Longtime school board member Ellen Wheeler is expected to retain her seat for a fifth term on the Mountain View Whisman School District's board of trustees, while challenger Devon Conley took a lead over incumbent Greg Coladonato for the second seat, according to election results.
The four-way race shows Conley leading the pack with 4,896 votes (33 percent of the vote) and Wheeler following with 4,232 votes (28.5 percent) as of 6:37 a.m. Wednesday, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. Candidate Tamara Patterson trailed in third with 3,056 votes (20.6 percent), followed by incumbent Greg Coladonato, who has received 2,664 votes (17.9 percent)
Conley, a teacher who has taught in Mountain View and San Jose, only recently became a regular attendee at Mountain View Whisman school board meetings, but told voters she was passionate about education and eager to try her hand at public office. Her area of focus is on underserved students, particularly on English learners, who struggle to perform at grade level.
"I am grateful for the support of so many community members, and I am looking forward to serving them," Conley said shortly after her apparent victory Tuesday night. "I am ready to get to work."
On the campaign trail, school board candidates faced tough questions on what they would do to narrow the significant achievement gap present in the district, which for years has shown large disparities between student test scores along ethnic and economic lines. Each candidate took a different approach to the answer, championing personal causes like early English learning programs and preschool expansion.
Candidates also sought to show voters how they each planned to support the district's hundreds of teachers, who have struggled to live in the high-cost Bay Area -- many of whom face long commutes. While candidates briefly addressed concerns about the possibility that Bullis Charter School would be opening a campus within the district, most of the campaigning took place before specific details on the Bullis Mountain View were publicly available.
Being an incumbent in the race was a mixed blessing, name recognition notwithstanding. Wheeler and Coladonato were on the board during the hiring of Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph, negotiated with North Bayshore developers over an anticipated swell in enrollment, and paved the way for a recent decision to buy into 144 affordable housing units for teachers and school staff.
But Wheeler and Coladonato also led the district through some wildly unpopular decisions, including the adoption of the ill-fated Teach to One math program and the decision to remove and reassign four principals all at once in March this year.
Wheeler and Conley will have to hit the ground running for their fifth and first terms, respectively. Just days after being sworn in, the two will have to make key decisions on whether to approve or deny a petition to launch a new charter school in the district. The decision will have huge implications on the district's budget and facilities planning, and could potentially throw a wrench in carefully laid plans to shift boundaries and open a new school next year.