ALAMEDA -- Incumbent Trish Spencer easily retained her seat on the board of the Alameda Unified School District on Tuesday, a victory that could be considered a signal from voters that they want her fellow trustees to change priorities.

Spencer got about 21 percent of the vote, topping the poll and closing a campaign in which she maintained the board is making shaky financial decisions.

Newcomer Barbara Kahn was also elected with about 17 percent of the vote. Spencer's fellow incumbent Nielsen Tam got about 14 percent and secured the third available seat.

Ron Mooney, the other incumbent, received about 9 percent, less than half of what Spencer tallied.

"I don't think it was any one thing," Spencer said about her win. "I think it had a lot to do with my past four years on the board and of my trying to serve to the best of my ability."

But the 53-year-old Spencer also said her call for more fiscal responsibility resonated with voters. Among the issues Spencer highlighted was the decision by her fellow trustees to enter into a six-year lease for a temporary district headquarters at $552,000 annually while historic Alameda High School undergoes seismic upgrades.

"It was a serious mistake," Spencer said. "I think that decision alone will have serious financial consequences for the district."


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District officials are also wasting money by employing an attorney full-time rather than on an as-needed basis, Spencer said, and they spend "a significant amount of money" on consultants whose contracts are not discussed in public hearings.

"The priority cannot and should not be administrators," Spencer said.

Both Tam and Mooney approved a contract with Superintendent Kirsten Vital that offers her a base salary of $204,225 annually, plus $15,000 each year in performance bonuses -- a decision that may have cost them votes as Spencer and other candidates highlighted the deal during the race.

Along with Spencer, Kahn, Tam and Mooney, the candidates were Tom Lynch, Jon Murphy, Kurt Peterson and Michael Robles-Wong.

An attorney, Spencer has four children and has served as the PTA council president. She was the only incumbent to secure the backing of the teachers' and classified workers' unions.

Tam is a retired teacher and principal with the district. He is also a former board member for Girls Inc. and the Alameda Point Collaborative, which provides housing and other services at the former Alameda Naval Air Station to people who were once homeless.

Kahn is a retired social worker whose daughter taught in Alameda schools. During the election, Kahn said the district should not replace "teacher-leaders" with higher-paid administrators, and that district officials must secure parent and teacher involvement when creating a budget.

Like Spencer, she was backed by the Alameda Education Association, the teachers' union.

"It played a big part in how the election turned out," Spencer said about the union. "They worked very hard during the campaign, but these are also people who are working in the classroom every day. It means a lot to me that they came out and supported me."

Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.

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