After a tumultuous stretch for Morgan Hill Unified School District’s governing body, five prospective new trustees—barring any shifts to the Nov. 6 election results with ballots still being counted—say they are eager to return civility to the dais.
First-time candidates Vanessa Sutter, Wendy Sullivan, John Horner and Carol Gittens all remained frontrunners in their respective trustee area seats as of Nov. 13, while newcomer Heather Orosco ran unopposed in the fifth seat and did not appear on the ballot.
“I think we need to reset the tone of the board and work collaboratively with (all the different groups of) people in our community,” Sutter said. “We need to put kids first. I think that got lost.”
The newest trustees will join Board President Mary Patterson and Vice President Teresa Murillo, who are both halfway through their first four-year terms. The current board’s last meeting was Nov. 13. The five new trustees will be sworn in at the Dec. 4 meeting, if the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters is able to identify clear winners of the Nov. 6 elections by then. The county election office has a deadline of Dec. 12 to certify the official results of the election.
“Over the course of campaigning and meeting the other candidates, (I’ve learned) they’re all thoughtful, well-meaning people,” Horner said. “Personally, I’m very serious about issues but not about myself. … If we can all bring a sense of humility and humor about ourselves and focus on issues, it will be fine.”
Sutter, a 43-year-old mother of four and a student services adviser, was nearly left off the ballot after failing to file by the candidate deadline this summer. However, she won an appeal, which was based on being given inaccurate information about that deadline by staff at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
“It would have been easier to give up and say these are insurmountable challenges,” said Sutter. “If you truly want to do it in best interest of kids, you should fight it.”
As a result, Sutter took a little more than 60 percent of the vote to land well ahead of Angelica Diaz, who ran for a seat on the MHUSD school board for a second time. This is a two-year term serving the Trustee Area 5 district after former trustee Tom Arnett resigned from the board earlier this year. The other four seats are four-year terms.
In the closest school board race, Horner, 57, Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce president, maintains a 16-vote edge over 47-year-old executive Tara Bevington in Trustee Area 2. Horner has 1,208 votes for 37.77 percent of the counted votes, while Bevington has 1,192 votes for 37.27 percent, according to the Registrar of Voters’ unofficial results. This was a four-candidate race with Enrique Navarro-Donnellan, the youngest candidate at age 24, earning nearly 14 percent and Realtor James Dill taking 11 percent.
“My mission is to bring the whole community together,” said Horner, who hopes to strengthen relationships with the city, county, community college and businesses “to give students what they need and attract parents to send their kids to public schools.”
In another tight race, 45-year-old Wendy Sullivan—a mother of three and longtime school site volunteer—has earned slightly more than 38 percent of the counted votes and remains ahead of 59-year-old Peter Mandel (35.58 percent), a former MHUSD trustee looking to return to the board after a more than six-year hiatus. They are separated by 105 votes as of Nov. 13. The other candidate in Trustee Area 1 is 39-year-old Emma Nunez, who received about 26 percent of the tallied votes.
Santa Clara University Prof. Carol Gittens, 49, is a runaway victor in Trustee Area 4, where she earned more than 53 percent of votes ahead of opponents Jill Provencal (34 percent) and Robert Guynn (12 percent). Gittens also expects a “collegial, working relationship” among the seven trustees.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to make sure the community believes in us,” Gittens said. “When they think about the board at Morgan Hill Unified, I want them to say, ‘Here are a group of people trying to make a difference.’”
Rossi holds big lead over Borgioli for county schools seat
In a contentious battle between two Morgan Hill residents, Santa Clara County Board of Education incumbent Claudia Rossi holds a more than 9,000-vote lead over first-time challenger Gino Borgioli for the Trustee Area 7 seat, according to the Registrar of Voters’ unofficial results.
As of Nov 13, Rossi, a registered nurse and mother of two, won 57 percent of the votes (39,433) ahead of retired business consultant Borgioli (43 percent/29,714 votes), and is on her way to a second four-year term on the county board.
Rossi previously served on the MHUSD board from 2010 to 2014. Borgioli is finishing out his final days of a four-year term on the same local board, where he was elected in 2014.
Rossi took aim at Borgioli at an Oct. 8 candidate’s forum held at Ann Sobrato High School, accusing him of having knowledge of a 2015 email scandal involving another MHUSD trustee, David Gerard, and also taking part in a recall movement against former MHUSD board president Bob Benevento. She also shared that Borgioli voted against helping former board colleague Amy Porter in her legal battle to get a restraining order against one-time recall leader Robert Guynn. That case was later dismissed, and Guynn was never charged in relation to Jensen’s harassment claim.
At that forum, Borgioli denied both claims made by Rossi. However, he did admit to being cc’d on the insulting emails sent by Gerard to Guynn.
Morgan Hill Unified School District
Board of Education
Trustee Area 5 (short 2-year term)
Vanessa Sutter 1,762/60.20%
Angelica Diaz 1,165/39.80%
Trustee Area 1
Wendy Sullivan 1,390/38.48%
Peter Mandel 1,285/35.58%
Emma Nunez 937/25.94%
Trustee Area 2
John Horner 1,208/37.77%
Tara Bevington 1,192/37.27%
Enrique Navarro-Donnellan 446/13.95%
James Dill 352/11.01%
Trustee Area 4
Carol Gittens 1,498/53.10%
Jill Provencal 980/34.74%
Robert Guynn 343/12.16%
Santa Clara County Board of Education
Trustee Area 7
Claudia Rossi 39,433/57.03%
Gino Borgioli 29,714/42.97%