Current and former East County school board trustees running again held on to their seats Tuesday, although mail-in ballots were still uncounted as of Wednesday afternoon.

In the region's largest district, incumbents Diane Gibson-Gray and Claire Smith are headed back to Antioch Unified School District's board of trustees along with retired teacher and administrator Barbara Cowan.

Cowan has received 19.57 percent of the vote, while Gibson-Gray has 15.77 percent and Smith, 12.94 percent.

Cowan, 65, retired recently after 39 years as a teacher and district administrator. She hopes to address the achievement gap between white students and those from low-income families and different ethnicities.

Gibson-Gray, 56, wants to establish more career-themed curricula as well as improve test scores and remain fiscally sound. She calls herself the "spreadsheet board member" because she's constantly analyzing and critiquing district expenses.

As for Smith, 58, she'll be serving a fifth term during which she intends to help the district improve test scores and graduation rates. She wants the district to explore bringing career-based learning to middle schools and have the same literacy standards for continuation high school students.

Voters sent Brentwood Union School District incumbent Carlos Sanabria back for four more years, although newcomer Jim Cushing led the race for two seats by a substantial margin.


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Sanabria, who ran a low-key campaign in his bid for a third term, said he's ready to get back to work because there is much to accomplish in the district.

"I'm looking to help rebuild and set off in some new directions," he said Wednesday morning.

As as a former student of English himself, Sanabria has said he is proudest of helping Spanish-speaking parents as well as keeping the district solvent.

Cushing is a former Brentwood planning commissioner and teacher with a master's degree from Stanford University. During his campaign, the classroom volunteer said that the district should explore alternative funding sources such as venture capital to support the district. In Oakley Union Elementary School District, incumbents Karen Bergenholtz and Larry Polk secured positions one and two respectively in a three-way bid for the two open seats.

Bergenholtz had captured the most votes with a 41.11 percent share and Polk, 33.45 percent.

The 57-year-old Polk, whose three children graduated from Oakley Union Elementary and who used to work for it as an accountant, will be serving a second term.

He believes that his familiarity with school budgets enables him to recognize excessive spending as well as know when expenses are reasonable.

The years he spent working for school districts also have given him a good understanding of how other facets of education administration operate, he added.

Bergenholtz, a 50-year-old insurance company account manager, will make reducing class sizes a top priority during her fourth term.

The mother of two children who went through Oakley Union Elementary and a former PTA president, Bergenholtz said she's proudest of the hand she had in converting the district's year-round school schedule to one that runs from August to June with a couple of two-week breaks.

Byron Union School District incumbent Ken Silman held on to his seat with 36.43 percent of the vote, while challenger Mark McBride remained ahead of Bobbi Greene -- barely -- in their bid for the second opening on the board after all precincts had reported. As of Wednesday morning, McBride had captured 31.98 percent of the vote, and Greene's share was 31.36 percent.

Silman, 38, has said he wants continuity in the district's leadership. The Byron resident has a sixth-grader and second-grader in the district along with some nieces and nephews, which he said put him "still in the middle of it."

McBride, 48, wants to give back to a school district that he says has treated his children well, especially his special-needs son. The Discovery Bay man has eighth-grade twins at Excelsior School as well as a sophomore at Liberty High School.

McBride has been involved in Delta Baseball & Softball League, including creating a league for developmentally disabled children and young adults. His professional background will serve him well in keeping the district on solid financial footing, he said.

Opponent and stay-at-home mother Bobbi Greene, 36, says she was running because there is a vacant seat.

The mother of two -- a seventh-grader at Excelsior and a sophomore at Liberty -- often volunteers in the classrooms and has established relationships with some of the teachers and other employees.

Knightsen School District newcomers Thomas Baldocchi Jr. and Janice Smith scored a victory in a five-way race for three seats along with incumbent Frank Dell.

Baldocchi had 30.98 percent of the vote and Smith, 28.16 percent. Dell garnered 15.75 percent, enough for him to return to the board for a third term even though he had expressed doubts about his chances after the teachers' union did not endorse him.

Money -- or more specifically, the lack of it -- is a primary concern for Baldocchi, a 40-year-old firefighter and hay farmer who knows he might have to make difficult financial decisions now that the district's $3 million bond measure has failed.

Although he hasn't yet had a chance to discuss the budget with the rest of the board, he's expecting the board will have to pare expenses.

"In all reality I assume we're going to start with the administrative staff," he said, noting that the district can't afford to cut any more teachers and have larger classes.

Smith, who co-owns a Brentwood fruit and vegetable farm, notes that board meetings draw few from the community at large.

The 53-year-old has said that one of her goals is to get more people involved in the district's decision-making and she intends to find out why the online agenda isn't more informative.

But what she wants won't prevent her from entertaining others' ideas even if they differ from her own because she considers herself a good listener and able to keep an open mind, Smith said.

She also hopes to restore Knightsen School's music program as well as make sure that after-school sports don't suffer a similar fate.

Like Baldocchi, Dell believes the district should maintain a firm grip on its purse strings.

A recent infusion of developer fees doesn't mean the district is home free, he said, noting that he would like the district to postpone buying new textbooks and other items it doesn't absolutely need.

Dell, an 80-year-old Brentwood resident and former nursery owner, says his experience running a small business has given him the ability to make long-term financial plans as well as the negotiation skills needed to help others appreciate differing points of view

In Pittsburg, trustee Joe Arenivar scored a decisive victory to fill an open seat on Pittsburg Unified's board, garnering 55 percent of the vote in a field of three candidates.

He will fill the remaining two years of the seat vacated by former trustee Robert Belleci, who resigned in June.

"Born and raised in Pittsburg, that kind of helps," said Arenivar, who was a school trustee for 13 years before he failed to win re-election in 2010.

Arenivar, 79, also worked as a teacher and administrator for the district. His priorities in his newly elected position are to "have the right leadership in the schools and administration" and to get parents more involved in their children's education to help improve graduation rates and test scores.

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