St. Louis city voters picked Adam Layne and Tracee Miller to serve on the seven-member elected St. Louis Public School Board in the April 2 general municipal election.
Layne is a former Teach For America teacher who worked at the SLPS school Clyde C. Miller Career Academy, and he is an education advocate. He received 7,179 votes – out of 20,121 total votes. Miller is a former SLPS teacher and instructional coach who now works at the Khan Academy, which provides free, global educational resources online. She received 6,294 votes. There were five other candidates in the race, all vying for two open seats.
Both Layne and Miller spoke about addressing racial inequities and providing innovative support systems for struggling students during their campaigns. They also spoke about ways to increase involvement in the district.
“One of my biggest goals is to make sure the school board meetings are flooded,” Layne said. “We need to be the ones to bring them back in and reach out, and that’s what I will be doing.”
As a teacher, Miller said she was able to find resources for her students from organizations within the community.
“We have universities, we have nonprofits, we have companies that are available,” Miller said. “It’s a matter of making sure that we don’t just get the school community engaged but the whole St. Louis community engaged – so they understand that the stronger our schools are, the stronger our city is.”
The Missouri State Board of Education is expected to return the governance of the SLPS District back to the elected Board of Education before the start of the next school year. The three-member appointed Special Administrative Board (SAB) has governed for the past 10 years, after the district lost full accreditation. The elected board has been holding meetings and preparing for this transition.
Layne believes the transition back to the elected board will go smoothly with a clear vision.
“We have goals as a board, and we have goals as a district,” Layne said. “We need to take the same approach to the transition itself and have strategies and goals in place and work diligently to make sure that those goals are executed.”
At the education nonprofit InspireSTL, Layne developed curriculum for an education access and support program for students in 7th grade to college. Joining in 2014, Layne built out a student-coaching model and the high school and college support program. The organization has now merged with the Wyman Center.
Layne was tapped by the Kairos Academies, a charter school that will open in the fall, to bring his program model to the academy. Layne also currently sits on the board for the charter school. He said he will be stepping down from the Kairos board this summer because the time requirement will be too great to serve on both. (Mayor Lyda Krewson’s son, Jack, is among the charter’s founding team.)
In 2009, Miller started teaching at SLPS and stayed in the classroom for three years. Then she acted as a contracted instructional and intervention coach in the district for three years after that. She has taught and managed in five school districts across five states. She is working on completing a PhD in education policy and is writing her dissertation about racially oppressive structures in public high schools.
“That’s my resume,” Miller said. “But I want people to know is that I’ve been, throughout all of my time in St. Louis, an activist. Every chance I’ve had when I’ve seen a problem, I’ve tried to address it head on.”
Miller and Layne were not endorsed by the local teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers St. Louis Local 420.
“The voters have spoken,” said Ray Cummings, vice president for political education for the Local 420. “Although we were looking for a different outcome, make no mistake about it, we are looking forward to a return of governance to the elected school board.”
On social media, some people raised concerns about the funding for Layne’s campaign mailer – which had ties to an organization that is criticized for supporting privatization of public schools. Layne told The St. Louis American that he was not “pro-privatization,” as some of his critics claimed during the campaign. And he urged residents to hold him accountable at the school board meetings.
“While we continue to have concerns about the amount and sources of stealth funding in elections,” Cummings said, “we have proven our ability to find common ground and talk to anyone regarding the future and continued improvement of the St. Louis Public Schools. We represent the employees on the frontline in the classroom; there are no successful solutions that ignore that simple fact.”