Culver City Observer -


School Board Election Day Is Tuesday


October 31, 2013

By Lynne Bronstein

Observer Reporter

Karlo Silbiger

Karlo Silbiger was one of three new board members who were elected in the November 2009 election, receiving almost 60 per cent of the vote. He served as Board Vice President for 2011 and Board President in 2012. In addition, he served as a member of the Board's budget subcommittee and was a member of the District Community Arts Team, serving both positions from 2009 to 2011.

The son of former City Council member Gary Silbiger, Karlo Silbiger recalls that his family moved to Culver City when he was three, in order for him to attend the Culver City schools, which had a very good reputation.

"I went to the Spanish immersion program at El Rincon," says Silbiger. "Then to [Culver City Middle School." There he "learned how valuable the school system is" while serving as the Middle School student representative to the School Board.

After studying at Boston University and receiving a Master's Degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard, Silbiger taught at a number of educational institutions. He also got a job with the Culver City School District during his college years, teaching in the summer program. Persuaded by friends, he ran for Culver City School Board in 2009.

Silbiger believes that during his tenure at the School Board, some of his greatest accomplishments have been: support for the solar project "which is going to generate about $400,000 a year for the city's general fund and of course, teaches kids about conservation," extending the Spanish immersion program to the Middle School, and bringing back a full music program to the schools.

"I'm really trying to be fiscally responsible and trying to protect the people's money, but also giving the best education that we possibly can."

Silbiger's other activities include volunteering as a soccer coach for the Culver-Palms YMCA Y-Winners Program, active membership in Friends of Culver City Animals, serving as President of the Culver City Democratic Club, and as a delegate representing the 47th Assembly District in the California Democratic Party. Silbiger is also completing his doctorate in Educational Leadership from UCLA.

Endorsements for Silbiger include Culver City Democratic Club, Culver City Federation of Teachers, Congresswoman Karen Bass, State Assembly Member Holly Mitchell, and Culver City Council members Jim Clarke and Meghan Sahli-Wells.

Susanne Robins

A teacher and business owner, Susanne Robins is running for School Board because "Experience as a business owner, board member, PTA President and teacher have taught me the value of leadership in any organization. I believe our school district would benefit tremendously from the leadership experience which I have to offer."

Her teaching experience includes teaching science at Culver City Middle School for six years and working as a teacher coach for Mount St. Mary's College. She is also the owner of Ascend Training Solutions, LLC, a company involved in development and facilitation of employee training, leadership development, and educational outreach programs.

Robins was also for two years president of the Farragut Elementary PTA and education committee chair of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce.

In each of these areas, Robins made notable contributions. During her stint as president of Farragut's PTA she worked with the parent team, the district staff, and the School Board to create a green park area and open the gate to the library parking lot to create a safe drop off location. As a teacher she worked to develop after-school programs. At Mount St. Mary's she worked with students in the teacher preparation program.

"Most recently, as Chair of Education Committee for the Culver City Chamber of Commerce, I brought our Culver City business community into our schools to participate in an AVID guest speaker program and to be interviewers for the eighth grade exit interviews."

A Culver City resident since 2000, Robins is married to Terry Robins, has two children, Molly, 14, and Will, 21, holds a B.S. in zoology from the University of Maryland and an M.S. in education from Mount St. Mary's College.

Robins says of her campaign: "I joined this race because I am ready and uniquely qualified to help our schools build upon what we do well and work with the administration and the teachers to meet our greatest challenges. I am focused on academic excellence, facilities improvements, and building relationships with the business community to support and enhance our programs."

Robins is endorsed by Culver City Chamber of Commerce, United Parents of Culver City, current and former School Board members Scott Zeidman, Kathy Paspalis, and Laura Chardiet, and current and former City Council members Jeffrey Cooper, Andrew Weissman, and Mehaul O' Leary.

Robert Zirgulis

"Mr. Z" as Robert Zirgulis likes to be known, runs campaigns around specific issues. His current campaign is focused on saving the Culver City School District's Natatorium.

"Does this make common sense?" says Zirgulis. "The Culver City School District currently has plans to spend $10,773,744 to demolish our school natatorium swimming pool and replace it with a 'multipurpose' facility that would be used to accommodate 80 students."

Describing himself as "the common sense candidate" for School Board, Zirgulis points out that because the estimated cost for repairing the natatorium is only around $3 million, the 7 million that would be left over for the District if they did not spend ten million on the above plan could be used for other improvements to the schools.

"We could fix our school classrooms, bathrooms, air conditioning and other facilities in need of repair."

Zirgulis also states that his first priority as a School Board member would be "to dissect and examine the budget line by line to eliminate unnecessary waste and prioritize funds to our children and teachers in the classroom."

Zirgulis grew up in Chicago, the son of Lithuanian refugees who had left Europe during the Holocaust, and came to California with his family at the age of 8. At Santa Monica High he organized the first ecology club in the school's history in 1969. He holds a B.A. in Public Service from UCLA and a Master's degree in business from CSUN. He has worked in private business and as a teamster for an airline but has worked for many years as a substitute teacher.

He served as an intern for Assemblywoman March Fong's environmental committee and interned in Washington D.C. for the Metropolitan Washington Committee on Clean Air.

He has lived in Culver City since 1984 and has three sons, all of whom attended Culver City Schools.

Steve Levin

"It is time for us to become a school district which actively invites the entire community to participate with their ideas, their creativity, their skills, and their passion," says Steve Levin. "We need to go out and ask people 'How would you like to help?' and then look for a way to make good use of what the community is willing to offer."

Levin's aim is to build more community support, as well as support for teachers and creating "highly engaged, project-based, multi-disciplinary learning.

"California adopted new 'Common Core' standards -- and the Next Generation Science Standards are not far behind. They require schools to operate in a completely different way and to be judged by a different standard. .......I have years of hands-on experience with just this kind of learning as the lead scientist for GAVRT, one of NASA's major education programs. ......I have worked with teachers and students in many schools helping to train, implement and coordinate. I know what it takes."

An astrophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab since 1990, Levin

holds a Ph.D. and an A.B. in physics, both from UC Berkeley. His volunteer work for Culver City schools includes serving as treasurer (2006-2009) and then as president (2009-2013) for Farragut Elementary School Booster Club, Founding President, United Parents of Culver City (May 2012 to January 2013), and receiving a PTA Honorary Service Award in 2012.

Levin is married and has three children, two of whom attend Farragut Elementary and one who attends Culver City High.

Levin's supporters include United Parents of Culver City, Culver City Chamber of Commerce, and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

Claudia Vizcarra

"It is undeniable that Culver City is one the hubs of the creative economy that is defining Southern California," says Claudia Vizcarra. "When one out of every eight jobs in the region are attributable to creativity, it's time for our schools to take notice. We must prepare our students, all our students, to take part in this economy."

Vizcarra's priorities include working with the community to increase funding; promoting a diverse curriculum; promoting policies based on best educational practices such as reduced class size and recruiting, supporting, and retaining career educators, and listening and responding to all stakeholders: students, parents, staff, administrators, and community members.

Vizcarra grew up in Mexico City where she learned English in an immersion school. She holds a B.A. in Journalism, Broadcasting, and Film, as well as a B.A. in sociology, from Trinity University in Texas. She has worked in private industry as an entrepreneur, as Economic Development Deputy for LA City Council Member Jackie Goldberg, and as a staff member of UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access. She currently is chief of staff for LAUSD Board member Steve Zimmer.

She became active in school activities when she organized school events at her daughter's school, Edison Language Academy in Santa Monica. She also served as ELAC President, PTA Vice President and then Co-President at the Academy.

Currently, Vizcarra's children attend Culver City Middle School and Culver City High.

Her supporters include the National Women's Political Caucus (LA Westside), California Federation of Teachers, Culver City Democratic Club, current Culver City School Board members Nancy Goldberg, Patricia Siever, Karlo Silbiger, and Meghan Sahli-Wells, former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, and Los Angeles City Council member Paul Koretz.

Vernon L. Taylor, Jr.

A 15-year resident of Culver City and a banker by profession, Vernon Taylor has served twice as a school site council member (El Rincon and Culver City Middle School), and an alternate site council member at El Marino, and for six years has been a volunteer at Culver City High graduation night.

His priority is "to focus all school board actions and decisions on how the needs and best interests of Culver City's students can be ensured, improved and supported." His concerns include: equity of education and resources in all of our schools for all of the students; the treatment and welfare of teachers and classified employees; arts programming in schools; quality of Special Education and its students, and budget issues.

Taylor lists his values as: "Family comes first, integrity matters, justice should prevail, service above self, honesty is a given, humility is a gift, [and] bipartisanship is a must."

He is endorsed by, among others, Culver City Federation of Teachers, Association of Classified Employees of Culver City, School Board member Patricia Siever, Sorrento Market owner Albert Vera Jr., Dr. Luther Henderson, former chair of Culver City Cultural Affairs Commission, and environmental activist Suzanne DeBenedittis, Ph.D.

Kathy Paspalis

"Put simply, I believe in the vision and the mission of public schools," says Kathy Paspalis. "But these are extremely difficult times for public schools and our district is no exception. Because of my unique combination of skills and experience, I know I've been able to help.....After four years on our board, I know how to get things done, folks trust me, and I have a proven track record as a problem solver and a consensus builder."

Elected to the School Board in November 2009, Paspalis currently serves as President of the Board.

During her first term, Paspalis notes, CCUSD endured deep budget cuts. She supported Measure EE to ensure money for the schools.

Paspalis hopes the Board will"leverage our existing resources creatively and efficiently" and "institute long range plans to secure the school district's future."

She wants to see deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs addressed at the school sites, with upgraded technology and safety systems; completion of improvements to the middle and high school athletic fields; renovation of Robert Frost Auditorium, and a permanent home for Culver Park High School.

Paspalis also supports implementation of the Common Core education standards.

Paspalis describes herself as "a mom: a soccer mom, a baseball mom, a former elementary school room parent and site council member." Her 10-year old twins, Matthew and Megan, attend Culver City's El Marino Language Academy. Paspalis says she moved to Culver City 10 years ago because of the outstanding schools.

Originally from Connecticut, Paspalis is a graduate of Bucknell University and holds a law degree from Southwestern School of Law. She has worked on land use and environmental issues as an activist and has done fundraising and volunteer work for many nonprofit organizations.

Her supporters include: United Parents of Culver City; current and former School Board members Scott Zeidman and Laura Chardiet; former Culver City mayors Steven Rose, Chris Armenta and Alan Corlin; current Mayor Jeff Cooper; current City Council members Meghan Sahli-Wells and Jim Clarke; former State Senator Sheila Kuehl; current State Senator Holly Mitchell, and Congresswoman Karen Bass.


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