SMMUSD HDQRTRS ‚Äî The co-chair of the city‚Äôs largest political party has decided to run for school board after hearing that at least one current member of the board won‚Äôt seek reelection.
Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, who has co-chaired Santa Monicans for Renters‚Äô Rights (SMRR) for four years alongside longtime co-Chair Patricia Hoffman, would have to resign from his position if he is elected to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.
This is actually Tahvildaran-Jesswein‚Äôs second time running for a school board in California. He tried to unseat an incumbent in his Bay-area hometown when he was 18 years old. He raised more money than the other candidates, he said, but missed the cut by about 400 votes.
The Santa Monica College professor has a few advantages this time around. For one thing, he‚Äôs no longer a freshman political science major but a 45-year-old with a lifetime of experience teaching civic engagement. And this time, there‚Äôs an open seat.
Current Boardmember Nimish Patel announced last week that he would not seek reelection, citing increased responsibilities at his day job and a desire to spend more time with his family. Patel is the only board member not endorsed by SMRR.
Tahvildaran-Jesswein has eyed the school board for years and with Patel‚Äôs announcement he decided the time was right.
“There was never an open seat where there wasn‚Äôt one of my SMRR peers seeking reelection,” he said. “I had no intention of running this go-round because I fully believed that the incumbents would seek reelection. And while Nimish did not get the SMRR endorsement four years ago, I had every expectation that he would get the endorsement this time. I thought we had good, fine people in there.”
He will seek SMRR‚Äôs endorsement next month and if he receives it he will ask the steering committee, of which he is also a member, for a leave of absence. If elected, Tahvildaran-Jesswein will resign from his positions.
The move would be bittersweet, he said. There are restrictions placed on elected officials that aren‚Äôt placed on the average resident. There are advantages to being a SMRR co-chair that won‚Äôt be available to him as a school board member.
“But I think it’s a natural step for me and I think that people who know me know that education is my passion,” he said.
The last SMRR co-chair to jump into the Santa Monica political arena was Gleam Davis who has been a member of City Council since 2009.
Some members of SMRR bristle when it‚Äôs labeled as a “political party,” preferring “association,” “neighborhood group,” or “grassroots group.” Tahvildaran-Jesswein doesn’t have a problem with the label.
“What it is, is a group of people who share values and who are wanting to engage one another to shape the quality of our lives,” he said.
The terms of three other school board members are also set to expire this year.
Laurie Lieberman, who served as the board president last year, is the only member to file re-election paperwork, according to City Hall‚Äôs campaign disclosure website.
She filed her first papers in January. Lieberman was the top vote-getter in 2010.
The term of Oscar de la Torre, founder of the Pico Youth and Family Center and co-chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association, is also set to expire at the end of this year. Last month, he told the Daily Press that he has not yet decided whether or not he plans to run for council this year.
Ralph Mechur, current vice-president of the board, is also at the end of his term.
Boardmember Ben Allen is not up for re-election this November but he is running for State Senate. Earlier this month he was the top vote-getter in the primary election. He‚Äôll face-off with Sandra Fluke in November. If elected, he would have to vacate his seat on the board.