Four for Gilroy School Board

Think about it: Exasperation is not the dominant force in the
race between six candidates for four Gilroy Unified School District
Board of Trustee seats in this November go-around. That’s
Think about it: Exasperation is not the dominant force in the race between six candidates for four Gilroy Unified School District Board of Trustee seats in this November go-around. That’s exciting.

There’s an underlying sense in the community that the school district is going in the right direction. We have a competent and focused leader in Superintendent Edwin Diaz. There are clear signs of a new intent to foster an honest relationship with parents by listening and welcoming input. Dogmatic and, on the flip side, irresolute leaders within the school district are disappearing. It’s time to seize the day and give this turnaround enough wind behind its sails so that it’s nearly impossible to re-direct the ship back into abysmal waters.

Our four choices for the Gilroy School Board are clear:

Thomas Bundros

Sometimes timing is everything, and Thomas Bundros, 54, is our top choice in this race. He’s data driven at a time when GUSD needs someone who can and will analyze student performance data from test scores, Slingerland programs, bilingual issues, and math curriculum and then ask the probing questions. Gilroy schools need to focus on doing what’s important and doing it right – separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak – and Bundros will be a significant force in keeping the district on the right track.

He’s an engineer by trade, thus the focus on data. But truly Bundros is an invaluable and well-rounded candidate for many reasons. He and his wife have raised six children in Gilroy. Five went through the entire system and graduated from Gilroy High School. The Bundros family knows the community history – its warts and also its very special qualities.

The IBM project manager can move easily from a no-nonsense approach to a hard-edged topic like standardized testing (“We need all the tests we can get …) to a topic like his family’s love and abiding respect for the district’s various music programs (“The choral and music programs at the high school are truly world-class …) and also understand what it’s like to learn English as a second language (his family spoke only Greek in their home in San Francisco during his early childhood).

Listening to and respecting teachers is also a cornerstone of any education-related conversation with Bundros. He knows and values the difference a good teacher can make. He’s genuinely concerned about teacher salaries, their training and their ability to put down roots in Gilroy. A data-driven realist with compassion for teachers in their day-to-day struggles is a powerful combination: Bundros will expect the district to do whatever it can for its teachers, but clearly would not sacrifice financial solvency.

Like all of our choices, Bundros supports the school bond, Measure I, on the ballot. He’s familiar with the school facilities plan. He has gone over the cryptic GUSD budget. He understands the issues and would hit the ground running if elected. Gilroy voters should confidently cast a ballot for Tom Bundros.

Jim Rogers

His facilitating style, knowledge and deep concern for educating children make Jim Rogers, 63, a good fit for the school board again. In an all-male board that will have plenty of ego, Rogers is an exception. He’s a facilitator who’s not apt to rankle anyone. He’s retired from Gilroy Unified and was formerly the coordinator of operations, maintenance and transportation. So, he intimately knows some of the challenges the district faces. Being retired, he has the luxury of time that he willingly devotes to district work. He worked hard on the District Facilities Plan that’s in place. That plan is very solid and will hopefully be bolstered by the passage of Measure I, the school bond which Rogers wholeheartedly supports.

Electing Rogers represents an acknowledgement that the district is going in the right direction and a vote for continued stability within the GUSD leadership ranks. Rogers has been around the GUSD block, he works well with fellow board members and with the City Council, he knows where the schools have been and has a clear vision for the future. He’s been a key member of a Board that deserves a lot of credit for righting the ship. Rogers deserves partial credit for the hiring of Edwin Diaz, the move back to “neighborhood” schools and the philosophical push for equal school facilities. He has our vote.

Dave McRae

He might be just the man to navigate the school district through these budget lean times. As a supervisor in Stanford University’s facilities and operations department, Dave McRae, 39, oversees a multi-million dollar operations budget. If it comes to budget cutting, McRae’s priorities likely will be in the right places, because with school-age children he has the best interest of parents and their students at heart. While he realizes the importance of improving students’ test scores, he believes strongly that there is still a place for music and the arts in the schools. He appreciates that students make connections with their school community in different ways and excel in different areas. He looks beyond the state-mandated definition of education and toward the loftier goal of educating the whole student. He asks if the world were made up of all engineers, what kind of world would that be?

McRae surely is not an engineer. He comes across as a hands-on kind of guy who wants to get right in there and take a look under the hood of the school district. Right now, he doesn’t like all that he sees. His bid to run for school board started when he witnessed the debate over what he thinks is a moot point – honors classes at Gilroy High. A strong supporter of challenging students up to their ability, he couldn’t believe there was even a question of whether to offer the classes to 10th graders.

He doesn’t just pinpoint the problems; he finds ways to fix them. One such problem is the crumbling condition of several of Gilroy’s schools. McRae knows the ins and outs of the district’s maintenance department having worked as a maintenance employee for the district years ago. Having lived in Gilroy for 20 years, he has stood by watching the facilities deteriorate due to what he calls the district’s short-sighted, cost-saving mistakes. Now, he wants a say in how they are maintained. Gladly, he has done his homework – reading the district’s 10-year master plan – and done what he can to assure voters he is up to the task. He’s a candidate worthy of our vote.

Jesus Gonzalez

Jesus Gonzalez, 48 and self employed, is a rare candidate with three children in Gilroy public schools. His experience isn’t classic for someone seeking a trustee’s position. He doesn’t grasp the complexities of the district budget, for example, and he hasn’t been in Gilroy since Monterey Road served as U.S. 101. He’s an immigrant from Mexico who came here eight years ago to expand his computer sales business and learn more English. He saw the opportunities for his family and decided to stay.

His main platform is that he wants Hispanic students to have a fair shake in Gilroy’s schools, particularly those who primarily speak Spanish. He has a perspective that’s needed within GUSD. He wonders, for example, why the Gifted and Talented Education test given to some students in second grade can’t also be given in Spanish. Good question. There isn’t a good answer.

Gonzalez, if elected, will have to work harder than other trustees to become a knowledgeable board member. But we believe he has that capacity. His personality – though perhaps a bit stubborn on some issues – is not rigid. He is open to reason. Gonzalez has embraced the honors pilot program at Gilroy High though he had some initial concerns about access. And while the district-mandated changes in the bilingual education program at El Roble School initially caught him off guard, he has made an effort to understand the changes and evaluate those as any diligent parent would.

We believe he would add a voice to the Board that represents many district families. It’s our hope that he would help fill a void both in terms of that representation and also in communication with families who speak primarily Spanish.

On the strength of his potential, Gonzalez earns our endorsement.