Wake County Schools

Hill defeats Losurdo in bid to keep Wake school board seat

Posted November 8, 2011 8:05 p.m. EST
Updated November 9, 2011 11:42 a.m. EST

— Wake County's most closely watched race – a runoff for the Wake County Board of Education – ended Tuesday with a victory for the Democratic incumbent while Durham's mayor was re-elected for a sixth term, and voters in both Durham and Orange counties approved a local sales tax for education.

Kevin Hill, the Democratic incumbent for the school board's District 3 seat, defeated his Republican opponent, Heather Losurdo, receiving 10,672 votes, or 52.28 percent. Losurdo received 9,740 votes.

"It is gratifying, but it is not about me," Hill said shortly after his win.

Five seats were up for grabs in this year. Last month, Democratic-backed candidates won four other races.

Hill's win means that Democrats have gained control of the currently Republican-majority school board, which worked to overturn the school system's student assignment policy of busing students for diversity in favor of a policy that gives parents more input in where their children go to school.

Losurdo campaigned that Hill would return the district to what she called forced busing and suggested that Superintendent Tony Tata, who was hired earlier this year with full support from the Republican-backed members, might be fired or would even quit under a new board majority.

“I wish him well," she said of Hill's win, "and I urge him to work with Superintendent Tata and other members of the board to bring fruition to the many exciting new projects and initiatives under way to improve education in our county."

Hill echoed Tuesday night what he's maintained throughout the race – that even though he voted against the assignment plan, he has no intention of returning to the district's old way of assigning students.

He said he likes the new plan and thinks it can work with some tweaks. He wants to ensure classroom seats in high-performing schools for low-performing students.

Hill said he would not be for a change in the superintendent, even though he voted against Tata's hiring.

"I have no reason for him not to stay," Hill said. "I am on the record saying, 'I like Tony.'"

John Tedesco, the school board's vice chairman, said he plans to keep an open mind when it comes to the new board but that he will fight hard against any attempts to undo accomplishments from the past two years.

"We'll have to see what their agenda is," he said of the new board members. "If they are willing to support (Superintendent) Tata, and if they're willing to leave the new assignment plan that we've put in place alone and work to move forward on other issues of student achievement, then I am willing to work with them on that."

Durham voters re-elect Bell, OK local sales taxes

The school board race wasn't the only closely watched race Tuesday. Voters in the Bull City made their voices heard in the race for Durham mayor.

Incumbent Bill Bell was elected to his sixth term, easily beating Rev. Sylvester Williams with 18,581 votes, or 82 percent. Williams received 3,990 votes.

Bell said Tuesday night that he's not focused on how many times he's been re-elected but on the opportunity to serve.

"I enjoy the work that I do. It's really been an honor and a privilege for me to be able to serve," he said. "I tell people over and over again that I'm in Durham by choice and not by chance."

Bell supported two referendums for local sales taxes on the ballot.

A countywide measure for a half-cent sales tax increase to be used for transit needs, including commuter rail to Wake County and light rail to Orange County, passed by 60 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

In the city of Durham, 57 percent of voters supported a quarter-cent sales and use tax for education. In Orange County, voters approved a similar tax that's expected to raise about $2.5 million for the county.

Local mayors re-elected, ousted

In Fayetteville, Mayor Tony Chavonne was elected to a fourth term, defeating challenger Nat Robertson. Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt also won his re-election bid against challengers Tim Sookram and Kevin Wolff.

Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly, Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne, Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen, Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams and Rolesville Mayor C. Frank Eagles were re-elected.

In Wendell, however, Mayor Harold Broadwell was defeated by challenger Timothy Hinnant. Hope Mills Mayor Eddie Dees lost to Jackie Warner, and Spring Lake's longtime Mayor Ehthel Clark lost to Chris Rey.