More than 5,000 people voted in the Mansfield school board election Nov. 10, but voters will need to go back to the polls before a new trustee can be seated.
None of the candidates received 50 percent or more of the votes, so a runoff between Daniel Gallagher and Dora Tovar is set for Dec. 8 with early voting Nov. 23-Dec. 4.
Gallagher, Tovar, Franklin Roberts and Jaimie Palmer competed for the Place 6 seat, which was left vacant after Danny Baas resigned in April. The unexpired term will run through May 2017.
Gallagher, 47, director of elementary services for the Eagle Mountain/Saginaw school district, received 33.10 percent of the vote, while Tovar, 52, president of Tovar Public Relations, took 23.59 percent.
The two candidates have different concerns.
“I want to listen to teachers and any thoughts and concerns they have,” Gallagher said. “Accountability and testing is a concern of mine. I want to look at local assessments and see if they are benefitting our kids. In general, I think we rely too much on assessments. There are other ways to look at the effect of instructional programs.”
Tovar says she learned some things while campaigning.
“The thing I learned was how engaged Grand Prairie was,” she said. “So many of them, if they didn’t have kids, didn’t realize they were in the Mansfield school district. They didn’t realize that only one out of the six trustees didn’t live in Mansfield.”
Both are worried about low voter turnout for the runoff election.
“I’m a little disappointed about the dates and times for early voting, there are no weekend dates,” she said. “I’m concerned about voting overall.”
The first election, which also included seven statewide propositions, drew 5,544 voters. Retired teacher Roberts, 68, had 21.02 percent and Palmer, 50, a special education teacher in Mesquite, received 13.69 percent. Ronnie Goines, a local pastor who withdrew from the race too late to be removed from the ballot, received 8.6 percent of the vote.
During the campaign, there were a couple of things that raised some eyebrows. An unsigned email was sent to PTA leaders, questioning whether Gallagher and Roberts would be able to participate in closed sessions if they were elected, due to conflicts of interest -- Gallagher because he is employed by another school district, and Roberts because he has a son who works for the district.
But there is no conflict of interest in either case, said board secretary Julie Moye.
“We checked with our attorney and board policy and there was never a conflict,” Moye said. “We have lots of board members who have jobs throughout the city. There is no conflict of interest.”
Gallagher shrugged it off.
“Any time politics is involved, you’re going to get some misinformation,” he said.
Tovar denied having anything to do with the email, and said she addressed the email as soon as she received it.
“I had heard about a potential conflict of interest,” she said, “so I went to Mrs. Roberts and she gave me a response. I shared that response.”
A flier that was sent out by Tovar’s campaign also came under fire. The flier stated that she had been endorsed by MISD PTA leaders, which Debbie Van Cleave, president of the MISD Council of PTAs, denies.
“We are nonpartisan and do not support or oppose any candidate in election,” she said.
The state PTA even had a statement about the flier.
“We are a 501c3 and do not endorse any candidate,” said Kyle Ward, executive director of the Texas PTA. “I’m not sure where she is getting her information. I’ve spoken to the council president who says flatly that they did not endorse her. I have called (Tovar) and emailed her. She has not responded to any of my correspondence.”
The wording was an oversight, Tovar said.
“They were all PTA leaders and wanted to be listed as PTA members,” she said. “They didn’t want to be listed by name. I was on print deadline, so that was an oversight.”
Early voting runs Nov. 23-30 for the Mansfield ISD school board runoff election. Election day is Dec. 8. Go to mansfieldisd.org for voting times and locations.