NEWARK -- School board members Charlie Mensinger and Nancy Thomas are running to retain their seats this November, rejecting critics' requests to step aside in a race in which Superintendent Dave Marken's resignation has become the top issue.
The two incumbents so far must fend off two challengers: Christopher Wecks, a lifetime Newark resident and Elizabeth Brazil, a longtime resident. Prospective candidates have until Friday to enter the election.
Some in the district have asked Mensinger and Thomas not to seek re-election and for Trustee Gary Stadler to resign. Those critics blame the board members for chasing away Marken, who is credited for reviving the struggling district.
Stadler has said he will not resign.
Mensinger and Thomas, each a school board trustee since late 2002, recently filed their candidacy forms with the county registrar.
"I have filed my papers for re-election because I feel my experience and knowledge are more important than ever to the success and stability of the district in this period of transition," Thomas said in a written statement.
Mensinger said he considered not running, but the encouragement he received from district residents and employees -- amid blistering critiques by Marken supporters at recent board meetings -- led him to seek office again.
"Parents reminded me how many kids I've actually helped get into college by writing letters of recommendation," Mensinger said. "Parents ... said they look to me to help them with issues in our school district where others push them back into the system where they get lost."
The board's critics, however, say trustees have been too willing to help on school issues, disrupting the district office with a micromanaging style that usurped Marken's authority and intimidated teachers and other district employees.
Wecks, whose wife, Brandi, teaches kindergarten at Newark's Snow Elementary, said he wants to bring change to the five-member board.
"The worst kept secret in Newark is that the board has practiced poor management techniques," Wecks said. "Everyone knows they pushed Dr. Marken out of his role."
Superintendent is one district position among many that has seen too much turnover, Wecks said.
Brazil, an employee of the Santa Clara VTA, was unavailable for comment.If Marken steps down Sept. 30 as planned, the next superintendent would be Newark's fourth in about eight years.
Marken became Newark superintendent in April 2011 and immediately helped persuade voters to pass a $63 million school improvement bond. Last year, Newark Unified achieved the largest growth in API testing scores among Alameda County districts, and two Newark campuses were awarded the state's Distinguished School Status for the first time in more than a decade. Marken won the Superintendent of the Year award in June, among candidates from nearly 20 East Bay districts.
Despite pleas that trustees keep Marken, the board has accepted his resignation and is paying a consultant $21,500 to find his replacement.
The consultant, Leadership Associates, was expected to share its progress on that search at a meeting Monday night.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.