Dec 8, 2011
By Blair Tellers
By Blair Tellers
If more is merrier, the eight candidates vying for the open position on the seven-person Board of Education certainly brought spunk to the public interviews Thursday night. "A federally protected right for a group of workers who agree to be represented to negotiate for wages, benefits and conditions of a working unit," replied candidate Rebeca Armendariz, 37, the Lead Worksite Organizer for Services Employment International Union, Local 521.
Pausing briefly before giving his answer to the same question, candidate Guy La'Mont Hadnot, 53, leaned in to the microphone and quipped, "ditto."
The response ignited an eruption of hearty laughter from an audience of about 35 attendees filling the meeting room at district offices on Arroyo Circle.
"How do you follow that?" ceded Hadnot. "That's Webster."
Following this particular question about unions - which was submitted from the public - Christopher High School Principal John Perales half-whispered, "I wondered who that question is from?" while sharing a grin with Michelle Nelson, CHS teacher and president of the Gilroy Teachers Association.
Roundtable interviews to appoint a new trustee were peppered with intermittent chuckles over mispronounced names, anecdotal stories about candidates' children and poignant, researched responses from eight hopefuls who clearly did their homework ahead of time.
The group was presented with a barrage of varying questions, ranging from their stance on a teacher's right to carry pepper spray, to the unsavory topic of handling forthcoming budget cuts.
A couple hours after the 4:30 p.m. meeting kicked off, six trustees on the Gilroy Unified School Board narrowed down the pool - although "we barely have a top two, if that shows you how difficult it was," said GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores.
It all came down to a roll call vote around 7 p.m. between former GUSD trustee Pat Midtgaard, 68 - a veteran educator who worked for 28 years in Gilroy as a teacher and principal - and James Pace, 39; Director of Land Development for Pembrook Development who later admitted he "was a little shocked" when Flores announced his name as a finalist.
"Clearly you have a thankless job," said Pace, a fixture on a handful of school site and parent committees who addressed the board earlier that evening. "Why am I putting myself to join you in this thankless job? Because it's very important."
With trustee Dom Payne casting the lone vote for Pace, the School Board appointed Midtgaard as its newest member with a 6-1 vote.
"I was really surprised," said Midtgaard, a retiree who lightheartedly told the board in her closing statement, "If you want someone who can hit the ground maybe not running - but walking really fast - I'll do the job for you."
"I though it was such a strong pool," she added, of her fellow candidates. "Generally speaking, it wasn't like somebody stood out."
Check back for a longer version of this story.