RICHMOND -- Challengers Todd Groves and Randy Enos won the race for two seats on the West Contra Costa school board Tuesday.
With all precincts reporting, Groves led with 29.1 percent of the vote, and Enos was close behind with about 28 percent. Incumbent Antonio Medrano was running third with 24.9 percent, followed by Robert Studdiford with nearly 17.7 percent.
The candidates all cited years of experience in the district -- which spans several cities and serves about 29,000 students -- among their qualifications.
Incumbent Medrano touted his experience on the board and as a former principal and educator, along with his Hispanic roots and community affiliations, which helped him to communicate with the district's growing Spanish-speaking population. Enos is also a former educator and administrator who worked in the district for decades before retiring two years ago.
Groves and Studdiford, on the other hand, have spent years volunteering for the district. Groves has brought innovative math and writing programs to local schools while Studdiford has served on the PTA at his children's schools, as well as on the district's budget and bond oversight committees.
The candidates agreed on many issues but differed slightly in a few areas.
Although all four candidates supported the district's bond and parcel tax extensions on Tuesday's ballot, Enos and Groves said they worried that voters might tire of continued requests for money by the district, which has passed five previous bond measures but still isn't done upgrading and rebuilding schools. Medrano and Studdiford said it's important to provide high quality facilities to all students and argued that West Contra Costa residents have shown a willingness to fund those improvements in the wake of state budget cuts.
The candidates also agreed that the district needs to improve academic achievement, based on test scores that are lower than most in the county and state. Yet their top three priorities, if elected, were not identical.
Enos wanted to focus on safe schools, student performance and communication with the community, in that order. Medrano nearly echoed those but placed a greater emphasis on student performance and specified that he wanted to promote more parent involvement.
Groves said he wanted to give schools more flexibility and autonomy to choose programs for their students, focus more attention on improving the middle school curriculum and reach out to community-based organizations to build partnerships with schools. Studdiford's top priorities centered around finances and included the budget, union contract negotiations and retaining strong teachers who could bring needed programs to classrooms.
Theresa Harrington covers education. Contact her at 925-945-4764. Follow her at twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.