see a capable leader dedicated to putting students first. Justin is someone who is results oriented and willing to put politics aside to work collaboratively with other board members, the administration, teachers, and parents."

Centanni a 37-year-old assistant vice president/database analyst for IberiaBank responded to the news of the endorsement with this statement:

I'm honored that my local chamber is standing with me to bring positive change to the Lafayette Parish School Board. This organization is made up of business leaders like me who are tired of our board's dysfunction and the negative light it shines on our great city. They want to see integrity, civility, professionalism and most of all, concern for our children and the teachers who educate them returned to the board, and they've agreed that I'm the candidate who will make that happen. I'm grateful for their support and their trust. I look forward to meeting with other citizen groups and individuals who want to learn more about my goals for the school system.

According to Chamber President and CEO Jason El Koubi a non-voting member of Empower PAC's board of directors  this year's school board elections are vital to Lafayette's future, as is picking the right candidates for the job.

"The new school board will determine the future our school system for the remainder of the decade," says El Koubi. "Our community deserves le`aldres with the professionalism to put personal interests aside and focus on improving the quality of education. To that end, Empower PAC worked to identify candidates committed to implementing a Common Vision for Our Future,' a set of principles and priorities for Lafayette's public schools endorsed by 13 community organizations. The vision stresses good governance practices, a commitment to evidence-based instruction, community engagement, and forging a path towards facilities we can be proud of."

While Centanni marks the first endorsement for the Chamber's Empower PAC, other school board candidates have also been the recipients of endorsements in recent days, including District 8 candidate Erick Knezek and District 9 candidate Jeremy Hidalgo.