Dadrius Lanus defeated three-term District 2 incumbent Vereta Lee in a runoff Saturday, vaulting the 30-year-old educator onto the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and sending a second incumbent packing.
Lanus, who like Lee is a Democrat, garnered 47 percent of the vote in the Nov. 6 general election, nearly winning outright. Lee, by contrast, earned only 32 percent of the vote. In Saturday's balloting, Lanus won by a 3-to-2 margin.
Lee has long been a target of charter school-friendly business and education reform groups, but those groups upped the ante this time. They reported spending more than $170,000 on Lanus’ behalf to defeat the outspoken Lee, who is often critical of charter schools. That’s more than eight times what Lee reported raising on her own.
The parish School Board oversees the second-largest public school district in Louisiana. Prior to Saturday, seven incumbents were re-elected and one incumbent, Kenyetta Nelson-Smith, was defeated by Lanus’ friend and fellow educator, Tramelle Howard. Many of the groups spending money on behalf of Lanus also spent money on behalf of Howard.
District 2 is in north Baton Rouge, mostly east of Plank Road, snaking between Baker and Central, and taking up the northeast corner of the parish. Seventy percent the district's more than 26,000 registered voters are Democrats, and almost 80 percent are black.
Lanus, a teacher in local charter schools who now works as an educational consultant, grew up in north Baton Rouge, graduating from Glen Oaks High and Southern University. He has relentlessly criticized Lee for not doing enough to turn around the low-performing schools in District 2. He said he would hold regular town halls to zero in on the problem and convene a community advisory panel to guide his decisions.
Lanus also had promised to forgo the $800-a-month salary and use the money on scholarships for District 2 high school graduates.
Lee grew up in St. Helena Parish but has lived in Baton Rouge most of her life. Her four children all went to public schools in Baton Rouge. Lee’s attacked the grades and negative labels the state attaches to many north Baton Rouge schools, saying they miss many good things occurring in those schools.
Lee, who spent decades in the classroom, is currently supervisor of child welfare and attendance for City of Baker public schools. Throughout the campaign, she has trumpeted her 39 years of experience in public education, comparing it to the more limited experience of Lanus.
A third candidate in the race, Joycelyn Hall, who earned 21 percent of the vote on Nov. 6, endorsed Lee.