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Sixteen candidates vie for 5 seats in Austin school district election [Austin American-Statesman :: ]
[August 30, 2014]

Sixteen candidates vie for 5 seats in Austin school district election [Austin American-Statesman :: ]

(Austin American-Statesman (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 30-- The race for five Austin school board seats is down to 16 candidates after two of the candidates withdrew in the past week.

Real estate broker Theresa Bastian, who was challenging Robert Schneider, the only incumbent running for re-election, has pulled out of the District 7 race. She put her support behind Schneider's remaining opponent, Yasmin Wagner, vying to represent the southwest area of the district, which includes Bowie High School.

Joan Brook, a photographer, withdrew from the race for the at-large District 9 seat, leaving five candidates in that race.

With no seats uncontested, it's likely that at least three of the five races will result in a runoff.

Those elected will lead the district during the transition to a new superintendent. They might have little or no say on who is selected for the job, but will cast the final vote on the hiring. The current school board is expected to name the lone finalist for superintendent in mid-December, about a month after the election. However, runoffs, which are likely, aren't scheduled until Dec. 16, and the new trustees might not be sworn in until January. They will, however, vote on the new superintendent's contract.

Challenges facing the district include finding a permanent revenue source to keep teacher pay at its current levels. The school board approved one-time raises of 2 percent this month and 3 percent in the past two years, but district officials say they aren't sustainable without cutting programs or positions, or bringing in new revenue sources, such as a tax rate increase, which would require voter approval. Those elected could decide in the next year to 18 months whether to call for such an election, as well as a bond election, after two propositions totaling $402 million failed last year.

In District 1, which represents the northeastern area of the district that includes Reagan High School, four candidates are running. The winner will replace Cheryl Bradley, who is stepping down after 12 years on the board.

P. Kevin Bryant, 53, is a retired educator. Edmund "Ted" Gordon, 63, is chairman of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at the University of Texas. Stanton Strickland, 48, is an associate commissioner for the Texas Department of Insurance. David "D" Thompson, 30, is a minister at Austin Stone Community Church.

District 4 represents the northwestern area of the district that includes Anderson High School. The seat has drawn two candidates. The winner will replace Vincent Torres, who has served on the board since 2006.

Longtime district volunteer Julie Cowan, 50, and dietitian and urban farmer Karen Flanagan, 52, have filed to run. Cowan, who lost in a runoff against Trustee Tamala Barksdale in 2010, is the Austin Council of PTAs second vice president. Flanagan is with the Travis County Taxpayers Union, which opposed the district's $892 million bond package in 2013.

In District 6, which represents the southern part of the district that includes Travis High School, three candidates are vying to replace Lori Moya, who was elected in 2006.

Kate Mason-Murphy, 46, is a former teacher at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. Paul Saldaña, 47, principal of a public relations firm and an activist in education politics. Monica Sanchez, 43, is the past president of the Austin Council of PTAs.

In District 7, Schneider, 61, is a retired system analyst. Schneider, who was elected in 2002, is the only sitting trustee running for another term. Wagner, 43, is a creative director for a global semiconductor company and has served on the district's boundary advisory committee.

Five candidates have filed for the District 9 at-large seat. The winner will replace Barksdale, who served one term.

Nael Chavez, 35, is founder of the Enlightened Warriors, a nonprofit program that serves at-risk youth. Kendall Pace, 45, is a management and financial consultant and has served on the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce's education and talent development council and the district advisory council. Kazique Prince, 43, is the CEO of Jelani Consulting LLC, which consults with corporations and educational institutions to implement cultural competency programs. Barksdale has endorsed Prince. Hillary Procknow, 39, is the University of Texas program coordinator for the Texas Success Initiative, a program that works with students entering higher education who are not considered college ready. Andy Trimino, 73, is a retired educator.

___ (c)2014 Austin American-Statesman, Texas Visit Austin American-Statesman, Texas at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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