Post last updated at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7:
Lawrence residents split their votes on Tuesday between school board candidates who opposed the decision to close three schools earlier this year and two incumbents who had voted for the closings.
Incumbent Carole Cadue-Blackwood, who voted against the closings, was resoundingly reelected to the school board, along with newcomers Yolanda Franklin and Anne Costello.
“The voters want change,” Cadue-Blackwood said.
Incumbents GR Gordon-Ross and Shannon Kimball, who both voted in favor of the closings, also were reelected.
With almost all ballots counted, Cadue-Blackwood led voting for a four-year board term with 7,33 votes, followed by Costello with 6,081, Gordon-Ross with 5,861 and Franklin with 5,144.
Longtime board member Kimball won the race for a two-year seat over Ariel Miner with 6,677 votes to Miner’s 6,240.
Tuesday’s school board election came in the wake of two tense years of school budget cuts and the closings earlier this year of Kennedy, Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementary schools to save money. School funding and spending remain as local issues.
Cadue-Blackwood, who voted against the school closings, said she believed her strong performance in the election reflected voter desires to see change on the school board.
“They’re speaking with their vote. They felt disempowered with the school closures,” she said after the results were announced. “And I think it’s very telling that, you know, I am leading. I’ve been very open and very frank about the school closures and the impact that it will have on the community.”
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said he expected turnout in the election to total about 25% of registered voters, calling it “really good turnout for a local election.”
Cadue-Blackwood said she was happy to see Franklin elected to the board. They are both members, along with Miner, of a coalition of local school board candidates called Kansans United for Public Schools.
“We heard the resounding call for change,” Franklin said Tuesday night, “and I’m committed to remain vigilant in the KUPS grassroots effort to fund public education and ensure that Lawrence has the best schools, equitable educational opportunities for every single student, and full support and fair pay for teachers and staff.”
“I’m excited to work in January and try and make an impact,” Costello said. “I think we’ve got a board made up of people from a variety of different backgrounds, and I’m hoping we can all come together and really get some work done for the students in the district.”
Costello has been a member of the superintendent’s advisory board and the Lawrence Schools Foundation board, is a PTA member and is married to a Lawrence teacher.
Voters were asked to choose between incumbent Kimball and newcomer Miner for a two-year term on the school board, and to choose four board members from nine candidates for four-year terms.
The school board positions are nonpartisan and unpaid.
Cadue-Blackwood, who was first elected to the board in 2019 and has a long family history in Lawrence, said during her campaign that she wanted to run for racial and social justice and equity, as well as pushing back against district payment to outside consultants and ensuring budget transparency.
“I should hope that when a voter sees me, they see themselves reflected in the vote,” she said. “Because you know, I care deeply about this community.”
Gordon-Ross, who was elected in 2017 but lost reelection in 2021, was appointed last year to fill a board vacancy. He said he was excited to continue his work on the board.
“My entire campaign was based around continuing to focus on working with our unions to continue to fight for better wages, provide the resources that our staff needs to do their jobs, to prepare our students for whatever they choose to do after graduation and to provide fiscal stability for our district going into the future,” he said in an interview Tuesday night. “And those are the things I plan to focus on over the next four years.”
Kimball was first elected to the school board in 2011 and has served three terms. She said over the course of her campaign that her primary goals were advocating for teacher pay and addressing student needs in the district.
“I am grateful for the support from the community,” Kimball said Tuesday. “I am excited to get to continue doing this work on behalf of our students and our staff and our families and USD 497. And I am looking forward to focusing on the work that needs to be done to support our students, support our staff and move the district forward.”
Incumbent board members Erica Hill and Paula Vann chose not to run for reelection.
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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.
— Reporter Maya Hodison contributed to this article.