Voters give East Feliciana School Board president a fifth term _lowres

Advocate file photo -- Michael Ray Bradford

East Feliciana Parish School Board President Michael Ray Bradford won his fifth term in office in Saturday’s runoff election, joining seven other incumbent board members re-elected during qualifying or in the Nov. 4 primary.

Bradford, who was first elected as one of the Clinton area’s three members in 1998, defeated former board member Chris Rouchon with 1,287 votes to Rouchon’s 981, according to unofficial tallies announced Saturday night by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Although the parish’s school performance scores have improved in the last four years and the district operated with a surplus last school year, the new and returning School Board members may have to make decisions early next year to address declining enrollments and the resulting loss of state funding.

In addition to Bradford, the returning incumbents are Melvin Hollins, Broderick Brooks, Mitch Harrell, Beth Dawson, Rhonda Matthews, Richard Terrell and Paul Kent.

J. Curtis Jelks, a former board member, also won a term in the Nov. 4 election and will join newcomers Tim Corcoran, Derald Spears and Joyce Kent on the 12-member board.

Bradford said he plans to seek re-election as the board’s president when the new term begins in January.

“I’d like to thank God, my wife, Loretta, who was my campaign manager, and all of my supporters,” Bradford said after the polls closed.

He said he also thanks the people who voted for his opponent for taking an interest in the school system.

“I’d like to hear any ideas that they may have,” he said.

He said the school system faces three big challenges in the coming years.

“We’ve got to stop students from leaving the system and get them to come back,” Bradford said, adding that two other challenges are improving the system’s aging buildings and continuing to improve student test scores.

Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. has suggested closing the parish’s consolidated middle school in Clinton next school year as one way to cut costs.

Lewis said he favors assigning sixth-graders in the elementary schools in Slaughter, Clinton and Jackson and putting seventh- and eighth-graders in East Feliciana High School. Sixth-graders in the Slaughter attendance zone already attend Slaughter Elementary.

Any plan to close a school or shift students to different locations will require federal court approval because the district remains a defendant in a 1965 desegregation lawsuit.