Appointment likely in election-day twist

Appointment likely in election-day twist

A seemingly ordinary election for the Santa Clara County Board
of Education is making things interesting for the Morgan Hill
Unified School District board of trustees.
A seemingly ordinary election for the Santa Clara County Board of Education is making things interesting for the Morgan Hill Unified School District board of trustees.

The turn of events occurred when MHUSD Trustee Julia Hover-Smoot won the county race to represent Area 7 after bowing out to throw her support behind opponent Adam Escoto. But, voters decided Hover-Smoot should win and she accepted the position. Her resignation as MHUSD trustee has left a seat wide open for the newly-elected school board to consider.

“It’s an unusual circumstance, since we just had an election,” said Peter Mandel, MHUSD board vice president.

The new school board will have the responsibility of determining a process for filling the vacancy.

“We know who’s interested and done the work. But, I have no idea how the new board will react to any of that,” Mandel said.

Hover-Smoot’s announcement came just as four candidates were finalized by the county Registrar of Voters as the winners of the Nov. 2 MHUSD board election: Ron Woolf, Claudia Rossi, Shelle Thomas and Don Moody. Those four, who will each serve four-year terms, along with Mandel and sitting member Kathy Sullivan, will determine the process for choosing the seventh trustee, who could be one of five people who ran and lost in the election.

According to the California Education Code, filling a vacancy can be done through a special election, appointment or provisional appointment, which is eligible for a petition after a period of time. In the past, the board has opened eligibility to any person interested, asked for statements and then interviewed candidates before appointing someone. It will, however, be up to the new board, whose first meeting is Dec. 14, to discuss the options.

The next closest vote-getter is current board President Bart Fisher – first elected in 2006 – who is about 2,000 votes behind fourth-place Moody. Fisher did not return phone calls by press time. Since the vacancy comes very near to the election, the board has the option to appoint the person who garnered the next highest number of votes, or Fisher.

Mandel said he would recommend an appointment and not a special election because it’s costly.

“It’s open to the board and there are a number of variations. We just came off of an election so we’ll take some guidance from that,” he said.

Thomas, who was re-elected for the third time, said she hopes the board doesn’t appoint someone without conducting open interviews.

“It’s important with the new board there’s some sense of compatibility in working with someone, and really important the public be involved and have opportunity to come forward,” Thomas said.

Just beyond Fisher’s tally count was Charter School mother Kirsten Francis Carr; then Bob Benevento, who withdrew campaigning after a family emergency earlier this fall; attorney and father Armando Benavides; and Paradise Valley mother Brenda Cayme.

Carr, Benevento and Cayme are considering a pursuit of the seat they were vying for up until Nov. 2. Benavides, 55, has not answered requests for an interview.

Benevento has earlier said that he has thought about the open position, but has not made any decision about whether to participate in the process. Benevento currently serves on the MHUSD personnel commission and will continue his duties, he said, even if he chooses not to run for the seat. Carr said if the board opens interviews for an appointment, she will apply.

The four elected were the same four endorsed by the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers.

Cayme, 45, finished in last place in the election with 4.6 percent of the vote. She is a registered nurse who currently works as a senior clinical manager at a pharmaceutical company.

Cayme is still mulling over whether to try again for the school board seat.

“I’m still going to be involved whether I’m sitting on the board or not sitting on the board,” Cayme said.

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