Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eight hats in school trustee ring


Eight hats in school trustee ring
5:14 PM
 By Blair Tellers

Rebeca Armendariz
Guy La'Mont Hadnot
David Marin
Martha Martinez
Pat Midtgaard
Matt Morley
James Pace
Christine West
Less than 30 days since the resignation of Trustee Francisco Dominguez, the Gilroy Unified School Board will fill the empty seat in its seven-person roster during a special meeting to appoint a new trustee from a pool of eight hopeful candidates. The process, which is open to the public and will be held at 4:30 p.m. Thursday inside district offices at 7810 Arroyo Circle, includes two rounds of interviews conducted by the current GUSD board. The format also allows for audience members to submit questions to individual candidates. For more details about the board vacancy appointment process, visit this story online at
The vacancy was left by Dominguez, the embattled former GUSD trustee and sole proprietor of a local consulting company who is facing two separate investigations into alleged embezzlement and grand theft by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. Dominguez submitted his official letter of resignation Nov. 9.
Board bylaws mandate that a replacement be secured no later than Jan. 9 - exactly 60 days from when the seat was vacated.
Each candidates answered three questions from the Dispatch. Their responses to, "Why are you applying for this position?" are included in this print edition along with condensed answers to their top two priorities if appointed. Due to limited space, the complete answers to, "In what ways have you been involved with GUSD schools?" and "If appointed to the vacant seat, what would be your top two priorities?" are posted in a longer version of this story online at
Rebeca Armendariz
Age: 37
Title: Lead Worksite Organizer, Services Employment International Union (SEIU) Local 521
Children: Three children currently attend GUSD schools
Why I am applying: I am applying because I would like to learn more about our local educational system, and how to effect positive change within it, and, as a parent and active community member, be a bridge between the Board and the community. Often the perspective of parents whose children who are just regular students isn't represented, nor that of working parents. I would like to represent the voice of working parents, of concerned community members who cannot necessarily participate on a commission or home and school club, but who nonetheless care about their children, the teachers and staff and of course, the quality of education available in Gilroy.
In what ways have you been involved with GUSD schools?: I have volunteered in the classroom of each of my children, I assist and donate to the teachers and actively participate in fundraisers. In 2004-05 I was on the Rucker Elementary School Site Council. I also coordinate the current series of Voz de la Gente Latino Educators Forums. These workshops are provided free of charge and are open to Gilroy educators. So far they have covered topics including "Youth, Gangs and Violence," and the "Latino Educational Pipeline."
Priorities: If appointed, my top priorities would be parental involvement/community buy in, (and to) improve opportunities for teacher/staff collaboration on solutions to budget shortfalls.
Guy La'Mont Hadnot
Age: 53
Title: Group Executive, Auto Product Development, AAA Insurance Company
Children: Oldest daughter attends UCLA, second child graduated from GUSD, youngest child attends GUSD
Why I am applying: To put it simply, I have been interested in working on and with the School Board for a number of years. I have had the opportunity to lobby the Board on behalf of Christopher High School and Gilroy Early College Academy at various times and to also attend several advisory meetings. I have long believed in the value of education and the importance that strong, effective leadership has on a communities ability to meet it's educational needs. Towards this belief, I have served as President of the PTSA for both GECA and Christopher High School. Serving on the Board feels to be a natural progression of my beliefs regarding education.
In what ways have you been involved with GUSD schools:I have served as Vice President and President of the PTSA for Gilroy Early College Academy. I have also served as President of the PTSA for Christopher High School. I have continued to remain active in the educational community and hope that this appointment will allow me to contribute to an even larger and impactful degree.
Priorities: My first priority would be to work closely with the Board as they work to manage the current budget crisis. This is certainly the most pressing issue and is a factor in a number of other issue. Secondarily, I would like to look at our current drop out rate. The schools in the community have shown dramatic improvements in test scores over the past several years, however I don't believe that there has been a commensurate impact on drop out rates. If our scores increase but the rate of students dropping out also increases, how can we say that we have really succeeded.
David Marin
Age: 52
Title: Vice President of Advertising, Mainstreet Media
Children: Three children attending GUSD schools
Why I am applying: I'm an attorney by training and a business executive by profession. More important, I'm the father of three children in GUSD schools. I'm a passionate believer in the potential for all children to excel and a big fan of the wonderful teachers and administrators I've come to know and admire. After years of observing and commenting on public schools, I feel it's now time to get into the trenches and help. I'm hopeful my legal and business background will help the district, and I want to help bridge the communication gulf between stakeholders. Gilroy is a thoughtful and intelligent community with a great number of concerned and helpful teachers, parents and school officials. I'm convinced, having seen the hard work of dedicated people, that we can weather the current and coming fiscal challenges with our common goal intact: Build great schools that provide children with a first-class education.
In what ways have you been involved with GUSD schools?: I've attended many parent-teacher conferences and a few field trips. As part of Leadership Gilroy I spent a day with educators at Solorsano Middle School. I've dissected cow hearts, helped build rockets, and played a lot of bingo. I want to do more than that.
Priorities: First, I want to be a board member that every teacher recognizes and one that parents seek out when they have an issue. I'm a pragmatist and a problem solver. I want to listen, think, confer, and propose practical solutions to our everyday challenges.
Second, even though there are, at last count, four possible November 2012 ballot initiatives that will provide financial relief to public schools, GUSD should explore a parcel tax and GUSD should explore decreasing book costs and increasing efficiencies by equipping all students with laptops. The state of Maine did that years ago. This year, the LaRue County School District in Kentucky gave laptops to students, starting with fifth graders! Anything LaRue can do we can do better.

Martha Martinez
Age: 60
Title: Director III, District/School Support Services at Santa Clara County Office of Education
Children: Two children who attended and graduated from GUSD schools
Why I am applying: I am applying for this position because of my life-long commitment and dedication to public education. I am passionate in my belief that all students should receive the best educational experiences possible to become college and/or career ready. I also believe the GUSD Board of Education will be faced with monumental challenges of change during the next 2-5 years with a new accountability system focused on the Common Core Standards (CCS) and the reauthorization of Elementary and Second Education Act. I believe my cutting edge knowledge, leadership skills and experience at all levels of the educational system (State, Regional, County as well as local) would be an asset to the current Board of Education as they set forth a new long-term vision for the 21st Century Learner.
In what ways have you been involved with GUSD schools?: I started my adult career at Gilroy Unified School District (GUSD) as a English Language Development paraprofessional in 1971. I was an active parent serving in various Home/Club positions and classroom volunteer throughout my children's K-12 attendance in GUSD. I served as a para, teacher, principal and district administrator in GUSD for over twenty-five years. As an elementary teacher and as an elementary principal, I always tried to attend Mount Madonna's and/or Gilroy High School's Graduation Ceremonies. This annual ritual grounded me in my professional mission; "Strive each day to ensure all GUSD students I serve have the opportunity to reach optimal levels of educational success to prepare them to fulfill their future dreams." Consequently, I made it my personal mission to be affiliated with local organizations whose primary purpose was to offer financial educational support to Gilroy graduates. I am especially proud of the many nonprofit organizations I supported who raised scholarship funds for our GUSD students to pursue their educational and/or career aspirations.
Priorities: Preparation for Implementation of the Common Core Standards and Fiscal Solvency. My primary priority would be to ensure GUSD (as a system) is prepared for the implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCS). The impact of the CCS will create academic opportunities for higher levels of instruction needed for the 21st Century Learner. Concurrently, GUSD will be faced with fiscal challenges for infrastructure/technology, the purchase of new curricular materials aligned to the CCS, a data monitoring system for the CCS formative/performance based assessments and professional development for teachers and administrator focused on higher order thinking skills, problem solving and collaboration.
Patricia Midtgaard
Age: 68
Title: Retired principal of Antonio Del Buono Elementary School; former GUSD school board member
Children: Three children who attended and graduated from GUSD schools
Why I am applying: I have held many positions in the field of leadership that lend themselves to the leadership role assumed by board members in setting goals and priorities to guide the district. As a member of the community for 43 years, I have an historical perspective on past actions, initiatives, accomplishments, and detriments to the district. I have previously served on the GUSD Board of Education and understand the protocols and expectations of such a position. I worked as a teacher and principal in the district for 28 years.
In what ways have you been involved with GUSD schools?: -I was the parent of three daughters who attended GUSD K-12 (1973 - 1995)
-I worked as a substitute teacher for GUS (1970 - 1974)
-I worked as a 4th and 6th grade teacher ( 1974 - 1988 )at El Roble, Jordan, and Rod Kelley Schools
-I worked as an assistant principal (1988 - 1990) at Brownell Elementary and as principal (1990-2003) at Eliot, San Ysidro, Rucker, and Antonio Del Buono Schools
-I served on the GUSD Board of Education (2004-2008)
Priorities: To address budgetary issues in light of the continuing budget crisis in the State of California as this factor greatly influences the GUSD Board goal of hiring and retaining exemplary staff; to support sustained academic improvement at all levels.
Matt Morley
Age: 42
Title: Deputy Director of Fleet & Facilities for the City of San Jose
Children: Two children attending GUSD schools; a third will enroll in fall 2012
Why I applying: I have been a Gilroy resident for over 30 years, grew up in Gilroy, and attended Rucker, South Valley, and Gilroy High. I now have three children all of whom have and will continue to attend GUSD schools. I see this position as an opportunity to give back to my home town. I currently manage fleet and facilities for the City of San Jose. With the significant capital improvements at GUSD and a host of new facilities to maintain, I believe my experience will prove a valuable addition to the board.
In what ways have you been involved with GUSD schools?: I have been appointed to and served as Chairman of the Measure P oversight committee.
Priorities: I will actively engage in the District's capital program, including bond projects and the District's facility master plan. The ultimate goal is to use the opportunity that has been provided through school bonds to provide the tools that make for an ideal learning environment for students. This includes providing teachers with the tools to help them be successful. My experience in an organization that is completing well over a decade of bond funded capital investments and is now moving to a long term vision of how to maintain those assets, will provide an experienced voice in this area as GUSD completes its bond program and embarks on the same transition. I am also tremendously focused on continuing to reduce the achievement gap between students. The district has made great strides in raising test scores. This good work needs to continue. The district has great resources in the teachers and staff that support them. We need to continue to leverage the talents where we have demonstrated success, in order to continue this strong growth. The district must continue to provide opportunities for all students.
James Pace
Age: 39
Title: Director of Land Development for Pembrook Development
Children: Two children attending GUSD schools
Why I am applying: I feel that I would be a valuable addition to the Board. I am an active participant in my children's lives, and I want our community to be the best that it can be. As such, I am involved in several GUSD boards and committees, as well as other groups working to improve Gilroy. When there was concern that no one would step forward for the board vacancy and we might waste our precious funds on an expensive election, I realized that I can help and that I am a good candidate.
In what ways have you been involved with GUSD schools?: I am serving my third year as the treasurer of the Rucker Elementary School parent club, and I am a very active participant in this organization and at Rucker. I was a member of the Rucker Modernization Committee, which helped determine priorities for improvements to the school and worked with the architect to ensure the design met our needs. I am the chair of the Rucker School Site Council, which is involved in determining the school's goals and strategies, as well as monitoring the school's progress. In addition to school specific activities, I am also involved in groups working for the benefit of the entire district. I am serving my second two-year term on the Measure P Bond Oversight Committee, which monitors how the $150M authorized by Measure P is spent. I am in my second year on the Superintendent - Parent Advisory Committee, a group of parents from each district school which meets with Dr. Flores monthly to discuss important issues. I attend GATE Parent Advisory Committee meetings, and I am on a sub-committee to enhance the GATE identification process. I have also attended numerous GUSD Board meetings when issues of concern to me were on the agenda.
Priorities: The most important priority of the district must always be to ensure that we are doing the best job possible educating all of our students. It is also important to me that facilities funds are used fairly and prudently throughout the district to benefit all of our students.
Christine West
Age: 45
Title: Founder and owner, Go West Communications
Children: Two children attending GUSD schools
Why I am applying: I am applying for the open School Board position because I have a passion for education and the general welfare of children in our community. Learning is a life-long endeavor, but without a solid foundation in the primary grades (K-12) that endeavor is difficult, if not impossible, to continually pursue. I also strongly believe that it takes a community - parents, teachers and administrators - to educate our children. If I want my children, as well as the children of this community, to have a good education, I must do my part to make sure those educational opportunities are available to all children. While I don't pretend to have all the answers, I hope that I can have a positive impact in children's lives by participating as a school board member.
In what ways have you been involved with GUSD schools?: Since 2008, I have volunteered for the Rod Kelley Parent Club board, including three years as treasurer. As a board member I have helped raise funds and coordinate events and activities for the school. In addition, I volunteered on the Measure P Campaign Committee that worked to successfully pass Gilroy Unified School District's $150 million bond to fund district facilities improvement projects. I have continued to participate on the Rod Kelley Facilities Committee that is currently working towards a new library, kitchen and other facility improvements at the school.
Priorities: If appointed, I would work to support the district's mission "to provide opportunities for all students to reach their highest academic and intellectual competencies and personal attributes to be life-long learners, responsible citizens, and productive members of society." With this as my guiding principle and the current budget crisis in mind, my top two priorities are: Academic Excellence - Our district is making significant improvements in classroom performance based on the most recent state test scores. However, there is still work to be done. There are so many factors impacting student achievement - teachers, curriculum, adequate supplies, parent involvement and professional development, just to name a few - that we must not overlook areas where improvement or additional support can be made. In addition, the test scores must not be the only measure of academic success. If our goal is to develop well-rounded students we must also strive to improve enrichment activities, such as music, art, community service and other activities. Teachers - Morale, Recruitment and Retention - Teachers are the ones who have the most significant impact on our children's education on a day-to-day basis, so it only seems natural that we hire, retain and train for the best teachers possible. However, it seems that with the current budget crisis, this has become an insurmountable task. We need to explore ways to support teachers with competitive salaries and training so that we can continue to work toward academic success.

Blair Tellers
Blair Tellers is a staff writer for the Gilroy Dispatch. Reach her at or call (408) 847-7158.

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