New face in race for GUSD board

New face in race for GUSD board

The four incumbents whose terms on the Gilroy Unified School
District Board of Education expire this November will be joined by
a newcomer in the race for their seats.
The four incumbents whose terms on the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education expire this November will be joined by a newcomer in the race for their seats.

Gavilan College instructor Dom Payne’s announcement he will run for school board has spiced up what would have been a rather quiet race if the four incumbents ran unopposed. He will join current school board members Denise Apuzzo, Tom Bundros, Francisco Dominguez and Jaime Rosso in the race for the four spots that open up this fall.

Though he’s new to politics, Payne said he sees it as an advantage, and he’s positioned to offer a fresh perspective. Currently an English, computer science and English as a second language instructor at Gavilan, Payne is a 37-year-old father of five – four of whom attend Gilroy public schools – attended Gavilan and graduated in 2008 from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“I’m not a politician, but I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time and I felt like the time was right,” he said.

Payne listed some of his top goals as achieving educational excellence with a focus on preparing students for college, addressing budgetary issues, ensuring the needs of students with disabilities are met and boosting vocational opportunities. By redeveloping the traditional vocational education programs into training programs for high tech industries, Payne said he believes the district could also capture more funding from the state and private grants.

The four incumbents said they hoped to secure another term to see some of their projects to fruition.

Increasing equity throughout the school district in terms of academic opportunities and facilities is one of Apuzzo’s top goals, she said.

“It was an issue for me when I first ran for school board,” said Apuzzo, who will complete her first term in November. “It’s still an issue.”

Rebuilding Rucker Elementary and renovating Rod Kelley Elementary and the Dr. T.J. Owens Gilroy Early College Academy are top facilities priorities, she said.

Increasing academic achievement and keeping a “tight rein” on utilizing money from Measure P – the $150 million facilities bond voters passed in Nov. 2008 – also topped Apuzzo’s list of goals.

“We have an unusual board,” she said. “We all have our different strengths. I’m outspoken. I think I have a pretty good pulse of what the community wants and I’m very committed to making sure all kids are served.”

Apuzzo said she would also like to see the gains Gilroy High School School has made continue as the youngest of Apuzzo’s four children is entering her senior year at the school.

Bundros, is always on the lookout for new ways to improve the district. Bundros introduced the school district to the educational model used by a charter school in Southern California, Sixth Street Prep, that has proven successful, he said. Eliot Elementary has begun to mirror the Sixth Street model.

“I want to continue to search for best practices because I know they’re out there,” Bundros said. “I think there’s a lot we can learn.”

Bundros said his top goals include increasing student achievement, enhancing fiscal accountability, recruiting and retaining qualified teachers and maintaining safe schools with equitable facilities.

If re-elected, Dominguez hopes to focus on identifying what works at successful schools and carrying those practices over to schools that are struggling, he said. During his tenure, the district pulled one of its schools – Eliot – out of Program Improvement, a designation given to schools that do not make federal academic growth targets. Dominguez wants to see the district’s six other Program Improvement schools follow suit.

He cited one of his strengths as having a familiarity with the board’s governing power and policy decisions. He wants to offer parents more academic choices for their children, including charter schools.

Rosso could not be reached as he was out of the country on vacation, but has listed increasing test scores and keeping school facilities up to date as priorities in the past. During his eight years on the board, Rosso has been a part of the district’s effort in the construction of Christopher High School and to reach 800 on the Academic Performance Index. Rosso served two full terms and ran as an incumbent when his last term expired in Nov. 2008, but was defeated. He was appointed to the school board this year to replace Javier Aguirre, who moved to San Jose.

The deadline for candidates to file papers was Friday.

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