Some time ago, Christine Harvey was talking with her class at Glick Middle School in Empire about elections and citizenship, when students asked if she wanted to run for office.
Harvey says she looked into it and threw her hat into the ring in the Sylvan Union School District in Modesto, where she lives. When the votes were tallied last week, Harvey had unseated the president of the Sylvan school district board. The results are incomplete, with 2,300 ballots that need to be tabulated countywide.
“I am super-excited for this opportunity,” said Harvey, a science teacher.
The results for Tuesday’s election showed Harvey defeating longtime incumbent Terriann Zeek by a 58-vote margin in Area 3. The tally was 835 to 777.
Harvey said she naturally wants to see more science taught in classrooms, but a late-summer heat wave might have improved her chances of winning the school board seat.
In late August, a faulty air-conditioning system left students in sweltering classrooms at Orchard Elementary School, near Oakdale Road and East Briggsmore Avenue in Modesto. The school appeared in headlines and dozens of parents attended a Sylvan school board meeting that week to urge members to find a solution.
“When I went door-to-door talking to voters, they felt that was an issue,” Harvey said.
Zeek, who has served four terms on the school board, did not return a phone message Friday.
Some residents who voted for Harvey might have shared the opinion of Modesto resident Matthew Slentz, even though the attendance area for Orchard Elementary is not inside Area 3.
In an letter to the editor published Oct. 5 in the Modesto Bee, Slentz wrote that the district fell behind on preventative maintenance in previous years and did not execute a replacement of the HVAC system over the summer, causing students to suffer in the record-breaking heat.
Slentz encouraged residents to vote for a change in leadership.
The winner of the Area 3 election will serve a five-year term instead of the normal four years for Sylvan board members, because of a state law pushing districts to hold even-year elections that have better turnout. The first even-year elections for Sylvan will occur in 2020. Trustees in areas 2, 3 and 5 will again have four-year terms after those seats come up for election in November 2022.