School Board Candidates Vie In New Format
October 8, 2015
By Lynne Bronstein
The League of Women Voters tried "an experiment" in format at their October 1 Candidates Forum for Culver City's School Board. The result: a rapid-paced forum that kept the candidates on their toes as they raced through their responses.
The format called for each candidate to have 20 minutes total time in which to answer questions given to all three candidates by moderator Julie Lugo Cerra. Three "timers" in the audience kept track of how many minutes had been used by each candidate during a response. Periodically, the timers held up signs indicating how many minutes each candidate had left.
This format meant that a candidate had to keep his or her response as brief as possible while still making a point. For the most part, all three candidates, Anne Burke, Scott McVarish, and Kelly Kent, were up to the challenge.
Burke and McVarish are running as a slate as both are members of United Parents of Culver City (UPCC).
Burke introduced herself as the parent of two children who attend school in the Culver City District, and as a volunteer who has served the District for over six years.
McVarish, an attorney, has a daughter who attends school in the District. He founded UPCC and says he has a "deep understanding" of the issues facing the District.
Dr. Kelly Kent, who is running alone for one of the two available seats on the Board, has an educator background which includes teaching at Antioch and running a consulting firm for neuroscientists. Since moving to Culver City five years ago, she has been involved in local activism and has served on the Parks and Recreation Commission for the last year.
The first question fired at the threesome involved oversight for the Measure CC Bond Fund.
Burke said that there are "three critical issues involving the bond-health and safety, tech infrastructures, and creation of an effective learning environment."
She added that she and Scott had worked to "get the word out" to urge everyone to support the bond.
McVarish noted that "priorities for the bond have to come from school sites. Safety and health will have a very big chunk of it but there will be some money left over for every school site." He declared that a priority for him if he is elected will be to see that every school is fitted with air conditioners. "The world is getting hotter."
Kent said that the public should be involved in oversight of the bond funds and that "the more diversity the better."
The questioning moved on to Common Core standards-what did the candidates think of Common Core? All three endorsed the national program and cited its benefits for students.
Regarding parent community engagement, Kent explained how she got local parents more involved when she realized that Linwood E. Howe School, where she volunteered, needed someone to translate for Spanish-speaking parents but as she did not speak Spanish herself, she found parents who did and brought them in to help out "and they felt appreciated."
McVarish said that he had founded UPCC for the very reason that it would bring parents together to be involved in the affairs of the School District.
"When you go to a meeting and you are dismissed, it's demoralizing," he opined. UPCC was able to "get parents from every single school" involved and helped them get their voices heard.
Burke, who helped found UPCC, agreed that the organization has helped with parent involvement and that the PTA and booster clubs are other way that parents can have input.
With time beginning to run short the candidates also addressed the issue of diversity on the board. Burke described herself as the only non-white candidate; Kent emphasized her qualifications as an educator and the importance of having an educator as a Board member; and McVarish observed that he was the only one of the candidates who was fluent in Spanish.