No concession in tight Santa Rosa school board race

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Santa Rosa school board member Frank Pugh’s lead over challenger Omar Medina narrowed Wednesday.

Pugh led with 52 percent of the vote in a new district that represents south-central Santa Rosa. He had 178 more votes than Medina, who trailed with 48 percent.

“I’m not ready to concede,” said Medina, 39. “At this point, I feel like there’s still a chance.”

Provisional and mail-in ballots dropped off on Election Day still need to be counted, according to the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Office. Medina sent Pugh a cordial email Wednesday expressing his intent to wait.

“I’ve looked at the numbers, and I’m pretty well convinced that I’ll be successful. But I also recognize Omar in getting the final vote tally, and I look forward to that day,” said Pugh, 63.

It was the first school board election by trustee area in Sonoma County, with three seats up for grabs on the seven-member board. Last year, the Santa Rosa board voted to move to district races amid allegations that at-large elections disenfranchised minorities.

Medina, the son of Mexican immigrants, had two unsuccessful school board election bids in 2004 and 2014. At the Bethlehem Tower polling station Tuesday, some of his supporters said they felt the board needed more diversity.

“My friends with grandkids say this is a man who will speak to the needs of working-class families,” said voter Gayle Whitlock, a 61-year-old therapist.

Santa Rosa City Schools is the county’s largest district with 16,000 students. About 53 percent of them are Latino.

Pugh has served 28 years on the Santa Rosa school board. He’s also the current president of the National School Boards Association, which has about 90,000 members across the country.

For his eighth term, Pugh said he plans to work on supportive services as the district rolls out required college-prep courses, as well as guide two new board members in professional development.

Stephanie Manieri, 23, ran unopposed for the seat that represents southwest Santa Rosa. She’s now the youngest board member by decades, and the only Latina.

“I’m just glad that we have some representation. I’m really excited to advocate for the community,” said Manieri, an Elsie Allen High School alumna. “I didn’t graduate that long ago, so my experiences are a bit more relevant … And I think the generational differences are beneficial, too.”

Manieri also plans to work on providing supportive services as the district begins requiring students to take college-prep classes to graduate. She’d like to implement a push for ethnic studies, as well.

“I think that it’s extremely relevant right now,” she said.

She wants to be accessible to students and their families, and she encouraged them to contact her on her campaign Facebook page.

The other open seat in northwest Santa Rosa. Jill McCormick, 47, was appointed to it at a board meeting last month after the lone candidate withdrew. A native Santa Rosan, McCormick taught English at Piner High School and has been a swim coach and instructor at the junior college since 2002.

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