Dear Editor – Why Brains Matter More Than Endorsements

If you’re interested in local politics, last week’s endorsement singling out just one of the school board incumbents and choosing a relative newcomer shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. If you’re a parent that wants to improve our aging school facilities, however, the Democratic Club’s endorsement is not a good sign at all.

Some background: Annual turnout for school board elections usually barely cracks the 1300 mark with barely 15% of parents voting – endorsements like these help cash-starved local candidates fast-forward themselves into the electorate’s consciousness as they look for a bubble to fill in. Incumbent, check; concerned parent, check. No brainer.

But that’s only if you don’t want to use your brain. With only a cursory look at performance and voting record – incumbent to incumbent – you’ll find a vast difference worth noting. Compare Kathy Paspalis’ visible action on developing solutions for the continued challenges that face Culver City schools, contrasted starkly with Karlo Silbiger’s procedural inactivity, conspicuous silence on parent-funded aides, and record of votes against not only one, but two capital improvement efforts. If you look at parent action, there’s Steve Levin’s participation in creating a channel for parents to supplement staffing at all CCUSD schools, versus Claudia Vizcarra’s campaign on behalf of the Classified Employees union, whose demands resulted in an initial 40% loss of parent-funded staffing at Linwood E. Howe.

As a proponent for improvement, I would like a better prepared school board, more support for the primary mission of CCUSD, and more informed action. A great example is Sue Robins, who brings experience as not only a teacher, but a PTA leader, and a business owner specializing in employee growth and training. Steve Levin is a candidate who brings a history of community action and organization, and has helped to focus parents’ influence in CCUSD. If you are looking for ideas and action in an incumbent, you can’t match Kathy Paspalis’ creativity and persistence in the face of a board that seems more concerned with policies and procedure than about adjusting to a changing educational landscape.

So why should you care about club or union endorsements? No reason at all. Actions speak louder than words, and the candidates that get your vote should be the ones that have demonstrated the energy and interest to come to the job prepared, capable of collaboration, and willing to act decisively. If you are fired up and ready for some change in Culver City Unified, let’s ensure that the voices of parents that are heard equally with property owners and seniors. Make sure you’re registered to vote, and be certain on November 5th that your candidates will actually communicate and work with all stakeholders to bring our schools into this decade and do the best by our kids.

Paul Walsleben

The Actors' Gang


  1. Mr. Wasleben is incorrect. To my knowledge, there has never been a school board election where only 1300 people have voted. Generally, it is around 4000. I don’t believe that he was in attendance at last Wednesday’s Democratic Club forum, so he would have no way of knowing how the candidates answered the questions put to them by the moderator and the members. He would have no way of knowing what long time active members of the club said about why they were supporting specific candidates. But 75% of those in attendance thought I did a good job and I appreciate their support. The Culver City community has elected 7 of the last 8 school board candidates supported by the club (dating back over the past 4 elections), so obviously the community trusts their perspective.

  2. Just read your editorial about “brains” and the candidates for Culver City School Board. I just thought that since Claudia Vizcarra worked for me when I was a member of the L.A. City Council, that I would take issue with your implication that she has “not enough brains” for the position. Let me tell you something, Claudia is brilliant, hard-working, committed to the needs of children and parents, being a parent of two school-aged children herself. I do not mind anyone taking issue with a position a person takes, but your “headline” and other comments make it sound like Claudia Vizcarra somehow is stupid if she disagrees on policy with you. She knows a great deal about school issues, having worked for the IDEA Center at UCLA, where I am on the faculty of the Graduate School of Education. Say where you disagree, but please don’t ever state or imply that there is anything wrong with Ms. Vizcarra’s brains, her comittment to children and their families, or that she somehow lacks knowledge about the policy needs of the Culver City School District. That is why I have endorsed Claudia Vizcarra!

    Thank you. Jackie Goldberg, Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, retired.

  3. Has anyone checked into the Culver Democratic club “dinging” two ballots so that Vizcarra’s endorsement would be ensured? It’s a suspicious manoeuvre. I read about it on a blog post on another website – written by a guy named Laase. I know that the democratic club is only a tiny club, but since they use democratic in their title, they should be held to a higher standard. Silbiger is listed as the president of the same club on the democratic website. So that endorsement was not too much of a surprise.

  4. Below is the text from George Laase’s post regarding the CC Democratic Club election:
    It shows clearly that there was no suspicious maneuver. The two votes that he refers to are not the votes that were removed. He refers to the fact that I received 50 votes over the 48 that were needed. Even if you add the two votes that were invalidated to any of the other candidates, the outcome would not change.

    On the second ballot, 81 votes were counted, two were dinged for violations, and so, 48 votes were needed for endorsement.
    The count:

    Dr. Steve Levin, 25
    Kathy Paspalis, 25
    Vernon L. Taylor, 24
    Claudia Vizcarra, 50
    Robert Zirgulis, 12

    This time, Ms. Vizcarra gained two more votes than required to capture the second and final endorsement of the Democratic Club for the three available Board seats.

  5. Ms. Vizcarra, thanks for posting. It even looks worse on the second read.

    And 81 people? That’s IT? Interesting…

  6. Hi M Lopez. This is my last posting on this topic, but I’m curious which endorsement interests you where more than 91 people participated? Are you interested in the UPCC endorsement where 5 people conducted the interviews? Maybe you were interested in the Chamber of Commerce endorsement where 14 people voted. 91 is by FAR the most and, what’s more, many of them were high influence voters who understand the issues facing our community. That’s why they are so trusted.

  7. Yet I wonder Mr. or Ms. Lopez, just how much protesting you would personally be doing had your favorite candidates been endorsed by these groups? I guess what they say is true: the best defense is an offense, and while you and other readers can go out of your way to discredit the union endorsements, the Democratic Club endorsements, the L.A. County Federation of Labor endorsements, endorsements by elected officials, or any other endorsements, for that matter, we all know you’d be singing a different tune if your candidates had received them.

    It’s time to give it a rest and let the voters decide on the 5th.

  8. Debbie Hamme,

    It seems to me that you have spent a great deal of time defending your endorsement. Makes we wonder even more about it.

  9. Ms. Goldberg,

    I took the headline to mean that people should THINK about who they’re voting for instead of just going by endorsements.

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