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Atlanta Incumbents Hold On; Mayor's Slate Wins in Cleveland

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Incumbent school board members in Atlanta held their own against various slates mobilized against them in that city's hotly contested board elections last week.

Two incumbents--Joseph G. Martin, who has been the board's president, and Carolyn Yancey--were returned to office. They were opposed by the two local teachers' unions but had the backing of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution and business-oriented political groups.

The three other incumbents in the race managed to garner enough votes to qualify for the Nov. 23 run-off election. They are Ina Evans and D.F. Glover, who were supported by the Atlanta Association of Educators but were targeted for removal by almost every other campaign organization, and Midge Sweet, who was backed by the Journal and Constitution and business groups.

They will be among 12 candidates vying for six seats in the run-off.

One non-incumbent, Anne L. Harper, won a seat in the Nov. 2 balloting. She was endorsed by Erase the Board, a grassroots anti-incumbent group, and by business-backed organizations.

All nine seats on the Atlanta board were up for election. The contests drew an unusually crowded field of more than 40 candidates. (See Education Week, Oct. 27, 1993.)

'Traditional Education' Wins

While big-city elections captured the public's attention, many educators were watching Littleton, Colo. A slate of three school board candidates there swept into office by two-to-one margins on a platform opposing the district's pioneering use of performance assessments and new graduation standards.

The winners had labeled the innovations "outcomes-based education,'' a term that increasingly is being used pejoratively by advocates of traditional schooling. Supporters of the Littleton reform efforts disputed that label and defended the academic rigor of the district's programs. (See Education Week, Oct. 27, 1993.)

"We consider this election to be a referendum on the future of our district,'' Bill Cisney, a member of the winning slate, said last week. "The mandate we have is a mandate for traditional education.''

Cleveland Incumbents Out

Incumbent board members fared less well in Cleveland, where Mayor Michael R. White showed his political muscle by both easily winning re-election and helping a slate of candidates knock two of his fiercest political rivals off the school board.

The "Vision 21 Team'' was the second four-member board slate in two years to win with the backing of Mayor White and heavy financial support from the business community. The incumbents ousted last week were James M. Carney Jr. and Stanley E. Tolliver.

The two veteran board members, in an attempt to characterize the Mayor as power-hungry and his board allies as puppets, had compared Mr. White to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin in one televised advertisement.

In Cincinnati, voters soundly defeated the first bond issue for school facilities put before them in 22 years. The 4.85-mill, 27-year bond had been intended to raise $348 million.

Dinkins Out; Staten, Too?

Educators in New York City and Boston, meanwhile, were watching the mayoral races for their possible implications for school governance.

In New York, where the mayor appoints two of the city's seven central-school-board members and the five borough presidents each appoint one other, voters returned the borough presidents to office but ejected Mayor David N. Dinkins, a black Democrat, in favor of Rudolph W. Guiliani, a white former prosecutor running on the Republican and Liberal tickets. The voting was characterized as racially polarized.

Mr. Giuliani will have a chance to alter the makeup of the board of education when the current members' four-year terms expire next June.

In another vote with possible ramifications for the school system, residents of the Staten Island borough overwhelmingly voted to break away from the city. Such a move would require the approval of the state legislature and the governor.

Bostonians voted to give Acting Mayor Thomas M. Menino the city's top job in his own right. Mr. Menino, who favors keeping an appointed school committee, defeated James Brett, a longtime state representative who had advocated returning to an elected body.

Mr. Menino and the school committee continued to grapple last week with the Boston Teachers Union over a new contract. The union was expected to enter into a five-day negotiating session last Friday, and has threatened a full-scale strike on Nov. 12 if no agreement is reached.

Virginians Elect To Elect

In other elections last week:

  • Nashua, N.H., voters narrowly passed a referendum giving the city council final authority over the financial aspects of collective-bargaining contracts negotiated by the school board.

The council previously voted on the payment of such contracts, but lacked the authority to question specific provisions of the agreements. The initiative was backed by a local taxpayers' group and opposed by the local school board and teachers' union, which argued that such a change would interfere with collective bargaining and leave board members unaccountable.

  • Each of 37 Virginia school districts given the choice decided to switch from appointed to elected local school boards, generally by lopsided margins, according to the Virginia School Boards Association. The matter was first made a local option last year.


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