James Pace is running for a second four-year term on the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Trustees.
The father of two GUSD students, a high schooler and a middle schooler, his involvement in education began at the parent club level and as a volunteer at his children’s schools and has continued, he said, as way to give back to the community.
Pace is one of three candidates actively seeking three seats on the seven-member board that makes policy for the city’s largest employer.
A fourth, Paul Nadeau, withdrew from the contest but his name is on the ballot.
Nadeau has said he will resign if he is one of the top three vote getters. If that happens, the board will appoint an interim member who may run for election in 2018. It does not have to be the fourth-place finisher.
The election comes at a time when trustees are poised to begin $170 million in Measure E building projects, are struggling with somewhat improved but still lackluster test scores and are battling a lawsuit over the district’s decision in 2014 to not fire a teacher now accused of sexual misconduct that targeted students.
Pace’s profile and that of incumbent candidate Mark Good are in today’s edition. Candidate BC Doyle’s profile was published last week.
Each candidate was asked to respond to three questions. Each was given a 700-word limit but could submit less.
Pace, 44, supported Measure E and is director of future planning for a Morgan Hill real estate development firm.
His high school daughter is a student representative to the school board.
Asked why he is running, he said, “The district has been very good to my children, they have had great opportunities and experiences and it has been very rewarding for them.”
Being on the board, he said, “is a chance to give back and to keep the good things happening and [the district] going forward.”
Here are the questions posed to each candidate and Pace’s responses:
DISPATCH: What are some of your specific goals if elected and how would you achieve them? Please briefly discuss your three top priority goals.
PACE: The number one goal of the District is to increase academic performance, including closing the achievement gap. We need to continue to implement programs proven to build strong academic foundations in students, such as SEAL. In addition, our academic standards are much more rigorous now, so we must ensure that we provide support to ensure student success. I will keep pushing the district forward.
It is critical that we keep our fiscal house in order. We are funded seemingly at the whim of the state, and good economic times can change quickly. If Proposition 55 fails or another recession hits, there could be significant cuts to our budget. Since I joined the board, we set a policy to increase rainy day reserves, and we have built that reserve, while simultaneously making our employee packages more competitive, with a balanced budget. I will continue this economic stewardship.
Thanks to the people of Gilroy’s commitment to education, Measure E was approved this year. This gives the district the resources necessary to build a new elementary school, renovate South Valley and Brownell Middle Schools, as well as complete other necessary projects throughout the district. If Proposition 51 passes, our local funds will go much further. As a member of the district’s facilities subcommittee, I will work to ensure projects are designed within budget and happen on time.
While some are at or near state averages and others show some improvement, in almost all categories Gilroy’s state test scores are below minimum state standards. This was true in recent and past rounds of tests. What will you do to improve test scores?
I reject the assertion that the district’s scores are “below minimum state standards.” Our CAASPP scores are at or above the statewide average, and we compare favorably to county averages in a number of significant subgroups. And Gilroy’s scores are growing.
Of course, I want our scores to increase more. The district is devoting significant resources to ensuring that students are familiar with the online test format and are able to process the new types of questions, and I support adding needed training and technology for this. A reworking of the math curriculum has happened, a shift to next-generation science standards is coming soon, and a plan for replacing textbooks is being implemented; all these changes and more should cause test scores to continue to climb.
However, one test should not be the single measure of the quality of our schools. By many metrics, our district is doing well. The graduation rate is up; the dropout rate is down. Advanced Placement options have doubled in recent years. Meeting University of California entrance requirements is now the default for students. Opportunities abound to be parts of specialized programs, such as the Bioscience Academy, the Spanish/English Dual Immersion program, FFA, gifted and talented programs, and GECA, our highly ranked high school on the Gavilan College campus. The community service requirement is producing young people who understand the value in giving back. There are many career technical education offerings, teaching skills such as metalworking, computer programming, biotechnology, auto maintenance, and culinary arts. We have music options at all levels, including choir from fourth grade up and band from fifth grade up. Students shine in the wonderful theater and visual arts programs. A wide variety of sports and athletic options are available. District programs focused on school climate are creating welcoming environments where students can comfortably be themselves without fear. Teachers and staff are dedicated professionals. Our campuses are safe, secure, and well maintained.
I am very proud to be a parent of two Gilroy Unified students, and glad for all the opportunities my children have had. Their experiences have been much more than the score on one test.
Gilroy’s public charter school, Gilroy Prep, has consistently been one of the highest scoring schools in the state in key categories and grades tested. Should GP’s methods be mandatory in all GUSD elementary schools and why or why not?
GPS has done well on state standardized tests, and their team has been generous with sharing their successful strategies. The district has made regular visits to see their program in action, and one school has a strong working relationship with GPS, where good ideas are passed back and forth. I think this partnership between the district and GPS is valuable, and I hope it continues. Some of their practices are not appropriate or possible at Gilroy Unified schools, for a variety of reasons, including funding, differences in the law, and staffing-related issues.