Santa Clara County school elections bring new leaders
Nearly 100 attendees gathered on election night in support of Santa Clara Unified School District board candidates. Photo courtesy of Andrew Ratermann.

    Last updated 5 p.m. on Friday. The next update is expected at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

    New and familiar school board members are ready to fill numerous seats throughout Santa Clara County come January, making decisions that affect how hundreds of thousands of students will be educated in the coming years.

    With just more than half of ballots counted as of Thursday, challengers in the Evergreen School District and Campbell Union High School District seats could push out incumbents. But incumbents in some of San Jose’s largest school districts such as San Jose Unified, East Side Union and Santa Clara Unified are likely to keep their seats with large margins over their competition.

    Newly-elected school board members will need to tackle pandemic learning loss, spikes in expulsions and student behavioral issues, as well as mental health. They’ll make decisions on millions in funding while grappling with the impending end of federal stimulus funds come 2024.

    Beyond local districts, incoming Santa Clara County Board of Education members will oversee the academics and finances of more than 30 school districts while making decisions on charter school approvals and renewals.

    Santa Clara County Board of Education

    Educator Maimona Afzal Berta is leading against District 5 San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco for Area 6. Berta has 56.8% of the vote, or 17,416 votes, while Carrasco has 43.2% of the vote, or 13,248 votes. Both are challengers, with incumbent Peter Ortiz running in the San Jose City Council District 5 race to replace Carrasco, who is terming out.

    Challengers Natalie Prcevski and Raeena Lari are in a close race for the Area 7 seat. Lari, a Santa Clara County health advisory commissioner, has a slight edge with about 52% of the vote, or 24,996 votes. Prcevski, the secretary for the Charter School Foundation, is close behind with 47.9% of the vote, or 23,054 votes. The winner will replace incumbent Claudia Rossi, who is not seeking reelection.

    San Jose Unified School District 

    Incumbent José Magaña appears to claim victory for the district’s Area 2 seat, holding 72.6% of the vote, or 6,508 votes. Challenger and construction manager Andres Macias trails with 27.3% of the vote, or 2,453 votes.

    “I am honored to receive the overwhelming support from parents, educators and community members this election,” Magaña told San José Spotlight. “I look forward to continuing the hard work of bringing access, equity, and results to San Jose Unified and the city of San Jose.”

    East Side Union High School District 

    Four candidates are battling for three open, four-year seats. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the district’s three incumbents are in the lead. Lorena Chavez holds 29.8% of the vote, or 49,006 votes, with Van Le right behind at about 28% of the vote, or 46,020 votes. J. Manuel Herrera follows with 22.8% of the vote, or 37,520 votes. Challenger Peter Pham has 19.3% of the vote, or 31,716 votes.

    Alum Rock Union School District 

    Alum Rock Union School District has five candidates contending for three board seats with four-year terms.

    The district’s three incumbents are holding steady leads. Minh Pham leads with 25.3% of the vote, or 6,607 votes. Linda Chavez follows with 24.4% of the vote, or 6,377 votes. Andres Quintero has 21.3% with 5,557 votes.

    Challengers Ricardo Garcia and Joseph R. Corona are trailing with 19.2% and 9.7% of the vote, respectively.

    “I would like to thank everyone (in) Alum Rock for their support in putting the past behind and choosing to keep Alum Rock schools on the right track towards a brighter future,” Pham told San José Spotlight. “I hope to move forward with school site renovations, expanding our academic programs, and getting started on workforce housing.”

    Three candidates are also vying for a vacant two-year short-term seat.

    Incumbent Ernesto Bejarano and Minh Nguyen, a challenger and educator, are neck and neck with a difference of a mere 16 votes. Nguyen has 42.2% of the vote with 5,078 votes. Bejerano is also at about 42% of the vote, holding 5,062 votes. Challenger Omar Vasquez trails with 15.7% of the vote with 1,893 votes.

    Santa Clara Unified School District 

    Two incumbents are likely to keep their seats for another term thanks to a wide lead.

    For the Area 3 seat, incumbent Vickie Fairchild has 74.7% of the vote, or 3,176 votes. Challenger Nestor Toribio trails with 25.2% of the vote, or 1,073 votes.

    “I am humbled and honored to have the continued support of my community,” Fairchild told San José Spotlight. “I am excited to continue to focus on meeting the needs of all children so that they can thrive in school and beyond.”

    Incumbent Andrew Ratermann is set to win the Area 4 seat with 60.5% of the vote, or 1,791 votes. Kimberley Williams, a challenger and district volunteer, is behind with 39.4% of the vote, or 1,168 votes.

    “When I look back on the campaign, and all the volunteers who gave of their free time, walked precincts in the heat on weekends, and made many other sacrifices, I feel an enormous responsibility to live up to the faith they have in me,” Ratermann told San José Spotlight. “Now it is time to refocus and put in the hard work needed to ensure our students receive the best possible education.”

    Campbell Union High School District 

    Former Campbell Mayor Jason Baker appears to have won the Area 3 seat with 75.3% of the vote, or 5,699 votes. His opponent, Adam Rocha, roped in 24.6% of the vote, or 1,861 votes. The winner will replace incumbent Stacey Brown, who is retiring.

    Challenger James Kim leads over incumbent Robert Varich for the Area 1 seat. Kim, a scholarship nonprofit co-founder and district volunteer, holds 54.2% of the vote, or 4,427 votes. Varich is at 45.8% of the vote, or 3,741 votes.

    The race for Area 2 is tight, as challenger Elisabeth Halliday, a district volunteer and writer, holds 42.4%, or 3,169 votes. Incumbent Michael Winter holds about 38% of the vote, or 2,836 votes. Challenger David Lee Sabes trails with 19.5% of the vote, or 1,455 votes.

    Evergreen School District 

    Challengers are leading the pack in this local school board race, where three seats are up for grabs.

    Yerba Buena High School Principal Mary Hiền Pollett is ahead with 25.1% of the vote, or 9,692 votes. Challenger and former superintendent Stan Rose follows with 22.3% of the vote, or 8,616 votes. Incumbent Jim Zito trails with 21.6% of the vote, or 8,338 votes, leaving 278 votes between him and Rose. Incumbents Marisa Hanson and Christopher Corpus have about 17.9% and 12.9% of the vote, respectively.

    “I’m grateful for the support from the community. I will do my best to bring a balanced and broad perspective to the board,” Pollett told San José Spotlight. “The only way to make change is to be involved.”

    Meanwhile, Jeremy Barousse could win one vacant, two-year short-term seat. Barousse, a nonprofit director, leads with 57.7% of the vote, or 9,262 votes. Alecia Kelley, a principal and educator, is behind with 42.3% of the vote, or 6,799 votes.

    Franklin-McKinley School District 

    Six candidates are contending for three four-year seats.

    Challenger Steven Sanchez has a slight edge with 18.9% of the vote, or 4,474 votes over incumbent Rudy Rodriguez who has 17.6% of the vote, or 4,173 votes. Marc Cooper, a challenger and educator, is holding 17.3% of the vote, or 4,094 votes.

    Milan Balinton, a challenger and nonprofit executive, holds 15.5% of the vote with 3,683 votes over incumbent Manuel F. Martinez who has 15.4% of the vote, or 3,653 votes. There is a difference of 30 votes between them. Challenger and educator Tammy Lariz trails with about 15% of the vote, or 3,566 votes.

    Oak Grove School District 

    Taunya Jaco, a California Teachers Association board member, appears to have won the race for the Area 5 seat, holding 71.1% of the vote, or 2,231 votes. She would replace incumbent Nancy Yue, who is not seeking reelection. Robyn Lynette Schlice, a former probation officer, trails with 28.8% of the vote, or 903 votes.

    Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

    Editor’s Note: Jeremy Barousse is the brother of San José Spotlight co-founder Josh Barousse.

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