School district news

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Big spending leads to big win for Pace in Austin ISD runoffs

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By Lauren Dixon

The top vote-getters in Austin Independent School District's November election proved victorious once again in the runoff election for three seats. The Texas district was the only one to hold a runoff on December 16, 2014. In November, the candidates in Austin ISD were unable to garner the 50 percent plus one majority in their general election races necessary to win the trio of seats outright. All of the winners who will be welcomed to the board are newcomers, since the incumbents holding the Districts 1, 6 and At-large Position 9 seats did not seek re-election.

In the District 1 race, University of Texas professor Edmund T. Gordon triumphed over minister David Thompson. He garnered 10 percent more of the vote in the runoff election. In November, he led Thompson by about six percent.

Campaign consultant and activist Paul Saldaña narrowly edged out former Austin ISD educator Kate Mason-Murphy to take the District 6 seat. The race was also close in November, in which just one percent of the vote separated Saldaña and Mason-Murphy.

The At-large Position 9 seat went in favor of local business owner Kendall Pace, who came out ahead of educator Hillary Procknow. Pace was the biggest spender in the November elections, raising over $43,000 during her campaign. The unofficial vote totals show Pace defeating Procknow by over 30 percent.

All elected members will officially take office in early January 2015.


St. Joseph school board CFO deals with $2M shortfall, emotional return

In a letter to St. Joseph Superintendent Dr. Fred Czerwonka dated October 14, 2014, the Missouri DESE said it was disallowing reimbursement for more than half of the district's summer school classes because parents were charged a fee, the course "was primarily an athletic team or band practice," the course "was a daycare service that required fees" or the course was not in a district building.

DESE spokesperson Sarah Potter said in an email: "We have not found any other district with this extensive list of programs" that failed to meet state guidelines for reimbursement.

"This is out of the ordinary [...] pretty significantly out of the ordinary," says DESE deputy commissioner Dennis Cooper. Some of the classes disallowed included YMCA swimming, YMCA camp, driver’s education and a runner’s club.

The Missouri DESE sent a letter to Superintendent Czerwonka

St. Joseph Board of Education member Chris Danford, who helped blow the whistle on $270,000 in secret stipends to 54 top administrators, says she’s frustrated with the lack of communication from Czerwonka and other administrators.

She wants to know why DESE contacted the district on October 14, 2014, and she had to learn about it almost two months later from Ballotpedia.

"No one has seen this letter," says Danford. "Nor have they seen this list of things that are disallowed."

In a statement, the district disputed some of the DESE charges. The district said any fees collected from parents went directly to the sponsoring organization and some activities were held in off-site buildings because the facility was better.

"We immediately began conversations with DESE in regards to their concerns upon receipt of the letter. We also began to formulate a plan with our staff to submit to the Office of Quality Schools to address those concerns," Czerwonka said in the statement.

That plan is due on December 15, 2014. Danford and fellow board member Kappy Hodges both say that Czerwonka never told them DESE required an action plan.


Austin ISD heads to runoff for three seats

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By Lauren Dixon

Six candidates in Austin Independent School District will head to a rematch for three available seats in a runoff election on December 16, 2014, wrapping up the year's contentious election season. The candidates in Austin ISD were unable to garner the 50 percent plus one majority in their general election races that was necessary to win the seats outright. Every candidate who proceeded to the runoff is a newcomer, since the incumbents holding the seats did not seek re-election on November 4, 2014.

Edmund T. Gordon, an associate professor at the University of Texas, and minister David Thompson will face off for the District 1 seat. The two managed to receive more votes than their challengers, P. Kevin Bryant and Stanton Strickland, in the general election, in addition to outspending them. Combined, Gordon and Thompson raked in slightly more than $12,000 during the election. In the District 6 race, former Austin ISD educator Kate Mason-Murphy will take on activist Paul Saldaña. Fellow challenger Monica Sanchez was defeated in the general election. In race for the At-large Position 9 seat, educator Hillary Procknow will face local business owner Kendall Pace. The pair defeated three fellow challengers in November.


Few surprises in Louisiana school board runoff results

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By Margaret Koenig

Seventeen seats on nine school boards among Louisiana's largest school districts by enrollment were determined in the runoff election on December 6, 2014. Nine incumbents faced runoff races. The four who were able to retain their seats were also the top vote recipients in their general election races. Only one candidate won their runoff race without being the top vote recipient in their general election race.

Just six of the races saw opponents of differing partisan affiliations; six of the seats saw only Democratic competitors and four saw only Republican competitors. Democratic candidates came out slightly ahead with nine wins while Republican candidates won the other eight runoff races. While there were two independent candidates, neither won their respective runoff contest.

Three different seats went to a runoff in three of the nine districts. For the Caddo Parish School Board, District 2 incumbent Jasmine R. Green (D) defeated challenger Barbara Johnson Simpson (D). Meanwhile, District 8 incumbent Bonita Crawford (R) and District 11 incumbent Ginger Armstrong (R) were defeated by challengers Denee Locke (R) and Kacee Hargrave Kirschvink (R), respectively.

Louisiana 2014
runoff candidate outcomes
Won Lost
Incumbents 4 5
Republicans 8 6
Democrats 9 9
Independents 0 2

Voters chose between pairs of newcomers for the three open seats on the Calcasieu Parish School Board. Edwina Medearis (D) lost to Glenda Gay (D) for District 3, Teddie Atterbery Jr. (I) lost to Dean Roberts (R) for District 6 and Becky B. Grove (D) lost to Alvin Dale Smith (R) for District 10. Smith was the only candidate to win a runoff race who was not also the top vote recipient of the general election race.

Two districts held runoffs for two seats each. For the Jefferson Parish School Board, Rickeem Jackson (D) lost to Ricky Johnson (D) in the District 2 contest while incumbent Mark Jacobs (R) lost to the District 7 seat to Melinda Doucet (R).

District 1 incumbent Roosevelt "Rosey" Thomas (D) and District 9 incumbent Hayes J. Badeaux (D) on the Terrebonne Parish School Board faced challengers Joe Thompson (D) and Vicki Bonvillain (R), respectively. While Thomas retained his seat, Badeaux was defeated by Bonvillain.

The remaining four districts with runoffs only featured one seat up for election each. District 1 on the Lafayette Parish School Board will be filled by Mary Morrison (D), who defeated "Coach Don" Gagnard (I). Robyn Penn Delaney (D) defeated Jevella Williamson (D) to fill the open District 1 seat on the Ascension Parish School Board.

District 12 voters chose Albert "Al" Hayes Jr. (D) over Roland Miller (R) for the St. Landry Parish School Board. The District A seat on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board will be filled by Walter Daniels (D), who overcame Eric Brumfield (D).


Lingering Louisiana school board races to be decided in Dec. 6 runoff

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By Margaret Koenig

Thirty-four school board candidates for districts among Louisiana's largest school districts by enrollment who were unable to garner the 50 percent plus one majority in their respective general election races are sending voters back to the polls. Seventeen seats on nine school boards will be determined in the runoff election on December 6, 2014. Of the nine incumbents facing a runoff election, four were the top vote recipients in their general election contests. Just six of the races will see opponents of differing partisan affiliations; six of the seats will see only Democratic competitors and four will see only Republican competitors.

Three seats went to a runoff in three districts. For the Caddo Parish School Board, District 2 incumbent Jasmine R. Green (D) faces Barbara Johnson Simpson (D), District 8 incumbent Bonita Crawford (R) faces Denee Locke (R) and District 11 incumbent Ginger Armstrong (R) faces Kacee Hargrave Kirschvink (R).

Voters will choose between pairs of newcomers for the Calcasieu Parish School Board as Glenda Gay (D) and Edwina Medearis (D) vie for District 3, Teddie Atterbery Jr. (I) and Dean Roberts (R) vie for District 6 and Becky B. Grove (D) and Alvin Dale Smith (R) vie for District 10.

Two districts are holding runoffs for two seats each. For the Jefferson Parish School Board, Rickeem Jackson (D) and Ricky Johnson (D) face each other in the District 2 contest while incumbent Mark Jacobs (R) and Melinda Doucet (R) seek the District 7 seat. District 1 incumbent Roosevelt "Rosey" Thomas (D) and District 9 incumbent Hayes J. Badeaux (D) on the Terrebonne Parish School Board face challengers Joe Thompson (D) and Vicki Bonvillain (R), respectively.

The remaining four districts with runoffs have one seat up for election each. District 1 on the Lafayette Parish School Board will be filled by either "Coach Don" Gagnard (I) and Mary Morrison (D). The race between Robyn Penn Delaney (D) and Jevella Williamson (D) will fill the District 1 seat on the Ascension Parish School Board.

District 12 voters will choose between Albert "Al" Hayes Jr. (D) and Roland Miller (R) for the St. Landry Parish School Board. The District A seat on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board will be decided in the race between Eric Brumfield (D) and Walter Daniels (D).





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