While the results are still unofficial, two new faces including one from Malibu are likely to join the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) Board of Education if the preliminary results hold following Tuesday’s election.
With the Santa Monica City Clerk’s office waiting on votes by mail, the official winners will not be known until the canvass of returns is completed on Dec. 2, 2014.
Another twist is the election of SMMUSD board member Ben Allen to the state Senate – once the School Board election is certified the Board will then vote to appoint a person to complete the remainder of Allen’s term that expires in December 2016.
According to preliminary results from the L.A. County Registrar’s Office, Lieberman will hold onto her seat after finishing first place out of the seven candidates vying for the four seats.
After all 75 voting precincts and absentee ballots were counted at 3:11 am Wednesday, she collected 11,336 votes (20.78 percent).
Just a few hundred votes separate the next four candidates vying for the other three seats.
Challenger Craig Foster, the only Malibu resident candidate, currently has the second highest number with 9,087 votes (16.66 percent), followed by challenger Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein with 9,061 votes (16.61 percent), and incumbent Oscar de la Torre with 8,795 votes (16.12 percent).
Incumbent Ralph Mechur, who has served on the Board since 1997, trails de la Torre in fifth place by just 264 votes. School Board member Nimish Patel did not seek re-election.
Dhun May finished sixth with 3,889 votes (7.13 percent) while Patty Finer finished seventh with 3,857 votes (7.07 percent).
Lieberman said she was deeply appreciative for the tremendous vote of confidence.
“I extend my sincere thanks to those who voted for me,” Lieberman said. “I will continue to work diligently and thoughtfully on behalf of all students to maintain and improve our schools.”
Lieberman said in her four years on the School Board, she has worked hard to be a constructive, inclusive, and thoughtful leader.
“I ran on my record and I think my leadership was recognized,” she said.
Noting that the election results are not yet final, Lieberman said it is her understanding that thousands of provisional ballots are outstanding.
“However, assuming the current results hold, I look forward to working with both of the two new Board members,” she said. “I am hopeful that having a Malibu resident on the School Board will provide an opportunity to improve the relationship between the Santa Monica and Malibu parts of the district so that we can focus our energies on educational issues that truly affect student success rather than on unnecessary rancor. I have great hopes that Craig Foster will work hard to re-build the trust between Santa Monica and Malibu families, even as he continues to support separation into two districts.”
Foster said he was grateful for the trust and support he received from the community.
“I was elected because I had a clear message that resonated across the entire community,” Foster said. “I told people that I had one simple goal: to give all the children of our community the best education possible. An important part of that message was that we need to ensure that we teach to every child’s particular unique gifts, interests, and ways of learning.”
Foster said the election was a fantastic process of sharing and vetting ideas publicly.
“Each candidate participated in eight public forums,” Foster said. “We crossed paths repeatedly, we worked together to give the voters the clearest understanding of their choices we could. I cannot overemphasize how much respect and understanding I gained for all of my fellow candidates through that process. I am extremely excited to work with Laurie, Oscar, and Richard – as well as Jose Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez – to give all of our children an amazing education and to make our district an example for other communities of what a superb, progressive, 21st century school district looks like.”
Tahvildaran-Jesswein said he was excited for the opportunity to roll up his sleeves and work hard on the School Board.
“I’m looking forward to working collectively to close the achievement gap,” Tahvildaran-Jesswein said. “I’m most passionate about creating pathways to success for young people and thinking about how we can connect with the college and different high schools in the community and that’s really exciting to me. I’m very committed to collaboration and I’m excited to work with the men and women on the board to close the achievement gap.”
De la Torre did not respond to a request for an interview at time of press.