Downs, Jones oust incumbents in STL School Board race
By Kevin Lavery, KWMU
St. Louis, MO – Tuesday's election brought a shake-up of the St. Louis school board. Challengers Peter Downs and Donna Jones defeated incumbents James Buford and Darnetta Clinkscale.
Buford and Clinkscale were supported by Mayor Francis Slay, the Clergy Coalition, and the Post-Dispatch and St. Louis American. Downs and Jones had the support of the teachers' union and other unions, along with current board members Veronica O'Brien and Bill Purdy.
Buford and Clinkscale conceded the race at around 11:20 Tuesday night after 44% of the precincts were tallied.
Downs was outspent nearly 10 to 1 during the race, but he says he felt his supporters were voting to preserve public education in St. Louis. "I thought I had very strong grassroots support; so I'm pleased I edged them out, I'm not extremely surprised," Downs said.
Downs says his first priority on the board will be to instruct the superintendent to work with teachers and principals to create a plan to curb disruptive behavior in the schools.
Buford had only been on the school board a few months. He was appointed by Mayor Francis Slay after Vince Schoemehl resigned last year. Buford and Clinkscale had focused their campaign on their support for Superintendent Creg Williams' new long-range strategic plan.
Buford says his defeat indicates voters don't want that plan. "The voters have spoken; I respect that," Buford added. "Darnetta Clinkscale and I stood for reform. This group is for - I don't know what they're for, because we never really could figure that out during the campaign, so we'll see. And I hope the superintendent stays."
"Apathy won and misinformation won tonight, you know?" said Clinkscale. "But I still have hope. If the leadership of the board will continue on the way that we've started, I think that we can still be victorious here in this city."
Downs won his seat on his third run for the board. Jones is a first-time candidate. Each will assume a four-year term.
OTHER CITY ISSUES
Voters in St. Louis City also rejected two ballot questions. One would have put a limit on the recall process; currently there's no limit to the amount of time supporters of a recall can have to gather signatures. The proposal would have changed that to six months. It garnered 51% of the vote, but needed 60% to pass because it was a proposal to change the city's charter.
The other question to fail would have increased business license fees in the City. Supporters say the city needs the extra revenue because it faces a deficit in the budget and the business fees haven't been adjusted since the 1980s.
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