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School board elections in Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe carry intrigue

Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2012 1:19 pm | Updated: 5:32 pm, Tue Aug 21, 2012.

East Valley school board races this fall have drawn a great deal of interest, with contested races now in place for Mesa, Gilbert and Higley unified school districts, Kyrene and Tempe elementary districts, and the Tempe Union High School District.

Potential candidates had to file enough signatures by 5 p.m. Aug. 8 to be on the Nov. 6 ballot. And dozens did just that.

The Arizona School Boards Association is pleased with the public response to serve on these volunteer boards.

“It’s gratifying to see so many in our communities stepping up to this leadership challenge. With the financial pressures and increasing performance expectations, the role of school boards and has become more and more important,” said Tim Ogle, the association’s executive director.

The largest contested race will likely take place for the Higley district board in Gilbert. Six candidates will be on the ballot for three four-year terms, including the three incumbents.

Gilbert district has five candidates, including two incumbents, for three four-year terms and two candidates for one two-year term.

That board is in a unique situation because Shane Stapley resigned last spring in the middle of his four-year term. Maricopa County Schools Superintendent Don Covey assigned Blake Sacha to fill Stapley’s position until at least Nov. 6. Covey also announced that a two-year seat would be on the November ballot to fill out the remainder of the term.

Sacha is seeking election, but for a four-year spot.

In the largest school district in the state, Mesa Unified, three incumbents will be in a race against former Maricopa County Community College District board member Jerry Walker for three open four-year seats.

Only one school board member, Rochelle Wells, is seeking re-election in the Tempe Elementary district. Three seats are open. There are four candidates.

The same is true in Tempe Union High School District, where only current board member Michelle Helm is running. Five candidates, including Helm, have filed for three seats.

In Chandler, three incumbent board members are running unopposed for three open seats.

Only Queen Creek Unified School District in the East Valley does not have enough candidates to fill open spots. Two candidates filed for the three open board positions.

In that case, Covey will seek applicants to apply for the position, which will be appointed by the Maricopa County Education Services Agency.

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