The final absentee ballots from Tuesday's midterm election were counted Thursday evening, sealing the victory of Indianapolis Public School board of commissioner candidates Susan Collins and Taria Slack.
The two are critics of the IPS administration and ousted incumbent first-term board members Mary Ann Sullivan and Dorene Rodriguez Hoops. Sullivan, a former board president, championed the reforms designed by IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee the past four years.
Less than 800 votes separated Collins from Sullivan in the At-Large race. A third candidate, Joanna Krumel, took nearly 14 percent of the vote.
"My campaign fell short in our effort to continue working for a successful system of schools in the city I love," Sullivan wrote in a Facebook post.
Both Collins and Slack received campaign support from I-PACE, the advocacy arm of the Indiana State Teachers Association. During the election cycle, they questioned the district's policies, especially the growth of innovation network schools in the district, even as Slack's children attend an innovation school. Innovation schools are public IPS schools run by third-party groups, such as non-profit organizations or charter school managers.
"I jumped into this school board race passionate to give voice to the voiceless," Collins said in a statement announcing her win. "We must bring the vital needs and desires of our parents, teachers, and students to the governing body that make so many of the decisions that impact them."
Chrissy Smith a leader with the IPS Community Coalition, a group who endorsed Slack and Collins, says the current board has not fostered community engagement.
“Having people on the board who are willing to confront those things and to ensure those community-parent-board conversations and make engagement happen is going to be nothing but good for the future of IPS,” Smith said.
However, not all races were won by I-PACE supported candidates.
Evan Hawkins was the clear winner over Michele Lorbieski and Sherry Lynn Shelton for the open District 3 seat with nearly 50 percent of the vote. Current commissioner Kelly Bentley chose not to rerun for re-election after one term. She endorsed Hawkins, who also received support form Stand for Children Indiana, the local chapter of a national organization, that is supportive of the current administration's policies.
Stand for Children’s executive director Justin Ohlemiller says he hopes new board members focus on quality, not school type.
“I hope the board, again, new members and old members do not get caught up in debating school type or other philosophies or agendas that simply don’t matter,” Ohlemiller said. “That is more driven by adult interests than the interests of children.”
The new board commissioners will take their seats on the board in January.
The Marion County Election Board will certify election results on Nov. 16.