by Max Brantley
Melanie Fox won the marquee race of the evening in school board races.
The hotly contested race was for Zone 3 on the LR School Board. Fox, backed by the Little Rock Chamber, the Democrat-Gazette and tens of thousands in contributions from Alltel execs and others (her husband is a top Alltel official) faced Carol Roddy, who had no more than a third the money, but a strong Hillcrest neighborhood base and support from the Classroom Teachers Association and the Arkansas Times.
The vote wth 14 of 14 boxes counted:
Roddy's had a base in Hillcrest, but it was more than offset in the upper Heights, home to Fox and a strong group of supporters centered on Forest Park school, where Fox has been a hard-working school volunteer and PTA leader.
Read on though and see how this was the only bright spot of the night for an awesome (for a School Board election) business community uprising against classroom teachers in Little Rock.
Final day anecdotes from the field: Near hysterical bulk e-mails from the Chamber of Commerce for their team of anti-union candidates. (We trust they'll compliment as plain-spoken and reward the next student who calls a teacher a horse's butt in class, because that's what the Chamber effectively did in endorsing Tom Brock.) Robocalling was reported for both Zone 3 candidates, including a last-minute effort in behalf of Roddy by a grandson of former Gov. Sid McMath, whose calls in Hillcrest criticized Fox's multiple campaign contributions to opponents of neighborhood-popular U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder and other Republicans including, ugh, George Bush. Many sign-wavers were out at intersections for both candidates, including, in the Heights, a proud Fox backer with a daughter in what our correspondent said appeared to be a private school uniform. (A Blog reader later said she's sure this was a child in a public school uniform.) Teachers were furious that City Directors B.J. Wyrick and Joan Adcock sent out letters in support of Brock. They also were buzzing about rumors that Superintendent Roy Brooks had inquired of staff if he could punish teachers who signed a pro-Roddy ad in the Times. (Surely Brooks, autocratic as he is, has a better grasp of the First Amendment than that.)
In other contested races, the returns:
LR Zone 6 -- 14 of 14 boxes
Incumbent Tony Rose 114
Charles Armstrong 436
Rose was soundly beaten. Though he'd been erratic in dealing with teachers, he truly had redeeming qualities as a board member. The strongest of Democrat-Gazette endorsements, reminiscent of the praise the newspaper heaped on a voucher-backing Hillcrest candidate a few years ago, was the kiss of death again. Didn't hurt Fox, however.
Zone 7 -- 11 of 11 boxes
Incumbent Tom Brock 347
Dianne Curry 362
A.G. Krippendorf 26
Fredrick Lowe 80
Otter Creek drew Brock close. Love's votes likely came at Curry's expense. The race is headed to a runoff, but whatever the outcome it's not a ringing endorsement of appointee Brock's service on the Board, distinguished by his uttering an oath at teachers during a School Board meeting.
The incumbents enjoyed strong Chamber support because of their presumed animus toward the Classroom Teachers Association and support of the Hussman/Walton merit pay schemes. Armstrong and Curry had CTA backing. A vote to return incumbents and add Fox would have been construed as a sweeping mandate for Superintendent Roy Brooks, merit pay and union busting. That isn't the night's outcome. The mixed results have a moral: Teachers are important, too. They shouldn't be treated with contempt, as Brooks and the Chamber of Commerce and the Democrat-Gazette would seem to prefer.
More unofficial results:
NORTH LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL BOARD
Zone 2 - 6 of 6 boxes
Incumbent Teresa Burl 55
Margo Tenner 87
PULASKI SCHOOL BOARD
Zone 4 -- 13 of 13 boxes
Incumbent Ronnie Calva 259
Charlie Wood 260
A handful of military absentee votes, which are allowed 10 more days to be counted, could decide this race.