A son of a teenage mother and an absentee father, longtime Morgan Hill resident Adam Escoto was turned over to foster care at 10 years old. His mother had given up parental rights. By age 15, Escoto had attended seven different high schools while being transferred to several foster homes. As an athlete though, Escoto had to keep his grades up to be able to participate on sports teams.
That drive continued throughout his adult life, as Escoto spent 27 years in public education, rising to the ranks of assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Ravenswood City School District.
Now retired (since 2010) but still active as a mentor to new administrators and an eight-year member of the personnel commission for Morgan Hill Unified School District, Escoto was selected as MHUSD’s newest school board trustee at a Jan. 23 special meeting.
“My highest priority is participating in the conversation about closing the achievement gap. The gap is significant,” said Escoto, who has 20 years of experience working for nonprofits advocating for Latino youth and continues his participation in the Court Appointed Special Advocates program for foster youth.
“Kids are coming to school facing circumstances that would overwhelm adults,” he added. “We need to provide the necessary support (whatever the circumstance). There’s absolutely no excuse as to why kids cannot be successful. I’m someone who has beaten the odds and I didn’t do it by myself.”
Escoto, one of three candidates to go through the appointment interview process for the vacated Trustee Area 7 seat on the MHUSD board, was the top choice of Board President Mary Patterson and First-Term Trustees Heather Orosco, Vanessa Sutter and John Horner. He replaces former trustee Teresa Murillo who resigned with two years remaining in her term.
Retired engineer Lawrence Fleisher—husband to a public school teacher who moved to Morgan Hill more than a year ago—received the two other votes from Board Vice President Carol Gittens and Trustee Wendy Sullivan. The third candidate was Jennifer Klamm, mother of three children attending different MHUSD schools and Department Manager of Maternal Child Health with Kaiser Permanente.
All three candidates separately and publicly answered five questions prepared by the school board. They were asked to provide an opening statement, including the reason why they want to serve on the board; what they were most proud of about MHUSD, what they’d like to accomplish and what their highest priority was if appointed; how they would handle a possible miscommunication with district administration; how they would handle differing points of view on the board; how they would handle the time commitment of a board member; and to identify a recent board action and discuss how they’d balance the interests of different stakeholders in coming to a decision.
“I can work well with the school board and make value contributions to the Morgan Hill School District,” said Fleisher in answering the board’s questions. Fleisher stressed the importance of having a strong English Language Learners program throughout the district.
Klamm, a member of the school site council at PA Walsh Elementary, touted her work with budgets—one that earned her a promotion into management at Kaiser Permanente—and finding savings to shift dollars to other specific needs. She added that her decisions would be based on community, student and teacher input.
“I want our parents in our community to feel secure about sending their kids to our schools and not paying for private schools,” said Klamm, who has a child at each PA Walsh, Britton and Live Oak.
Prior to the board’s decision to appoint Escoto, trustees were directed by Patterson to keep in mind the six values of the board: safety and inclusion; think critically; be present; focus on achievement; embrace diversity; and nurture community.
“I have confidence that each of the six of us will take this very seriously,” said Patterson, who requested that each candidate voluntarily exit the board room while one of them answered the five questions in front of a modest audience Thursday night.
Escoto, who was successful in his third attempt to get appointed to the local school board, will be sworn in Feb. 5.
Prior to the Jan. 23 meeting and after learning of Escoto’s candidacy for the vacant seat, Horner confided in MHUSD Supt. Steve Betando that Escoto, a longtime friend and fellow community advocate, had contributed $500 to Horner’s November 2018 election campaign. Horner said he then consulted with the school district’s attorney, who told him there was no need for disclosure or recusal prior to the Jan. 23 appointment proceedings.