With half of the county's 30 precincts reporting by press time, two Republicans and one Democrat were leading in early returns for the three open seats on the Citrus County School Board.
In the District 2 race for the seat being vacated by retiring board member Ruthann Derrico, part-time vocational instructor Carl Hansen, a Republican, was ahead of Florida Power electrician John Troy. The two were running neck-and-neck for much of the evening's returns.
In the District 4 race, where incumbent David Watson was ousted in the October primary, the leader in early results was Republican Patience Nave, a part-time community college instructor, over Democrat Jackie Evans, a retired paralegal who serves as a court mediator.
Democrat Sandra "Sam" Himmel, a local businesswoman and former teacher, held a significant lead over Republican B.
J. Collins, a retired teacher.
That seat was vacated mid-term by Janet Herndon, who ran unsuccessfully for school superintendent, and will be a two-year seat.
The other two seats are full four-year terms. The annual school board salary is $21,870.
In campaigning in the District 2 race, Hansen, 58, has repeatedly focused on the district's need to improve both the level of student achievement and the accountability of the system to taxpayers.
Troy, 40, who received the endorsement of the Citrus County Education Association, has said his conflict resolution skills learned as an active participant in his local trade union are needed by the board.
In the District 4 battle, Nave, 65, has pushed throughout the campaign for a stronger school curriculum.
Pointing to the failings she has seen in community college students she has taught, she has said the standards for students must be raised.
Evans, 67, has campaigned on the need for more parental involvement and parent education in the Citrus schools. She faced no opposition in the primaries.
Himmel, 41, has approached the District 5 race by pointing out that she has both the skills and knowledge of a classroom teacher along with the experience of a local business woman to take to the school board job.
Collins, 61, has campaigned on the need for a more definitive discipline plan for the school district, teaching of basic values and providing students with the educational basics.