School Superintendent Stays
Kotowski fends off challenge; Zeeb, McPherson remain in treasurer/tax collector race.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Incumbent County Superintendent of Education Nancy Kotowski enjoyed big-name endorsements, a hefty war chest and name recognition as she edged out challenger Donna Alonzo Vaughan, nabbing 52 percent of the vote to win a second four-year term Tuesday night. Vaughan’s fiercely loyal support among local educators couldn’t overcome her late entry into the race.
Kotowski’s victory celebration at the Salinas accounting firm Wayland and Hayashi was a subdued affair, with several dozen friends and supporters gazing at early election results projected on a big screen, sipping wine and coffee, and munching catered fresh fruit and smoked salmon. A TV crew dropped in and the group roused itself to chant “four more years” for the camera.
The energy level was higher in the losing camp, where Vaughn backers – teachers, union activists, and a few men in cowboy hats – packed the Fox Theater in Old Town Salinas and shouted to be heard above the roar of conversation.
Vaughan, who keeps her job as Salinas City superintendent, said she has no problem working with Kotowski going forward.
“I’m a team player,” she said. “I’m here to serve.”
Local schools appear to need all the help they can get. Monterey County is over-represented on the state’s list of the lowest – achieving schools. Three of its districts are under state supervision, and education budgets are stretched paper-thin.
During the campaign, Vaughan’s backers accused Kotowski of spending lavishly on consultants while handing out layoff notices to low-paid teaching assistants. Vaughan argued that Kotowski was passive in the face of big education crises: financial problems that led to a state takeover of the King City district, and infighting that rendered Salinas’ Alisal school district – now also under state supervision – practically ungovernable.
Kotowski denied the charges, and they gained little voter attention. She touted her streamlining of county programs, which she says saved local school districts significant money.
The County Superin-tendent earns $182,500 a year and oversees the financial affairs of local school districts, offers them curriculum and other support, and runs Head Start, special education and other programs.
Union staffer Valarie Davis, who represents County Office of Education employees, anticipates unfair disciplinary actions aimed at those who opposed the superintendent, and tougher-than-usual contract talks.
“I truly expect retaliation,” Davis says.
That won’t happen, Kotowski responds. “We all begin a new day,” she says. “We want to get everyone to work together and work for our students.”
In the treasurer/tax collector race, which also garnered more than its share of attention this year, Assistant Treasurer Mary Mangels Zeeb led with 44 percent of the vote.
She is now headed for a run-off with second-place finisher John McPherson, a financial services executive who took almost 31 percent.
The county’s Chief Deputy Auditor Controller Ron Holly, a former Securities and Exchange Commission staffer who was endorsed by all five county supervisors and appeared to be an early front-runner, came in last, with 25 percent.
The drop in support may be related to Holly’s erroneous claims on campaign literature that he is a lawyer. Holly finished law school, but isn’t a member of any state bar.