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New faces elected to school board

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

After months of a volatile and sometimes emotional school board race, the voters Tuesday decided to keep two incumbents and elected two new members.

The biggest nail-biter of the election night was the Douglas County School Board race between George Echan and William Laughlin for the Stateline seat, Area 3.

Echan started out with a small lead with early and absentee voters, but soon Laughlin began chipping away. When all the voters in the Valley precincts were counted, Laughlin was ahead by only one percentage point. It was the Lake voters who gave the race to Echan by 93 votes. The final tally was Echan, 6,989; Laughlin, 6,896.

“It’s been a close one,” Echan said after the votes were counted. “To begin with, you have to understand the teacher’s union dedicated a tremendous amount of resources to removing the incumbents. The fact that they retained two out of three (incumbents) is a vote in favor of the competencies. The closeness of my race clearly shows I need to do a lot of work, no question.”

Echan said he wanted to thank everyone who voted for him.

“I am pleased with the Valley vote. Because of the predominance of union influence, I thought I would be in a lot more trouble. The people I live and work with for 20 years supported me and I appreciate that very much,” Echan said.

He said he would commit to doing a better job in communicating with the public and school employees. He remained committed to the competencies and raising standards.

Echan commended Laughlin for running a clean race. He said while the dynamics of the board would be different, he had confidence in the new board members.

“I have great confidence in the electorate and the people who are elected,” Echan said. “While there will be very spirited discussions, the most important thing is I don’t believe the competencies are in jeopardy. I look forward to new contributions from those people. Hopefully, the negativity that’s plagued us the last 1-1/2 years will disappear and all the stakeholders can work together.”

Laughlin said he hopes the closeness of the race will send a message to the board members and Echan.

“It’s been a learning process and I hope the board members will have learned some stuff and I hope they will give the superintendent a little more direction. If that happens, it is a win-win situation,” Laughlin said. “Hopefully, they will be more receptive to input from district employees, teachers, students and parents.”

n Roman-Pullen. Former Douglas High School teacher and coach Keith Roman was chosen over Charles Pullen for the Area 7 seat 8,062 to 4,916.

Roman said he thinks things will now change on the school board.

“That’s what I ran on, was change. It’s not like we want a radical change, but we’ve got to have a change in direction here,” Roman said. “My hope is to restart and work from the bottom up. In my view, it’s a mess right now and time is running short. We can keep the tests going but I think we’ve got to give a lot of thought to starting them at a lower grade.”

Roman said he wants to make it clear he supports the higher standards.

“I’ve been accused over and over again of wanting to lower the bar. I’m for competencies, but these competencies are too much of a change,” Roman said.

Roman said he thinks the new board members will be more open to input from teachers.

“In my mind, the district has to listen to those people on the front lines. They are dealing with it every day. People in the district office aren’t down there on a day-in and day-out basis. You have this huge gap between the two,” Roman said.

He said he would like to commend his opponent who “ran a good race and ran on the issues, that’s what it’s all about.”

n Brady-Hulsey. Incumbent David Brady lead during the whole night for the Area 1 seat, although newcomer Veronica Hulsey gave him a run for his money. The final totals were Brady, 7,642; Hulsey, 5,882.

Neither candidate could be reached late Tuesday night.