James Craig and Corrie Shull are the newest members of the Jefferson County Board of Education, with both winning their races by double-digit margins Tuesday with 96 percent of the votes in.
Elected to four-year terms ending in 2022, Craig and Shull will oversee the implementation of Jefferson County Public Schools’ comprehensive corrective action plan and a state audit in fall 2020. Their terms officially begin in January.
Craig, an attorney, won in District 3 by around 27 percentage points, beating early child-care provider Jenny Benner and social worker Derek Guy. Current District 3 board member Steph Horne did not run for re-election.
In phone interview Tuesday night, Craig repeatedly called his win “humbling,” but said there is a “daunting task ahead.”
He said he hopes to start building relationships with principals, teachers and students in the district, learning about their challenges and school cultures.
Shull, a pastor, beat out three other candidates to claim Lisa Willner’s seat in District 6 with a 29 percentage point margin. Willner ran for and won a seat as a state representative.
Shull did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Board chairwoman Diane Porter and board member Linda Duncan, both multi-term incumbents, ran unopposed for their seats in Districts 1 and 5, respectively.
The board’s composition shifts with the two new faces, moving from a female majority to a male majority and adding a second African-American board member.
After a turbulent year for Jefferson County Public Schools and public education, Craig and Shull ran on platforms focused on maintaining local control of JCPS, preventing charter schools and reducing the achievement gap between white and African-American students.
Their wins continued a trend of victories for school board candidates backed by Better Schools Kentucky, the political arm of the Jefferson County Teachers Association. Since 2012, only one union-endorsed board candidate has lost their election.
BSK uses some of its over $1 million war chest to promote candidates JCTA endorses, including paying for billboards, yard signs and union members to hold signs at polling stations on Election Day. Craig and Shull both raised over $10,000 in campaign funds — other candidates raised less than $1,000.
The Bluegrass Fund, formed as an antidote to the union’s political strength, sat out the school board races this year, leaving the union as the main player.
That strength was clear Tuesday, with BSK-funded signs lining the roads in contested districts and paid union members and staff donning “Teachers for Shull” and “Teachers for Craig” shirts at polling stations.
Having the support of teachers is “particularly valuable” this year, JCTA President Brent McKim said last week. Craig agreed, calling the endorsement an “absolute honor.”
This post will be updated.