First-time candidate Shana Segal and incumbent Shounak Dharap appear to have won the race for two seats on the Palo Alto school board, with third-place finisher Nicole Chiu-Wang formally conceding on Wednesday.
With roughly 73% of the ballots tallied countywide by 5:04 p.m. on Sunday, Segal remained well in the lead with 39.1% of the vote, followed by Dharap at 29.6%. Chiu-Wang sat at 21.8% and Ingrid Campos trailed in fourth place with 9.5%.
The top two finishers will win four-year terms on the five-member Palo Alto Unified board.
Segal said Wednesday afternoon that she is excited to serve on the board and plans to spend the next month getting to know the current board members, talking with families and students, and learning as much as possible about her new role.
"I am honored and grateful that the community believes in me," Segal said. "My slogan has been 'experience matters' and … I think the votes acknowledged that experience matters."
Dharap noted that the results have stayed relatively steady since the first batch of results came in on Tuesday night.
"If everything continues in the same direction, then I'll look forward to serving with Shana for the next four years and hopefully getting to serve with Nicole in two years if she runs again," Dharap said.
For her part, Chiu-Wang said that while she is looking forward to seeing all the ballots counted, she doesn't believe the result will change. She called Segal and Dharap on Wednesday to congratulate them on their victory.
Chiu-Wang pledged to run again in two years, saying that she wants to get a chance to work on the issues that she focused on in this campaign, including tackling systemic inequities in the education system and addressing long standing gaps in the opportunities that students receive. Chiu-Wang said that some of the most memorable moments on the campaign trail were when students told her she was a role model.
"Although certainly I would have liked to win and represent them this time, perhaps it is good for them to see a role model that shows them how you get back up — and that sometimes you don't win," Chiu-Wang said. "There's always a way to be a leader in your community."
Reached at about 8:45 p.m. on election night, Campos said that she was coming from dinner and hadn't checked the results. Once they were relayed to her, she acknowledged that it appeared unlikely she would earn a seat on the board.
"It doesn't look like I'm going to win, but it's impressive considering that I'm a first-time candidate and considering how my viewpoints seem to be so audacious," Campos said.
With a campaign focused on what she described as "traditional family values" and parental rights, Campos drew criticism for positions including favoring book banning and describing being LGBTQ as a "deviant lifestyle," as well as for making false and misleading social media posts.
Planning for their terms on the board
As she looked ahead to serving on the board, Segal said that her first priority will be working to build back a "collaborative community," noting in particular that teacher morale is low. In her new role, Segal said that she will wear multiple hats, drawing from her experience both as a former teacher and as a parent in the district to do what is best for students.
Segal previously taught English and English language development. She ran a campaign focused on issues including differentiated education and bringing a teacher's perspective to the board.
Dharap said that in a second term, he is planning to focus on mental health and equity and is interested to hear Segal's perspective on differentiation now that she will be on the board.
"That's a new perspective that I'm looking forward to seeing integrated into the board's priorities and goals," Dharap said.
Dharap and fellow current board members Jennifer DiBrienza and Jesse Ladomirak endorsed Chiu-Wang's campaign for the board and not Segal's.
Despite that, Segal said that she has faith she will be able to work effectively with her new colleagues and that she has already spoken with both Dharap and DiBrienza.
"I'm very confident that we, the board, will work well together. …Even if they wanted a different candidate, the board is there to help students and the only way to help students is to have a collaborative board," Segal said.