The state school board has elected members representing eight different districts. Members serve four-year terms. Since terms are staggered, four of these seats come up every two years.
The 2020 election cycle will be for districts 1, 3, 5 and 7.
The present incumbents in these slots are Jackie Zeigler (1), Stephanie Bell (3) vacant (5) and Jeff Newman (7). District 5 is vacant due to the recent death of member Ella Bell. Zeigler and Stephanie Bell are seeking re-election while Newman is retiring.
Since qualifying ended Nov. 8, we now know who is running for each position.
Republican Zeigler is opposed by Democrat Tom Holmes in the November general election. Republican Stephanie Bell is opposed by Democrat Jarralynne Agee. This will be a rematch of the 2016 election when Bell got 73 percent of the vote.
Republican Belinda McRae, a member of the Marion County school board, was the only person to qualify for Newman’s seat on either the Republican or Democratic side. This means she will take office in January 2021.
This is in stark contrast to District 5 that Ella Bell represented for many years. Ten Democrats and one Republican are running for this seat. Montgomery school board member Lisa Keith is the lone Republican. Democrats are: Fred Bell, Tonya Chestnut, Ron Davis, Phillip Ensler, Pamela Laffitte, Penni MClammy, Woodie Pugh, Joanne Shum, Robert White, II and Billie Jean Young.
District 5 is a huge geographic region, covering all or part of 17 counties stretching from Bullock and Macon counties on the east to downtown Mobile. This is also the district with the largest minority population. According to the Alabama reapportionment office, 59.25 percent of the District 5 population is black. Black voters in Montgomery and Mobile counties comprise 56.7 percent of the total vote.
What makes this election unique is that on March 3 voters will have to approve or disapprove a constitutional amendment as to whether we keep an elected state board or switch to an appointed one. So while voters are voting for school board candidates, the vote on the amendment may also make election of board members a moot point.