School board elections review: Voters opt for experience over new blood in nation's largest school districts
By Nick Katers
Ballots were cast in school board elections across the country on November 5. Voters in 205 school districts across 17 states chose candidates to fill 673 available seats. The spotlight districts summarized below cover the largest school districts with elections on Tuesday. In this sampling of 14 elections, voters chose incumbents over challengers in 17 out of 22 competitive races, a 77.2% rate. The incumbency advantage was stronger in California and Colorado where incumbents won in each highlighted race. Voters were less keen on school board incumbents in Columbus, Ohio where only one incumbent survived an election for three open seats. An (i) denotes an incumbent candidate.
All three incumbents in the San Bernardino City Unified School District elections were able to win re-election on November 5. Danny Tillman and Barbara Flores won new terms handily while Judy Penman narrowly outpaced Abigail M. Medina for the third available seat.
San Bernardino City Unified School District
Danny Tillman: 5,543 (i)
Barbara Flores: 5,483 (i)
Judy Penman: 4,596 (i)
Abigail M. Medina: 4,506
Kaisar Ahmed: 3,322
Sonia Fernandez: 2,783
Joe Navarro: 1,187
Incumbents fared well in spotlight districts throughout Colorado. Voters returned all four incumbents running for board seats in Cherry Creek School District, Denver Public Schools and Douglas County School District. Voters in Denver and Douglas County supported slates of candidates who advocated reforms including charter schools, new teacher evaluations and school choice.
The Atlanta Board of Education will experience some turnover due to Tuesday's elections. Three incumbents won re-election to the board while District 1 incumbent Brenda J. Muhammad fell to challenger Leslie Grant. The top two candidates in Districts 5, 6, 8 and 9 will proceed to a runoff election on December 3, 2013 as no candidate won more than 50% of the vote. This nine-seat race attracted 26 candidates interested in appointing a new superintendent and solving the district's budgetary struggles.
A field of 12 candidates pursued six available seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education. Voters returned four incumbents to the board but replaced District 2 member Richard McElrath with newcomer Thelma Byers-Bailey.
Joyce Waddell: 11,111 (i)
Voters in Columbus selected two newcomers and an incumbent for three available seats on the Columbus Board of Education. Challengers Michael D. Cole and Dominic Paretti join Ramona R. Reyes on the board. Incumbent Mike Wiles narrowly lost to Paretti for third place while board member Hanifah Kambon placed last with 12.9% of the vote.
Incumbents received substantial support from residents in the Aldine Independent School District, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District and Houston Independent School District. Voters selected five out of six incumbents running in seven contested seats across these districts.
Bob R. Covey: 17,637 (i)
Voters in Prince William County chose a newcomer over an incumbent for the Woodbridge seat on the Prince William County Public School Board. Challenger Loree Williams won by a 23% margin against board member Steven Keen, who was appointed earlier this year to fill the seat.
The Seattle Public Schools elections on November 5 yielded two newcomers while an incumbent won re-election without opposition. The District 4 race concluded with Sue Peters defeating Suzanne Dale Estey after months of negative advertising and concerns about outside money. Stephan Blanford defeated fellow challenger LaCrese Green in District 5 while District 7 incumbent Betty Patu won re-election.
Betty Patu: 56,889 (i)
- The Sun, "Penman narrowly edges out Medina in SBCUSD board battle," November 5, 2013
- 7News.com, "Douglas County School Board election results: School reform candidates endorsed by GOP leading," November 6, 2013
- Denver Post, "Denver Public Schools candidates backing reform poised for wins," November 6, 2013
- Patch, "Four Atlanta School Board Races to be Decided in Runoffs," November 6, 2013
- Charlotte Observer, "CMS board: Newcomers Bailey, Byers-Bailey join 4 returning incumbents," November 5, 2013
- Columbus Dispatch, "Reyes keeps Columbus school board seat, but Cole, Paretti oust incumbents," November 6, 2013
- News92FM, "2013 Live Election Results: Houston Mayoral, Astrodome’s Fate, School Boards and More," November 1, 2013
- Inside NOVA, "Tight races, upsets in Tuesday's election," November 5, 2013
- Seattle Times, "Morning round-up: Peters and Blanford lead school board races, other election results," November 6, 2013