Update: Ackerman, Lucas still lead in school board election after vote count update


David Ackerman and Caroline Lucas hung on to their lead in the election for two seats on the governing board of the Menlo Park City School District, according to the vote count released Thursday by the San Mateo County Elections office.

Mr. Ackerman has 3,972 votes, followed by Ms. Lucas with 3,419. Close behind are Scott Saywell with 3,236 votes and Alka Gupta with 3,175. Scott Hinshaw, whose name was on the ballot but who had dropped out of the race, had 1,238 votes on Thursday.

David Ackerman

Caroline Lucas
See latest count.

San Mateo County said Wednesday that nearly 100,000 votes, from about 25 percent of the county's registered voters, remain uncounted. If the same holds true for the district, 3,800 ballots could remain to be counted, even after 479 ballots were added to the total Thursday.

The Elections Office says it will update the vote count at 4:30 p.m. on these days: Tuesday, Nov. 15; Friday, Nov. 18; and Wednesday, Nov. 23.

The candidates

Mr. Ackerman and Ms. Lucas are seen by many as "outsiders," although both are educators with ties to the district. Mr. Ackerman is a retired Oak Knoll School principal and Ms. Lucas had children in the district and is a Spanish teacher in the neighboring Las Lomitas school district.

The other two candidates were seen as members of the district "establishment." Scott Saywell, who trailed Ms. Lucas by 183 votes after the Thursday vote total was reported, is president of the site council at Laurel School and has two young children in the district.

Alka Gupta, who trailed Ms Lucas by 244 votes on Thursday, is co-president of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation board and has a 9-year-old son in a district school.

The district has been reeling since voters failed to approve two parcel tax measures in May, leaving the board with difficult decisions on how to cut the budget and/or propose a new tax measure. Ms. Lucas was aligned with those who campaigned against the parcel taxes, and has been a critic of many district actions.

The candidates filed to run for the two open seats on the five-member school board when incumbents Jeff Child and Maria Hilton decided not to run again. The terms are for four years.

David Ackerman

Mr. Ackerman said he thinks there were "four good candidates" in the election. The fact that so many candidates ran, despite the difficulties the district is facing, "showed that people are really interested in the schools and want the schools to succeed," he said. "It's certainly why I stepped up."

"I'm encouraged by the win (and) by the faith that people have in my leadership," he said.

Mr. Ackerman said the district's immediate priority "has to be the finances of the school district. A solution has to be found in terms of the deficit they're running."

The district, he said, has to do more than balance the books. "The school district has to move forward and continue to get better."

He said he favors putting a parcel tax measure on the March ballot at some level higher than just a renewal of the expiring tax.

Caroline Lucas

Ms. Lucas said she is "grateful to the voters for electing me" and also expressed appreciation for her "opponents' dedication to serving our community."

She said that despite the fact that there had been some negative campaigning, "I stand ready to work with the current board members and school district in true collaboration to maintain the strong schools they have built."

"From the beginning of this campaign, I have made it clear what is important to me: maintaining strong schools through fiscal responsibility, transparency and community outreach," she said. "I will continue to work for those priorities."

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