Foster-Ruebusch, Woolf, Borgioli, Gerard join MHUSD board; Rossi elected to county board
Morgan Hill Times November 5, 2014
The teachers union flexed its political muscle Tuesday evening as three of its four endorsed candidates won seats on the Morgan Hill Unified School District’s Board of Education, and another knocked off an incumbent on Santa Clara County’s school board.
“I think that the voters of Area 7 rejected the attempt of big money to make a decision that should be left to the voters,” said Morgan Hill resident Claudia Rossi, who makes the leap from local district trustee into the county’s Area 7 seat by grabbing 56.55 percent of the votes.
Rossi defeated incumbent Julia Hover-Smoot—also a Morgan Hill resident who was a focal point of California Charter Schools Association Advocates’ unsolicited efforts to keep her in office. The CCSA Advocates spent close to $200,000 to support Hover-Smoot and four of the nine MHUSD candidates in the Nov. 4 election, according to election expenditure records.
Replacing Rossi and departing incumbents Don Moody and Shelle Thomas on the MHUSD board are retired teachers Ron Woolf (the lone incumbent in the field) and Donna Foster-Ruebusch, along with businessman Gino Borgioli and psychologist David Gerard.
“I think the voters said in a very loud, united voice that they will not be swayed by impersonal, slick, corporate-style outreach—and that they still prefer human contact,” Rossi added.
Hover-Smoot—also a former MHUSD Board President—said she even thought CCSA Advocates’ bountiful efforts were a bit of “overkill.”
“I think it backfired. I think they kind of just got carried away. It was too much,” said Hover-Smoot, whose face—along with four MHUSD candidates—was plastered on several different campaign mailers sent to homes by CCSA Advocates.
Locally, the CCSA Advocates endorsed four candidates (Borgioli, Armando Benavides, Janine Moreno and Brenda Cayme) and the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers endorsed four different candidates (Foster-Ruebusch, Woolf, Gerard and Stephen Klem). Meanwhile, MHUSD candidate Ann Horner remained independent without an endorsement from either camp.
Despite the outcome, Hover-Smoot—who received 10,895 of 25,075 total votes—was in good spirits Wednesday morning after the birth of her first granddaughter, Penelope, and her husband’s successful heart arrhythmia procedure.
“I tried to always put the students first and recognize the fact that we have many failing children out there who are being failed by the system so we have to do something about it,” said Hover-Smoot, an attorney who has sat on different school boards for the last 10 years. “The push to improve has gotten intense.”
The contest among the crowded pool for four expiring MHUSD seats was every bit intense as the county race with Foster-Ruebusch topping that poll by earning 16.53 percent of the votes ahead of Woolf in second-place with 13.24 percent. New board members will be sworn in Nov. 29 at the district office.
“It’s just humbling. It’s exciting. I’m very honored,” said Foster-Ruebusch, who worked in MHUSD for three decades and has lived in town for almost 40 years. “One of the best things about campaigning is I was able to see the community through different lenses and met so many interesting people and groups that I may not have been able to access.”
Borgioli, an active volunteer at Paradise Valley Elementary School and the only CCSA Advocates-endorsed candidate to win a MHUSD seat, finished closely behind Woolf. Borgioli’s campaign focused on making decisions based on parent input that benefits students and teachers in the classroom.
“I still believe the board has lost sight of what’s best for the kids,” said Borgioli, who was critical of top MHUSD staff during his campaign. “Although I did have some harsh words, I’m on there to work with them. I’m not on there to work against them.”
Borgioli will also get a chance to work with another new trustee in Gerard, who finished in fourth to grab the final spot. While endorsed by MHFT, Gerard described his campaign as more of a “coalition of the teachers union and charter school supporters.”
“I held them together. It was not easy, but I want to apply my skills as a psychologist and leadership consultant to bring a new elevated spirit of cooperation and collaboration to our board and to all of our stakeholders,” Gerard explained.
Gerard believes the new seven-member board—which includes existing trustees Bob Benevento, Rick Badillo and Amy Porter-Jensen—is “much more diverse” and has many issues to work on.
“To have problems is not a negative. It’s an opportunity. I have a sense of urgency to get things done quickly,” Gerard said. “I’m going to try to be a positive influence and I am going to be very outspoken. People want me to do that and that’s why I was elected.”
Just missing out on being elected were Horner, who placed fifth with 10.99 percent of the vote, and Klem, who fell short in his second attempt to grab a MHUSD board seat.
“It was a close race and in the end I did not win,” said Horner, who praised all four candidates who earned spots on the. “I must say I am sure my voice would have brought yet another way of making our district the best it can be, but people who know me, know that I will work on that in many ways no matter what.”
Benavides, a local attorney and at-risk youth advocate, was sixth in the race with 9.07 percent (1,972) of the votes followed by parents Moreno and Cayme. CCSA Advocates endorsed all three.
“The whole focus was to bring change to the school board and we have that. This board now has the opportunity to show the public that they are independent and can make decisions based on what’s best for kids,” said Benavides, who plans to remain involved and attend board meetings. “This is not a defeat.... I’m not going away.”