Just a Thought – Candidates and Coffee

When I sat down in a living room Sunday night to attend a coffee for school board candidate Nancy Goldberg, I found myself back in a familiar political scene. I had attended coffee parties for both Scott Zeidman and Laura Chardiet last weekend, and I felt that I needed to get all three candidates on the same page to write things up. The week in between these events was so filled, so over-filled, with parent-teacher meetings, financial obligations, teaching classes, romantic scenes, accounting tasks, birthday parties for children and big piles of dirty dishes needing to be washed, I’d really almost forgotten we were having an election. My focus was swept into, y’know, life. It was sort of like coming back into the room after an hour away from the tv, and finding the movie wasn’t over yet.

This movie is not over, and the suspense continues to build.

The practice of having coffee and questions with the candidates is really small town Culver City at it’s zenith. At each one of these gatherings, there were a dozen or two interested voters who came to ask the candidates about specific issues.  What I noticed – what really annoyed me- was that at all these coffee parties, most of the questions were about information that had been easily and readily available for months if not years. Anyone with just the smallest amount of curiosity could have gone to a school board meeting or called the district. Questions being asked were so simple, it was a bit scary.

What is a charter school ? Who decides what teachers to hire? What factors are involved in creating the budget?  (Gasp – sigh- really? You don’t know?) Well, then I guess it’s good that you are asking now.

I moved from annoyed to understanding when I noticed my mind had wandered back into the rotation of wondering if I should call that guy or text him, and did I lock the back door or take the bread out of the freezer? The reason we are asking these questions in the weeks running up to the election is that the rest of our time is take up with, y’know, life.

Which is why we need coffee. Very strong coffee.

At a modest house in mid-city last Sunday, Scott Zeidman did a great job answering questions, giving details and offering his perspective. With the women getting far more attention, Scott seems to feel that his outstanding record and his incumbency does not offer an easy win. Having seen Scott handle many issues (and many district parents) with aplomb, I can’t imagine not having him on the board.  He has been essential to all the progress the board has made in the last two years, and there has been a lot of it.

At a more luxurious Lindberg Park address, Laura Chardiet offered smart and thoughtful answers to a more demanding and educated group of voters. Questions about permit policy and crowding were asked, and concerns in regard to the financial support of the state were voiced. Former board members interviewed her with intent. Without the benefit of board experience, the candidate still had a secure knowledge of procedure and policy. I’ve never seen Laura confront an agenda or marshal support for a vote,  but there’s not a doubt in my mind that she can do it.

Nancy Goldberg spoke at a pleasant Carlson Park home to voters who seemed to each have a specific complaint, (not really questions, more like gripes-) which she agreed with or demurred. I was not just surprised but shocked at her admission of innocence about things like budgets and policy. With her supporters all talking about how great it would be to have a teacher on the board, we already have two. I know Nancy wants to do the best thing for the community (and I personally think she is a treasure,)  but serving on the school board just is not it.

I want our school board to walk in the door with their pencils sharpened and their notes ready; we have  things to accomplish. Electing someone so that they can get up to speed just isn’t the way to be functional. We’re in mid-crisis with our finances, and there won’t be any let up. Problems need to be resolved now.

Everyone who has a stake in the success of this district- that’s all of you – needs to be able to see what is best for the kids is what is best for the future. Any relay team is only as fast as the slowest runner.

While people are already voting by mail, the election will be taking over all the headlines for another three weeks. While there is still laundry to be done and phone calls to be returned (ok, ctn, just txt,) we can’t get too distracted by life. As Molly Ivins, the late liberal pundit from Texas noted, “Politics is not a sitcom you can decide you don’t much care for.” Attention must be paid.

May I suggest some very strong coffee ?

 

www.culvercitysymphony.org

6 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more about the need to have candidates who can hit the ground running if at all possible, and in this instance, it is entirely possible: we have an incumbent, Scott Z, who has done a great job and deserves to be reelected, and we have a remarkably qualified candidate in Laura C who will be an amazing asset to the board. And Laura, by the way, was also a teacher for 10 years, and is endorsed by more unions than anyone else, and is the only candidate endorsed by both business and union leaders. We will have a majority of educators when we add Laura to the mix.
    Laura & Scott: conveniently located at the top and the bottom of your ballot; ignore everything in the middle.

  2. It is really simple math: Laura & Scott are the most qualified candidates in the field. Laura’s resume was tailor made to hold a seat on our school board and cannot honestly be challenged. She has spent 10 years in the classroom, AND has managed people AND money within the bureaucracy of LAUSD and as PTA Council President of Culver City schools. Are you kidding me? How can you not vote for her?

    Scott’s leadership through what has been arguably the most challenging time for all school districts in the last century of public education is all you need to know before voting. Most others would wilt under similar circumstances, but CCUSD has been able to maintain and improve its quantifiable performance measurements while working with an ever-shrinking budget. I honestly believe we would be much worse off today if someone else were sitting in his seat on the board.

  3. The world in which we live is very challenging at present. Our current generation of students needs to come away from their K-12 experience with knowledge tools to operate in this brave new world.

    Overseeing this educational experience is our school board, an ostensibly part-time elected body. To work to maximum effect for our children, these board members need to be leaders and visionaries with a track record to prove it. They need to show that they embrace the thoughts from a broad sector of our coummunity. They must be able to work through the professional administrators to ensure their policies are implemented, budgetarily and educationally.

    The two candidates who best meet these requirements are Laura Chardiet, a first time candidate, and Scott Zeidman, incumbent board member. Please vote for them on November 8.

  4. Wow, this article is exactly the same conclusion I came too after looking at all three candidates.

    Experience and knowledge are the two most important qualifications for the job. Of the two people not on the board, Chardiet clearly has the job experience, commands knowledge of the duties, job and needs for the School Board of Culver City.

    We can’t afford to have some one try and learn this on the job training, need someone to walk in and get to work. Times are tough for our schools financially, and Chardiet shows she can handle the job.

    Nancy is a nice person, a great reputation as a teacher, but I don’t think that is enough to be a school board member. While Chardiet also shows she has a command of the job and she was a school teacher with a similar reputation.

    However, this article forgot to mention that this person has to work well with other school board members to find solutions during these hard economic times, and from the literature, Chardiet and Zeidman both have strong board support.

    For the open seat the choice seems clear, for the other seat the choice seems clear. I am voting experience in both cases.

  5. I’m sorry Judith Martin-Straw is so annoyed with those who aren’t as informed as her, and with all those who are only now beginning to grapple with things she finds “so simple”. It certainly does try one’s patience to have to listen to a lot of stupid questions being asked of a candidate, and even more to have to listen to “admissions of innocence” from an actual candidate about specific subjects.

    It’s difficult to participate in a democracy, and to fully grasp that everyone has a stake in the outcomes of our decisions. It’s messy, and it can try one’s patience to have to listen to people air their grievances, to hear them say they feel overlooked, to hear that they are less informed than maybe they should be, to actually listen to them. Here’s a suggestion. Perhaps people came to Nancy’s coffee event to gripe because they thought she would actually listen to them. I’m guessing that is what her students and their parents would tell you.

    For me, the prospect of Nancy Goldberg being on the board is a breath of fresh air. It’s the prospect of having someone on the board who is not focused on what the next snarky retort to the public or to other Board Members is going to be. It’s the prospect of having a smart, compassionate and creative problem solver on the board who knows how to listen to constituent’s concerns, and who can work with their fellow board members in a civil and compassionate way.

    That’s why nearly every student and parent who has ever had the pleasure of Nancy’s acquaintance has fallen in love with her. That is why “she’s a treasure”. That’s why I’m voting for Nancy Goldberg for School Board.

  6. Dear Editor,

    I would like to present a different perspective regarding Nancy Goldberg’s readiness for the school board.

    With all due respect, there IS more to life than budgets. To expect any of the candidates to fully master the complexities of the budget without the benefit of explanation from the district Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, is both unfair and unrealistic.

    If we are going to use that as a standard of comparison, then we have to hold all candidates to the same high standard. Yet, I’ve heard nothing from either of the other candidates during any candidate forum that has completely convinced me of their breadth of knowledge regarding our budget issues, either.

    Members of our community shouldn’t take at face value that one candidate is “in charge of a 15 million dollar budget” without asking exactly what that means, specifically how the budget is administered, or how those responsibilities translate into what will be expected of her as a board member.

    Voters should question the incumbent when he states in his brochure that he wants to maintain “an open and transparent budget process with increased community involvement”,” when none currently exists. No one that sits down with the district’s budget can make heads or tails of it, including this candidate who once told me he “didn’t understand all the budget stuff” when I asked him about excessive allocations for legal fees and independent consultants. He simply compared the figures in the budgets for the last two years (which I had brought with me to our meeting), and said that since it looked like we had allocated about the same amount of money to each of those categories for the last two years that “it must be OK.”

    So when this candidate stated at the Culver Crest Forum last night that the district budget is easy to understand, I’m thinking not so much.

    Last year we allocated over 6 million dollars and this year we’ve allocated over 8 million dollars for legal expenses and independent consultants. The explanation that we repeatedly hear at board meetings, that blames everything on “Special Education” expenses is inadequate. According to a statement made by a top candidate, our district pays 228% more on independent consultants than other districts, which, if true, is absolutely astounding. Shouldn’t that be explained? Is there anything we can do—and rather quickly—to reduce our dependence on these consultants?

    The fact is, that’s what’s responsible for our budget woes—not salaries and benefits—and if you haven’t noticed, we are moving toward less transparency, not more.

    Yet, you expect budget expertise of Mrs. Goldberg before she even sits down at the dais?

    I’m looking for a candidate who is willing to learn, who is open to new possibilities, and who will keep the community informed. I’m looking for a candidate who doesn’t try to make it sound as if they know everything, because it’s impossible for anyone to “know everything.”

    I believe that the people who are most successful in their lives and work are those people who know that others have something to teach them. I’m looking for a candidate that will be accessible, who will listen to and appreciate their constituents and will be respectful of perspectives that differ from their own.

    I want a candidate who will restore a sense of decorum and mutual respect to the Board of Education. It’s something that’s been lacking for quite some time and that we need now, more than ever before. That candidate is Nancy Goldberg.

    Sincerely,

    Debbie Hamme
    President
    Association of Classified Employees—Culver City

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