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AISD Board Races Show Signs of Life

A sudden influx of candidates

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Aug. 15, 2014

Tamala Barksdale opts out of re-election run.
Tamala Barksdale opts out of re-election run.
Photo by Jana Birchum

A week ago, education advocates were nervous about Austin ISD. With five trustee seats up for re-election on Nov. 4, there were only two filed candidates. This week, with the filing deadline approaching, there was a deluge of filings and announcements, with at least three competitive races set for the fall.

The trigger for the new arrivals was the exit of an incumbent. On Aug. 11, At-Large Trus­tee Tamala Barksdale confirmed rumors that she will not seek re-election. While she described her one-term tenure on the board as "delightful," and praised her fellow trustees, she said, "I have decided that the best course of action is to step aside."

This means four of the five seats up for re-election are vacant, as Barksdale joins fellow retirees Cheryl Bradley (District 1), board president Vince Torres(District 4), and Lori Moya (District 6). However, a line has now formed to replace them.

The first name came from Barksdale herself, when she said she'll endorse Kazique Jelani Prince, CEO of Jelani Con­sult­ing, to replace her. However, he already faces a competitive race: Kendall Pace, a management consultant with Smart Flour Foods, currently serves as a member of the District Advisory Council, and will probably have the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce in her corner, since she serves on its Education and Talent Development Council.

There is also a competitive race in District 4: Austin Council of PTAs officer Julie Cowan, who came second to Barksdale in an often bitter five-way fight for the At-Large seat four years ago, now seeks to replace Torres representing Northwest Austin. She will face Karen Flanagan, who, as part of the Travis County Taxpayers Union, opposed the district's 2013 bond package, and then was appointed by Trustee Ann Teich to serve on the Community Bond Oversight Committee.

District 4 is one of the two more conservative-leaning seats in AISD. The other, District 7 in the southwest, provides the third competitive race. Incumbent Robert Schneider was the first candidate to file, seeking his fourth term, but former Gorzycki Middle School PTA president Theresa Bastianand AISD Bound­ary Advisory Com­mit­tee member Yasmin Wagner are both formally running.

Next door in District 6, former Austin Coun­cil of PTAs president Monica Sanchez has filed, and PR consultant Paul Saldaña is expected to announce whether he will run this week.

The latest declared candidate is for Bradley's District 1 seat, as UT professor Edmund T. Gordon announced he intends to run. Before Barksdale's exit, Prince had considered fighting for that seat. With his decision to go at-large, Gordon, chair of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, has stepped into the void. However, there is still time for other names to emerge, as filing stays open through Monday, Aug. 18.

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