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2018 Runoff Elections: Singh Wins Spot On AISD Board, Gharakhanian Joins ACC

Audrey McGlinchy

On the ballot this Election Day is an Austin ISD Board of Trustees race and a runoff for the Austin Community College board. None of the candidates in those races got 50 percent of the vote last month, so the top two finishers are facing off.

Austin ISD District 9 - At Large

Results: Arati Singh wins with 60 percent of the vote, compared with 40 percent for Carmen Tilton.

Background: Carmen Tilton and Arati Singh are competing for an at-large position, which means they'll be on every ballot. Tilton led in the Nov. 6 election with 40 percent of the votes; Singh had 36 percent. 

Tilton has lived in Austin for 20 years and currently works in education policy. She is the current senior executive policy adviser for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. She previously worked for former state Sen. Wendy Davis, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro and other lawmakers as an education policy adviser. Tilton also worked at the Capitol with Gov. Greg Abbott on pre-K legislation.

“That’s probably where I bring the most value,” she says. As AISD continues to pay millions of dollars to the state in recapture, the district is trying to engage with lawmakers more on school finance.

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“I know those members, I know Dan Patrick ... I know what their issues are, what they want to see, how things need to be framed," she says, "and I think that voice and that perspective is going to be incredibly important.”

One thing she wants to see the board improve is outreach to the community, including potential students. She has a 2-year-old and said she doesn’t see much marketing or outreach for pre-K programs or elementary schools. She says AISD needs to improve its marketing efforts because many elementary schools are under-enrolled.

Singh is a teacher turned education program consultant. For the past 20 years, she has been working as a consultant and evaluator of college access and STEM programs - first in Washington, D.C., and now at her own company, Raise Achievement. She has two children in AISD schools, a senior at Austin High and a sixth-grader at Small Middle School.

Singh began working in AISD on the PTA when her children attended Oak Hill Elementary. She has also served on the Austin Council of PTAs, working with parent-support specialists throughout the district. As a representative of the entire city, she says, she spends time at schools and in neighborhoods where residents don’t always attend board meetings.

“The district does usually listen to people who speak up, and I want to be the voice of people who also don’t speak up,” she says.

Singh also says she wants the district to be clear about its priorities as it faces budget issues.

Austin Community College Board - Place 8

Results: Stephanie Gharakhanian wins with 64 percent of the vote, compared with 36 for Sarah Mills.

Stephanie Gharakhanian received 49 percent of the votes Nov. 6; Sarah Mills got 34 percent.

Gharakhanian is an attorney and currently works for the Workers Defense Project. She's served on various committees and task forces at ACC, including the Construction Wages and Working Conditions Task Force. She has also worked as a community organizer in Austin advocating for living wages in Central Texas, immigration reform and increased affordability in the city.

Mills is the director of government relations for the Texas Association for Home Care and Hospice. She also served in policy roles at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Disability Rights Texas.

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