Amid budget woes, Paso votes most of its incumbents off the school board

Paso Robles residents appear to have ousted most of their incumbent school board candidates, based on election results from the County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

As of Friday evening, retired lawyer and newcomer Christopher Arend led the candidates for one of the four-year seats on the board with 22.3 percent of the vote. (Four seats were up for election in the Paso Robles school district this year, three with four-year terms and one with a two-year term.)

He was followed by Tim Gearhart with 18.7 percent. Based on his lead, Gearhart, a retired teacher, appeared to be the lone incumbent guaranteed his seat back.

Tied neck-and-neck for that final four-year seat were newcomer Lance Gannon and incumbent Matthew McClish, with 16.82 percent and 16.03 percent, respectively.

Current trustee Field Gibson, a business insurance broker and risk manager, brought in only 14.2 percent of the early returns, making it likely he will not be returning to the board.

Meanwhile incumbent Kathleen Yankee Hall was solidly defeated for her two-year term on the board by school teacher Stephanie Ulibarri. As of Friday evening, Ulibarri had locked down 73.6 percent of the vote compared with Hall’s 26.3 percent.

(It’s important to note that the numbers are subject to change as the County Clerk-Recorder finishes tallying the remaining mail-in and conditional ballots. This could take another week.)

The incumbents’ apparent ousting from office comes on the heels of a series of budgeting errors that cut the district’s reserves to less than one percent.

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In a survey for The Tribune prior to the election, Gearhart, Gannon and Ulibarri all noted the importance of improving the district’s fiscal standing as part of their reasons for running.

“I want to run for school board because the community and many of the teachers in the PRJUSD have voiced a need for change on our school board,” Ulibarri wrote in her response. “The following are a few of the many concerns: a budget reserve that has fallen well below the required 3 percent; upcoming collective bargaining in the midst of a budget crisis; teachers and community members who are hoping to find the board members more accessible in the future.”

Gearhart wrote, “Have no doubt, the district WILL repair and improve our fiscal challenges while continuing our students’ excellent educational programs.”

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie
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