School board races draw crush of candidates

By Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat October 10, 2012 12:16 pm

Mother Lode voters will determine the makeup of their local public school boards on Nov. 6, with a total of 11 seats on the ballot in Tuolumne County.

Those elected to each four-year term will confront the challenge of school budgets in a time of declining enrollment and tight spending.  

 

Members of public school boards approve budgets, vote to hire and fire staff, and set school district policy. 

For all but the smallest school districts, each board has five members. Typically, two seats are up one year and three in the next election. That allows for some continuity on the boards, according to Tuolumne County Clerk and Auditor-Recorder Deborah Russell.  

Filing for the Nov. 6 election ended Aug. 15. Seventeen candidates are running for seats on the boards of K-12 schools in Tuolumne County.

A number of local school boards had members reach the end of their terms, but no contested races for those seats. In those instances, candidates who filed papers will simply join each board without appearing on the ballot.

Districts with uncontested seats on their boards were the Tuolumne County Office of Education, Belleview School District, Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District, Jamestown School District, Sonora School District and Twain Harte-Long Barn Union School District. 

Sonora Union High School District had an uncontested seat in the trustee area representing Sonora and Jamestown school districts. It will be kept by incumbent Jeanie Smith. 

Seats at the Tuolumne County Office of Education will remain filled by incumbents Joseph von Herrmann, Juliana Feriani and Linda Millhollin. Sonora School District board member Don Rolle will join them on the county board. 

Belleview’s seat will be kept by Nickolas Schader. Big Oak Flat-Groveland’s three seats are going to Gloria Marler and incumbents John Infelise and Paul Spring. Jamestown’s two seats will be filled by Aaron Moss and John Simnitt. 

Twain Harte-Long Barn Union School District’s seats will be filled by Elisha Wingo and incumbent Ken Scott. 

Two board seats at Sonora School District will remain filled by incumbents Joyce Lupo and Mark Plummer. The district is seeking another board member to fill Rolle’s seat and will be interviewing candidates in November. 

The following is a rundown of school boards with contested seats up for election this November: 

Sonora Union High School District

Challenges facing Sonora High include the loss of about $1 million in funding every year for the past five years, according to Superintendent Mike McCoy. 

The losses have already forced the Board of Trustees to approve a series of spending reductions and could necessitate more. 

Two candidates are vying for the board seat occupied by Board President Ed Clinite, who is not seeking re-election.  

The seat represents the area that includes Belleview, Columbia, Curtis Creek and Soulsbyville school districts. 

One candidate, 46-year-old Sonora resident Erik Andal, is an automotive technology instructor and technical trades coordinator Columbia College. He is also a former board member at Columbia Union School District. 

 The other, 35-year-old Katryn Norvell-Weston, of Sonora, is a former Sonora High math teacher who was laid off due to budget cuts. She now runs a family business and teaches at math at Columbia College. 

Summerville Union High School District

Like other school districts in the county, Summerville High’s Board of Education has faced tough decisions about the district’s budget. It is also discussing changes to curriculum and athletic programs. 

Two board seats will appear on the ballot, occupied by David Marquez and Dennis Spisak. Both are running again, challenged by Carrie Ashe, of Tuolumne. 

Ashe, 44, has volunteered at Summerville High and been a member of the school’s site council. She has also volunteered as an archaeologist with the U.S. Forest Service. 

Marquez, 40, is a Tuolumne resident and member of Summerville High’s Class of 1990. He has coached youth soccer and wrestling. 

Spisak, 66, of Twain Harte, is a former trustee at Twain Harte-Long Barn Union School District and has served on various local governing boards. 

Curtis Creek School District 

Curtis Creek’s budget was labelled “qualified” earlier this spring, meaning it may not be able to meet its financial obligations over the next two years. 

The district’s Board of Trustees may be forced to make more tough decisions about spending cuts later this year. 

Three candidates are competing for two school board seats, one of which is occupied by 83-year-old Marge Jones of Sonora. She is a retired teacher and has been a Curtis Creek board member for 14 years. 

Incumbent Jones is being challenged by Courtney Castle, of Sonora and Mike Holland, of Sonora. 

Castle, 30, has worked as a college instructor and counselor. 

Holland, 37, is a small business owner and contractor. 

Soulsbyville School District 

Faced with the dual challenges of declining enrollments and reduced state funding, Soulsbyville Elementary’s Board of Trustees might need to cut or suspend programs. 

Two board terms are expiring this year, and three candidates are trying for the seats. 

Incumbent Denise Houghton, 50, of Soulsbyville, is a parent of five and volunteer at her church youth group. The second incumbent — Heather Spangler, 47, of Sonora — is also a parent of five. 

The two are challenged by 54-year-old David Titchenal, of Soulsbyville, a businessman and president of the local political organization TCFACTS, Tuolumne County Following America’s Constitution in Today’s Society. 

Summerville School District 

Summerville School District has undergone budget cuts, including the elimination of a formal music program. But is still deficit spending, a fact that could lead to tough choices for board members. 

Three board seats are up for grabs. Incumbents Rachel Bell and Lisa Marquez have been joined in the race by a 20-year-old Summerville Elementary graduate Sondra Ledsome. 

Bell, 38, of Tuolumne, has coached cheerleading, soccer and T-ball. 

Marquez, 39, of Tuolumne, is the wife of Summerville Union High School District board incumbent-candidate David Marquez. She is a Girl Scout leader and member of Summerville Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Student Association. 

Ledsome, of Tuolumne, has taken classes at Columbia College.