Two incumbents held onto their seats in a bitter Charlo School District election Tuesday.
Adrian Roylance and Tracy Olsen won additional terms in a race that saw accusations of ethically dubious campaign practices, and sharp criticism of the current school board.
Several parents and school district employees came to the Missoulian with allegations that the board and school administration failed to meet the needs of special education students, charges that Superintendent Steve Love strenuously denied.
One of the candidates in this race, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Terrance Rosenbaum, had sued the Charlo School Board, alleging that it put his severely disabled son in a life-threatening situation. He and his wife Kasey secured a five-figure settlement from the school district, which did not admit guilt or wrongdoing.
In a four-way race, Rosenbaum, Stephanie Smith, Adrian Roylance and David Jake Wadsworth faced off Roylance for two three-year seats on the school board. In a separate race, Dion Carey faced incumbent Tracy Olsen for a two-year seat.
As the election drew close, Terrance Rosenbaum’s sister-in-law, Cari Rosenbaum, and local resident Randy Doty put up signs and mailed out flyers denouncing the current school board. While these messages included contact information, they left out a required statement about who had paid for it.
Ultimately, the incumbents held on. In the race for the three-year terms, Adrian Roylance and Stephanie Smith got 218 and 202 votes, respectively, while Rosenbaum got 177 and Wadsworth 136, according to unofficial election results provided by Lake County Election Administrator Katie Harding.
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In the race for the two-year term, meanwhile, incumbent Tracy Olsen beat Dion Carey, 239 to 157.
Among the candidates, Rosenbaum said he had no comment on the results. Jake Wadsworth, the other challenger in that race, said that “people made their choice, I guess …. I just wish everybody the best of luck.”
Stephanie Smith said that, “I just feel like it’s time to give back to my community, and I’m excited to help out,” and that she did not see any changes that the board should make in light of the hostility surrounding the election. Adrian Roylance did not reply to a request for comment.
In the race for the two-year term, meanwhile, Tracy Olsen beat Dion Carey by 239 to 157. Olsen did not reply to a request for comment. Carey called his loss “disappointing,” and predicted that the district would need to heal wounds from this election.
“There was harsh words said on both sides in that election,” he acknowledged. “There’s a big gap between the two sides and … I just hope somebody can bridge that gap.
“I don’t know if the current board can reach that middle ground at this point. I hope they prove me wrong.”