By CLAIRE ST. JOHN
The race is on to rule the schools, and parents, business owners, a restaurateur and others will campaign to be elected in November.
Last week, the deadline expired for candidates to file for the four-year positions that involve making policy decisions and shaping the future of the school districts they live in.
All 12 school districts have open seats, but in some cases, there are no challengers, so incumbents will retain their seats with no election. Chinese Camp School District, Columbia Elementary School District, Jamestown School District, Soulsbyville School District, Summerville High School District and three county board incumbents are the only ones who filed for their seats, so they won't be on the ballot come Nov. 4.
In three school districts Big Oak Flat-Groveland, Sonora High and Twain Harte/Long Barn incumbents did not file by the Aug. 8 deadline, so the one challenger in each case will slip into the empty seats with little fanfare.
Because the incumbents didn't file for re-election by Aug. 8, the deadline was extended by five days, but no additional challengers signed up.
Sonora Union High School Board of Trustees will say goodbye to Jeanette Emery of Sonora, who has served on the board for eight years.
"It's been a wonderful experience, but it's time for somebody else to be in there," she said. "We need new blood in there."
Rosetta Bannwarth, co-owner of Banny's Cafe in Sonora, will take her place.
Bannwarth has two children one just graduated from Sonora High School and the other will be a senior in the fall. Bannwarth, who served on the Sonora Elementary School board four years ago, said as her children got older, her focus changed to their needs.
"I think that if you want to change a child's education, you have to do it at the elementary level, but if you want to change their future, you have to do it in high school," she said.
By attending board meetings and reading the newspaper, Bannwarth is familiarizing herself with the board she'll soon join.
"I won't know what their views are until I spend some time with them," she said.
Larry Shaw, a Groveland resident who took over a seat on the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District last winter after board member Mike Malloy stepped down, said he never intended to run when his position expired.
Jan Norton of Groveland will take Shaw's place.
"It's an interesting job and there's certainly a lot to do, but I just felt like I had other commitments," Shaw said.
As secretary of the Groveland Rotary Club, Shaw said he will still be involved with the south county schools.
Belleview, Curtis Creek and Sonora elementary school districts will all have seats decided in November, as will the Tuolumne County Board of Education.
But Sonora Elementary School District constituents will see the most competition as two incumbents vie with three challengers.
Kevin Bates, founder of Sharp Development Company and father of two elementary students, said the existing board works well together, but in the next few years with schools facing shrinking budgets, a little financial expertise will be needed.
"I do think there's a niche," Bates said. "They all have their own strengths, but I would be stronger than most of the board members (in financial matters)."
Bates, Joyce Lupo and Karl R. Merrill, all of Sonora, are the challengers for seats held by Gerald Mayland and Jeanie E. Smith, both of Sonora.
Fairly new to the area, Bates said he will continue familiarizing himself with the issues the Sonora Elementary School Board deals with while sending out mailers and going door to door to talk to would-be constituents.
Even if he isn't elected to the board, Bates said, he will still help the school in any way he can.
"I've got a passion for kids and education," Bates said. "I've always thought education is the most important thing we can be focusing on."