TAVARES – A scientist with a doctorate from Georgia Tech and an appliance technician for maintenance at the school district have won seats on the Lake County School Board.

Kristi Burns and Sandy Gamble each won by wide margins Tuesday night.

Both candidates say their top priority is assuring a strong superintendent is in place when Susan Moxley steps down in June 2017.

“The main focus needs to be selecting the next superintendent that is a real leader and can really lead our county in the right direction,” said Burns, "one that can cut, looking at every aspect we have and getting the funds into the classroom. The superintendent will be critical in directing funds into the classroom and changing the climate of the schools.”

With 104 of the precincts reporting, Burns garnered 60 percent of the vote, or 78,725 votes, to 39 percent, or 51,084 votes, for Sandi Moore, who serves as executive director of the Leesburg Chamber of Commerce.

Gamble received 56 percent of the vote, or 72,797, compared to 43 percent, or 55,611 votes, for James Myers, a real estate lawyer at Bowen & Schroth.

Both candidates were humbled by the results Tuesday.

“I was excited,” said Burns, 39. “When you are running a local race, there are no polls. It is definitely a surprise.”

Gamble thanked God.

“Without Him, it wouldn’t be possible,” he said.

He also paid tribute to the late Kyleen Fischer, a children’s advocate who served on the School Board for 20 years.

“I win and Kyleen Fischer wins,” he said. “Kyleen Fischer was a major supporter of mine. She gave me an outstanding endorsement. She was making all kinds of contacts for me and she believed in me because I believed in what she did as a board member. That is what I will be able to carry forward.”

Both agree that improving student achievement is critical for the district.

Dropping a letter grade to a C and falling from 41st to 44th in state rankings, the district’s graduation rates also took a tumble. The graduation rate now stands at 75.8 percent, almost 1 percentage point below last year’s and falling below the state average of 77.9 percent.

“I want to focus on bringing recess into elementary schools,” Burns said. “That should increase achievement. If we could cut excess testing we will increase time for our teachers to educate our children.”

Gamble, 58, said community involvement is a critical piece to improving student achievement.

“It is highly important we get something initiated throughout the whole county,” he said. “It is already going pretty strong in Leesburg. It is going strong at Villages Elementary. Eustis Heights has a good mentoring program. It has to be county wide that we are helping our students that are lagging behind.”

Moreover, Gamble said he would like to focus on allocating dollars for construction for schools as well as budgeting money back into the classroom for teachers.