Rosso clear winner; rest of field tight

Dom Payne

In a quiet race for four seats, newcomer Dom Payne posted a
second-place finish behind pack leader Jaime Rosso and won a seat
on the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education.
The race is extremely tight.
In a quiet race for four seats, newcomer Dom Payne posted a second-place finish behind pack leader Jaime Rosso and won a seat on the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education.

The race is extremely tight.

City Clerk Shawna Freels said there were 3,200 outstanding mail-in ballots to be counted in the Gilroy area.

The final tally for mail-in ballots is expected to be completed by Monday.

Incumbent Denise Apuzzo is looking up at the field of five candidates running for four seats, but only 206 votes separate her from Tom Bundros, in fourth place, and only 216 separate her from Francisco Dominguez in third place. Dom Payne leads Apuzzo by 231 votes. Only incumbent Jaime Rosso, who leads the field with 5,096 votes, seems untouchable given the outstanding ballots.

The final tally for mail-in ballots is expected to be completed by Monday and is part of 153,000 ballots left to tally countywide.

“I wasn’t surprised or not surprised,” Apuzzo said about Wednesday’s results. “I didn’t campaign a lot. Right now I’m working full time and I just did not have the time. I’m a little disappointed, but honestly I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of change on the school board.”

Ironically, Apuzzo said she walked precincts for Governor-elect Jerry Brown, perhaps to her own detriment. “For me it was more important – I’m a union person – that Jerry Brown get elected,” she said.

With all 42 precincts counted Wednesday, Rosso lead the field with 5,096 votes; followed by Payne with 3,900; Dominguez with 3,885; Bundros with 3,875; and Apuzzo with 3,669.

Provisional ballots are still being counted with the top four vote-getters winning seats on the school district’s seven-member Board of Trustees.

Payne, the father of five children, has four in GUSD schools. The oldest is at Christopher High and others are at Brownell Middle School and Luigi Aprea Elementary School.

“I’m very happy,” Payne said Wednesday evening. “This is my first stab at political office … we worked it door-to-door. Primarily, I would just tell people a little bit about my background and, fundamentally, I’m very passionate about education and I think that came through.

“The way I look at governance and my involvement in governance is that it’s service first – service to the public.”

Payne, 37, is a Gavilan College instructor. He teaches English as a second language and computer science courses and, in the morning, he teaches a class at Gilroy’s Eliot Elementary School. The school which posted eye-popping gains in test scores the past two years.

Payne said he found “an undercurrent of wanting a change” in Gilroy while talking to residents.

He said he’s had a front-row seat at Eliot School and has admired the way Principal James Dent has led the school to new heights.

“It’s really exciting. I really enjoy his approach – mixing innovation with technology,” Payne said.

The five candidates agreed prior to the election that the district’s top priority should be increasing the academic achievement of each of Gilroy’s 11,000 public school students. They also revealed similar views on a proposed charter school, federal legislation mandating all children be academically proficient by 2014 and the gloomy state of California’s funding for education.

“There’s no justification for kids not moving up,” said Rosso, the top vote-getter and owner of local furniture stores in Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

Bundros said he hoped to see the district develop a “no-nonsense respect for education” and said the Board had developed a solid working relationship and mutual respect for each other.

“I think Gilroy has been blessed with an exceptional board,” Bundros said. “It’s been exhilarating working on this board.”

Meanwhile, Rosso, the father of three and husband of a GUSD teacher, brings more than eight years of experience as a trustee to the table. He said he looks forward to completion of many of the projects that have been started during his tenure.

“I’m excited about what I see on the horizon,” he said.

With a thinking-outside-the-box mentality, Bundros, the father of six grown children, pointed to how he was the one to introduce GUSD to some of the models for academic success now being implemented in classrooms.

“I’m a fanatic,” he said. “We expect kids to move. If we don’t see that, shame on us.”

For Dominguez, his openness to trying new approaches when the traditional way of doing things isn’t working – even if it involves a risk – is a major strength, he said.

Apuzzo looked back on the past four years calling it “an incredibly positive experience.”

She believes the hiring of Superintendent Debbie Flores was the highlight of the past four years along with giving Eliot School the staff and resources to accomplish lofty goals.

“That really paid off,” she said.

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