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Gianni forces primary election for South Whidbey schools

One man’s quest for a different school board seat will cost the school district thousands of dollars.

Rocco Gianni, a retiring teacher at Langley Middle School, switched the school director position he wanted to run for a couple of hours before the filing deadline Friday.

His change of mind to seek the at-large position created the need for a three-way primary vote.

Sheilah Crider, Island County auditor, said the cost of the school director primary election will be paid by the South Whidbey School District. The auditor’s office estimates a fee of about $28,000 to mail and process 12,000 ballots.

Superintendent of Schools Jo Moccia said the money will come out of the school district’s general fund.

The last time South Whidbey schools had a ballot item was the levy votes in February. As the only items on the special election ballot were for the school district, it paid the full cost of about $28,500. Simple math indicates the cost was worth it for the school district, which received approval for both levies, including a $1 million annual increase for capital/technology funds.

The payoff for a single school board position primary election isn’t so clear.

Gianni originally filed his election forms at 2:14 a.m. May 16 for the Position 2 seat. At the time, Board Member Fred O’Neal had publicly stated he was undecided if he would run for a third term on the board.

But O’Neal turned in his forms later that same morning at 10:02 a.m. For half a day, the school district was poised for its first two-seat battle in years with Gianni vs. O’Neal for Position 2.

The other seat, Position 5, is an at large seat held by Jill Engstrom who chose to not seek re-election. Miriam Coates and Betty Bond entered their names into the race as soon as they could in the filing period, both before 10 a.m. May 13. They had a free ride to the November election until Gianni’s late decision to run for the same seat, creating the primary face-off in August.

Position 2 must be filled by someone who lives within in the boundaries of East Harbor Road, Good Lake Road/Lakeside Drive, Bayview Road and Sunlight Beach Road. Gianni’s listed filing address is on Deer Lagoon Road, within the Position 2 boundaries.

O’Neal is an established voice on the board. He is the district’s liaison with Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) and the Legislature. Long has he advocated for implementing technology into classrooms and education, modernizing the way students interact with materials. It was especially profound in the sciences with Langley Middle School students toting iPads around during lab experiments to examine molecule diagrams, take notes and record video.

The school district will receive a bill from the Island County Auditor’s Office after the primary election is over and the costs are finalized in mid August. Several attempts to contact Gianni were unsuccessful.

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