Election brings major change to Twin Rivers school board

Published: Thursday, Jun. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

The pendulum swung the other direction in Twin Rivers Unified School District as Tuesday's trustee election appears to have stripped three current board members of their seats and two more of their voting power as a potentially new controlling faction takes office.

The result?

Some are predicting the incoming board will continue to vote 5-2 on key matters, but this time with incumbents Linda Fowler and Bob Bastian finding themselves in the minority.

Previously, Area 5 incumbent Cortez Quinn and Alecia Eugene-Chasten, who did not seek re-election, voted in isolation.

"It will be 5-2 in the other direction," said board President Roger Westrup, who lost his re-election campaign in Area 6. Teachers union candidate Rebecca Sandoval leads in Area 6 with 39 percent of the vote over opponents Annette Emery (33 percent) and Westrup (28 percent).

Twin Rivers teachers union President John Ennis said he also sees the incoming board aligning 5-2 on key issues once new trustees are sworn into office at a July 17 board meeting.

The district's teachers and classified unions endorsed four of the six candidates whose races appear headed for victory: Michael Baker, John Dexter, Quinn and Sandoval.

Walter Garcia Kawamoto, who did not run on a slate, and incumbents Bastian and Fowler appear to round out the incoming board.

The Sacramento County elections office is still processing thousands of ballots, making it too early to call the outcome of close races.

Kawamoto leads union candidate Christine Jefferson, 40 percent to 36 percent, a difference of 394 votes. Quinn leads Miriam Chernow, 52 percent to 49 percent, or a difference of 328 votes.

Baker topped incumbent Janis Green, 59 percent to 41 percent, in Area 1. In Area 2, Dexter bested incumbent Michelle Rivas, 55 percent to 45 percent.

Bastian ran unopposed in Area 4. In Area 7, incumbent Fowler is poised to defeat Francisco Garcia, 54 percent to 46 percent.

A significant number of people who turned in ballots opted not to cast a vote in the Twin Rivers election. The Sacramento County elections office refers to those as "under votes."

In the Quinn vs. Chernow race, for example, 20 percent of the 13,300 people whose ballots were counted so far opted not to weigh in on that particular race.

"I must admit, I really thought we'd win everything," Ennis said.

Two union endorsed candidates – Baker and Quinn – both faced scrutiny leading up to the election. Baker has been unable to confirm degrees he said he received from the University of Nevada, Reno. The university told The Bee it has no record of Baker.

Baker declined to comment Wednesday about his degrees.

Quinn is under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission over allegations he took $55,000 in illegal loans from a Twin Rivers employee.

The District Attorney's Office is also reviewing documents allegedly showing the illegal loans.

Candidates on the mostly incumbent slate faced criticism over the myriad of legal issues and allegations rocking the school district, from school police misconduct to perceptions of favoritism for employees of the former Rio Linda school district.

Twin Rivers Superintendent Frank Porter, formerly of the Rio Linda district, is set to retire June 30. Porter has not been running the district for weeks as the acrimony intensified during the election.

"The most important thing they are doing is hiring a superintendent," Westrup said. "That will signal whether the board will move forward together depending on who they pick and if they listen to all the stakeholders. You have the potential for the same thing to happen, but in reverse, where some communities are feeling unheard."

Kawamoto said if the incoming board ends up voting 5-2 on key issues, he said there will be a significant difference.

"Previously, the other five felt they could do what they wanted and they didn't have to respect the other two," Kawamoto said. "It was dysfunctional before."

Bastian said he is hopeful the incoming board will work together to continue the good things at Twin Rivers.

"I hope a new board will put any personal agendas aside to do what is best for all students in the total community," said Bastian, who repeated the line twice. "There were a lot of harsh things said in the election."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Melody Gutierrez

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