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Elections Bring Changes to School Districts

While national pundits spent last night on TV pontificating about the governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia, voters in many cities around the nation were paying attention to local concerns with more immediate impact: slates of bond issues and school board elections.

Detroit voters approved Proposal S, a $500.5 million bond issue that will be used to renovate 10 schools, build eight more, demolish many other aging buildings in the blighted city, and upgrade technology and security district-wide.
Voters also ousted two of the four incumbents running for reelection to the school board, which has been locked in a bitter power struggle with the district's governor-appointed emergency financial manager.

A number of Minnesota school districts received similar good news, despite the bad economy. Of the 96 school districts asking for more money on the this year's ballot, at least 51 were approved, according to Minnesota Public Radio's indefatigable Tom Weber, who put all the bond votes together here.

Amidst all the change, some things will remain the same. Boston Mayor Tom Menino was elected to a record fifth term last night and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was elected to his third, ensuring the governance team of those cities' mayorally-run school districts remains the same. (Bloomberg, who spent $90 million of his own money, won 51 percent of the vote; his opponent, William C. Thompson Jr., the city's comptroller and the former president of the now-defunct board of education, captured 46 percent.)

These local elections mean much for superintendents, who can see their ability to run a district curbed if voters send in a slate of new board members opposed to their reforms.

Cincinnati voters sent all of their incumbent school board members back for another term, despite a mini-controversy that erupted when the chair and vice chair spent the waning days of the campaign at last week's Council of the Great City Schools annual conference, held this year in Portland. In addition to re-electing three board members and gaining one new member, voters also approved renewal of a levy.

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