Three newcomers have the lead in the East Valley School Board races.
In District 3, Justin Voelker, chief financial officer of Valley Hospital, has the lead over incumbent Heidi Gillingham. At one point, only 30 votes separated the two candidates, Voelker leads by 134 votes as of Thursday night. He has 2,388 votes, 50.88 percent, to Gillingham’s, 2,254 votes, 48.03 percent.
“I think right now it’s still up in the air,” Voelker said Thursday.
“I’m still going to be involved,” Gillingham said, explaining that she will still be at board meetings and work sessions. “It’s in my nature.”
In District 4, Fred Helms has a 794 vote lead over board chairwoman Kerri Lunstroth. Helms carried 2,640 votes, 58.20 percent, while Lunstroth received 1,846 votes, 40.70 percent.
“I want to thank the people that voted for me and believe in me,” Helms said Thursday. He said volunteers have worked hard, putting up signs for him and taking them down after the election.
Helms said he is ready to get to work for the district, hoping to “try to get the finances back up to par,” and improve the school buses.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” Lunstroth said. “Hopefully they (the new members) will see all the positive things this district has been doing.”
She said she still hopes to be involved with the schools.
“I supported the kids before I was a board member and I’ll be a supporter still,” she said.
In District 5, both candidates are newcomers to the East Valley School Board. Mike Novakovich leads with 2,415 votes, 53.22 percent, while Deanna Ervin received 2,071 votes, 45.64 percent.
“Obviously the results of the election show basically, that there was a mandate that they (voters) want change,” Novakovich said. He said he looks forward to instituting that change and making the community more comfortable with what is going on within the district.
Superintendent John Glenewinkel said Friday he expects to see some new faces on the school board.
“We’re excited to see what their thoughts and ideas are as we go forward,” Glenewinkel said.
The school board has come under fire after a decision to transition to a K-8 teaching model. Critics of the plan have said the district does not have the infrastructure for this plan – older students don’t have lockers and students are bused or walk to various locations throughout the week.
Supporters have maintained students will receive more opportunities for enrichment and will benefit from a learning community that has watched them grow from kindergartners to young teens.
The election will not be certified until Nov. 26. As of Thursday night, there are 12,500 ballots left to count countywide.