Longtime Dallas ISD incumbent faces runoff in school board race

A longtime Dallas ISD trustee is headed to a runoff in a race that could change decisions made by the board.

Incumbent Bernadette Nutall, who has been in office nine years, will face former teacher and current attorney Justin Henry. Henry finished just short of hitting 50 percent and winning the District 9 seat outright on Saturday.

“It feels good we're definitely encouraged by the results and definitely humbled by the amount of support we got,” Henry said.

Nutall admits she has to do a better job of getting her supporters to the polls. She finished in second place on Saturday.

“They thought I had it and that’s what they said, ‘You got this Nutall. We know you.’ But they didn’t get up and vote,” Nutall said.

Nutall now finds herself in a runoff race with a man she appointed to district commissions and task forces.

Henry said the district’s biggest problems are educational equity and the school board itself.

“It’s like a divorced family and I think I’ve advocated -- I’ve tried to bring people to the table. I’ve tried to bridge those gaps, I’ve tried to do other things and eventually you have to just run for the seat and be that person that’s willing to put the kids first and put academic achievement first,” Henry said.

Nutall pushed back on claims of board dysfunction.

“It’s always us. If you notice the board -- why can’t they get along with us? Why is it always I have to? We have to show the outrage. We get along fine,” Nutall said.

Henry has support of education groups -- some who in the past backed Nutall. She believes that’s happened because of her opposition to programs of former superintendent Mike Miles.

But Henry said Nutall made a big mistake for appearing with controversial Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss last month in Dallas.

“There’s time when I think you build shared values. But when you know someone’s not coming to the table with good faith, with the belief that our public schools are the foundation of our society, it gets really difficult. So yeah, I think it was a mistake,” Henry said.

Nutall said DeVoss isn’t the problem.

“DeVoss has not done worse of what the people of Dallas have done to the children in the Dallas education system. Betsy DeVoss is at the national level. We have people right here in our city destroying our schools,” Nutall said.

The runoff will take place in June. District 9 includes parts of downtown Dallas, Uptown, East Dallas and Pleasant Grove.

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