Wake County Schools

Losurdo asks for runoff in unsettled school board race

Posted October 18, 2011 1:19 p.m. EDT
Updated October 18, 2011 6:31 p.m. EDT

— One of two candidates still running for a seat on the Wake County Board of Education officially submitted her request Tuesday for a runoff election in a race that will decide if the balance of power on the panel will shift.

Heather Losurdo, a Republican, is running against incumbent Kevin Hill for the board's District 3 seat, which represents north Raleigh.

Hill, a Democrat, won last week's election with 49.69 percent of votes but came up short 51 votes to secure the win.

State law allows a candidate to request a run-off election if the winner doesn't receive at least 50 percent of the votes plus one.

Early voting for the Nov. 8 runoff election starts Thursday. Wake County elections officials estimate that the runoff race will cost an additional $125,000 to $175,000.

Democrats won four of the five seats that were up for grabs last week, including that of Ron Margiotta, who has led the Republican-backed bloc responsible for a number of changes over the past two years, including a controversial move away from the district's longstanding student assignment policy.

To keep the balance of power on the board from shifting, the majority needs Losurdo, a Republican-backed candidate, to win the race.

In conceding the race, Margiotta said he is worried that if the power of the board shifts, the new board might undo the last two years of work, including that to the assignment policy. When it goes into effect for the 2012-13 school year, will place students in schools closer to their homes instead of busing them across the district for diversity purposes.

Plans to implement it have been under way for the past seven months, and the school board is expected to vote on it at its meeting Tuesday evening.

"I have advocated and will continue to advocate that parents have a choice to send their kids to a local neighborhood school," Losurdo said before the vote. "Mr. Hill has not done that. He's advocated for forced busing."

"The old diversity busing program is gone," Hill said. "It's water under the bridge. This plan, or some form of this plan, will be the plan we move forward with."

As a former principal and teacher, Hill said he believes experience separates him from his challenger.

"Thirty-five years of working with Wake County kids and parents, I think, gives me an advantage in that area to cast votes on all sorts of topics and issues," he said.

Losurdo said the district needs a good listener.

"Nobody's ever going to agree 100 percent of the time, but as a board member, my seats are open at the table, and I want anyone who wants to pull up a chair to come on and pull up a chair," she said.