Incumbent Keith Hardy has announced he is back in the race for the St. Paul school board despite being denied a DFL Party endorsement for re-election this year.

“My work on the school board is not finished,” he said in a statement Friday. “To me, the issues facing our students, especially students who are immigrants, who are poorer or from communities of color, are too important for me to stay out of the campaign.”

Hardy, noting he is the board’s lone black member, added he felt responsible to help “black and brown male students [who] continue to feel pushed out of school or feel that school is irrelevant in their lives.”

First elected in 2007, Hardy was turned away at the DFL city convention by a union-powered movement that tapped parental and community concerns about school behavior problems and other issues.

The stakes were high that April day. Each of the 13 candidates vowed to abandon their campaigns if they failed to win endorsement, which ultimately went to four political newcomers: Zuki Ellis, Steve Marchese, Jon Schumacher and Mary Vanderwert.

Marchese, Schumacher and Vanderwert are white, and Ellis, a PTO president and a trainer with the teachers union’s parent-teacher home visit project, is black.

In his statement, Hardy emphasized his work on the district’s racial-equity and gender-inclusion policies. His announcement was accompanied by a statement from state Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, who praised Hardy’s vision for schools as “places of opportunities for all students.”

But Al Oertwig, a former board member who ran again briefly this year under the Caucus for Change banner, criticized Hardy’s re-entry, saying the two-term incumbent “wants to continue the failed policies of the current administration.”