Contested school board races in Merced down to one

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comOctober 25, 2012 

There is one contested school board race in the Merced area in November's election, pitting incumbent Merced Union High School District Trustee Mike Carpenter against Dora Crane, a veteran teacher and president of a teacher's union.

In the high school district's Trustee Area 5 race, challenger William G. Snyder III has withdrawn from the race against appointed incumbent Kurt Kollmann, but his name still will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Carpenter, an insurance agency executive, represents Trustee Area 4 on the board, an area generally covering north Merced.

A trustee since 2007, Carpenter is vice president of sales at Leap, Carpenter, Kemps Insurance Agency in Merced, where he has worked for 22 years. He is a 1982 Merced High School graduate, and received a bachelor's degree in business economics in 1986 from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Carpenter said the decision over the spring to cut bus transportation to students living within a five-mile radius of their school undoubtedly created inconvenience or even hardship for some.

"Our staff is working with some families to find a workable, safe solution," Carpenter said. "I have no doubt this will be done. Of course we are concerned for student welfare, and we want them to arrive safely at school every day."

Progress being made

Carpenter is a past president of the Merced Breakfast Lions Club and is involved with the Boys and Girls Club of Merced County, Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce and Merced Skimmers Swim Team. He was aquatics coach from 1990 to 2008 for Merced and Golden Valley high schools.

"Despite challenges with finances due to the state economy, the district has posed significant gains in test scores across the board," Carpenter said. "Graduation rates are up, disciplinary incidents are down. Despite the fact that there is more work to be done, measurable progress is being made."

Carpenter said all district campuses are well-managed and staffed with hardworking employees who keep things running smoothly.

"Fiscally, we have made difficult decisions that had to be made," Carpenter said. "There is no doubt that there has been an impact on some of our programs, but to not have made such decisions would have been irresponsible."

Crane, 54, teaches physical education at Tenaya Middle School and has been president of the Merced City Teachers Association for the past two years and three years previously.

A Merced resident since 1984, she taught at Our Lady of Mercy School for 12 years and at John Muir Elementary School and Herbert H. Cruickshank Middle School.

Able to see the big picture

"I know what I bring to the table is the ability to look at the big picture," Crane said. "I know how a school works, or should work. I know what it takes to get a school open, to getting students to school and providing them with the best education possible, and then making sure they arrive safely home."

Crane, who grew up in East Dubuque, Ill., said the next five years will be pivotal for education in California. She said board members must be open to listening to students, parents and employees, and work together to plan for the future of students.

She said the biggest issue right now is transportation and students having to walk to school if they live within five miles of their campus. Earlier this year, trustees scaled back school bus transportation and furloughed 15 bus drivers.

"If you want change, you have to be part of the conversation," Crane said. "I look at education today and the hurdles and obstacles that we are facing and want to be part of that conversation. I do understand school finance and how we need to look at students' needs first before anything else."

Susan Walsh, a member of the Merced City School District Board of Education, faces paramedic Bill Tripp on the November ballot.

Tripp said Wednesday he had to withdraw from the race because of career obligations, but it was too late to remove his name from the ballot.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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