SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools is one of the more highly contested local races in Tuesday's Statewide Direct Primary Election.
For the first time in 40 years, local voters have a choice in candidates. Incumbent Susan Salcido is seeking re-election, while facing challenger, Christy Lozano.
Salcido had 64% of the tallied votes as of Wednesday morning, while Lozano trailed behind at nearly 36%.
Salcido has 26 years in public education under her belt; Lozano has 18 years of teaching experience.
Both women claim they are the best person for the job that oversees some 70,000 students within 20 school districts in the county, from Carpinteria in the southern end to Guadalupe and Santa-Maria Bonita, in the northern corner.
News Channel 3-12 talked to the candidates in the weeks ahead of Tuesday's Election. Each woman agreed that this a pivotal time in public education for both students and staff.
"I think what's really, really important is that when students wake up to go school every day, they're eager and motivated, excited about something they can be just thrilled about," said Salcido.
"When we have two-thirds of our population are not proficient in math and over half are not proficient in literacy, we're not doing a good service for kids," said Lozano.
As the 2021-2022 school year ends, many of the 123 public schools in Santa Barbara County are still dealing with the fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic and academic gaps linked to essentially two years of remote learning.
More recently, serious problems have cropped up in some Santa Barbara County school districts, including racial issues between small groups of students, acts of student vandalism on at least three campuses, and an exodus of teachers from certain schools.
Many voters may not be aware that this race has garnered national attention. Lozano has appeared on Fox News to criticize approaches to teacher training and information that she says is being "concealed" from parents in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Salcido has appeared on local programs, but none nationally.