With about 60 percent of the precincts reporting, Challenger Dora Crane was leading incumbent Trustee Mike Carpenter for a four-year term on the Merced Union High School District board.
Crane had the early lead with 3,440 votes. Carpenter, a trustee for five years, trailed with 2,908 votes.
A controversial decision last spring to cut school busing could have been a key factor in the race.
Crane said the district's transportation needs should be readdressed. The board voted 4-0-1 last April to limit busing to students living at least five miles away from school. That action led to furloughing 15 bus drivers.
Crane, 54, is president of the Merced City Teachers Association and a physical education teacher at Tenaya Middle School. She has lived in Merced since 1984 and taught at Our Lady of Mercy School, John Muir Elementary Schiool and Cruickshank Middle School before moving to Tenaya Middle school.
Carpenter, a trustee for five years, acknowledges the board's decision to reduce busing created inconvenience or even hardship for some. He said district staff have been working with impacted families to find a workable solution to the transportation issue.