Culver City Observer -

Students Raise Interesting Issues At Candidates Forum


October 22, 2015

By Lynne Bronstein

Observer Reporter

The second Culver City School Board's candidates' forum on October 14 had quite a different tone from the first one. It seemed a lot simpler to understand and much friendlier than most candidates' forums.

Maybe that was because the questions lobbed at the candidates came from the stakeholders with the biggest concerns about school conditions-the students.

The forum, held at West L.A. College's Fine Arts Auditorium, was produced by "Ask 2 Know," a program created by Michelle Mayans, whose "KidScoop Media" takes student reporters to news events around the country.

Mayans has produced several previous kids' candidate forums; the idea having come to her because she "wanted the young people to have a voice in [elections]."

School Board candidates Anne Burke, Scott McVarish, and Dr. Kelley Kent sat at a long table on the auditorium stage, while a smaller table accommodated the moderators, Culver City High School students Lauren, Justin, and Ava (the timer). Students from the audience addressed the candidates from two microphones set up in the aisles.

Each candidate had two minutes in which to introduce her or himself. This is standard operating procedure for forums but the intros were decidedly more direct and kid-friendly than they have been for adult forums.

Anne Burke listed her credentials as she has done at other forums but added that she loves the Dodgers and Kings (and also the Patriots and Red Sox-she went to college in Boston).

Scott McVarish told the audience that he loved science fiction as a kid and hoped that by adulthood he'd own a "flying car." Now he wants to be elected to the Board so he can support more high-tech education. "I want our kids to build that flying car!"

Kelley Kent said she hoped to stimulate students to learn through art and music education, through learning about the brain, through working with peers. "Learning doesn't end at the end of the school day."

Adding to the student's awareness of the personal views of each candidate, the first question asked was "What historical figure do you most admire and would like to meet?

Burke opted for Rosa Parks, McVarish for Abe Lincoln, and Kent for Mark Twain.

Then the kids got into serious issues. The most pressing issue right now seems to be the continuing hot weather and how uncomfortable the students are in the hot classrooms.

"What about air conditioning in the classrooms?" asked a student named Viridiana.

Burke replied that she is in the process of obtaining air conditioning for the classrooms, via money from the school bond. McVarish, who has been vocal about the air conditioning issue, said that A.C. in classrooms "is no longer an option not to have" and promised that the school would at the very least receive $500-$600 window units if he were elected. Kent was a bit more cautious as she reminded the students that, while money is available for the units, energy to run A.C. costs money also and that money "comes from the General Fund."

So, she added "we have to be creative" in how to fund energy for the air conditioning and suggested that solar panels might help.

Related to the heat issue, another student wondered why school opens in August when it is really hot, rather than in September or later.

The candidates agreed that the early commencement of classes has developed due to A.P. (Advanced Placement) classes, for which teachers believe more time is needed to prepare students for testing. They did not see much advantage in pushing the beginning of classes up to a later time or extending the school year at the other end in June, as weather can be hot in early summer and late fall also.

McVarish and Kent both reiterated the need for air conditioning in classrooms and Burke suggested year-round school with longer holiday breaks.

Another student brought up studies of "circadian rhythms" that show that students need more sleep-why can't school start later in the morning?

The candidates agreed that there is evidence that students need more sleep but Kent said it was "not a black and white issue" and that student class starting times might have to vary. McVarish however, thought that high school students should start at a later time in the morning and that more sleep would result in better test scores.


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