Conservative-backed school board candidates win in Rockwood, St. Charles County | Education
The wave of Conservative candidates in school board races had mixed results in Tuesday’s local election, including big wins in the hotly contested Rockwood School District.
Izzy Imig was the highest voter in the district after raising more than $32,000 in campaign donations and making regular appearances on conservative talk radio. The second open seat went to Jessica Laurent Clark, who was also backed by conservative groups.
School board campaigns across the region were marked by a conservative push against pandemic-related mask and quarantine policies, which later broadened to oppose diversity and equity programs and books about racial and gender themes.
This year, leaders of conservative groups including No Left Turn in Education and Moms for Liberty have backed candidates in nearly every school board race. Two candidates backed by a Maryland Heights megachurch lost their races Tuesday night — Linda Henning for the Ritenour School Board and Jeff Mintzlaff for the Kirkwood School Board. Conservative candidates were also beaten in Mehlville and Lindbergh, where Julia Voss and incumbent Jennifer Miller, backed by the teachers’ union, won the two vacant seats.
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Imig donors in the Rockwood race included several residents opposed to COVID-19 policies and at least one, Johanna Beaudean, who joined Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in his lawsuit against the district over his mask mandate earlier this year. Imig also received a $1,000 donation from Creve Coeur chiropractor Eric Nepute, who is facing a federal lawsuit over false claims that his vitamin products are more effective than a COVID-19 vaccine. Eureka Mayor Sean Flower, who refused to endorse the county mask mandate in his municipality, donated $1,650 to Imig’s campaign.
The Rockwood teachers’ union endorsed nominees Amy Ryan and Deborah Stine, who are rated “pro-equity leaders” by the Missouri Equity Education Partnership. Ryan and Stine finished Tuesday as the third- and fourth-best voters.
The Rockwood race followed two years of bitter battles between those who support a more inclusive, anti-racist curriculum and parents who believe the teachings are divisive. Threats against staff members have led district officials to tighten security at Rockwood School Board meetings.
Rockwood voters also narrowly beat a tax-free source of funding for maintenance projects at schools in the district. The funding would have provided $25 million a year for roofing, heating and cooling, security, technology, and other upgrades.
The district will be led next fall by National Superintendent of the Year Curtis Cain, who was hired in January by the Wentzville School District.
In Wentzville, starters Sandy Garber and Dale Schaper were beaten in Tuesday’s race. The board voted in January to ban Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” from high school libraries. The board reversed its decision a month later, with Garber still supporting the ban and Schaper abstaining from voting.
Julie Scott, who was endorsed by the teachers’ union, was the first to get votes in Wentzville. Katie Lyczak, the choice of the conservative groups, won the second open seat.
The Conservative-backed candidates also won Francis Howell, where Randy Cook and Adam Bertrand got the most votes.
The voters of Normandy and Riverview Gardens each elected two school board members after years under state-appointed councils. Christopher Petty, Dean of Students for the Hazelwood School District, and Harlan Hodge, Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion at BJC HealthCare, were elected to the Normandy Board of Directors. In Riverview Gardens, voters elected Niketia Coleman, a teacher at Hazelwood, and retired businesswoman Wanda Lane, who was endorsed by the North County Labor Club.
The movement has pitched dozens of candidates for nonpartisan school board seats that, just a year ago, had no opposition.
National Superintendent of the Year finalist Curtis Cain will move from Wentzville to Rockwood.