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Bobby Ardoin, Editor/Consulting Writer

Mary Ellen Donatto has spent 55 years involved in St. Landry Parish education and now she will have another 12 months helping make decisions that affect the lives of students on 34 campuses.

Donatto, who began her educational career as a paraprofessional, was chosen without opposition Thursday night as the 2024 Board president, replacing Joyce Haynes.

Bianca Vedell was selected as a new Board vice-president after winning an election over Randy Wagley.

During her career, Donatto has also been a teacher, instructional specialist and principal in Eunice.

Public school education, Donatto said, has been her passion nearly all her life.

“This is what I know. It’s what I do and what I love. It’s also a different time for education, not only in our parish, but across the nation. There are some challenges, but we have a superintendent who is one of our own and the Board will continue to support him,” Donatto said.

Donatto said she learned after her parochial school education, to embrace public schools as the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children.

“I was introduced to public schools and I realized that is the real world where all children have the opportunity to get an education,” Donatto said as she addressed the audience.

Haynes, a former parish public school teacher, principal and president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said she hopes that board members will continue working together.

During 2023, Haynes was a board president who presided over a superintendent search and the selection of Milton Batiste III as current superintendent.

What is important to remember, Haynes pointed out, is that many students currently enrolled in parish classrooms are destined to become individuals who might eventually figure in  the lives of their previous educators.

Students Haynes said, have a tendency to remember their teachers and perhaps one day the students will be placed in positions for giving back.

“They will be the ones who are taking care of us, doing things, emptying the bedpans, giving us the shots and the care that we will need,” Haynes pointed out.