Four candidates, including three incumbents, were running for three seats on the John Swett Unified School District board, which serves a corner of northwest Contra Costa County that includes Crockett and Rodeo and part of Hercules.
With all precincts reporting, the incumbents were ahead, with Jerry Parsons at 27.7 percent, Norma Clerici with 26.8 percent and Jim Delgadillo at 25.4 percent.
"All the candidates were working towards making John Swett the best small school district in the state," Clerici said Tuesday night.
Said Parsons: "One of my goals is to make the district the best in Contra Costa and the state. We have a long way to go. Budget-wise, we have some really hard decisions ahead of us. Public spending for school district has to be something to focus on, and we're trying to bring more revenue into the district."
The big issue in the race was the district's plans to replace Carquinez Middle School in Crockett.
The 1,600-student district is reconstructing 90-year-old John Swett High School in Crockett and rebuilt Rodeo Hills Elementary, its lone primary school, about seven years ago.
Challenger Virginia Silver-Rimbach, who had 19.4 percent in early returns, said before the election she entered the race primarily to help get the middle school project moving. Silver-Rimbach has a third grade son at Rodeo Hills, and she said she wants him to attend middle school at a campus that is up to date.
The district commissioned a poll that indicated about 70 percent of residents would support a bond to build a new school, but the board voted 3-2 not to put a measure on the November ballot, Silver-Rimbach said.
Incumbent Clerici, one of the board members to vote against going ahead with the bond measure, said she did so because she thinks the district needs to do more work on planning for a new school.
Clerici joined Delgadillo, who is also up for re-election, and Brian Columbo, whose term expires in 2014, in voting against putting a measure on the ballot.
Conceptual drawings called for a skateboard park in the middle of the school grounds, which indicates that the plans are premature, Clerici said.
Clerici is also not convinced that a new school needs to be in Crockett because fewer than 15 percent of the district's students live there.
Delgadillo agreed that the board needs to look more closely at where to locate the new school before going ahead.
Parsons, the third incumbent running for re-election, said before the election he he thinks it's critical for the district to move quickly to build a new middle school and that current students are being shortchanged.
John Swett was one of 176 districts statewide found to be in qualified status in February's Second Interim Status Report on school agency financial health. A qualified certification means the district may not be able to pay its bills in the current or two subsequent fiscal years.
The district laid off five teachers and a group of other employees to eliminate most of a $780,000 budget gap for the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to Paul Disario, the district's financial adviser.
Parsons said the passage of Proposition 30, one of two tax measures on the statewide ballot aimed at increasing school funding, is critical to avoid further drastic cuts. District voters rejected parcel taxes in November 2010 and May 2011 that would have raised more revenue for day-to-day operations.