Jacki Fox Ruby, a California Federation of Teachers official, soundly defeated incumbent Jerome Wiggins Tuesday in the race for Alameda County Board of Education Trustee Area 1, bringing an end to an often nasty campaign.
Ruby, a former Berkeley school teacher, won 58 percent of the vote while Wiggins took 42 percent, according to county figures released Wednesday. The new board member will represent Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, Piedmont and portions of Oakland.
“Yeah for the schools and the kids,” said Ruby on election night.
Ruby said she will work to bring together all the local school districts under the jurisdiction of the Alameda County Office of Education, and craft regional responses to educational problems.
She added that she will attempt to boost county support services to each of the districts, including violence prevention programs, fiscal assistance and teacher training.
Wiggins blamed his defeat on heavy spending by the Ruby campaign, which raised $30,000, and opposition from County Superintendent Sheila Jordan, who contributed $10,000 of her own campaign money to the Ruby operation.
“I thought it was going to be an uphill battle against the Sheila Jordan machine,” said Wiggins.
“I’m not sure what that means,” Jordan responded. “I’ve never been called a machine before.”
Wiggins raised particular concern about a mailer, shipped out by Jordan in the closing days of the campaign, which accused him of threatening the superintendent, fellow board members and Ruby supporters.
“That was the most vicious hit piece that I have ever seen anyone put out,” Wiggins said.
The piece quotes Wiggins e-mails telling the superintendent to stay out of Area 1, and accusing a fellow board member of “unethical, racist and despicable” conduct.
The mailer also alleges that Wiggins called the associate superintendent at one point and said: “I’ll make an appointment to see Sheila Jordan and go home and get my baseball bat and no one will have computers.”
“I never said that to him,” replied Wiggins, who argues that the piece is libelous, and warns that he will sue the superintendent.
Much of the race centered on Wiggins’ stormy relationship with Jordan. The two clashed publicly last summer over the county’s $30 million budget.
Jordan called for an increase in staff salaries, and for expanded support services for the various school districts under the jurisdiction of the county office.
Wiggins and the board majority countered that Jordan’s proposals would come at the expense of students in programs run directly by the county, including the county juvenile hall and a series of community day schools serving young people expelled by the local districts.
Eventually, the two sides reached a compromise. But the friction between Jordan and Wiggins remained. Jordan said Ruby’s election would restore civility to the county office.
“This enables me, as superintendent, to focus on my job,” said Jordan.
The county board approves the county budget, serves as an appeals board for students expelled by individual districts in the county and oversees county-run education programs, among other things.