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Incumbent Larson-Torres top vote-getter in Charlottesville School Board race

Two new people are joining the Charlottesville School Board after votes were counted Tuesday night.

Three of the seven seats were on the ballot this year. Incumbent Lisa Larson-Torres received the most votes — 7,329 — from among the five candidates in her bid for a second term, according to unofficial results posted online Tuesday. Albemarle educator Dom Morse and real estate agent Emily Dooley rounded out the top three vote-getters. Longtime board member Leah Puryear did not receive enough votes to stay on the board for a fifth term.

Morse and Dooley received about 21% of the votes cast while Puryear ended with 18.3%, missing the top three by less than 1,000 votes. Christa Bennett placed last in the voting with 14.5% of the vote.

Absentee ballots will be accepted until 12 p.m. Nov. 5. Final results will be certified Nov. 15. By Tuesday night, all precincts expect the absentee ballots not yet received had reported results.

All the candidates have said they support new superintendent Royal A. Gurley, Jr., the general direction of the school system and the planned reconfiguration project, which will be a focus of their forthcoming terms.

With Puryear losing, two longtime members won’t be on the board next year. Puryear joined the School Board in 2006 along with Juandiego Wade, who was elected to City Council on Tuesday. Both were part of the first group of elected board members. Council previously appointed board members before 2006.

Larson-Torres served as board chairwoman for the last year. During that time, she led the board in restarting in-person classes, getting reconfiguration off the ground and hiring a new superintendent. She said she wanted to run again to build on the equity efforts started in her first term.

“During the past four years this board has taken great strides to address and tackle systemic racism and inequities baked into our school division,” Larson-Torres wrote in a Daily Progress questionnaire before the election. “This is not easy work. It requires tough conversations and a willingness to be uncomfortable at times.”

Morse was the last candidate to join the race for the board and ran to build a school system that works for every student. He currently teaches at Community Lab School, which is the charter school in Albemarle County. Growing up, he attended the city schools. When he announced his candidacy, he said he would bring a different perspective to the board and that he was recruited to run by a group of parents. This year was Morse’s first time seeking office.

Dooley, a real estate agent, won her first campaign for School Board, though she previously applied for an interim seat on the board. A former teacher and administrator, she said that she would bring a depth of understanding to quickly start addressing challenges facing the community. Dooley is originally from California and most of her publicly reporting donations came from people with addresses outside of the Charlottesville area.

She was the first to announce her candidacy for the School Board and raised the most money out of the group. Dooley has a child who will start at Burnley-Moran Elementary next year, and her husband teaches at Buford Middle School.

They’ll officially start their new terms in January.


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