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Incumbents ahead in Santa Rosa school board race

The three Santa Rosa city school board incumbents won re-election Tuesday.

Meanwhile, two newcomers, both Santa Rosa attorneys, remained locked in a battle for a fourth open seat late Tuesday.

With absentee ballots and 133 of 168 precincts reporting, Laura Gonzalez led with 24.1 percent of the vote, followed by Donna Jeye at 21.4 percent and board president Larry Haenel at 20.2 percent.

Local attorneys Jenni Klose and Brian Noble were vying for the fourth seat, with 17.5 percent and 16.8 percent of the vote, respectively.

Gonzalez, who was first elected to the board in 2008 and has been critical of its decision to shut Doyle Park Elementary School to make room for a French charter school, said she was surprised by the results.

"I'm very, very happy," she said. "I can only assume it's because of my openness, and I talk about what needs to be talked about."

The board oversees the largest school district in Sonoma County. Because of shrinking budgets, school board members have been forced to take a number of sharp measures.

Six days have been eliminated from the current school year, which equates to a 3.25 percent pay cut to teachers. Class sizes have also been increased, transportation funding slashed and the district's reserve budget has dropped from 3 percent to 1 percent of total spending.

In total, the 16,500-student district cut $8.3 million from what had been a $130 million budget for 2012-13.

Throughout the night candidates closely watched the results for Proposition 30, a state tax measure aimed at raising money for education. The measure passed with 53.9 percent of the vote.

Haenel says with Prop. 30's victory, the district will be spared from having to cut millions more from the budget and eliminating more school days.


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