homepage logo

Two ASD races too close to call as school boards take shape

By Harrison Epstein - | Nov 13, 2022

Evan Cobb, Daily Herald file photo

The Alpine School District Education Center is pictured on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, in American Fork.

With the first 86% of votes recorded and released — and another batch of ballots scheduled to be released by the Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s Office on Monday — two seats on the Alpine School District Board of Education are too close to call.

Four seats on the board of the largest school district in the state were on the ballot in 2022, with Julie King unopposed for District 1 and Ada Wilson, the District 7 incumbent, holding 6,449 votes, 57.75%, compared to 4,719 for challenger Cole Kelley, 42.25%.

With Districts 2 and 4, however, results are far more uncertain. In the race for District 4 — representing Alpine, Highland Cedar Hills and part of northern American Fork — two members of the current Alpine school board, Sarah Beeson and Amber Bonner, are facing off. After the Thursday results, Beeson led by 12 votes — 8,847 compared to 8,835.

“I am so surprised both at how close it is and at how much higher the voter turnout is in this race. It’s definitely stressful and I hope that we will get an update soon,” Bonner told the Daily Herald.

According to Utah state law, a recount may be requested by the losing candidate if the margin of victory is 0.25% or less. Josh Daniels, Utah County clerk/auditor, told the Daily Herald there will likely be 20,000 votes in the district, meaning a margin of 50 or so votes would be needed for a recount to be entertained.

Beeson has promoted her experience as a member of “various PTA boards” and as the wife of a teacher at American Fork High School. She was first elected to the school board in 2018. Bonner, also first elected in 2018, describes her work on multiple community councils and PTA positions in her official biography. Bonner did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the precinct map provided by the Utah County Elections Division, Beeson has higher support in the southern portion of the district, southern Highland and into American Fork. Bonner received more votes in the other precincts to the north. About 20,524 ballots were cast before last Tuesday in the district, with about 3,000 left to be counted.

As for going up against one another, it was something they knew was a possibility with new boundaries drawn after the 2020 U.S. census. Still, Beeson said, it was a difficult reality they both accepted.

“It would definitely be wonderful if we could continue working together, but that is not how it worked out,” she said. “Two board members on the east side were going to end up in the same district no matter where the lines were drawn. Each of the proposals combined different board members, but this one keeps elementary school boundaries together much better than any of the other proposals.”

In District 2, newcomers Joylin Lincoln and Wendy Rencher both sought the high-growth seat. The district, which recorded 16,675 votes according to the elections office, covers Saratoga Springs and western Lehi. Lincoln, who previously sought a seat on the state school board, taught in Alpine School District and is now a board member at Lakeview Academy, a K-9 charter school in her home city of Saratoga Springs.

Rencher, from Lehi, highlights her experience as a PTA president and community council member on her website. With 86% of Utah County’s ballots having been counted and released, Lincoln holds a 118-vote lead — 6,639 to 6,521. Despite currently trailing, Rencher told the Daily Herald she’s holding out hope for the race. “There’s a lot of votes to count still, so I’m just trying to be patient,” she said. Lincoln did not respond to request for comment.

According to precinct maps, the two are each winning precincts in their home cities. Lincoln leads precincts in Saratoga Springs, except for one, while Rencher leads in Lehi neighborhoods, which she explains as “people knowing us in our own communities.”

Regardless of who comes out ahead when the final ballots are counted, the District 2 board member will have significant work to do for the area. New schools in the district were among the top priorities for the proposed Alpine School District bond, which is currently unlikely to pass. Just over 56,000 voters, 53.16%, voted against the bond issue compared to 46.84% in favor. First on the list of priorities for the funding was constructing new schools in the high-growth areas of Lehi, Saratoga Springs or Eagle Mountain.

Without the bond, the district will be forced to get creative and find alternative funding methods to build the schools.

“Whoever wins, whether it’s me or Joylin, will have some work to do,” Rencher said.

Across the rest of Utah County, outcomes are nearly certain. On the Provo City School District Board of Education, incumbents Melanie Hall and Jennifer Partridge hold significant leads over their challengers while current board ember McKay Jensen trails Megan Van Wagenen by 203 votes. Lisa Boyce leads the race for District 1 after Nate Bryson opted not to run.

In the three races for seats on the Nebo school board, incumbents Kristen Betts, Rick Ainge and Shannon Acor all hold more than 62% support over challengers.

Daniels estimated that 97% of ballots will be released by next Tuesday before a trickle of provisional ballots are counted up until Nov. 21.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)