It will be hard to forget Margi Wray, Murrieta School Board President Paul Diffley said.
Nearly every school in Murrieta bears a plaque with her name and others who were in office when each school was erected.
Wray, who has served more than 21 years on the school board during a time when most of the city’s schools were built, lost in a close election Nov. 6.
Incumbents Paul Diffley and Ken Dickson were re-elected, and newcomer Barbara Muir, a retired teacher also won in the narrow race.
From 63,292 votes tallied by the Riverside County Registrar of Voters’ as of Saturday, Diffley drew the most, earning 14,520 (22.94 percent). Muir earned the second-most with 12,840 (20.29 percent), while 12,362 (19.53 percent) voted for Dickson.
Gregory Lee earned 12,025 votes (19 percent), separating himself from Wray, the lowest vote-getter, by 870. Wray received 11,545 votes, or 18.24 percent, according to the latest results.
Though approximately 15,500 vote-by-mail, 60,000 provisional and 9,500 damaged ballots—countywide—are still be processed by the registrar’s office, several updated counts released since election night have been in line with the initial school board race results.
Knowing Thursday’s school board meeting would be her last, Superintendent Pat Kelley and Wray’s fellow board members presented her with a gesture of appreciation—an engraved glass piece.
Kelley said building all those schools “required steadfast leadership and Margi provided it.”
“You are leaving a huge hole in the leadership of our district, but your legacy will last for years,” Kelley said to Wray.
“She has served tremendously, without ceasing, with tremendous strength...I call her an absolute true statesman,” Kelley said, as Wray received a standing ovation.
A teary Wray said election night was “a tough night” for her.
“Losing is hard; nobody likes to lose,” Wray said, noting what made it harder for her was not being endorsed by the Murrieta Teachers' Association.
MTA endorsed Diffley as well as newcomers Muir and Lee in the race.
"We selected them using our process of interviews," Kim Chevlin, chair of MTA's Political Action Committee, previously told Patch.
"They all came to a representative council meeting (in February)," Chevlin said. "There were 60 or 70 teachers there. We put forth our motion to select them. Basically we were looking for a change."
The endorsements meant a $1,200 campaign contribution to Lee and a $1,500 contribution to Diffley, according to campaign reports filed by the candidates. A report showing contributions received by Muir could not be located on the registrar's website.
Wray ran a campaign totaling $1,620, according to her campaign report, which included private donations of $500 from school board member Robin Crist as well as former school board member Austin Linsley.
Speaking resolutely Thursday night, Wray had stern words for the teachers’ union. Saying she valued honesty, she did not hold back.
“I have shown resolve to keep teachers employed,” Wray said, noting she voted yes on Proposition 30, which will provide a bump to education funding through statewide tax increases.
“I had your back on Tuesday, I only wish you had mine,” Wray said.
“I was asked, I was encouraged, I was prompted to run again...and I chose to answer that call in the lack of MTA’s endorsement.”
To the district and board as a whole, Wray said: “Side by side, brick by brick, we have built a district, a family, a team. I pray I have had a positive impact.”
The elected board members are set to begin their four-year terms during a Dec. 13 regularly scheduled meeting, at which time they will also elect a new board president.
In an email to Patch, the newly-elected Muir wrote: “I am very honored to have been elected to the board. I'm looking forward to working with the more experienced members to continue the excellent work they have been doing."