After serving one term, Tony Thurmond did not file for re-election to the West Contra Costa Unified School district board by Friday's initial deadline, throwing wide open the race for two seats on the five-member board.
Thurmond has been on the board since 2008. His four-year term expires this year, along with that of Antonio Medrano, who is running for a second term. The other three seats on the board expire in 2014.
Thurmond's absence in the Nov. 6 election extends the deadline for new candidates to file nomination papers to Aug 15.
Two other candidates — retired principal Randall Enos and El Cerrito parent/school volunteer Todd Groves — had joined Medrano in the race as of Friday. El Cerrito resident Robert Studdiford has taken out nomination papers but not filed yet, according to the latest update from the Contra Costa County Elections Division.
Thurmond issued a statement saying the decision not to run was "one of the toughest decisions of my career." He said seven years of trying to balance being an elected official with his full-time job as a non-profit director made it "time for me to take a look at other challenges."
He said he is considering "a run for the Assembly in 2014."
School board President Charles Ramsey called Thurmond's decision not to run "big news" at a time when the board has regained full autonomy, after being in debt to the state and subject to state trusteeship for two decades.
"The district just got out of bankruptcy and got local control back," Ramsey said.
In financial turmoil and with a state-appointed overseer for many years, the school district in May paid down the last of its debt to the state. In June, voters rejected a parcel tax increase that supporters said would prevent larger class sizes.
Then in July, on the November ballot that would extend the life of the tax but not increase it. They also placed a companion bond measure for school construction.
Here is the full text of Thurmond's statement, made available by Ramsey:
Yesterday, I made one of the toughest decisions of my career. I have decided not to seek re-election to the Board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District. I will continue to fight hard for students until my Board term ends officially in December 2012.
It has been my pleasure to serve you, first as a Richmond City Councilman and now as a School Board member. But after 7 years of balancing being a part time elected official with holding down full time employment as a non-profit director, it's time for me to take a look at other challenges.
I am proud of the work we have done together since I was elected to the school board in 2008. This includes creating the first ever student youth commission to advise the school board, and leading the district’s efforts to reduce the number of safety incidents, suspensions, and expulsions. I am also proud of the work we have done together with my board colleagues to return the school district to local control after being under state control for twenty years, and to re-build several schools in the district.
When they said it couldn’t be done, together we found ways to preserve small class sizes in the primary grades, to keep small schools open in the neighborhoods with the greatest needs, and to implement a middle school math initiative to help our students receive a first rate education.
Going forward, I will continue working to increase state funding for our schools, to reduce violence in our communities, to stimulate our economy, to increase health care access, and to protect our environment. I will also begin exploring potential offices to run for where I can contribute the most to our community and help to make the most impact. My exploratory efforts will include consideration of a run for the Assembly in 2014. But I intend to make this an exhaustive process and I welcome your ideas and suggestions about how I might best serve our communities.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you…an honor that I hope to have for the rest of my working career. I ask for your continued prayers and support for me and my family as I embark upon the next phase of my journey. Yours always in service,
Charles Burress contributed to this article.