School board election: Meet Cayme, Cheek, Klem and Porter Jensen - Morgan Hill Times: Education

School board election: Meet Cayme, Cheek, Klem and Porter Jensen

Six vie for three seats on the Morgan Hill Unified School Board

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Posted: Friday, August 17, 2012 6:21 am

Six candidates will contend for three seats on the Morgan Hill Unified school board after the official close of the filing period Wednesday. 

Early on, two candidates made their intent publicly known: Rick Badillo, a Jackson Academy parent and construction business owner, and Bob Benevento, the only incumbent. As the days wore on, Steve Klem, the father of an MHUSD teacher, joined in, along with author and MHAT volunteer Marty Cheek, former candidate and a mother of two students Brenda Cayme and Amy Porter Jensen, a Live Oak graduate and parent of a LOHS student. 

Eight-year veteran trustees Peter Mandel and Kathy Sullivan are hanging up their school board hats after two terms on the dais. The top three candidates with the most votes on Nov. 6 will win seats on the seven-member board of trustees. 

With the pool of candidates ready, let the campaigning begin. 

Brenda Cayme jumped into a familiar situation once she declared her candidacy. Though she lost in the last try in 2010 to Claudia Rossi and sitting board President Ron Woolf, Cayme said the lack of improvement since then is her motivation this time. 

“The scores have actually gone down, and there are more schools under PI,” Cayme, 47, said, referring to the government’s label of Program Improvement when students don’t meet requirements on state tests. “I wanted to really focus on basics: Tutoring and doing homework,” she said. 

Cayme’s two children attend Paradise Elementary, which has in recent years consistently had the highest state test scores in the district. She says the 2-year-old tutoring and Saturday homework programs have absolutely been a part of its success. 

“Let’s look at what has worked at the schools that are performing well and use that to help the other schools. Sure every school and its students are slightly different, but have we tried what has worked at other schools?” Cayme said. 

Cayme, a clinical associate director at a medical device company, said getting parents involved - which is what occurred at Paradise Valley with their homework club - is a simple way to start improving things. 

“If at the least kids can get their homework done, they can have time to do other things and spend more quality time, family time,” she said. 

With two young children progressing through MHUSD and with many more years ahead for Cayme and her husband Roberto Aguirre, “I have a direct, vested interest in the school system and it’s not short term,” she said. She and Aguirre belong to the community organization Padres Unidos that aims to ensure all children receive an equal education. 

After Marty Cheek read that Sullivan and Mandel decided to not return, it was time to set aside his qualms about running for public office and step it up. 

For years people had been telling Cheek to run for city council or the MHUSD board, Cheek, 45, said. But he would humor them and say “’For the good of humanity, and, more importantly, for the sake of my sanity, I’ll never run for public office.’”

“But I believe educating young people, educating young American citizens who will be the leaders of our future, is a vitally important obligation and responsibility for a democratic society,” he said. 

Cheek said it was time to put his money where his mouth is, so to speak. 

As a columnist for the Morgan Hill Times, author and MHAT volunteer, Cheek said it took some soul searching before making the decision. With that in mind, Cheek has already organized a campaign theme of “student excellence.”

The district’s core goal, among others, is “student achievement” - which as Cheek described is a “weak and blasé” goal, lacking dynamism. 

“I believe that giving young people a challenge to excel - excel not just in academics and test-taking but also in personal growth areas ... I also want to give the teachers and staff in the schools an environment and the community support to empower them to excel,” he said. 

Cheek says his goals also include engaging all district parents to partner with teachers and principals in helping their children achieve excellence as students.

Klem, 63, says he’s proficient at running things and organizing based on past experience with his involvement at Martin Murphy Middle School and as a salesman for the last 30 years for Slakey Brothers, a wholesale heating and air conditioning company. 

“I’ve always wanted to help. I’ve done a lot of things for the schools because of my kids. Now I have grandkids coming up through the schools. Within the next few years, I’m going to retire. If I could get on the board now, then I can put even more time into it,” Klem said. 

His children are in their 30s now, one is a teacher at Barrett Elementary School and another works at Apple and is married to Gavilan College board member Jonathan Brusco, who actually encouraged his father-in-law to try his hand at school district governance. 

Klem said his philosophy is generating money instead of complaining about the lack of it coming in - though he said this without pointing fingers at MHUSD - “Everyone has money issues. Rather than worry about the money issues, we need to figure out how to get money, instead of sit and talk about it. I’m one of those that says OK this is how we do it.”

As a born-and-bred Bay Area man, Klem said his premise - lacking any political fervor - is that he wants to see MHUSD do the best it can. He used his experience of becoming the board president of a swim club in south San Jose in how he’s able to bring people together and encourage parent involvement. The club grew from 50 children to 160 with a waiting list of 50 more, he said; Klem organized family outings and trips, and parents were pleased to buy into the program. He would treat his time on the school board the same way, if voters decide it so. 

“It was so successful. People wanted to get in there. They wanted to invest in their children,” Klem said. 

For Amy Porter Jensen, an agriculture planner by day at Sakata Seeds in Morgan Hill, her ambition to become a public servant is pretty simple as well: Every child is entitled to an equal education. 

Porter Jensen, 33, was born and raised in Morgan Hill. She graduated from Live Oak High School and has come full circle as the parent of a daughter who will enter as a sophomore at LOHS.

“I’m passionate about public education and our district and I’d like to see things go a certain way,” Porter Jensen said. She’s mum on specifics at this juncture in the election, but said she will open up as it goes along. 

“It’s important that all kids get a proper education and the education they deserve and that the teachers are supported,” she said. 

Porter Jensen is married and the couple and their daughter would only live in Morgan Hill, she said. Porter Jensen has no election experience to speak of, but does volunteer with the Gilroy Armory to help feed the needy, as well as volunteering in the search for Sierra LaMar and supporting the community and teens during the tragic murder of Tara Romero last year. 

“I stay as involved as I can with the kids,” she said. “I want to see the community become more involved in their children’s education.”

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  • thermopylae posted at 6:32 am on Thu, Aug 23, 2012.

    thermopylae Posts: 41


    People who live in the gutter spend their lives trying to pull everyone else into it. Yes, misery loves company but it is also a well known tactic of the liberals so that they can then be the saviors..through words rather than deeds.

    The programming of these people is part of their DNA. It will not change regardless of facts or acts of God. It is what it is.

    The school board is programmed to repeat past failures. Since you cannot change their DNA you have to change the host.. I think Commonsense5 has got it right.

    Start from scratch to save the schools.

  • William Yancey posted at 11:20 am on Wed, Aug 22, 2012.

    William Yancey Posts: 8

    "Cordoba (Al Qurtuba), the capital city under the Moorish rule in Spain, also known as the “European Jewel of the Middle Ages,” was the cradle of Islamic civilization in the west for nearly nine centuries. During the Moorish centuries Cordoba has been recorded in history as the greatest intellectual and cultural center of Europe in an era that is otherwise related to as the “dark ages” of the medieval Europe."

    "Located in the San Martin township on over 16 acres of beautiful countryside bordered by a lake, a creek, open farmlands and coastal hills of south Santa Clara county, this facility offers a remarkable balance of quiet, rural seclusion with immediate access to all amenities of urban living."

    "A Funeral Facility will provide bathing, shrouding and burial preparations for the deceased in accordance with Islamic law and traditions."

    I don't think so!

    This project must be DENIED a permit to build.

  • fredoliveri posted at 9:27 am on Wed, Aug 22, 2012.

    fredoliveri Posts: 285

    Thermolpylae, you are correct. Thanks for the good advice.

  • thermopylae posted at 6:21 am on Wed, Aug 22, 2012.

    thermopylae Posts: 41

    @ Fred

    Every time you respond to him you only encourage him and himselves (however many that may be). If you ignore him he will eventually go to another venue for attention.

    It is all about attention and getting a rise out of people.

  • fredoliveri posted at 8:19 am on Mon, Aug 20, 2012.

    fredoliveri Posts: 285

    Other posters know you live under a rock and are a low life for the posts toward others.You are one sick puppy. Keep it up, low life coward.

  • fredoliveri posted at 11:04 pm on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    fredoliveri Posts: 285

    Only toward you. You can bet I will be reporting the horrible statements you vile scumbag. I will find you and we can have a serious discussion.

  • fredoliveri posted at 8:35 pm on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    fredoliveri Posts: 285

    yancey, welcome back. How was rehab. Got some bad stuff again?

  • williarnyancey posted at 5:48 pm on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    williarnyancey Posts: 2

    Wow, I go on vacation for a week, and fredoliveri is seeing my ghost everywhere. fred, seriously, this is worrisome.

  • fredoilveri posted at 5:29 pm on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    fredoilveri Posts: 53

    Commonsense5, hard to to agree. The idiot posing as me will continue to cheerlead anyone who posts some unhinged raving. The schoolboard are socialist? Sounds like the sort of hysteria the fake fredoilveri would agree with.he thinks he is an expert. Mainly he is just stupid. The idiot was the former williamyancey just out of rehab.

  • fredoliveri posted at 5:02 pm on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    fredoliveri Posts: 285

    Commonsense5, hard to to disagree. The idiot posing as me will continue to belittle any cogent thought as he thinks he is an expert. Mainly he is just stupid. The idiot was the former williamyancey just out of rehab.

  • fredoilveri posted at 11:57 am on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    fredoilveri Posts: 53

    Spoken like someone who's never attended a school board meeting in his life, Commonsense5.

  • Commonsense5 posted at 9:23 am on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    Commonsense5 Posts: 10

    With new candidates stepping up will the school board continue with it's failed approach to education or are some of the members be willing to say that the district has to be gutted and then start from scratch.

    For years taxpayers have been throwing good money into the district after bad so it is not about money. It is about failed policies and educational practices.

    The Morgan Hill school district has reduced the quality of education and expectations to meet the needs of the lowest common denominator. As a result the majority of students are provided with an education that is at least one or two grades below their capabilities.

    If the district is going to be true to their socialistic roots then . "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs". That would mean dividing the schools up based on abilities. This way student receives the education they need and are capable of.

    -If you are not proficient in English then your classroom work should be focused on learning how to effective communicate in your host country. Students will never be successful if they do not know the basics.

    - If you are advanced for your grade and capable of being successful in college then the class and school should focus on advanced subjects and prepare them for college.

    Considering the extent that the school board caters to special interest groups the only way to change it is to allow the voters to decide how the schools should be set up.

    It is time to move away from , "the needs of the few are greater than the needs of the many".