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90 candidates seek 38 seats in first round of May school board elections

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April 30, 2014

School Board badge.png

By Alex Schaffer and Daniel Anderson

A total of 11 school districts across four states are holding school board elections for 38 seats on May 6, 2014. These races have drawn 90 candidates vying for the seats, and only six of the elections are uncontested. These districts face a variety of issues from budget shortfalls and administrative controversies to public concern over charter schools. New York's sole election features 13 candidates vying for just three seats on the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education. In Montana, the Billings Public Schools Board of Trustees will receive at least two new members with newcomer Tanya Ludwig running unopposed and challengers Susan Layton and Eric H. Olsen competing for the High School District B seat. In the Single Member District #2 race, incumbent Janna Hafer will face meteorologist Virgil Middendorf.

In Virginia, Chesapeake Public Schools is certain to see at least two new members after only three incumbents filed for the five at-large seats. Christie Craig, Harry A. Murphy and Michael J. Woods are taking on seven challengers. Incumbent Carlton S. Ashby is running unopposed to return to the Newport News School Board, although three newcomers are competing for the vacant at-large seat. In the same district, incumbents Pricillia E. Burnett and Jeff Stodghill will each face one challenger for their respective seats. Hampton City Schools will hold elections in the wake of a $7 million budget cut approved by the school board. If the budget reduction is approved by the Hampton City Council as part of the city's annual budget, the school district will eliminate 311.5 full-time positions.[1] Incumbent Linwood D. Harper was the sole dissenting vote on the budget cut.[2]

North Carolina is holding elections in six districts for 20 school board seats. Durham Public Schools features three competitive elections in the district, which has received attention for joining a lawsuit with the Wake County school board against a state law that eliminates teacher tenure.[3] The district is also still dealing with the resignation of Eric Becoats, its controversial superintendent, and public concern over the county's influx of charter schools.[4][5][6] Onslow County Schools is holding elections after a dispute over how the county will pay for a $145 million plan to build six new schools over 10 years. Iredell-Statesville Schools will hold elections for four positions, which are contested by 14 candidates. The district is attempting to construct a sixth high school to alleviate overcrowding at two existing high schools, but the plan will require approval of a November bond referendum to fund the project.[7]

Spotlight: Buffalo Public Schools

Buffalo Public Schools seal.jpg

The election in Buffalo Public Schools will be one of the most competitive school board elections in the United States this year. Although only three of the nine seats on the board are up for election, the winners of those seats will determine whether Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold retains her slim 5-4 majority or whether former gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino's faction takes control of the district's governing body. The retirement of Nevergold's ally, Florence Johnson, leaves one of the board seats vacant, and Nevergold herself is also up for re-election.[8] Fellow incumbent John Licata is an ally of Paladino, so it is possible that Nevergold could expand her governing majority by sweeping all three seats.[9]

Board members and candidates are split on a range of important issues facing the school district. Paladino's faction has fought to remove controversial Superintendent Pamela Brown from office for months, which resulted a narrow 5-4 board ruling in September 2013 to retain her.[10] In a survey conducted by The Buffalo News, six of the 13 candidates stated that they would vote to terminate Brown's contract. Those candidates include John Licata, Adrian Harris, Wendy Mistretta, Larry Quinn, Sergio Rodriguez and Patricia B. Pierce. Five candidates, including Nevergold, Bernie Tolbert, Stephon Wright, Samuel P. Davis and Gizelle Stokes, stated that they would vote to keep her. Two candidates, Stephen Buccilli and Ralph R. Hernandez, did not complete the survey.[11]

Common Core education reforms are another divisive issue for the school board candidates. However, several candidates who disagree with one another over Superintendent Brown still agree on Common Core. Nevergold, Licata, Harris, Mistretta, Wright and Davis all oppose Common Core, while Quinn, Rodriguez, Tolbert, Pierce and Stokes support it. In an unusual display of unity, all 11 candidates who responded to the survey did agree that the school district has done a poor job of implementing the reforms.[11] Superintendent Brown is a vocal supporter of Common Core, testifying to the New York State Senate Education Committee about the reforms and insisting during a local "listening tour" that the district would continue to implement the new curriculum and tests despite protests.[12][13]


Note: An (i) next to a candidate's name indicates incumbent status.


Billings Public Schools
Single Member District 1

UncheckedBox.jpg Tanya Ludwig

Single Member District #2

UncheckedBox.jpg Janna Hafer (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Virgil Middendorf

High School District B

UncheckedBox.jpg Susan Layton
UncheckedBox.jpg Eric H. Olsen

New York

Buffalo Public Schools

UncheckedBox.jpg Stephen Buccilli
UncheckedBox.jpg Samuel P. Davis
UncheckedBox.jpg Adrian Harris
UncheckedBox.jpg Ralph R. Hernandez
UncheckedBox.jpg John Licata (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Wendy Mistretta
UncheckedBox.jpg Barbara Seals Nevergold (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Patricia B. Pierce
UncheckedBox.jpg Larry Quinn
UncheckedBox.jpg Sergio Rodriguez
UncheckedBox.jpg Gizelle Stokes
UncheckedBox.jpg Bernie Tolbert
UncheckedBox.jpg Stephon Wright

North Carolina

Durham Public Schools
District 1

UncheckedBox.jpg Omega Parker (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Michael Lee
UncheckedBox.jpg Thomas Poole

District 2

UncheckedBox.jpg Sendolo Diaminah
UncheckedBox.jpg Jimmy Doster
UncheckedBox.jpg Donald A. Hughes
UncheckedBox.jpg DeWarren K. Langley
UncheckedBox.jpg Terrence R. Scarborough

District 3
UncheckedBox.jpg Steven Gatlin
UncheckedBox.jpg Matthew Sears
UncheckedBox.jpg Lisa Gordon Stella
UncheckedBox.jpg Deborah Bryson

District 4
UncheckedBox.jpg Natalie Beyer (i)

Iredell-Statesville Schools
District 1
UncheckedBox.jpg Robert Clontz
UncheckedBox.jpg Max James, Jr.
UncheckedBox.jpg David Johnson

District 3
UncheckedBox.jpg John Donnelly
UncheckedBox.jpg Cynthia Haynes
UncheckedBox.jpg Roger Craig Morrow
UncheckedBox.jpg John Rogers, Jr. (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Kevin Ross

District 5
UncheckedBox.jpg Martin Page
UncheckedBox.jpg Victoria Sawyer

District 7
UncheckedBox.jpg Anna Bonham (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Kenneth Frady, Jr.
UncheckedBox.jpg Dennis Moody
UncheckedBox.jpg Patricia Stevens

Lee County Schools
Democratic primary
UncheckedBox.jpg Democratic Party Mark Akinosho (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Democratic Party Richard Hayes
UncheckedBox.jpg Democratic Party Ophelia Livingston
UncheckedBox.jpg Democratic Party Shawn E. Williams

Republican primary
UncheckedBox.jpg Republican Party Sandra Bowen
UncheckedBox.jpg Republican Party Christine Curkendall
UncheckedBox.jpg Republican Party David L. Schau

Onslow County Schools
UncheckedBox.jpg Brock Ridge (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Mary Anne Kellum-Sharpe (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Joel Churchwell
UncheckedBox.jpg Bob Williams

Robeson County Schools
District 2
UncheckedBox.jpg Brenda S. Fairley-Ferebee (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Effie N. McEachin

District 3
UncheckedBox.jpg Severeo Kerns (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Brenda L. Locklear
UncheckedBox.jpg Peggy Wilkins Chavis

District 6
UncheckedBox.jpg Mike Smith (i)

District 8
UncheckedBox.jpg Dwayne Smith

Wilkes County Schools
UncheckedBox.jpg Randall Holbrook (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Sharron N. Huffman (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Larry Pendry
UncheckedBox.jpg Matt Ledford


Chesapeake Public Schools
UncheckedBox.jpg Michael David Brown
UncheckedBox.jpg Wilford A. Clark, Jr.
UncheckedBox.jpg Christie Craig (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Kimberly S. Hobbs
UncheckedBox.jpg Brenda J. Johnson
UncheckedBox.jpg Colleen C. Leary
UncheckedBox.jpg Harry A. Murphy (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Les Smith, Jr.
UncheckedBox.jpg Louis J. Tayon, Jr.
UncheckedBox.jpg Michael J. Woods (i)

Hampton City Schools
Hampton Roads Seat A
UncheckedBox.jpg Jennifer P. Phillips (i)
UncheckedBox.jpg Jason S. Samuels

Hampton Roads Seat B
UncheckedBox.jpg Linwood D. Harper (i)

Chesapeake Bay Seat A
UncheckedBox.jpg David J. Dietrich
UncheckedBox.jpg Joseph C. Kilgore (i)

Newport News Public Schools
UncheckedBox.jpg Curtis D. Bethany III
UncheckedBox.jpg Gary B. Hunter
UncheckedBox.jpg Rick E. Jones, Jr.

UncheckedBox.jpg Betty Bracey Dixon
UncheckedBox.jpg Jeff Stodghill (i)

UncheckedBox.jpg Douglas C. Brown
UncheckedBox.jpg Pricillia E. Burnett (i)

UncheckedBox.jpg Carlton S. Ashby (i)

See also