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Election news: Arnett beats Torrisi for temporary seat on fractured school board

Vows to collaborate with other board members

Published in the June 22 – July 5, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Tom Arnett

Tom Arnett

Candidate Tom Arnett won the interim seat on the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Trustees with 7,350 votes to opponent Pamela Torrisi’s 6,169 in this month’s primary election. The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters website showed that 96 percent of the ballots were counted as of June 16.

“I am honored and humbled by the trust that the community has placed in me by granting me this opportunity to serve as a trustee,” Arnett said. “I believe I have a valuable perspective to bring to the board for helping ensure that all our students receive an excellent, 21st century education.”

One of Arnett’s campaign promises was to work to “restore a spirit of trust and collaboration” on the board and he said that now that the election is over, he will work to accomplish this goal. The MHUSD board during the past year and a half has divided into two often contentious factions, with Board President Bob Benevento and trustees Donna Ruebush and Ron Woolf on one side and trustees David Gerard, Gino Borgioli and Rick Badillo on the other.

“The first thing I can do is to make sure that I’m living up to those ideals myself by working to build respectful and trusting relationships with the other trustees, the district leadership, and the members of the district community.”

The election results will be certified July 7. The next school board meeting after that date is Aug. 4 when Arnett can be sworn in. (Editor’s note: the print version of this article had the incorrect date of the school board meeting. The July 21 meeting was cancelled.)

The special election was called because a seat on the board was opened when trustee Amy Porter Jensen left the board in October due to the hostile environment at meetings and harassing emails and phone calls she received from a member of a parents activist group intent on a recall of Board President Bob Benevento.

The board split 3-3 in December on finding a new trustee, forcing the district into June 7 election between Torrisi and Arnett.

Torrisi said she was disappointed in the outcome of the election but hopes with Arnett’s joining the board it will become a “cohesive group again” and see an end to the incivility among its trustees.

“As a parent, grandparent and surrogate parent to many former students, I look forward to seeing Mr. Arnett doing what is best for our students while fulfilling his comments of no prior alliances or commitments,” she said.

Asked whether or not she might run in the November (general election), Torrisi said that it “is a ways away and I will make a decision at a later date.”