It looks like another incumbent school board member may end up getting ousted by Seattle voters, after it initially appeared that only one would lose his job.
Though he was able to maintain an edge in the contest for school board director in District #1 for nearly a week, incumbent Peter Maier is now in serious danger of losing his seat. Today, he relinquished the lead to challenger Sharon Peaslee, who has claimed a surprisingly large share of the late ballots.
Peaslee is now ninety-one votes ahead of Maier, after having trailed by two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-two votes only a week ago.
If she prevails, she will join fellow challenger Marty McLaren on the Seattle School Board. (McLaren is now well ahead of incumbent Steve Sundquist after claiming an early lead on election night, and is the likely victor in the race for District #6.)
The two other incumbents who sought reelection this year, Sherry Carr and Harium Martin-Morris, appear to have been reelected to new terms, though Carr’s lead over challenger Kate Martin has shrunk significantly since last week.
Maier and Sundquist’s departure would significantly alter the composure of the board, which has made a number of bad decisions in recent years.
Maier and Sundquist provided two of the five votes in July of 2010 to extend the contract of ex-Superintendent Maria Goodloe Johnson, who the board unanimously ousted this last spring after it was discovered that her administration had failed to prevent three district officials from stealing a quarter of a million dollars from the district. (King County prosecutors have charged the three people responsible with felony theft; two of them have pleaded not guilty).
Maier and Sundquist also refused to help protect a grove of trees at Ingraham High School, which the school district chopped down after a protracted fight with the neighboring community, led by NPI board member Steve Zemke.
Well-known University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass is among those who campaigned actively for Maier’s defeat. In a post published to his weather blog on October 22nd, Mass summarized the contest between the two as follows:
Peter is clearly the weakest of the board members and was the member who knew about the financial problems and kept quiet about it. Didn’t seem to care about math education. Rubber-stamper. I have known Sharon Peaslee for years. She has a real background in education, has kids in the schools, and has worked actively for improved math education. Sharon is strong-willed and will ask the hard questions. She is supported by The Stranger and most of the local Democratic organizations, as well as Seattle teachers. Peter has a huge financial war chest and is running a huge number of advertisements. Let’s hope that money doesn’t decide this race.
Maier still has a chance to win, but Peaslee seems to have solid and steady momentum. If the trend we’ve been seeing continues, Maier will be joining Sundquist in exiting the school board at year’s end.
Hurrah for Sharon! Change is deservedly coming to the Seattle school district.