Published in the November 23- December 6, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Steve Betando

Superintendent Steve Betando

The Morgan Hill Unified School District’s board of trustees will see a shift in its leadership when three members are sworn in at the Dec. 13 meeting. Trustee Bob Benevento will leave after deciding not to run for re-election. He will be replaced in his trustee area district by Teresa Murrillo who ran unopposed. Trustee Rick Badillo’s area seat will be filled by new board member Mary Patterson after he lost in the general election. Current Trustee Tom Arnett, who won re-election, will also be sworn in.

Our local public schools have seen significant progress in academic performance during the past several years, and we encourage the new board to leave behind all the contentiousness from the old board and work together in a spirit of civility. Many in our community have expressed that they are impressed with the progress in our local schools. Much of our students’ success comes thanks to the innovative leadership of Superintendent Steve Betando and his staff.

In Betando’s administration, MHUSD has developed four focus academies to develop exciting innovation in learning — P.A. Walsh STEAM Academy, Jackson Academy of Math and Music, San Martin/Gwinn Environmental Science Academy and the newly formed Paradise Valley Engineering Academy.

El Toro Elementary School is working also on transforming into a heath sciences-focused academy in the 2017-2018 school year. Martin Murphy Middle School is a California Gold Ribbon School and its students are enjoying an innovative computer program curriculum using robots and drones to teach logic and math skills. Britton Middle School became this year a 2016-2019 Tech Academy of Innovation, benefiting from an arm of the Silicon Valley’s Tech Museum of Innovation that provides a partnership with schools in under-served communities to build model programs for teaching STEM. Sobrato High School is a California Gold Ribbon Award School as well as a 2016 U.S. News and World Report Silver Rank School, considered one of the best high schools in America.

Britton Middle School concept drawing. Illustration courtesy MHUSD

Britton Middle School concept drawing.
Illustration courtesy MHUSD

Funds from the Measure G $198-million bond have improved information technology and infrastructure in our schools during the past three years, including construction of the Charter School of Morgan Hill campus’s new multi-purpose room, Central High School’s campus, and the upcoming $50-million construction project at Britton that will consist of several new buildings that will help tie the campus with the downtown district.

Betando and his staff have also been busy building bridges with Morgan Hill’s business community. Among the exciting projects they are now developing are Career Training Education opportunities for students.

They have also started discussions with newly-appointed Gavilan Community College President Kathleen Rose on how to better encourage MHUSD graduates to seek out the next stages of education opportunities at the local community college.

We wish to remind the trustees about the parameters of their authority. According to the MHUSD’s website, the elected trustees’s “main responsibility is to represent the wishes of the community and to exercise lay control of the educational goals and direction.” The board is responsible for the following endeavors: 1) developing and evaluating the philosophy and goals of the district, 2) adopting an annual budget and establishing fiscal priorities in conformance with the district’s priorities and goals, 3) determining the scope of the educational program, 4) adopting policies for the general operation of the district which are consistent with state laws and district goals, and 5) considering staff recommendations and community opinion in the development of policies.

Overall, Betando, the administration staff, principals and teachers have done well in ensuring the schools have made steady progress toward improving the quality of education provided to local students. We encourage the board members to stay the course and provide district leadership with the support needed for them to continue raising the level of success in our public schools.

We also hope they remember the quality of our public education impacts the quality of life in our community. Of the various local amenities that can influence a buyer’s decision to purchase housing in a neighborhood, a home’s proximity to good quality schools is among the most influential, according to a 2015 National Association of Realtors profile of home buyers and sellers. The study found that 29 percent of home buyers say school quality and 22 percent say proximity to schools are deciding factors in their purchase. The quality of schools also is a factor in businesses deciding whether or not to move to a community.

Since his appointment as MHUSD superintendent in January 2014, Betando has built strong relationships between the public schools and community members and local businesses to help enhance the academic experience for our students. His extensive knowledge and experience in curriculum, finance, transportation, food services, maintenance and facilities, and human resources make him well qualified to lead MHUSD.

We encourage a new spirit of cooperation and civility between the trustees to work effectively with Betando and his staff for the greatest benefit of Morgan Hill’s young people.