School board incumbents Jan Vickers and Bill Landsiedel retained their respective seats in Tuesday’s election, despite efforts to oust them by challengers Tammy Keces and Dee Perry, who entered the race somewhat unexpectedly in August.
Vickers amassed a solid 6,007 votes, nearly 40 percent more than Landseidel’s tally of 4,326. Keces and Perry garnered 3,679 and 2,782 votes, respectively.
Reached after 10 p.m. on election night, Vickers admitted to concern about her rivals, but declined to declare victory despite a significant early lead that never wavered. She spent the earlier part of the evening at the girls CIF volleyball playoff before tracking election results at home.
By Wednesday, Vickers felt confident enough to say she was “very pleased” to be reelected, “since the district is in such a good place right now and I really want to keep working.” Vickers has currently served on the board for 12 consecutive years and had served for 10 consecutive years prior to that.
She emphasized the need for board continuity as the district begins integrating state-mandated Common Core curriculum into the classroom and due to administrative turnover.
“We work well together,” she said. What’s more, she feels that veteran board members play an important role in assimilating the new staff.
Landsiedel monitored the returns from home late into the evening, after dining with friends. He confessed he was “very happy” and even a little surprised to learn he had succeeded in such a tough contest. The results mark the start of Landsiedel’s second consecutive term on the school board. He served previously for six months in 2006 to fill in when board member Kay Turner died while in office.
“Jan and Bill bring a deep wealth of experience to the school board,” said Supt. Sherine Smith, adding that “their unrelenting focus on providing a high quality education for the children of this community means that LBUSD will continue to extend its long track record of success.”
Challenger Perry, reached for comment on Wednesday, expressed deep gratitude for her supporters. Even so, the retired teacher of 35 years, who advocated an outdoor classroom and teaching garden at Thurston and changes in the school’s nutrition program among other things, confessed the race had taken her out of her comfort zone. Though she developed a good rapport with parents and students, she found it difficult to connect with the older population of voters. Perry has not ruled out running again, but said she might campaign for another candidate instead.
Despite losing, Keces embraced the campaign experience, invigorated by serving as an advocate for fresh perspectives from grassroots supporters. She challenged herself to spend less than $1,000 on the effort, even stinting on the fee required to submit a ballot statement. While admitting that greater spending might have changed the election’s outcome, she said she didn’t want to solicit money from people she would later be beholden to. She also now realizes that a first time candidate has little chance of success without greatly increasing their visibility within the community.
And voters benefited from the race, Keces said, by opening dialogue in the community about the district’s policies and its vision.
Vickers believes she owes her victory to taking her challengers seriously and not counting on incumbency. Her campaign strategy? “I did it the same way as I’ve done it before,” she said, which involved hand-delivering fliers, since “mailing is just too expensive.” Vickers and her husband distributed 9,000 flyers at homes, chatting with anyone who was out along the way, and placed ads in local papers. Echoing her challenger, Vickers said, “it’s really hard for me to ask people for money because in the schools we ask people for money, through the PTAs, Schoolpower and booster clubs, and I’d rather have people give money to that than to my campaign,” she said.
She did alter her strategy slightly to accommodate early voting. “Times have changed,” she said. Whereas in the past you would wait until the last week to be sure you were fresh in people’s minds, she began her campaign three weeks ahead of election day this year to make sure early voters got the message.
Landsiedel expressed a readiness to move forward with adoption of the Common Core standards and “new curriculum” that intensifies focus on math and science, as well as advocating for robotics education.
Keces said that her desire to run for office in the first place centered largely on her desire to join the board at a time when they will be overseeing the implementation of the new Common Core curriculum, a process she had hoped to influence. With that opportunity passed, she doesn’t know if she’ll run again.
In the meantime, “I’m an educator and I’m an advocate for families,” said Keces. “That’s what I’ve always done and what I’ll continue to do.”
Pressure Lessens With Prop. 30’s Passage
Voter approval for Prop. 30, the statewide initiative to help balance California’s budget by increasing personal income tax on high-wage earners and raising sales tax by a quarter cent, came as a relief to school administrators.
If the measure hadn’t passed, the Laguna Beach district would lose $1.3 million in funding as of Jan. 1. Dean West, assistant superintendent of business services, said the district is pleased to have the threat of that reduction “behind us.”
Incumbent Jan Vickers, who was re-elected by voters on Tuesday, said advocates of the proposition expressed concern over whether people would actually care enough about the impact on schools to tax themselves. That they did speaks volumes, she said. Still, Vickers predicted that fiscal austerity will remain an ongoing issue.
Despite Prop. 30’s passage, local school officials must continue to balance the budget as well as establish adequate reserves, said incumbent Bill Landsiedel, who was also re-elected.
Though Prop. 30 prevailed statewide, 60 percent of Orange County voters cast their ballots against it. Results from Laguna precincts were not available Wednesday.