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WeProduceGrads.org founder Ronnie Morris speaks at Istrouma High School, upon the arrival =of the first batch of catfish fingerlings delivered there, Tuesday, Augyst 21, 2018 after they were raised at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

Ronnie Morris was elected to Louisiana's top school board Saturday night, which means business-backed candidates will fill all eight elected slots on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Morris, an operations manager at ExxonMobil, easily defeated fellow Republican Gregory Spiers, an information technology worker supported by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators.

The vote was 72% for Morris and 28% for Spiers, of Springfield, with 99% of the vote counted.

"It's awesome," Morris said late Saturday night.

"I am very humbled by the support that we got," he said.

Morris nearly locked up the District 6 seat in the Oct. 12 primary, capturing 49% of the vote in a four-person field. Spiers won 22% in the primary.

Candidates backed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry won six seats in the primary. A seventh LABI-backed BESE member, Tony Davis, of Natchitoches, won a second term in August when no one filed against him.

Three BESE members are named by the governor. The board sets policies for nearly 720,000 public school students statewide.

Morris is a veteran public school volunteer and former high school calculus and physics teacher.

Spiers is a former U.S. Navy SEAL who said he has always been drawn to public service. He ran on a platform that included calls to repeal the Common Core academic standards, which have since been revamped to be more Louisiana specific.

The BESE seat was vacated when Kathy Edmonston opted not to seek reelection. Edmonston, of Gonzales, ran for the open state House seat when Rep. Johnny Berthelot did not seek another term.

The BESE district covers much of East Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.

One of the first topics for the new board will be whether to approve a contract for state Superintendent of Education John White, who is operating on a month-to-month agreement because of an impasse on the panel.

BESE members take their oaths of office on the same day as the governor.

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.