The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees may welcome a few new faces in the coming months, as a recent resignation left behind a vacant seat and updated election results showed two incumbents falling behind.
Area 3 Trustee Ken Malech resigned from the Board effective Nov. 4, and on Nov. 10 the remaining Trustees voted to appoint his replacement rather than hold a special, TUSD-funded election for the seat. Malech was elected to the Board in 2015 and balanced the responsibility with his career as a teacher for Modesto City Schools. His seat was up for reelection this year, but the seat did not appear on the ballot as Malech ran unopposed.
While Malech was unable to be reached for comment, TUSD Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan provided a statement on his service to the Board.
“Mr. Malech’s tenure as a TUSD Board Member since 2015 has been valued greatly. His advocacy for student and staff well-being, literacy, facilities and co-curricular opportunities were always at the forefront of his conversations and efforts,” Trevethan said. “I have most appreciated Mr. Malech’s vision for strengthening our District, his ability to empathize with teachers and parents and the support he provided to leadership. His presence and contributions will certainly be missed.”
Now, the appointment process begins. The last Trustee to be appointed to the Board was Area 1 representative Miranda Chalabi, who was selected in June of last year after Barney Gordon vacated his seat to become the District’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Services.
TUSD is currently accepting applications from Area 3 residents interested in serving on the Board. Area 3 includes some parts of northwest Turlock as well as some of the area north of Fulkerth Road and east of Golden State Boulevard. A complete Trustee Area map is available on the TUSD website, www.turlock.k12.ca.us, under the Board of Trustees, Trustee Area Elections tab.
On the same page, those interested can find the application, or “Candidate’s Information Form,” which must be submitted to Trevethan by 5 p.m. Nov. 23. After a screening and interview process for the top three candidates, the new Trustee will be sworn in on Dec. 17 and attend their first meeting on Jan. 5.
Two new Trustees could also be sworn in following the election, according to not-yet-final results released by Stanislaus County on Friday night. While Chalabi continued to trail behind first-time candidate and high school administrator Jose Sanchez in the Area 1 race by a margin of 400 votes, Area 5 Trustee and 19-year incumbent Frank Lima saw his lead from last week’s results wither away between ballots tallied on Tuesday and Friday.
Daniel Benedict, a Parent Teacher Association secretary and father of three, led Lima by 49 votes on Friday night with some late-arriving ballots still left to count. As the results are not 100 percent certified yet, Benedict was hesitant to jump for joy at his success.
He said he canvassed door-to-door during the election — masked and from a distance — and thinks that a new voice for Area 5 may have resonated with voters.
“I’m excited and nervous, just getting ready to see what happens,” Benedict said. “Maybe people saw that I was a parent who is concerned about our kids...maybe people thought it was time for some new ideas. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I appreciate Mr. Lima and know he’s been dedicated for decades.”