One of the three open seats in the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board race has already been decided ahead of the Nov. 8 General Election.
Candidate Jesse Brainard, an Arizona State University student, was booted off the November ballot, leaving substitute teacher Ronda Page the sole candidate for the two-year seat, said Tim Sifert, spokesman for Maricopa County Superintendent Steve Watson.
Because Page is the sole candidate, the county Board of Supervisors on Aug. 17 canceled the election and will appoint her instead.
According to Sifert, the appointment won’t happen until after the canvass of the general election results.
Brainard’s removal came after Page successfully challenged the validity of some of the signatures on his nomination petition.
Candidates were required to gather a minimum of 400 valid signatures on their petitions and filed by July 13. The public then had 10 days, until July 25, to challenge the candidates’ signatures.
In the court document filed July 25, Page alleged that at least 93 of the 455 signatures that Brainard submitted were invalid due to various legal deficiencies. Pace submitted 644 signatures for her petition.
Pace claimed the deficiencies included signatures from 22 people not registered to vote, 53 people not living in GPS’ boundary and 23 people with invalid addresses.
Pace asked the court to remove Brainard from the November ballot, not allow him to run as a write-in candidate pay her attorney costs.
Following the July 28 trial, the judge sided with Pace, citing the County Recorder staff’s analysis.
The analysis concluded that 75 of the challenged signatures were invalided for one of four reasons.
The judge found that five signatures came from people who signed the petition twice; 20 came from people who were not registered voters, 49 were from people registered outside the school district and one signature came from a person who signed the petition before Brainard filed his Candidate Statement of Interest.
The judge ruled that 74 of the signatures were invalid, which dropped Brainard’s vote count to 381 and left him 19 signatures short to qualify for the ballot, according to court documents.
The judge also agreed to prohibit Brainard from qualifying as a write-in candidate in November. However, Pace’s request for attorney fees was denied.
Brainard appealed the lower court’s ruling with the Arizona Supreme Court, arguing that the county made numerous errors that led to the invalidation of qualified voters.
The four-judge panel, however, on Aug. 15 affirmed the trial court’s decision.
“As a product of Gilbert Public Schools, I will not fade away,” Brainard said in a released statement. “I will continue to fight for our students and fight for the priorities I have highlighted.”
Brainard, a Gilbert High School graduate, advocated more counselors to help with student mental health, more transparency and higher pay for teachers and bus drivers.
Page will finish out the remaining term of Reed Carr, who unexpectedly resigned last year.
Watson appointed William Parker to serve until the November election but Parker decided not to run.
Page, who has four children who graduated from GPS schools, has been a district volunteer for 20 years working in a number of areas, including room mom/weekly classroom volunteer to grade, read to students, book fairs, field trips, lunch bunch and HHS Concert Choir Booster Club Board.
Her campaign platform includes improving upon the excellence already established, providing students with the best curriculum and effective programs and supporting teachers with the tools and resources necessary to create successful classrooms.
The two four-year seats going forward to election are contested with four candidates: incumbent Jill Humpherys, Collette Evans, Trina Jonas and Chad Thompson. Dr. Charles Santa Cruz opted not to run for re-election.
Humpherys, who was first elected in 2012, also is a board member for the Arizona School Board Association and has five children who have graduated from GPS schools.
She is a vocal advocate for public education, testifying at the state Legislature for or against bills and as a board member helped steer the district during the pandemic and consistently voted for teacher and staff pay raises .
Evans has four children who graduated from a GPS school and her youngest attend Highland High.
She taught school for a year at a West Valley school district and wants to focus on student achievement, ensure fiscal responsibility and retain and attract qualified teachers and staff.
Thompson, who has four kids in GPS schools, touts parental rights, fiscal conservative spending and doesn’t see school choice as a threat.
He’s also vowed to push back against “the onslaught of politically biased and divisive programs trying to indoctrinate our children and tear our community apart.”
Jonas has three children attending GPS schools and is actively involved in GPS committees.
She’s a proponent of fiscal responsibility and wants to address learning loss from the pandemic and ensure a positive and challenging learning for students.