Pace elected to lead local school board

New GUSD Board President James Pace, right, helps honor outgoing trustee Heather Bass, left, at a December board meeting. Supt. Deborah Flores is in the center. Credit: Scott Hinrichs

The New Year hasn’t yet offered any solutions to pending budget cuts in the Gilroy Unified School District, but new Board of Education President James Pace is ready to lead the governing body through difficult decisions, including whether to close an elementary school due to declining enrollment.

“The reality is we need to make these cuts,” said Pace. “We need to make those proactive cuts now. I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s something that needs to be done. We’ve got to keep this district on sound footing.”

Pace, a seventh-year trustee who served as vice president last school term, was voted board president by his colleagues at a Dec. 13 meeting.

“Serving as vice president last year got me a chance to be on top of issues moving forward,” said Pace, who welcomed three first-year trustees to the dais in December. “Biggest change to Gilroy Unified’s (school board) in at least six years. I’ve gotten a chance to get to know three new people, and they are all in it for the right reason: to help the kids of Gilroy.”

Pace, new board vice president Mark Good, Linda Piceno (re-elected in November) and BC Doyle are joined on the dais by newly elected Tuyen Fiack, Anisha Munshi and Enrique Diaz.

The declining enrollment report that recently hit Gilroy despite a slew of new housing developments in the city also resulted in a shift of millions in bond dollars from constructing a new elementary school to modernizing its aging middle school campuses at Brownell and South Valley.

“Brownell is well underway. We will be starting to sign contracts in upcoming meetings and then start tackling South Valley when we’re ready for that,”  said Pace. “The (Brownell) gymnasium and multipurpose room will remain, and then we’re building all new classrooms and offices. It will be a nice-looking school right there on First Street.”

Pace is the parent of two children who he said have inspired his participation in the district. His daughter Sloane (Gilroy High Class of 2018), attends UC-Berkeley, and his son Ethan is a sophomore at GHS.

“They are the reason I first started with parent club at their elementary school, and that eventually evolved until I was on school board,” said Pace, who interacts with Gilroy students so he can gain perspective and “understand what’s going on in the district and on campus.”

Pace holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and electrical engineering from the UC-Davis. The new board president works in real estate development with his father and brother in his hometown of Morgan Hill.

“The Bay Area has become unaffordable for families in many ways,” Pace said. “Gilroy used to be the place in Santa Clara County where families could buy a home for $100,000 less and it was affordable. Now they are doing the same thing a little further down the road in Hollister.”