In election upsets, voters ousted incumbents in the Mt. Diablo and West Contra Costa school board races, favoring challengers who promised better communication with the public and more academic support.
In Mt. Diablo, incumbent Sherry Whitmarsh placed third in a race for two seats. Brian Lawrence and Barbara Oaks, who were both endorsed by the teachers' union, garnered 29.6 percent and 25 percent of the votes respectively, compared to 18.4 percent for Whitmarsh. Debra Mason received 17.9 percent and Ernie DeTrinidad, who dropped out of the race too late to withdraw his name from the ballot, received nearly 9 percent of the votes. Gary Eberhart did not seek re-election.
"It was clear that we do need a change in the direction of the district, and I think the results validated that," said Lawrence, who is no relation to Superintendent Steven Lawrence. "Teachers and parents and voters have said they want a school board that is more responsive and more transparent."
Oaks echoed those sentiments, saying people told her over and over again as she walked neighborhoods that they didn't feel the district and board listened to them.
"People really didn't feel like their voices were being heard," she said. "And when you shut down a voice, then you have problems."
Whitmarsh placed first when elected four years ago as a newcomer, but she failed to convince voters that things had improved under her leadership.
In West Contra Costa,
"I think in this instance, the public was looking for a little bit of a change," said Enos, a retired teacher and school administrator. "I think what the people in Hercules and Pinole are saying is pretty much what the people in El Cerrito and Richmond are saying. We have to step up what we're doing and prepare our students better. And to do that, we're going to have to work together."
Whitmarsh and Medrano could not be reached for comment.
There are 60,000 vote-by-mail ballots that have not yet been counted, but those results are not expected to change the outcome of the two races.
Candidate Percent Votes
Brian Lawrence 29.6 32,251
Barbara Oaks 25.0 27,228
Sherry Whitmarsh 18.4 20,049
Debra Mason 17.9 19,525
Ernie DeTrinidad* 8.7 9,453
WEST CONTRA COSTA:
Todd Groves 29.1 24,476
Randall Enos 27.9 23,497
Antonio Medrano 24.9 20,924
Robert Studdiford 17.7 14,860
*Withdrew from race
Source: Contra Costa Elections Division report after all precincts reported, but some ballots not yet counted.