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Orleans Parish School Board Largely Undecided, Five Of Seven Seats Head To Runoffs

Nyejah Bolds Photography
Olin Parker, newly elected school board member for District 3, poses with New Orleans public school students. Parker is one of two candidates who won seats outright in Tuesday's primary race.

New Orleans’ school board was largely undecided Wednesday morning after candidates in five of seven races failed to receive more than 50 percent of the vote. Those seats will now head to a runoff election on Dec. 5.

Incument John Brown Sr. and newcomer Olin Parker won seats outright in Tuesday's general election

The election field was crowded, with 20 candidates vying for seven seats. All of the seats were competitive, with at least two candidates competing in the same district. In 2016, just 12 candidates ran for school board and four of the seven seats were uncontested. Of the five incumbents, all maintained their seats.

The Orleans Parish School Board oversees New Orleans’ almost all-charter system and has final say over contract renewals. The new school board will decide whether to support or push back on district policies and future school closures.

Brown held onto his seat in District 1, which covers the Lower 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans. He received 52 percent of the vote, while his challenger, Patrice Sentino, a licensed social worker and newcomer to politics, received 48 percent.

Brown, a native New Orleanian, spent 30 years working in the public school system was appointed to the school board in 2015 and has won the seat twice since.  

As a board member, Brown mandated later school bus pickup times and parent representation on charter boards. He’s also pushed for better teacher training and higher pay and benefits.

Newcomer Olin Parker was elected to an open seat in District 3, which includes most of Lakeview and Mid City. Parker faced one challenger, Phil Brickman, the race’s only Republican, and ultimately received 64 percent of the vote.

“I am incredibly honored to be elected as the next Orleans Parish School Board member in District 3,” Parker wrote on Facebook early Wednesday morning. “Our students, families, and teachers deserve the very best, and I will always put their interests first.”

A former teacher of the year, Parker was supported by Orleans Parish School Board Member Sarah Usdin, who currently holds the District 3 seat.

Parker is a public school parent and used to work for the Louisiana Department of Education where he was responsible for charter school accountability. As a board member, he plans to review every audit and budget to ensure all schools are following standards for academic and financial accountability.

According to his campaign website, Parker also plans to focus on equity issues, including a comprehensive racial equity plan for the district and ensuring that special needs students and English language learners receive high-quality instruction.

The five remaining seats will be decided in a runoff election on Dec. 5. Here’s who's on the ballot:

District 2

Gentilly, New Orleans East, and the 9th Ward

In a five-candidate field, incumbent Ethan Ashley and former public school teacher Chanel M. Payne will advance to the runoff. Ashley, who currently serves as school board president, received the highest number of votes in Tuesday’s general election. He received 36 percent compared to Payne’s 27 percent.

District 4

Algiers, parts of Marigny, Bywater, and the French Quarter

Incumbent Leslie Ellison narrowly missed reelection, winning 49.85 percent of the vote. She’ll face Jancarlo J.C. Romero in the runoff. Romero, chief of staff at the charter network Einstein Schools, received 25 percent of the vote and eclipsed the race’s third candidate by just 100 votes.

District 5

Lower Garden District, the Irish Channel, and other neighborhoods along the Mississippi River

Katie Baudoin and Antoinette Williams will advance to December’s runoff having received 41 and 38 percent of the vote respectively. Grisela Jackson, who currently holds the seat, received 21 percent of the vote. Jackson was appointed to fill a vacancy and is not considered an incumbent.

Baudouin is a former New Orleans City Council aide. Williams, a student at Xavier University of Louisiana, is the youngest candidate and the only current or prospective board member to have attended New Orleans’ current all-charter public school system.

District 6

Uptown and parts of Central City

Carlos Zervignon, a former teacher and charter board member, will face Erica Martinez, a college coach and a member of the NOLA-PS parent advisory committee. Zervignon received 42 percent of the vote, while Martinez received 29 percent. There were no incumbents in the race.

District 7

Algiers, Gentilly, Treme, the French Quarter, and the 7th Ward

Incumbent Nolan Marshall Jr. received 44 percent of the vote and will be joined on December’s ballot by Kayonna K. Armstrong — she received 42 percent.

Armstrong, a family advocate, has served as a paraprofessional and student aid in the public school system as well as a substitute teacher and reading interventionist.

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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