One incumbent and three challengers are vying for two spots on the board of the Cabrillo Unified School District, one of four San Mateo County districts holding competitive elections Nov. 6.

The Brisbane, La Honda-Pescadero and Ravenswood districts also have seats up for grabs at a time when state budget cuts -- and the fate of two dueling statewide tax initiatives, Propositions 30 and 38 -- have made life increasingly difficult for local educators.

Mario Vazquez, 42, was appointed to Cabrillo's governing board last year. The lifelong Half Moon Bay resident is a deputy city attorney in San Francisco. Though the district passed an $81 million bond measure in June, he said, its finances still bear close scrutiny.

"We have to be productive and smart," Vazquez said. "I think we have a good foundation."

Michael John Ahern, a 53-year-old teacher at Alta Vista High School, a continuation school in Mountain View, argues his 27 years in the classroom would give him useful insight on the board, especially when cuts have to be made.

"I'm going to understand what those cuts are going to do," said Ahern, who lives in El Granada.

Charmion Donegan is a retired administrative assistant for the district who ran for the board unsuccessfully in 2010. She is concerned about bullying and wants to make sure the district's bond money is spent wisely.

"Any decisions I make," said Donegan, 65, "will be made with the goal of what's best for the students."

Kate Livingston, 62, is a retired teacher who lives in Half Moon Bay. She emphasizes her 37 years of experience in the classroom, more than half of them at two elementary schools in the Cabrillo district, Hatch and Farallone View.

"I have firsthand knowledge of the needs of students and the challenges they have faced," she said.

La Honda-Pescadero

The race in the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District pits three incumbents -- Kathy Crane, Bob McCahon and Humberto Perez -- against challengers Peter Bohacek and Christopher Brancart.

Crane is a La Honda resident who has had three children attend Pescadero High School. McCahon lives in Pescadero and formerly served on the Pescadero Municipal Advisory Committee. Perez was appointed to the board last year as a 19-year-old finance student at San Francisco State.

As for the challengers, Bohacek is retired from the telecommunications and computer industries. He has volunteered as a science and math teacher in the district for the past nine years. Christopher Brancart is a civil rights attorney who lives in Pescadero and works in Loma Mar. He has three children, each of whom has attended Pescadero schools.

Brisbane

Robert Dettmer is the only incumbent out of four candidates running for two seats on the Brisbane School District board of trustees. His opponents are software engineer Emmett Cunningham, program administrator Valerie Tulier-Laiwa and Dawn Cutler, parent of two children at Lipman Middle School.

The district has struggled to balance its budget in recent years. In April voters approved Measure Q, a $156-per-parcel tax that saved the jobs of several teachers and aides.

Ravenswood

Four candidates are running for two seats in the Ravenswood City School District serving East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park.

Sharifa Wilson, the sole incumbent, is a former mayor and city council member for East Palo Alto. The three challengers are Marco Chavez, who works for the San Mateo County Office of Education, community volunteer Marilu Serrano, and retired businessman and accountant Robert "Bob" Gomez.

While Ravenswood students' scores on the state's standardized tests have been low, there's been steady progress in recent years. The five-member school board oversees an annual operating budget of about $38.5 million.

Staff writers Joshua Melvin and Bonnie Eslinger contributed to this report. Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.