Early results show pastor Shimiko Montgomery narrowly defeating incumbent and board chair Andy High, 55% to 45% for the Bend-La Pine Schools board. She will likely be one of four new members on the board, all women, as former charter school leader Melissa Barnes Dholakia, speech-language pathologist Caroline Skidmore and nurse practitioner Amy Tatom were all elected to the school board in Tuesday night’s election.

On Tuesday night, Montgomery, 35, didn’t want to call the race over yet and “celebrate prematurely.”

“I’m not fully confident that the lead will stay, (but) I’m hopeful,” she said. “I’m excited that if I keep the lead, I can get to work doing exactly what I said I would do … which is ensure that schools are equitable and inclusive.”

High, 40, did not respond to a call for comment late Tuesday evening.

Earlier in the spring, Montgomery said she would try to implement a counselor in each school, including elementary schools, and unlike High, said she would support future teacher walkouts.

Montgomery will be the first person of color to serve on the Bend-La Pine School Board since Nori Juba resigned in early 2017.

In the race for the Zone 1 seat, which represents northwest Bend, speech-language pathologist Caroline Skidmore, 47, led with 56% of the vote in early returns. The other candidates — former Bend City Councilor Mark Capell, 59, and information technology systems architect Chet Liew, 43 — had earned 32% and 12% of the vote, respectively.

“I’m definitely honored to have been elected, and I really think that now the real work is going to begin,” Skidmore said. “I want to focus on my priorities of appropriate funding, school safety and making sure that all our schools foster an environment of kindness and inclusivity.”

Melissa Barnes Dholakia, 50, held a commanding lead over the two other candidates for the at-large Zone 6 seat: former teacher, principal and Contra Costa County Board of Education member Richard Asadoorian, 86, and former teacher Mike Way, 75. Barnes Dholakia held 71% of the vote compared to 19% for Way and 9% for Asadoorian.

Barnes Dholakia, who helped create a K-12 charter school district in Oakland, California, advises principals and superintendents. Her first priorities on the board will be to listen and get to know her fellow board members, then working on promoting equity and an innovative curriculum in Bend-La Pine, she said Tuesday night.

“Our indicators show us that while we’re making progress, we need to make more,” she said Tuesday night. “I’m tremendously thankful to our community, and I look forward to serving them” she said.

Family nurse practitioner Amy Tatom, 39, won the Zone 5 seat, which was officially unopposed, although she did have a write-in challenger in stay-at-home mom Kerry Blomgren, 46.

Three out of the four Bend-La Pine School Board races didn’t have an incumbent running in this election — the first time since 2009 there has been a race without an incumbent in the school district.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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