Meet the candidates in the BESE District 7 runoff

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 8:30 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education makes big decisions about children’s education, and this Saturday local voters will choose who will be their voice on the board.

We first spoke with the candidates in the race for BESE District 7 ahead of October’s election.

District 7 covers most of Southwest Louisiana. Incumbent Holly Boffy (R) has served on the board since 2012.

Three Republicans ran for her term-limited seat, and it came down to Kevin Berken and Erick Knezek going to a run-off. Berken took home 37 percent of the vote while Knezek received 34 percent of the vote.

Berken, a Jeff Davis Parish native, has served on multiple boards, including agriculture and hospice. He is also a farmer and businessman.

“Being chairman of about a dozen of the different boards that I’ve been on, my common sense, businessmen’s approach. I’ve been on boards from the local level to the national level,” Berken said.

Erick Knezek is from Lafayette. He is a business owner and veteran. Knezek has served on the Lafayette School Board along with being a member of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office as a SWAT specialist.

“A Ph.D. in engineering, U.S. Naval Academy graduate, I’m a Veteran of the U.S. Navy. I’ve succeeded in business and built a company from nothing to being highly successful and I think most importantly, I served on a public school board,” Knezek said.

Just this past Monday, the Louisiana Department of Education released the performance scores for Beauregard, Cameron, Jeff Davis and Calcasieu public schools.

Both candidates say if elected they plan to maintain or even improve the scores the parishes have received.

“The fact that we are improving is good, right? But we have a long way to go and just keeping, I think it’s like that for any time you set a goal, you set incremental goals and you continue to push, continue to push and work towards not necessarily slight improvements, but significant improvement,” Knezek said.

“The reading proficiencies, tutoring, getting kids prepared, not advancing and compounding the problem, we certainly do not need to water down the graduation requirements. We need to make those stricter and tougher because all the workforce in Louisiana, they know if someone graduates school here in Louisiana that they are prepared to go to college to go to VOTECH or go to the workforce,” Berken said.

The candidates urge the public to get out and cast their vote this Saturday.