Schools
 

Six of seven school-board races draw at least one challenger

A few surprise candidates qualified to run for the Orleans Parish School Board today, the last day to do so.

Only one incumbent, Seth Bloom, is getting a free pass; the other six are facing at least one challenger.

Some qualified just hours before the deadline.

Long-time parent advocate Karran Harper Royal was one, completing the process minutes before qualifying closed. She is running against incumbent Brett Bonin and Sarah Usdin.. Business owner Nolan Marshall, Jr., of Nolan Marshall Studios, also qualified late Friday to run against incumbent Thomas Robichaux, Rudy Rayfield and Kwame Smith.

Here’s the full list of candidates. Click on the district names to download a map of each district.

District 1

Ira Thomas, incumbent
Democrat
Southern University at New Orleans police chief. Successfully ran in 2008 on a pro-charter platform, but advised that charter success needs to be measured more precisely. Has spoken out against some policy changes that the Orleans Parish School Board has made this year and has advocated for School Board approval of more community-based chartering groups. Says that talk about governance focuses too much on changing systems, rather than students.

Heidi Lovett Daniels
Democrat
Former School Board member and vice-president who served on the board from 2004-2008. Could not be reached for further description.

 

District 2

Cynthia Cade, incumbent
Democrat
Childcare center director. Successfully ran in 2004 and again in 2008. Opposed appointment of interim superintendent and creation of a deputy charter school superintendency,replacing position of executive charter school director.  Has advocated for School Board approval of more-community based chartering groups.

Durrell Laurent
Democrat
Local insurance agent and real-estate agent. Gentilly resident. Says he wants to make RSD charters feel comfortable enough to move back to OPSB control, and wants to work with the state to help resolve charter schools’ concerns about no longer being considered their own local school agency.

Dwight McKenna
Democrat
Local physician. School Board member in the late 1980s-early 1990s. Second run in recent years. Lost in 2008 to Cade. Says he supports charter schools, but that they are not the answer to everything, nor should they be given “carte blanche” to govern themselves without being held accountable.

District 3

Brett Bonin, incumbent
Republican
Local attorney. Self-described charter school supporter. Occasional ally of fellow board members Cynthia Cade and Ira Thomas, notably to push for authorization of more community-based charter school operators. Criticized the Recovery School District under Paul Vallas’ tenure, but praises the current administration for working more closely with the School Board.

Karran Harper Royal
No party affiliation
Long-time advocate for special-needs students. Has garnered a reputation of being critical of the Recovery School District and the many changes in education in post-Katrina New Orleans. Has said that schools have a long way to go in terms of equitably providing services to students.

Sarah Usdin
Democrat
Founder of New Schools For New Orleans, a nonprofit that provides funding and support for charters, and places leaders in key positions, former Teach for America executive director. Favors crafting a local governance system that supports charters and fosters academic growth. Believes the governance system should hold schools accountable.

District 4

Lourdes Moran, incumbent
Democrat
Board vice-president. Says charters should be held to the same standards of transparency and accountability as the School Board . Says the School Board should continue to work toward consolidating services and act as resource manager for charters.

Leslie Ellison
Democrat
Board president, Milestone SABIS Academy. Educational consultant with the Ellison Group. Took flack in April for supporting Senate Bill 217, that excluded gays and transgendered people among those the state would protect against discrimination.

District 5

Seth Bloom, incumbent
Republican
Attorney. Calls himself a reform-minded moderate who opposes micromanagement of schools by the School Board.

District 6

Woody Koppel, incumbent
Democrat
Real-estate agent and former teacher. Cites district’s improved performance in past four years. Says School Board should be a resource manager for charter schools and  continue to hold them to high standards.

Jason Coleman
Democrat
The Lens was unable to contact Coleman for a brief description.

District 7

Thomas Robichaux, incumbent
Democrat
Board president. Local attorney. Touts improved School Board performance. Says that while the traditional school board model is antiquated, locally elected governance is the way to guarantee accountability.

Nolan Marshall, Jr.
Democrat
President of Nolan Marshall Studios, a long-time photography agency. First-time School Board run. Says he’s running at the request of multiple stakeholders who asked him to serve. Has served on several community boards and committees focused on community development.

Rudolph “Rudy” Rayfield, Jr
Democrat
The Lens was unable to contact Rayfield for a brief description.

Kwame Smith
No party affiliation
Former basketball coach at Lusher Charter School. First-time run. Says that his experience with the education movement inspired him to run. Says he first decided to run four years ago. Says people need to be involved in education who understand the issues.

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