Education Race Roundup: Brooks re-elected in Clark County trustee race; Church leading in Washoe County trustee race

Three new members appear poised to join the Clark County School Board of Trustees, and an incumbent will be returning for a second term.

Incumbent Lola Brooks, who serves as board president, has defeated Alexis Salt, a Clark County School District teacher, to retain her District E seat. As of early Wednesday morning, Brooks has captured 57 percent of the votes, while Salt snagged 43 percent.

“Although I am leading in my race, final election results won’t be available until all the votes are counted,” Brooks tweeted Wednesday morning. “Let’s wait until every vote is counted.”

Brooks was the only incumbent running for the four Clark County School Board seats up for grabs in this election. Existing trustees Deanna Wright (District A), Chris Garvey (District B) and Linda Young (District C) are term limited, leaving those seats wide open to board newcomers.

In District A, voters chose Lisa Guzman to represent them on the school board. Guzman, executive director of the Education Support Employees Association, had scooped up 53 percent of the votes by early Wednesday morning, compared with Liberty Leavitt’s 47 percent. Leavitt, wife of former state Sen. Michael Roberson, works at a nonprofit serving underprivileged children.

The race for the District B trustee seat is not nearly as close. Katie Williams — a veteran, former small business owner and outspoken conservative — has amassed 61 percent of the votes, defeating Jeffrey Proffitt, who has received 39 percent. Proffitt’s loss comes despite him out-fundraising Williams by a significant margin and racking up a lengthy list of endorsements.

On Wednesday morning, Williams took to Twitter, where she thanked voters and said she looked forward to serving them.

“People degraded me daily, but I didn't care because I knew I was right,” she wrote in a tweet. “The district needs help and I want to thank all the voters who believed in me and who cast their votes for me.”

In District C, meanwhile, Evelyn Garcia Morales holds the lead early Wednesday morning after stockpiling 53 percent of the votes. Her opponent, Tameka Henry, has earned 47 percent.

The revamped cast of the school board comes as trustees grapple with the aftermath of pandemic-disrupted learning. The new trustees will assume their roles in January.

Washoe County School Board of Trustees

Jeff Church has triumphed in the race for the Washoe County School Board seat in District A, denying Scott Kelley’s bid at a re-election comeback.

“I thank the voters and those that supported me for change at WCSD,” Church wrote in a statement shared with The Nevada Independent. “I hope to earn the trust that the voters placed in me and I will do whatever it takes to improve the quality of education and represent the needs of the taxpayer.”

That race took a weird twist in August when Kelley resigned from the school board after a This Is Reno story detailed information about his divorce, including placing a tracking device on his wife’s vehicle and operating fake social media accounts. But Kelley remained on the general election ballot, hoping to revive his school board career by letting voters decide his fate.

After Kelley resigned, the board appointed former Incline Village Middle School Principal Sharon Kennedy to serve the remainder of his term.

Results posted early Wednesday show that Church, a retired Reno police sergeant, has snagged 60 percent of the votes, while Kelley has only grabbed 40 percent.

But, in the District E trustee race, incumbent Angela Taylor handily sailed to re-election after scooping up 63 percent of the votes by early Wednesday. Her challenger, Matthew Montognese, has received 37 percent.

“It’s an honor that the people in District E would entrust me once again to represent them,” Taylor said during a phone call with The Nevada Independent. “It makes me feel good as an incumbent that the district likes what they see with my work and want to keep that going.”

The closest Washoe County School Board race is for the At-Large District G seat. As of early Wednesday, Diane Nicolet, a previous board appointee, maintained the lead with 54 percent of votes tallied. Her competitor, Craig Wesner, has captured 46 percent.

State Board of Education

Rene Cantu appears on track to defeat incumbent Mark Newburn to represent District 4 on the State Board of Education. 

It’s a tight race: Cantu, who is executive director of Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates, has earned 51 percent of the votes tallied so far, while Newburn has received 49 percent. The margin separating the two in that race is 4,001 votes.

Cantu’s victory comes amid very little campaign spending and fewer endorsements. Newburn, however, had voiced concern that parents’ disappointment with school reopening decisions could hurt his shot at re-election.

The District 1 race, meanwhile, isn’t quite as close. Tim Hughes has the edge with 52 percent of votes as of Wednesday morning, while his opponent, Angelo Casino, has 48 percent.

Hughes, vice president of The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a teacher training program, mounted a significant fundraising advantage during the course of the campaign. Casino is a charter school teacher in Las Vegas. 

Board of Regents

The Board of Regents, which oversees Nevada’s higher-education system, had four positions on the ballot this year. 

In District 2, Lois Tarkanian, a longtime Las Vegas City Councilwoman who was termed out last year, has won with 60 percent of the votes tallied as of Wednesday morning. Her opponent, Brett Whipple — a former regent and attorney with the Justice Law Center — has 40 percent.

Tarkanian, the wife of the late UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and mother of Douglas County Commissioner-elect Danny Tarkanian, lamented the untraditional election year that robbed candidates of connecting with voters personally, though it didn't affect her election. She said she looks forward to addressing higher education's issues from the pandemic and developing the UNLV Medical School, which broke ground in late October.

"There's lots of aspects to a medical program besides the building, so I've worked on some of them already," she said. "Secondly, [I want] to continue working very hard to become a world-class educational institution. And that means providing what we need and not wasting money."

Byron Brooks, a principal managing partner of a Henderson spa, has won the District 3 seat with 55 percent of the votes counted so far. His competitor, Swadeep Nigam, a financial analyst for a Las Vegas law firm, has 45 percent.

The race for District 5 remains contested. Patrick Boylan, a former adjunct professor at the College of Southern Nevada, narrowly leads with 51 percent of the votes tallied. His opponent, Nick Spirtos, medical director of the Women’s Cancer Center of Nevada, has 49 percent.

In District 10, Joseph Arrascada has won with 54 percent of votes, while Kevin Melcher, a former regent, has 46 percent. 

Arrascada, who works at the Reno Veterans Administration Hospital and is co-owner of a local community service agency, attributed his win to his platform, which focused on increasing communication between regents, students, faculty and university leadership, and keeping pandemic-driven budget cuts out of classrooms. 

"Even before the closing of the polls, I truly feel that I had won. I know it sounds strange but I'd won because the community that I've called home my entire life, they embraced my candidacy," he said. "It's those items that truly infused my tenacity to continue with throughout this process to bring success."