MAIN LIBRARY — The only Santa Monica race this year in which all incumbents are seeking reelection, the race for the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, has been interesting out of the box but candidates were calm at a forum hosted by Mid City Neighbors on Monday night.
Five of the six candidates — only incumbent Andrew Walzer was absent — shared their thoughts following a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education forum earlier in the evening.
Walzer, along with Barry Snell, Louise Jaffe, and Nancy Greenstein are hoping to hold their seats while Maria Loya and Dennis Frisch look to unseat them.
Frisch, who recently retired after 28 years at the college as a professor, has raised the most cash by far. He’s pulled in more than $37,000, with $30,000 coming from the Santa Monica College Faculty Association Political Action Committee.
Frisch expressed a desire to fight back against corporatization of the education system.
“It has crept into the student success initiative in very destructive ways where student aid is linked to whether or not you’re making normal progress,” she said. “Normal progress means taking X number of courses and completing X number of courses in X number of time. This is wrong.”
Loya, a vice chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association, sits on the Steering Committee of the city’s largest political party, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) but could not pull in the party’s coveted membership endorsement or support from the Steering Committee, from which she recused herself. Instead, SMRR membership endorsed Snell and Greenstein and the Steering Committee added Jaffe.
Loya said that she is running because she wants to ensure that there is equity in the school, particularly for local students.
“I don’t think we should be satisfied that less than 20 percent of the student population at SMC comes from our local schools,” she said. “I think we can do better.”
Loya said that she’d like to create a “Santa Monica Promise” to make sure that local students get priority for enrollment at the college.
Snell, a former Board of Education president, was appointed to the SMC Board in February.
“Our society is in a difficult situation,” he said. “We have a situation where many individuals in our society are not being represented. I think the education is the one area that evens the playing field.”
Jaffe, who’s second in the cash race with more than $8,000 raised according to City Hall’s most recent campaign finance statements, said that creating success for students involves more than good intentions.
“What can we learn that can help us do a better job,” she asked. “It’s not that no one’s been trying to close the achievement gap. It’s absolutely important that we have to do this. But we have to figure out how to do it. And when we find things that work, that’s where we have to put our money. That’s where we’re expanding.”
Greenstein has served on the board since the early 2000s, longer than any of the other incumbents.
“My skill is getting things done,” she said. “I don’t like sitting up here and talking to people about what I do, I just like doing it. Throughout the community I’m accomplished a lot. I’ve been leaders in different organizations and I’m an open person.”