Former Democratic state Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan defeated the school board president and three other challengers running for the citywide at-large seat on the Indianapolis Public School Board in a blowout win tonight.
Sullivan had pulled away with nearly half the votes cast — 46 percent — with according to final, unofficial results from the Marion County Board of Elections, easily beating Annie Roof, who had 20 percent. Roof will exit the board after a four-year term that began after an upset win in 2010.
Sullivan, perhaps the most high profile Democrat to favor accountability and school choice as education reforms when she was in the legislature, was endorsed by advocacy groups that want IPS to move faster to make changes. Since 2012, the board increasingly favored ideas like school autonomy, a slimmed down central office and partnerships with charter schools. She defeated Roof, who advocated for changes in the district as a candidate in 2010 but lately has since distanced herself from some of the changes Sullivan and a new majority on the school board are pushing for.
“I’m extremely excited,” Sullivan said. “There is no shortage of work to be done. Priorities are something we’ll have to determine collectively.”
Splitting the rest of the votes in the low-turnout competition were three other challengers: Light of the World Pastor David Hampton earned 17 percent, Pastor and IPS coach Ramon Batts earned 9 percent and Butler University economics instructor Josh Owens earned 7 percent of the votes.
The campaign was marked by clashes over money, with candidates like Sullivan raising large sums. Sullivan raised more than $50,000 from people in Indianapolis and across the country. Roof, by contrast had support from the Indiana State Teachers Association, even though IPS teachers haven’t had a raise during her tenure on the board, but that only brought a $1,500 contribution.
Overall Roof raised about $4,200 while vowing not to accept out-of-state money. Advocacy group Stand for Children even ran its own campaigns for the three candidates it endorsed — Sullivan, Kelly Bentley and LaNier Echols — but did not disclose how much it spent.
“It’s no secret that when you run solid campaigns it benefits the candidates,” Sullivan said. “We had the resources to run solid campaigns. That’s important.”
Sullivan, Roof, Hampton and Owens favored some of the same approaches to tackling district issues like restructuring teacher pay and improving failing schools. But Roof, who has often voted in favor of those ideas, said she has become more skeptical about working with charters and for-profit companies. She also said she didn’t like the amount of standardized testing in schools today.
Roof, a parent of three IPS students, could not immediately be reached for comment tonight.
The one flat-out skeptic in the at-large race was Batts, who previously ran for school board seats. He said he adamantly opposes closer ties between IPS and charter schools, and the idea of creating autonomous IPS schools. He’s also skeptical of the Republican-controlled state legislature, and Ferebee’s friendliness to groups he believes want to dismantle the district.
To find out more about Mary Ann Sullivan’s views on education and IPS issues, check out her responses to Chalkbeat’s election candidate survey.
To view live election results, click here.