New Reps Make Up Two-Thirds of Atlanta School Board

Attorney Cynthia Briscoe Brown easily defeats incumbent Board of Education Chairman Reuben McDaniel as four new members won election runoffs on Tuesday.

Cynthia Briscoe Brown garnered almost 66 percent of the vote on Tuesday to win the city-wide District 8 seat. Credit: Patch file
Cynthia Briscoe Brown garnered almost 66 percent of the vote on Tuesday to win the city-wide District 8 seat. Credit: Patch file
Unofficial results from Tuesday’s runoff election to decide the final four seats of the nine-person Atlanta school board show that come 2014, the board will have a new chairman.

And also that two-thirds of those on the board will be new representatives after four first-time board members won runoffs on a soggy Tuesday that produced low turnouts throughout much of the city.

After leading the board for the past two years, Chairman Reuben McDaniel was defeated by attorney Cynthia Briscoe Brown, a former co-president of North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools. Brown garnered almost 66 percent of the vote to win the city-wide District 8 seat.

Brown, who won 20 percent of the vote in last month’s five-person general election to force a runoff with McDaniel, had been highly critical of the chairman’s leadership during which Atlanta Public Schools has endured the nation’s largest cheating scandal, while the board also bickered amongst itself so much that it threatened the system’s accreditation.

The three other runoffs Tuesday were between newcomers for seats that the incumbents had not sought re-election. Coupled with victories last month by newcomers Leslie Grant in District 1 and Matt Westmoreland in District 3, six of the representatives will be sworn onto the board for the first time next month.

Also victorious on Tuesday were attorney Jason Esteves, who received 71 percent of the votes to defeat education business founder Lori James for the city-wide District 9 seat.

In a south Atlanta district, Eshé Collins, an attorney and program director at Georgia State University, prevailed over Dell Byrd, a property manager and former teacher. Collins earned 59 percent of the vote to win the District 6 seat.

And in west Atlanta, counseling center director Steven Lee won 59 percent of the vote to defeat academic coach Mary Palmer in the District 5 race.

The Atlanta Board of Education sets the education policy for the nearly 50,000-student school district where most recent statistics show only 51 percent of its students graduate in four years. The next school board will face a host of challenges beginning in 2014, including selecting a new superintendent, tackling difficult budget issues, determining the role of charter schools, and last but not least, revamping an image that has left the system battered.

The new board will consist of four Teach for America (TFA) graduates in Westmoreland, Esteves, Collins and Courtney English, who scored an easy victory last month in winning re-election for the at-large Post 7 seat. TFA recruits its grads to teach in low-income communities including charter schools. These four TFA board members will be closely watched how they vote on charter school issues.

For the Nov. 5 municipal election in which Atlanta voters cast ballots for mayor, city council president, 15 seats on the city council and nine seats on the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education, turnout was only around 19 percent. That figure was much lower on a rainy Tuesday as many polling precincts across the city reported voter turnout in the low single digits.

Some areas, including Buckhead where Brown drew many supporters did have polling places where turnout was above 10 percent. Patch will update these figures appropriately.

Runoff Results

ATLANTA BOE D8 AT LARGE 15010 total votes

(177 precincts reporting of 177)  100% reporting

CYNTHIA B. BROWN  9885  65.86%

REUBEN MCDANIEL (I)  5125  34.14%

  14657 total votes

(177 precincts reporting of 177) 100% reporting

JASON F. ESTEVES  10474  71.46%

LORI JAMES  4183  28.54%

ATLANTA BOE D5  3168 total votes

(28 precincts reporting of 28) 100% reporting

STEVEN LEE  1883  59.44%

MARY L. PALMER  1285  40.56%

ATLANTA BOE D6  2316 total votes

(29 precincts reporting of 29) 100% reporting

DELL BYRD  948  40.93%

ESHE COLLINS  1368  59.07%


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