NEW ORLEANS — Newcomers will replace half the incumbents on the Orleans Parish School Board, which faces the immediate challenge of selecting a new superintendent, discussing the return of eligible Recovery School District schools to the district’s governance and ongoing efforts to rebuild and renovate facilities.
In complete but unofficial returns:
District 1 incumbent Ira Thomas won by a wide margin with 68 percent of the vote over challenger Heidi Lovett Daniels. Thomas said that he was pleased that his campaign remained positive and focused on “my record of accomplishment during my tenure.” He said that one of his priorities will be to select a superintendent collectively with the new board using a process that will include community input. “I’m looking forward to working with the new members to set goals and objectives going forward,” he said. The District 1 election had 50 percent voter turnout.
In District 2, incumbent Cynthia Cade won with 51 percent of the vote. Dwight McKenna received 38 percent of the vote, and 11 percent went to Durrell Laurent. Voter turnout was 54 percent. Cade could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
District 3 was likely the most heated race, with accusations flying across the airwaves in campaign ads. It also drew the highest turnout, with 58.6 percent of eligible voters casting ballots. Incumbent Brett Bonin, the lone Republican running for School Board, lost to challenger Sarah Newell Usdin.
The founder of New Schools for New Orleans and former Teach for America Executive Director emerged victorious with 58 percent of the vote. Bonin received 32 percent of the vote, with 10 percent going to Karran Harper Royal. “It is clear voters of District 3 share our belief about the potential of all students in New Orleans,” Usdin said. “I am excited to begin working towards ensuring that we have excellent public schools for all children in the city.”
The closest race played out in District 4, with newcomer Leslie Ellison edging out two-term incumbent Lourdes Moran by four points with 52 percent of the vote. Running for office for the first time, Ellison said she feels that her constituents appreciated her on-the-ground efforts to knock on doors and introduce herself over the course of the summer. Ellison said that her campaign was “strictly grass-roots,” relying on the support of friends, family and volunteers in the district where she said she has family roots dating back to the 1800s. The race drew 51.2 percent of percent of voters.
Choosing a superintendent will be on the forefront for Ellison, and she said she intends to remain closely connected to the community.
District 5 was uncontested, with Seth Bloom holding onto the seat.
In District 6, incumbent Woody Koppel held on to his seat with 66 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Jason Coleman. Koppel said that he feels he successfully ran on his accomplishments as a board member with academic as well as financial improvements. But he said he took nothing for granted and ran a hard campaign. He also said that he had a broad base of support, crossing party lines and educational philosophies.
Koppel said he hopes to see the board move forward with strengthening early childhood education as well as ensuring long-term facility maintenance. That race drew 42.8 percent of eligible voters.
District 7 incumbent Thomas Robichaux lost to challenger Nolan Marshall Jr. in a race that drew 42.8 percent voter turnout. Marshall received 68 percent of the vote. Robichaux received 21 percent of the vote with 11 percent going to Kwame Smith. Running for public office for the first time, Marshall said his top priority is to bring the new board to consensus on a “clear vision of what excellence in education means to the community,” as opposed to “hiring people to determine what success means to us.”
Marshall said his ability to work with everyone in the community — regardless of philosophy — will be an asset to the new board. “It’s an opportunity that I relish,” Marshall said. “There is a lot of work to be done.”