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[whitespace] New kid on block wants to quell election rumors

Los Gatos--There's a new kid on the block--literally. Andrew Fanelli, 28, surprised many voters earlier this month by being the only newcomer voted onto the Los Gatos Union School District Board.

Fanelli beat out Los Gatos Elementary Education president Barry Bakken and stockbroker Brian Grasser for the seat being vacated by Bruce Berwald. He was elected along with incumbents Steve Glickman and Thomas O'Donnell. Among some parents active in the school community, the shock of the young martial arts instructor's election has led to a spate of rumors ranging from whether Fanelli is really a Los Gatos resident to why he called himself a "teacher" on the ballot.

There has also been controversy over why he didn't have a statement prepared for an Oct. 19 candidates forum.

The board's newest and youngest member said he'd like to set the record straight.

The Los Gatos native said that he does indeed live in Los Gatos, right off Shannon Road in a cottage on his parent's property that he rents with his brother. Fanelli, who is not a credentialed teacher, told the Los Gatos Weekly-Times that he was advised by the Registrar of Voters that it was legitimate for him to list himself as a teacher, since he is a teacher of martial arts.

Fanelli, who said he was out of town on business at the time of the Oct. 19 forum, claims he did not know until the last minute that he needed to turn in a biography or have a statement prepared for the forum. However, Martha Geiszler, chairwoman of the candidate's forum, said she mailed Fanelli and the other four candidates a letter on Sept. 25 outlining the forum and asking for a prewritten bio or statement, due by Oct. 10.

Fanelli acknowledges he received the letter, but said he does not recall the letter requesting a biography. He said if he had known earlier, he would have turned in some kind of statement. Geiszler said she contacted Fanelli numerous times by phone and that Fanelli said he was writing a statement which his brother-in-law would read at the forum.

But Fanelli said his brother-in-law was out of town. No statement on Fanelli's behalf was ever presented.

Fanelli said he understands about the persistent rumors.

"It's going to take a while for people to get used to me being elected," Fanelli said. "I'm just looking forward to serving on the board."

Fanelli said he had no doubts he wouldn't be elected. While Fanelli spent virtually no money or time campaigning, he said he did not go into the election "cold turkey." Fanelli said he researched what board members do and how much time would be spent in a board member position, and decided being on the board would be a good way to give back to the community.

"I want to donate a lot of my time and effort to the school board," Fanelli said.

Fanelli said he will bring "fresh ideas" to the school board. One of his ideas includes a CPR certification requirement for all yard duty staff and physical education teachers at each school in the district. The 11-year martial arts instructor said CPR is important for staffers to know in the event of an emergency.

He also said the school community is growing and that the issue of facilities is a major issue. And Fanelli said the board should be more involved with parents and make more appearances at schools.

Fanelli, who says he took courses at San Jose State University and UC-Berkeley, said he recently interviewed for a PE-aide position at Daves Avenue School and Blossom Hill School. He was not offered a position at either school.

New and returning board members will be sworn into the LGUSD board on Dec. 9.
Michelle Alaimo

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