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The filing period for more than a dozen northern Santa Barbara County school district boards of education ended Friday, drawing interest from several incumbents and political newcomers ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

In addition to local bonds and education races, voters across the county will head to the polls to choose who they want to represent them at the local, state and federal level.

As of Friday evening, the Santa Barbara County Elections Office had yet to publish an official list of candidates for the upcoming election.

Hancock College

Two seats on the Hancock College board of trustees are up for grabs this fall, attracting interest from both incumbents and a newcomer. Spanning five trustee areas across the Lompoc, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez and Cuyama valleys, each member is elected to four-year terms on the college district's governing board.

Area 5 trustee Greg Pensa filed nomination papers July 20 to run for re-election. First elected November 2010 for a four-year term, Pensa is running unopposed to represent voters in the Santa Ynez Valley and northern Lompoc Valley. 

Area 3 Trustee Larry Lahr filed papers Friday to run for re-election. Elected to the board more than two decades ago, Lahr, who represents southern Santa Maria and Guadalupe, faces a re-election challenge from Guadalupe resident Jesse Ramirez.

Voters will also decide whether to support Measure Y, a $75 million facilities construction bond, placed on the ballot by trustees. College staff say the bond will help finance construction of the forthcoming Fine Arts Complex and improvements to physical education and athletics facilities on the Santa Maria campus, the Public Safety Training Complex in Lompoc and technical theater program facilities in Solvang.

Orcutt, Santa Maria and Guadalupe

Voters in four at-large school districts — Santa Maria-Bonita, Orcutt Union, Guadalupe Union and Santa Maria Joint Union — will decide the fate of nine spots on local school boards this fall.

Santa Maria Public Airport District Director David Baskett has filed papers to challenge Santa Maria Joint Union High School District incumbents Carol Karamitsos, Dominick Palera and Diana M Perez. All three have filed to run for re-election.

Shannon Clay and Daniella "Dani" Pearce have filed to run for re-election to the Blochman Union School District board. They face a possible challenge from Thomas C. Gibbons, who filed election papers at the end of July.

Guadalupe Union School District resident Raul Rodriguez Jr. has filed to challenge incumbents Sheila Marie Costa Cepeda, Mary Lou Sabedra-Cuello and Diana Arriola for a seat on the board.

Orcutt Union School District board members Rob Buchanan, James Peterson and Robert Hatch did not file for re-election, leaving three open seats available for challengers. Seven district residents — Shaun Handerson, Laurel Ciervo, Mark Steller, Eric Melsheimer, Karen Bailey, Jared M. Bailey and Melanie Waffle — had either pulled or filed papers. 

Two challengers, Abraham Malendrez and Gary Michaels, have filed to run against Santa Maria-Bonita School District incumbents Ricky Lara and Vedamarie Alvarez-Flores.


Lompoc Unified School District voters will decide this fall on who will fill two four-year terms on the district's board of education.

Despite incumbents Steve Straight and William "Bill" Heath filing for re-election, the race has drawn competition from student learning columnist Deb Andrews, Alan Skinner and Gloria Grijalva, who was appointed in February to a vacancy on the board after the death of former board member Richard King.

The remaining two years of Grijalva's term are also up for grabs, attracting a challenge from residents Timothy C. Moncier, Nancy Schuler-Jones, as well as Heath, Straight and Skinner. 

Voters will also decide on Measure E, a $79 million school bond, after trustees voted 4-0 in June to place another bond on the ballot. Measure Q, a similar bond placed on the June 2018 ballot, narrowly failed earlier this year, unable to attract support from 55 percent of district voters. Like the June bond, Measure E requires 55-percent approval to pass.

Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Ynez Joint Union High School District incumbent Jan Clevenger will vie for one of three seats on the board this fall, as Kyle Abello and Jerry L Swanitz did not file papers to seek re-election. Clevenger faces a challenge from retired financial counselor Eileen Preston, freelance writer Lori Parker, retired teacher Tori Babcock, doctor John L. Baeke, association executive Elizabeth S. Breen, and district residents Carl Johnson, Jessica Yacoub, Eric J. Zivic and Tyler Sprague.

Christina Kazali and Stephen R. Jacobs are running unopposed for the Ballard Union School District board after Sandra Knight opted against filing papers.

Buellton Union School District board members Marcilo Sarquilla and Elaine Alvarado, and challenger Jessie Skidmore, are running unopposed this fall after incumbent Joyce Ann Azevedo did not file. Appointed school board member Andrew Morgan will run unopposed for the remainder of his two-year term. Voters in Buellton Union also will decide whether to approve an annual $99-per-parcel tax for eight years.

College School District board members Debbie Goldsmith, Molly Carrillo-Walker and Craig Litle face no re-election challenge.

Appointee Demory Brown filed to run for one seat on the Los Olivos School District board; incumbent James R Lohnas did not. 

Benjamin Olmedo, appointed member of the Solvang School District board of education, was the only individual to file to run for one of three seats on the district's board. Melissa Parlee Hirth and Csaba Illes did not file for re-election. John Winckler, who was appointed to a vacancy on the district's board, has filed to run for the remainder of his term.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga


Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.