Math teacher is a fraction of a percentage point from making it to the runoff for superintendent of California’s schools

Ainye Long, Willie Brown Middle School's department chair of mathematics and the only woman in the race, could face off with incumbent Tony Thurmond.

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A California math teacher who was deemed a “long shot” — with a campaign so grassroots, she spent just over $500 — is just a fraction of a percentage point from being in the running for the next superintendent of California schools. 

Ainye Long is the only woman in the seven-person race to unseat incumbent Tony Thurmond. As of a late updated report on Monday from The East Bay Times, she has dropped down to fourth place but was only a tenth of a percentage point behind two other candidates. Votes are still being tabulated. Lance Ray Christensen, who is vice president of education policy and government relations at the California Policy Center, and George Yang, a Menlo Park software architect, are currently ahead of Long.

Ainye Long (above) is the only woman in the seven-person race to unseat California schools superintendent Tony Thurmond. As of a late updated report from The East Bay Times on Monday, she has dropped down to fourth place. (Photo: ainyelong.com)

The second-place winner will face off against Thurmond in November. 

Long is the department chair of mathematics at Willie Brown Middle School in San Francisco. She is also the former director for the California Charter Schools Association, an affiliation she eagerly hopes to leverage. Additionally, she was previously the regional superintendent at the nonprofit charter school system Amethod Public Schools in Oakland. The Bay Area native graduated from UC Santa Cruz and Berkeley High School.

The Times notes that the coronavirus pandemic proved to be a particularly tumultuous period in the state’s education system, prompting a competitive campaign season. More than 50% of the votes have been spread among Thurmond’s challengers. 

“It’s not about me,” Long said in a recent interview. “It’s about all these amazing people coming together.”

Per her bio, Long is a fifth-generation public school teacher whose “primary objectives are 1) Prioritizing the schoolhouse — elevating the voices and needs of the people in the schoolhouse (teachers, students, families, and community members); 2) Establishing measurable impact — connecting all initiatives to schoolhouse needs that are measurable and sustainable; and 3) An informed and invested public — providing opportunities and resources for the public to be [knowledgeable] of the needs and well-being of local schools, and how they can contribute their time and talents to address schoolhouse needs.” 

“In short, the pandemic has given us the opportunity to seize new opportunities, and there’s never going to be an opportunity like it,” she contended. “In the pandemic, I was thinking about where we are. We’ve got to stop everything and reimagine what schooling is going to look like. And not floating from a disconnected view.”

The California Teachers’ Association and Democratic Party have endorsed Thurmond, but if she earns a place in November’s election, Long hopes she can mobilize informed voters.

She notes: “I’m in the classroom. … Yet the person over public instruction doesn’t have to have experience in public instruction.”

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