PITTSBURG -- Former school district trustee Joe Arenivar appeared to be headed to victory in a three-way race for a seat on the Pittsburg Unified School District board, according to unofficial results released early Wednesday morning.
Arenivar had 55.20 percent of the vote, followed by Duane Smith with 24.61 percent while Ruben Esqueda trailed with 19.56 percent with all precincts reporting.
The three candidates were seeking to fill the remaining two years of the seat vacated by former trustee Robert Belleci, who resigned in June.
During the campaign, the candidates outlined strategies for improving test scores and graduation rates in the district.
The district's high school graduation rate of 66 percent is well below the statewide average of 76 percent. And while Pittsburg students have made steady progress in the past few years on state tests that measure competency in English and math skills, they are still below the statewide average.
Providing children with a good education in the lower grades will help give them an academic foundation to do better in school and help increase graduation rate, said Arenivar, 79, who worked as a teacher and administrator for the Pittsburg school district.
Arenivar cited his previous experience working in the district and serving on the board. He was a school trustee for 13 years before he failed to win re-election in 2010, the same year that Smith also made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the board.
Smith, a 49-year-old software engineer, said there should be a bigger push to get more high school students to take courses at Los Medanos College that can be applied as credits toward high school graduation. Smith served on the Foothill Elementary school site council for five years and on the District Advisory Committee for two years.
Both Smith and Esqueda have children who attend Pittsburg public schools and think this will make them more attuned to the concerns of parents and more effective on the board. They would both like to see increased parental involvement in the schools.
Esqueda is a 31-year-old software engineer who attended Pittsburg schools and ran for the school board for the first time. He said he would like to see more feedback from teachers to help improve schools.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.