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Sam Odle loses IPS board seat in stunning shakeup

There were stunning upsets from the top of the ballot down election night — even in the Indianapolis Public Schools board race.

Three well-funded, pro-reform candidates won seats on the board. But in a surprise result, incumbent Sam Odle, who had tens of thousands dollars in funding and support of pro-reform groups, was ousted by former IPS board president Elizabeth Gore, who lacked significant endorsements or cash.

Two other incumbents held their seats: Diane Arnold, the longest serving member of the board, easily beat her challenger, Larry Vaughn, in District 4. Michael O’Connor, who was appointed to the board last year, pulled out a tighter victory in his race against Christine Prince in District 1.

Venita Moore, a well-funded newcomer who got support from most of the same groups as the incumbents, also won by a wide margin in a three way race against Nanci Lacy and Ramon Batts for the seat in District 2.

Most of the winning candidates had a substantial funding advantage and got backing from groups such as Stand for Children, an advocacy organization that has played a huge role in recent board elections.

Odle’s loss was a significant upset for the current administration. A former top executive at Indiana University Health, Odle won his seat with a wave of reformers in 2012. Candidates who favor policies such as partnerships with charter schools and more freedom for principals also won a landslide in 2014, largely taking control of the board.

This year, critics of the administration mounted a campaign to disrupt the balance of power on the board and defeat incumbents, led by groups such as Concerned Clergy and OurIPS. But none of the candidates those groups backed won seats.

Jim Grim, the only outsider candidate who raised much cash, came third in the three way race against Odle and Gore to represent the entire district.