Culver City Observer -


School Board Candidates Seek Support - All Six Participate In City Hall Forum


October 14, 2009

All six candidates for the Culver City School Board were on hand for the candidates’ forum at City Hall October 8. Co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Culver City PTA, the two-hour forum featured questions collected from audience cards and from Facebook.

The pace was rapid, with questions quickly asked and answered within a one-minute time limit.

Each candidate was asked to describe how he/she differed from the other ones.

Robert Zirgulis declared “I am very outspoken-some would say, controversial. I’m not afraid to fight City Hall.”

Alan Elmont said the difference was his “involvement” with Culver City issues, including 17 years of involvement with School District and School Board activities.

Patricia Siever said her difference was that she has lived in Culver City for 34 years and has taught over 15,000 students “who are now all over the world.”

Karlo Silbiger listed four differences: he grew up in Culver City, attending the local schools, he has taught in Culver City schools, he has connections to the state legislature, and he sat on the School Board as a student representative.

Kathy Paspalis cited her experience as an “involved parent” and as a lawyer.

Gary Abrams admitted that he lacked the educational credentials of the other candidates. “I’m a registered nurse and a regular human being.” But he noted that he has daily contact with students by working as a volunteer at Linwood Howe Elementary School.

Some 25 questions were fielded by the candidates, with two candidates at a time answering. A few questions were answered by all.

Some responses:

Silbiger on preventing bullying in schools: “We need to increase supervision, have a mentoring program, provide conflict resolution training, and have parent education.”

Elmont on permit students: “We have 251 permit students. We don’t have a district policy. We need to have a policy put in place.”

Zirgulis on how to retain good teachers in the district: “The way to retain teachers is to guarantee that they have jobs, not to lay them off. Raise their salaries-make them competitive with Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.”

Abrams on what the School Board’s job should be: “We should be an advocate for kids and teachers as well as a mediator.”

Paspalis on community and business partnerships: “There are tremendous opportunities. We should bring in companies-but we have to be careful of ‘branding.’ We don’t want to sell ourselves out.”

Siever on merit pay for teachers: “When you have good teachers, they should be rewarded….I know merit pay is a problem but we need to reward [teachers] to do well. I encourage it but we need to talk with the union.”

Should there be an ROTC program at Culver City High? Paspalis said “No, it’s not a good idea.” Zirgulis responded: “I think we should honor our service. We need educated soldiers. Some students need to have discipline and ROTC would help.”

What “core skills” should be taught to help students get jobs right out of high school?

Abrams: “Reading and writing.”

Paspalis: “How to balance a checkbook, how to use a computer.”

Silbiger: “To be able to analyze information.”

Elmont: “Ability to learn-how to learn that job.”

Zirgulis: “Critical thinking and hands-on experience.”

Siever: “Vocational and service skills.”

Following the questions, each candidate gave a closing statement, with some candidates citing the support they had from other Board members, present and former City Council members, and other civic figures.

The election for School Board candidates and for passage of Measure EE, the parcel tax initiative, is November 3.


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