The makeup of the Kern High School District board of trustees will be significantly different next year.
The board will see the addition of two retired teachers, Cynthia Brakeman and Janice Graves. When the candidates are sworn in, it will mark the first time in 20 years that two women have served on the board at the same time.
Brakeman was able to upset Area 1 incumbent Mike Williams and Graves finished first in a field of three, and by a significant margin, in the Area 4 race.
With all precincts reporting, Brakeman had 52.8 percent of the vote while Williams had 47.2 percent. In the Area 4 race, Graves led with 46.21 percent of the vote. Agriculture Capital Resource Manager Jenifer Pitcher was second with 26.65 percent followed closely by loan officer Bryan Colebrook at 26.14 percent.
“I’m overwhelmed. I’m excited,” Graves said. “My phone has been blowing up.”
Graves said she felt uncertain about her chances heading into the election.
“I wasn’t sure of myself, but my supporters kept saying that we were going to win,” she said. “When the first results came through, I was shocked. It was thrilling.”
Brakeman could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Williams said he expects Brakeman to serve well on the board.
“I would have preferred to win, but I congratulate Mrs. Brakeman. She ran a great campaign,” he said. “I wish her the best of luck. I know she’ll work hard to serve the students in our district.”
For Brakeman, this election was her first foray into public office after retiring in 2015 after 20 years as a teacher at Arvin High School.
Graves retired this summer after teaching at Foothill High School for 39 years.
Graves attributed her win to the strong support from her colleagues in the district as well as the parents and other community members she’s worked with during her time with the district.
“I think the teachers have now risen up. They’ve spoken,” Graves said. “They all supported us. It’s wonderful.”
Graves said she is also happy that there will be more diversity on the KHSD board. The last time the board had two female trustees was when Connie Wattenbarger and Sandra Serrano were both on the board from 1994 to 1998. Before that, you have to go back 117 years — to 1901.
“I think it’s fabulous. It’s about time,” Graves said.
The last woman on the board was Martha Miller, who was unseated in 2014 as the Area 4 trustee by current board president Phillip Peters.
Graves said she ran for the Area 4 seat, vacated by Peters, because she felt there was a need for a teacher to serve on the board to represent teachers’ concerns and interests. She also felt a woman’s perspective was needed on the board.
“The first thing I want to do is celebrate teachers. They’re not celebrated enough,” she said. “They’re the heart and soul of the district, and we need to let them know that we’re proud of them. When I was teaching, I didn’t feel that love all the time, so I want them to see that we’re supporting them and making sure they get what they need.”