Voters Back Incumbents in Normandy, Ferguson-Florissant School Board Elections
Updated at 8:30 a.m., Wed., April 9.
School board elections brought little change to Normandy and Ferguson-Florissant. In Normandy, three incumbents were facing four challengers for spots on the seven-person board. The winners were current board members Jeanette Pulliam with 19.07 percent and William Humphrey with 16 percent of the vote. A challenger, Gwendolyn Buggs, earned a seat on the board with a little more than 15 percent of the vote.
The election comes as the unaccredited district’s future remains cloudy; transportation and tuition costs from student transfers have drained its reserve fund.
On Tuesday, the Missouri legislature approved a supplemental budget that includes $2 million to help the Normandy School District stay afloat for the remainder of the school year. Originally the district estimated it needed $6.8 million to stay open for the school year. That number was later reduced to $5 million and approved by the House. But last month the Senate voted to send only $1.5 million to the cash-strapped district, and both chambers ironed out the final dollar amount in a conference committee.
While she welcomed the legislature's decision to funnel $2 million toward the district, Pulliam is worried about Normandy's fiscal outlook.
"It will help us get through the school year, but $5 million would have been better because it would have helped us get off to a good start next year," Pulliam said.
In February, the state school board voted to place Normandy's finances in the hands of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Last month, a 10-member task force appointed by DESE began meeting to study and make recommendations on the district’s future.
In Ferguson-Florissant, the school board stirred controversy when it placed then-Superintendent Art McCoy on leave with pay. McCoy ultimately announced his resignation last month, just hours before closed door hearings to determine his fate were set to begin. Neither side has made public the reasons for the suspension, which led to sustained criticism from some education advocates.
Many critics of the move also sought to have greater diversity on the school board. The majority of the district's students -- 73 percent -- is African American as is McCoy. None of the board members who voted to suspend McCoy is black. All three members of a slate of candidates that entered the race in the wake of McCoy's suspension are African American.
Current board members Paul Morris and Rob Chabot both kept their seats. Morris earned 15.61 percent and Chabot finished with close to 18 percent of the vote. Board member Chris Martinez was not seeking another term. Challenger Donna Paulette-Thurman, who was part of the three-person slate of candidates with similar views, won a seat on the board with close to 17 percent of the vote.
Morris said he took the results as a sign that the community supported the board's actions regarding McCoy.
"I believe the public believes that we did the right thing in the Dr. McCoy issue; otherwise they wouldn't have re-elected us," Morris said.
Morris said board members decided to wait until after the election to begin the process for finding McCoy's replacement and setting the criteria for their search process.
F. Willis Johnson was one of the three-candidate slate who didn't get enough votes to earn a spot on the board. He disagreed with Morris' assessment.
"We will never know the full response to the decision the board made because we have not in the fullest measure been presented with the facts," Johnson said.
In other districts
Many other school districts had school board races and the results can be viewed on the election boards' websites. In addition, Bayless, Lindbergh and Valley Park school districts, all in south St. Louis County, approved measures to raise money for the schools. In Bayless, voters approved a measure to borrow $8.3 million to improve school facilities. In Lindbergh, voters increased the property tax by 21 cents to build a new elementary school and renovate Lindbergh High School. And in Valley Park, voters OKed a measure to borrow $8.45 million dollars.