Business-backed candidates and incumbents ruled the Omaha school board primary Tuesday, with most of both groups advancing to next month's general election.
Six of the seven candidates who were supported by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce advanced. And five of the seven incumbents, including board President Marian Fey, moved on to the May 14 general election.
One race was still unclear, with one candidate leading and two tied for the second slot in subdistrict 8, representing South Omaha and Bellevue.
Wendy Boyer, senior vice president of community investment and advocacy for the chamber, said she's pleased that good-quality candidates received support.
“It's a big deal that we're able to put different perspectives and different leadership on the Omaha Public School board, in preparation for the new superintendent,” she said.
The showing of the chamber-backed candidates reflects a resurgence of engagement and commitment to help ensure the district's success, she said.
Matt Scanlan, a business owner who placed second in the subdistrict 6 race, said people wanted change.
“The voters understand that we need to take a greater responsibility for the OPS school board and ensure that we've got some career-oriented and business-minded folks on the board,” said Scanlan, president of Woerner Wire Works, a steel-fabrication company.
Long-time incumbent Nancy Kratky led the four-person field in subdistrict 6, west Omaha. She was first elected to the board in 1994.
“It's because my people have trusted me and I want to do what they want me to do,” said Kratky.
She received almost 38 percent of the vote, compared to Scanlan's showing of about 35 percent.
Fey also received more votes than a candidate the chamber helped recruit, Woody Bradford. Both advanced in subdistrict 3, representing Dundee and northwest Omaha.
“I'm pleased, but we have a lot of work to do — six more weeks,” Fey said.
The other chamber-backed candidates who moved on were Marque Snow in subdistrict 2; incumbent Justin Wayne in subdistrict 4; Lou Ann Goding in subdistrict 5; and Katie Underwood in subdistrict 7.
Underwood gained the largest percentage of votes of all OPS candidates, nearly 57 percent.
The only business-supported candidate who did not advance was Jeff Miller in subdistrict 5.
Other incumbents who advanced included Jennifer Tompkins Kirshenbaum in subdistrict 5 and Sarah Brumfield in subdistrict 9. Incumbents who did not advance were Bambi Bartek and Danyelle Baratta.
World-Herald staff writer Julie Anderson contributed to this report.
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Read more about each race by clicking the headers below.
Subdistrict 1: Retired teacher faces coordinator for kids program
James English, 68, led the field, pitching a return to the three R's and the glory days of OPS.
English called for teachers to stress math, reading and writing to shrink the achievement gap.
This is his fourth recent attempt at public office.
The former OPS administrator and teacher will take on Yolanda Williams, 38, program coordinator for Partnership 4 Kids.
Williams said she would draw on her experiences with a rough childhood, bouncing between foster homes and dabbling in gangs. She said she turned her life around, and the experiences help her relate to disadvantaged kids.
Subdistrict 2: Two in race both work with youth
Niokia Stewart, 34, is a transitional youth professional partner with Region 6 Behavioral Health, helping young adults with mental health concerns. Previously, she worked with children, a role that put her in contact with teachers. A Bryan High School graduate, she has a child attending an OPS elementary school. She would like to see more preparation in high school to ready young adults for future paths.
She will face Marque Snow, 25, an after-school teen director with the South YMCA who works with young people daily, many at-risk. Snow said he believes the district needs board members willing to hold students, teachers and administration accountable and provide them the best possible resources.
Subdistrict 3: New board leader to meet attorney
The new Omaha school board president and a long-time Omaha attorney advanced in the race to represent subdistrict 3 on the OPS board.
Marian Fey, who became board president in January, will face Woody Bradford, who was recruited by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, in next month's general election.
The two combined received almost 80 percent of the votes cast in Subdistrict 3, which includes Dundee and portions of northwest Omaha.
Fey, 44, was first elected to the board in November 2010. She became board president when the former board leader resigned. Bradford, 73, is making his first run for an OPS board seat.
Subdistrict 4: Wayne to face Creighton professor
Justin Wayne, 33, labor attorney for Union Pacific Railroad, steamed ahead to lead the field.
He will face Jill Brown, 39, associate professor of developmental psychology at Creighton University.
Calling herself a collaborator and facilitator, she said her knowledge of culture and human development can be brought to bear on the challenges in the racially diverse district.
Eric Ewing, an adjunct professor at Bellevue University, met the same fate his brother did last fall. John Ewing lost to Lee Terry in the 2nd District House race.
Subdistrict 5: New member faces stiff challenge
Incumbent Jennifer Tompkins Kirshenbaum, 40, was elected to the board in November and sworn in in early January. She touted her business experience and her classroom experience as an OPS substitute teacher. She now works part time in human resources at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home. A parent of two children in OPS schools, she said she has seen in her months on the board the changes the district needs.
She will face Lou Ann Goding, 49, who brings to the race experience in the business world and years as a district volunteer, including two terms as a PTA president. Now a part-time financial consultant, she said she would ensure efficient use of tax dollars and prioritize student achievement.
Subdistrict 6: Incumbent Kratky has a small edge
For the time being, it looks as though voters in west Omaha don't want change on the Omaha school board.
Nancy Kratky, who has been on the board since 1995, won almost 38 percent of the vote in subdistrict 6 Tuesday. Matt Scanlan, 39, president for Woerner Wire Works, was second in the four-candidate field. He secured more than 35 percent of the vote.
Kratky, 76, has been associated with OPS almost all her life. Scanlan, who is backed by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, leads a north Omaha business that fabricates steel for highway projects in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota.
Subdistrict 7: Engineer is a clear favorite
Katie Underwood, 31, sailed to a lopsided victory.
Underwood, an engineer for Olsson Associates who is backed by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, emphasized her experience with budgets and her educator parents.
She will take on Andy Allen, 48, a computer technician with Lockheed Martin. Allen is past president and lobbyist for the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association. He said he wants greater openness from the board and parent engagement. He said he wants to bring technical training back into the schools.
Incumbent Danyelle Baratta, 34, a program navigator for the reEnergize program, was defeated. She had emphasized the need for strategic planning.
Subdistrict 8: Race for second too close to call
Lacey Merica, 29, is a claims adjuster who holds a master's of business administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She said she learned the importance of bringing people with different viewpoints together during her time in the business world and as a former aide in the Legislature.
Meg Cordes and William Forsee are tied for second place. Cordes, 49, an associate nurse manager at the Nebraska Medical Center, said her focus would be on students' best interests. Her three older sons graduated from Bryan High School, and she and her husband have been active volunteers.
Forsee, 64, is a retired teacher with 37 years of experience who served two years on the Metro Community College board. He said he would seek additional opportunities for students.
Subdistrict 9: New member vs. community leader
This time, the longtime community advocate defeated the barely incumbent candidate in subdistrict 9, southeast Omaha.
Rebecca Barrientos-Patlan received almost 37 percent of the vote, compared with Sarah Brumfield's showing of almost 30 percent.
Barrientos-Patlan, 54, has long led volunteer efforts in South Omaha, including starting the Burlington Road Neighborhood Association. If elected, she wants to involve parents more often with their children's schooling.
Brumfield, 29, an administrative assistant at Help Systems Services in Omaha, was elected to the board in November. She would like the board to improve its communication efforts.