Tracy Unified School District board

Brian Pekari (right) was elected president of the Tracy Unified School District board of education for 2020. Steve Abercrombie will be vice president, reversing their 2019 roles.

The Tracy Unified School District Board of Education elected Brian Pekari as president Tuesday night at the last school board meeting of the year.

On Wednesday, he said he was excited to move forward into 2020 with the other trustees.

“We’re all in this together for our children’s education, public education in particular,” he said.

Pekari was appointed to the board in October 2018 to serve the remaining two years of Sondra Gilbert’s four-year term after she moved out of state. He served as the board’s vice president in 2019.

Electing officers took up most of Tuesday’s brief regular meeting.

Superintendent Brian Stephens told the board that four trustees would need to vote in favor to approve each officer’s appointment. One of the seven trustees, Lori Souza, was absent.

Outgoing president Steve Abercrombie and Pekari were both nominated for the president position — Abercrombie by Jeremy Silcox, seconded by Jill Costa, and Pekari by Costa, seconded by Ameni Alexander.

Abercrombie, Silcox and Costa voted in favor of keeping Abercrombie as president, falling one vote shy of the four needed. Then Pekari, Simran Kaur, Alexander and Costa voted yes to elect Pekari president of the board.

Silcox nominated Abercrombie as vice president, which Kaur seconded, and he was elected 5-1 with Alexander dissenting.

Jill Costa was re-elected as clerk. She was nominated by Abercrombie, with a second from Pekari, and elected on a unanimous vote.

Moving forward, Pekari said the district has opportunities created by a recent STEM grant for students in pre-kindergarten through high school. TUSD was one of 16 schools awarded the grant out of 248 schools nationwide that applied. New science, technology, engineering and math curriculum is already in place for students up to fifth grade, and changes for sixth through 12th grades will be rolled out in the coming year.

“STEM education creates critical thinking, increases science literacy and enables our next generation of our students to be innovators,” he said. “This is just a great opportunity for us as our students are being competitive for both the college and the workplace in the 21st century.”

He said advocacy was another important element of the board’s duties.

“All of us seven board members, part of our responsibility is to advocate for our local, state and national levels on behalf of our students, our children, our district programs, our public education, and as president, helping to lead that concept and leading our team,” he said.

Managing the district’s money is one of the challenges the board will face in the coming year. Pekari said Tracy Unified has seen a pattern of declining enrollment, and having fewer students means less funding from the state. He also said California’s per-pupil spending is lower than most states’.

“Balancing the budget and trying to look at it at a bigger scale to make sure we’re fiscally responsible, that’s a big challenge,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, Kaur thanked Abercrombie for leading the board over the past year.

“I want to take a moment and recognize our past president and thank him for everything he’s done for us,” she said. “He’s been an amazing role model and an amazing president for us. I’m also excited for Brian Pekari to step into this role.”

Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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