The results of school board board elections show incumbents retaining their seats in Gwinnett and Clayton, suggesting that voters are not unhappy with the direction of their schools.
Or at least not unhappy enough to vote in change.
On the other hand, voters approved the controversial charter school amendment, which gives the state more power to get involved in local education decisions.
Clayton offers an interesting situation. In July, dissatisfied Clayton residents voted out two incumbent county commissioners and the sheriff. So, you can’t argue that Clayton voters aren’t paying attention or willing to act. They have proven they will oust incumbents, who often retain their posts through Georgia due to voter inertia.
But Clayton school board members appear to be holding onto their seats based on current vote counts. Yet, the district is under a warning from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools that its accreditation is being jeopardized by board feuding.
So, are folks happy with local control or not?
The inconsistencies may reflect the common survey phenomenon in which the majority of respondents praise their own schools, but say that schools elsewhere are not doing well.
Three veteran school board members from Gwinnett — including one with a near record 40 years of service — appeared headed Tuesday for re-election. But incumbency did not translate into wins for Cobb County school board member Alison Bartlett or Fayette County school board member Terri Smith, both of whom were defeated Tuesday by challengers.
In Gwinnett, with votes still being counted, school board chairwoman Louise Radloff, the state’s second longest-serving school board member, appeared to be headed for an 11th term. With two thirds of the votes counted, Radloff had about 75 percent. Re-election also looked likely for Mary Kay Murphy and Carole Boyce in the state’s largest school district.
Incumbents also appeared to have survived in Clayton County, despite renewed concerns about the school district’s ability to retain accreditation. Four of Clayton’s nine school board members faced opposition in the election. Early returns showed all four leading, though some by narrow margins. Candidates who do not receive more than 50 percent of the vote will face runoff elections.
In Clayton’s District 2, incumbent Wanda Smith had a slim lead over Mark Christmas. District 5 incumbent Ophelia Burroughs had a strong lead over Xavier Ross in early returns. The closest race was between incumbent Mary Baker and Janice Scott for the District 6 seat, while incumbent Trinia Garrett had a comfortable lead against her nearest challenger, Judy Johnson, in District 7.
In Gwinnett, the closest race was between Murphy, a 16-year veteran, and Jen Falk, an education advocate and political newcomer, for a seat in the Duluth area. Incumbent Boyce appeared headed for easy victory over Jennah Es-Sudan, a tax accountant, mother of two and grandmother of seven, in the other contested race.
In Fayette County, Republican Mary Kay Bacallao had 65 percent of the vote to Smith’s 35 percent with all ballots counted but the tally unofficial.
In Cobb County, Bartlett lost to Republican newcomer Brad Wheeler in a bid for the school board seat in the newly drawn and Republican-leaning Post 7. Unofficial totals showed Wheeler capturing 62 percent of the vote to Bartlett’s 38 percent.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog