Three Democrats and a Working Families newcomer were on their way Tuesday night to winning the Hartford Board of Education race at a critical period for the city public schools.
Current board members Craig Stallings and Juan M. Hernandez joined Ayesha Clarke on the Democratic slate, while Shontá Browdy, a parent advocate who is no stranger to city school board meetings, was endorsed by the Working Families Party. Those four candidates led the vote totals in Hartford, according to unofficial results.
Republican Theodore "Ted" Cannon, who previously ran for mayor, also sought a four-year term.
The board race was Hartford's only municipal election this year — a quiet affair with just five candidates competing for four open seats. Earlier Tuesday, board Chairman Stallings said he was frustrated with what appeared to be a low voter turnout, saying it did not bode well for community engagement at a time when the Hartford school system is grappling with thorny issues such as school closures.
A total of 2,316 ballots had been cast in the board election as of 6 p.m., according to the city registrars of voters. They reported a total of 65,695 voters in Hartford's system, the majority of them Democrats.
During the last board race in 2013, just 5 percent of Hartford voters turned out.
Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said she expects to propose consolidation options in December, with public hearings and a board vote anticipated after the new year. Newly elected Hartford board members are typically sworn into office in early January. The other five members of the nine-member board were appointed by Mayor Luke Bronin.
“If we are going to change our school system … it’s through community,” said Stallings, who wants to work on boosting the number of parent voters in the next four years. “We are all accountable.”
One of Tuesday’s voters was Nicolette Roberts, 34, a lifelong Hartford resident who lives in the West End. She has two children in CREC magnet schools, but it is the state of the city neighborhood schools that pushed her to have a say. Too often, she said, receiving a good public school education can come down to “the luck of the draw” in the regional school choice lottery.
“They try their best,” Roberts said of the Hartford school system, “but there are a lot of funding issues.”
If elected, Clarke, 33, a mother of two with a master's degree in public health, won't be the only member of her family in an elected seat in Hartford. Her husband, Thomas "TJ" Clarke II, is the city council president.