John Brown, a long-time New Orleans principal, will go to a runoff with Keith Barney, a special education teacher, in the race to fill the Orleans Parish School Board seat left vacant when Ira Thomas was indicted this year for taking a bribe.
Brown, who led the three-way race with 38 percent of the vote, likely benefited both from an extensive resume in public education — he served as a principal in numerous schools over a 20-year period — and the advantage of incumbency, even if he has only served on the board since March. Brown was appointed by fellow board members to fill in after Thomas was charged by federal prosecutors and stepped down.
Barney, who teaches special education students at Arthur Ashe Charter School, edged out fellow teacher Shawon Bernard for a spot in the next round of voting by just 29 votes.
It was a low-key race with few ideological divisions. All three of the candidates vying to represent District 1 on the seven-member School Board, covering most of New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward, were Democrats.
And all of them said they would support the efforts of the School Board’s new superintendent, Henderson Lewis Jr., to reunify the city’s school system under local control.
Since Hurricane Katrina, most schools in New Orleans have operated under the state’s Recovery School District, and most have been turned into independent charter schools with their own private boards.
Lewis is trying to lure those school’s back under the board’s watch, where they would continue to operate as autonomous charters but ultimately answer to the locally elected board. Charter schools have the option of coming back to the board once their academic standing improves to a certain point, though very few have taken that step.