By Lynne Bronstein
Seats were packed in the Mike Balkman Council Chamber at City Hall as three Culver City School Board members were sworn in at the Board's Tuesday night meeting. The excitement may have been sparked, not just by the "new kids in town" but by a sense that this is going to be a different Board than in the past.
The five-member board now has a majority of members endorsed by United Parents of Culver City (UPCC) which is shaping up to be an important factor in school decisions for the next few years.
All three of the members sworn in, newcomers Susanne Robins and Dr. Steven Levin, and incumbent Katherine Paspalis, were endorsed by UPCC in the recent election. The group was formed in May 2012 by Culver City parents, in order to, in the words of its mission statement, "promote an educational culture that places the interests of students before those of adults."
A bone of contention with UPCC was the issue of unionizing a group of parent-funded language aides at El Marino Language Academy. When the classified employees union wanted the aides to join the union, UPCC countered that this would jeopardize the funding and cause the loss of about half of the positions. In the end, the employees did not join the union and UPCC had shown its clout.
While endorsement by the Culver City Federation of Teachers had been a goal sought by candidates in the past, the November 2013 election saw UPCC emerge as the endorser of the winning slate. The Federation of Teachers had endorsed incumbent Karlo Silbiger and new candidates Vernon Taylor and Claudia Vizcarra. These candidates trailed behind the three UPCC-endorsed candidates.
The meeting began with only Paspalis (still acting as President), Nancy Goldberg, and Laura Chardiet on the dais. Paspalis's children Matthew and Megan led the Pledge of Allegiance. The agenda was quickly adopted and Paspalis handed the hosting over to Superintendent David LaRose, who swore in the three members, to great applause.
The swearing-in was followed by a Governing Board organizational meeting, which was somewhat more relaxed and cheerful than such meetings usually are. Nancy Goldberg nominated Laura Chardiet for President. With no other nominees, Chardiet was a shoo-in and took her place as new President. Her first action was to nominate Goldberg for Vice-President, which also brought five "ayes."
Levin was voted in as Clerk and Paspalis as Parliamentarian, a function she served when she was first elected to the Board four years ago.
A number of other offices were quickly filled. Susanne Robins was elected representative to LACSTA (Los Angeles County School Trustees Association). Representatives to the Board of Education/City Council Liaison Committee were Paspalis, Levin, and Goldberg as an alternate. Levin volunteered to be the representative for the Youth Health Center Committee; Chardiet jumped in enthusiastically to be the rep for the District Community Arts Committee; Robins took the post of rep for the Fineshriber Foundation, and Goldberg became rep for the Culver City Education Foundation.
With all the posts filled, the Board got down to business, hearing a report on math achievements and policies (the Culver City Mathematics Achievement Committee recommended Common Core guidelines by which grades 6, 7, and 8 would have separate math courses, algebra would be taught in 9th grade and calculus would wait until college).
A celebration party for the UPCC Board members was held later in the evening at Rush Street.