Voters showed their desire for change on two local school district boards in the general election Tuesday, rejecting incumbents in favor of new faces.
Tracy Unified School District
D.A.R.E. officer Stephen Abercrombie topped the ticket in the Tracy Unified School District board of education race was with 6,784 votes, 17.39 percent. Also winning seats on the board are social worker Lori Souza with 5,545 votes, 14.22 percent; educator Ameni Alexander with 4,798 votes, 12.30 percent; and deputy district attorney Simran Kaur with 4,551 votes, 11.67 percent.
Rounding out the field were pastor James Young Sr. with 9.53 percent of the vote, financial adviser Jeremy Silcox with 8.8 percent, incumbent James Vaughn with 8.86 percent, incumbent Gregory Silva with 3,427 votes and carpenter Mateo Morelos Bedolla with 8.26 percent.
On Wednesday, Abercrombie said: “It feels really good the people of Tracy have confidence in me. I think getting elected is more satisfying because it is the citizens as a whole saying we trust you.”
Abercrombie and the other new board members will take their oath of office in December, but he said he has already reached out to the presidents of the Tracy Educators Association and the California School Employees Association about their priorities.
“I’m not going to sit idly by,” he said. “I plan to jump right in.”
Souza said she was excited to see new leadership on the board and thanked the voters for their support.
“I think education is important,” she said Wednesday. “Thank you for believing in me and voting for me based on my merit and the work I have done in Tracy over the past 20 years with children.”
Souza said she plans to collaborate with the unions to create more unity within the district and also focus on her interests in mental health and the social and emotional development and education of young children.
Kaur said she appreciated the support of the community and was eager to begin.
“It’s so humbling to see that everyone believes in you and supports you in the vision that you have,” she said Wednesday. “We worked really hard and to see it coming together. Obviously, the hard work starts now.”
Kaur spoke highly of the diversity of the incoming board members.
“Everyone is running such a different prospect and background,” she said. “A D.A.R.E. officer, a social worker, an educator and a deputy district attorney — very diverse group. I would love to work with all of them to see what we can do. You learn from people who have done it before and use experience and background. I think we’ll all work together collaboratively, moving the district in the right direction.”
Alexander, who came in third in the election, could not be reached for comment.
All four newly elected trustees will be sworn into office at the Dec. 11 board meeting.
However, the final makeup of the TUSD board has yet to be determined. With the election of school board member Dan Arriola to the Tracy City Council on Tuesday, the board is likely to undertake its second appointment process in less than a month.
In October, the board appointed Brian Pekari to fill the seat vacated by Sondra Gilbert, who moved out of the area in September. The departure of Arriola, who has two years left of his term, will require the board to either appoint his replacement or call a special election.
Banta Elementary School District
The race for the two open seats on the three-member Banta Elementary School District board came down to a handful of votes.
Taking first place in the election was Lathrop Fire Chief Gene Neeley with 177 votes, 28.92 percent of the total. Real estate agent Joshua Anderson received 163 votes, 26.63 percent. They were followed by longtime incumbent Frank Silva with 158 votes, 25.82 percent, and businessman Dan-Joe Lopez with 114 votes, a distant 18.63 percent.
Neeley, who serves on the board of River Islands Technology Academy, an independent charter school within Banta’s district boundaries, said Wednesday that he was eager to serve on the Banta board.
“I’m looking forward to working with everybody on the board,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity to be in a great school district to make things happen.”
Neeley ran on a platform of bringing the district together, and he would like to see River Islands Technology Academy restored to Banta’s oversight to create a consistent educational process between the three schools — Banta School, NextGeneration STEAM Academy and RITechA. He expects to leave the charter school board when he is sworn in.
To the voters, Neeley said: “Thank you for your support and your belief that I would be able to be part of the governance of that.”
Anderson said Wednesday that he has aggressive plans for the district and he wants to implement them as soon as possible because the term is only two years.
“I‘d rather move faster and slow down if needed than slow down and have to pick up the pace,” he said. “The key element to everybody’s success is going to be change. I believe that now, not only in our nation and even in the local market, now is the time for change.”
Although the margin between the top three candidates is close, Silva, who has served on the board since 1989, said Wednesday that he did not plan to seek a recount. He did point out, however, that some vote-by-mail ballots had yet to be counted.
“There could be a few (votes) out there. There is that possibility,” Silva said.
He added that he was OK with the election results and that having new blood on the board was a good thing.
Joe Perry, the other incumbent, chose not to seek re-election.
All election results are unofficial until certified by San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Melinda Dubroff within 30 days of the election.