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February 9, 2023

Meet the candidates: MHUSD Trustee Area 3

Three hopefuls on Nov. 8 ballot

There is no incumbent in the Nov. 8 election for the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Education Trustee Area 3 representative. 

The Trustee Area’s current trustee, Heather Orosco, is not running for re-election after serving one term. She was elected to the board seat in 2018. 

On the Nov. 8 ballot to take Orosco’s place are local attorney Armando Benavides, business owner Dennis Delisle and educator Terri Eves Knudsen. 

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters’ Office began sending out ballots by mail to all registered voters on Oct. 10. Voters can fill out their ballots at home and return them to election officials by one of multiple methods, or vote in-person at the registrar’s office in San Jose any day through Nov. 8

The Times sent each candidate a series of questions about their candidacy for the MHUSD board of education. Their answers are below. 

Armando Benavides

Armando Benavides is a local attorney who has lived in Morgan Hill for 23 years, where he and his wife raised their children. 

Armando Benavides

His professional experience includes more than 30 years “advising and representing clients in legal matters and providing counseling services” as a marriage and family counselor, he said in response to questions from the Times. He is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. 

Why are you running for a seat on the MHUSD Board of Education?

I am running because I believe the current Trustees and Dr. Carmen Garcia, the Superintendent, are moving the district in the right direction, and I want to continue their post-pandemic accomplishments. My legal and counseling professional experience makes me uniquely prepared to serve as trustee. I want to use my special expertise to serve our students, families and all district staff. I want to be part of the governance team that develops and approves the policies and strategies that will ensure that all students obtain a high-quality education and that we wisely spend our limited educational tax dollars.     

What are some of your ideas for improving school safety and eliminating bullying and student violence in the schools? 

As to the strategies to prevent bullying and school violence, it is important to recognize the detrimental effects of bullying. Studies show that bullying negatively impacts learning and threatens the physical and emotional safety of students. We must foster a school climate that instills respect, tolerance and inclusivity for all students. I will make sure that we provide all school staff professional development to help them identify patterns of bullying and violent behaviors and preventative strategies. I believe it is important that schools include the topic of bullying and prevention in lessons and activities and utilize anti bullying programs districtwide.

What do you think are the top two to three issues for MHUSD, and how would you address these as a Trustee? 

A top issue facing MHUSD is closing the pandemic learning gaps and the achievement gap across subgroups. I support hiring more counselors and community liaisons to provide wrap around services to students and families. In the classroom, I support accelerated learning that targets and identifies learning gaps, and implements strategies that keep students at grade level, such as digital learning platforms that track and adjust curriculum for each student.  

Another issue is increasing the high schools’ graduation rates, including Central High School.  We must motivate and provide wrap around services for high-risk students to ensure they graduate. That is my priority.

Dennis Delisle

Dennis Delisle still owns the same business he founded in high school, 56 years ago, he told the Times. He is currently the founder and “major shareholder” of seven other companies. Delisle has also written two books, including “Get it together, Together;” and he is a guest motivational speaker. 

Dennis Delisle

Delisle has lived in Morgan Hill for 46 years. He and his late wife, Sharon, of 56 years, have two adult children who graduated from Live Oak High School. 

He has served on the Santa Clara County Advisory Board, graduated from Leadership Morgan Hill and served as a deacon in his local church, Delisle added. 

Why are you running for a seat on the MHUSD Board of Education?

I believe my experience will be beneficial in moving our district to higher school academic ratings by stressing more on basics—reading, writing, math, engineering and problem solving. We need to better incorporate the technology available today to advance these scores. We should pay attention to the AT&T of teacher/student/Parent relationships—Accountability, Transparency and Trust. When any of these three are broken, the partnership suffers, which means the kids suffer.  

What are some of your ideas for improving school safety and eliminating bullying and student violence in the schools?

Use more qualified Self-Regulatory Organization volunteers approved by the board to give adult presence before and after school. 

What do you think are the top two to three issues for MHUSD, and how would you address these as a Trustee?

Children get first consideration on improving knowledge and gaining a safer environment for learning. Better relationship with teacher/parents. This is a partnership based on trust through transparency. Any partnership is advanced by mutual trust which benefits our children. 

Terri Eves Knudsen

Terri Eves Knudsen has 25 years’ experience “as a parent, volunteer and employee of the school district,” she said in response to the Times’ questionnaire. This includes volunteering and raising money for home and school clubs, approving plans and budgets for site councils and experience as a teacher librarian for Britton Middle School as well as Live Oak and Sobrato High Schools. 

Terri Eves Knudsen

She has also served as Treasurer for the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers, she added. 

Why are you running for a seat on the MHUSD Board of Education?

I am running for the Morgan Hill School Board, Area 3, because I’m passionate about helping ALL students succeed. I worked with hundreds of students and understand they come with various backgrounds and needs. I will always put students first. As Trustee, I will set policies to address the ongoing challenges of school climate and safety, student engagement and equity/access to a rigorous academic program. I will communicate with stakeholders before decisions are made. We need to provide additional academic and social emotional support to our students as we recover from the pandemic.

What are some of your ideas for improving school safety and eliminating bullying and student violence in the schools?

It is critical that our schools create and maintain a safe environment free from bullying. Our district is implementing PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). This is a proven system of strategies to support positive behavior. We need to ensure all staff are trained, utilizing the program, and collect data to evaluate its effectiveness. Our school resource officers provide a positive role model for our students and assist our schools in maintaining a safe environment. We need to educate our students on digital citizenship, internet safety, media literacy, and actively address cyberbullying

What do you think are the top two to three issues for MHUSD, and how would you address these as a Trustee?

As a board Trustee, my first priority will be to attract and retain high quality teachers (address the critical shortage of teachers and substitutes). We need to examine our current salary schedule and working environments to become more competitive with other school districts. There are plans to provide additional student support (before and after school programs, counselors, academic and social emotional support). I agree we should move forward with these programs and ensure they are sustainable. Communication and transparency with parents, teachers, school staff, and community members is always important as we implement any changes.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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