My fellow taxpayers, we just left the School Board candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters broadcast from City Hall. There are three candidates for two open seats. For about the last two years, by far the most important issue has been the passage of the bond. In June, 2014, by about a ¾ margin it passed successfully. The BOND measure allows the School District to spend $106,000,000 to upgrade health and safety conditions to protect our children and employees and to upgrade infrastructure, including modern infrastructure technology. We taxpayers pay for this AND interest through real estate taxes. This means nearly a quarter billion dollars you and we must pay out of our pockets.
As taxpayers, we were eager to learn what the candidates had to say and what they would do for the decisions that need to be reached now that the District has access to all that money.
Anne Burke and Scott McVarish:
supported, endorsed AND proudly voted FOR the Bond.
have been actively working with the School District for the last 2 years in the bond sub-committee meeting,
interviewed the Principals and staff at all school sites about each school’s condition.
Anne pointed out that the deadline for decision making is fast approaching. Choosing contractors, architects, making District-wide construction standards, issuing competitive contracts are examples of informed Board decisions. She said that major work must be done in June, July and August of 2016 while the schools are closed. She promised to work closely with the Division of State Architects in Sacramento to shorten up the approval process.
What came out of the Forum shows that Kelly Kent is well formally educated, sincere and well meaning. Scott and Anne pointed out, however, that Kelly Kent:
Never supported our bond measure,
Did not endorse our bond measure,
Did not vote for our bond measure,
Never went or participated in any Bond Sub-committee meetings, Bond Advisory meetings or Bond Oversight meetings.
None of her campaign literature even mentions the Bond!
As in this and all prior forums the usual question came up, “What is the role of a School Board member?” I was expecting the standard, usual, memorized answer from all three candidates: making & reviewing policy, working with the Superintendent, negotiating salary and work conditions with employees, budgets and spend a large amount of time working on Bond decisions. Instead Kelly declined to answer this fundamental question and “passed!” Again Kelly had a second opportunity to explain what the roll of a School Board member is, but again failed to follow up.
My fellow taxpayers, in choosing a candidate for School Board, should you trust Kelly Kent or any candidate, to spend our quarter billion tax dollars wisely? Can we allow her possibly to delay making critical and urgent decisions because she has not taken the time to be informed?
Madeline Ehrlich, Former School Board Member and President & Paul Ehrlich, Concerned Taxpayer
Hello taxpayers and voters in Culver City,
I also attended the League of Women Voters Forum that Madeline is referring to but I had a very different impression of what happened there.
I heard Scott Mc Varish make a strong case for why the Board of Education should principally be focused on administering the Bond, and not on Instructional issues. In fact when he was asked what the primary concern was for teachers, he suggested that it was air conditioning.
The reality is that earlier that week, the teachers had endorsed Kelly Kent, not him. This tells me teachers understand that the role of the School Board is not, as Scott suggests, to delve into the minutiae of Bond projects. If it were, only facilities management professionals should run for the Board.
Teachers understand that while adequate facilities are critical, what happens inside the classroom is the business of the District. They understand the School Board must focus on making sure the District is supporting teachers to make sure instruction is constantly improving.
Parents are concerned, mostly in those few weeks at the start of the year, that our children remain comfortable despite the heat. But after Back to School night and by mid October, we want to make sure the focus is on teaching and learning.
Parents and Teachers want to make sure that the Bond is used to meet as many of the needs–in all the schools–that were already identified through the needs assessment process. Changing course, spending the majority of our bond funds on air conditioning for every school would be prohibitive and reckless. As tax payers, we must make sure that we elect Board Members who are committed to investing our bond dollars prudently.
Excellent responses from Claudia Vizcarra & Debbie Hamme. I also love this response to the Bond Issue from current school board president Nancy Goldberg (copied from another website in response to a different article):
“The emphasis on bond experience by Anne and Scott puzzles me. From my board experience, the only truly knowledgeable bond specialists at our district are consultants hired for their unique skills.
My credentials for joining the board hardly included any financial acumen. My only contributions have been in the areas of student health and safety, as well as curriculum.
Kelly has a substantial support network, a loving contributing family and enough juggling ability to keep many balls (i.e. obligations) in the air at the same time. It’s comforting to know
Kelly’s personal and academic background; she measures up as a responsive, kind neighbor. Most impressive are Kelly’s honest responses to questions. At the candidate panels that I’ve attended, she has consistently emphasized the importance of the students and their kindergarten through twelfth grade educational experience.
Bond decisions are important, and board members will need to do a lot of homework to make wise decisions. However, my concerns are the students presently achieving their educations. How will the bond projects interfere with this generation’s educational opportunities?
For example, where will AVPA students perform while their performance area is being renovated? These student considerations should always take priority, because we have only this twelve year period within which to prepare our children for their entire lives. To be effective in that role, board members must prioritize the present students’ needs. Kelly will look out for those day to day realities that are essential to the creation of a complete individual.
Over the next four years, board members will likely struggle to keep present students’ needs at the forefront of their decisions. There will be a tendency to try to wrap up the various bond projects to achieve that satisfying, “We did it!” feeling, but the board must temper their decisions with a constant review of, “What is best for the students in our schools, right now?”
Putting students at the forefront of the decisions that we make as a board has been and should continue to be our policy.”