SMMUSD HDQRTRS — The six remaining members of the Board of Education will have at least a few names to choose from when appointing a seventh in January.
Former board candidate Jake Wachtel, recently unseated Boardmember Ralph Mechur, and Lincoln Middle School PTA President Jon Kean have filed or plan to file applications to fill the vacant seat.
Former Boardmember Ben Allen was elected to the State Senate last month and, as a result, announced his resignation from the board. His term has two years left on it and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District plans to fill his seat through a public appointment, which will occur in January and — barring protest — be finalized in February.
At least four members of the board will have to approve the appointment of the new member.
Interested candidates have until Dec. 18 to apply.
Jake Wachtel placed eighth out of eight candidates in the 2010, pulling in just over 6,000 votes.
“I filed the very last day,” he said. “Nobody knew who I was. Even my own neighbors said they were going to vote for this guy Jake because there were signs on the street and I said, ‘I’m Jake.’ I basically went from zero to 60.”
He’s stayed involved, he said, and has served as a PTA President at Grant Elementary. He worked previously as a coach and a teacher.
Wachtel considered running in this year’s election, and even pulled the necessary paperwork but ultimately declined because he had some professional obligations and because he wanted to help support his daughter, who was transitioning to middle school.
“When you’re talking about a time where there are many challenges and people very frustrated about several issues, from toxicity to issues with construction that was done improperly, it’s probably a good time to have somebody who’s very level-headed and has a lot of community buy-in,” he said.
Mechur placed fifth in a race for four seats in November, losing out to Boardmember Oscar de la Torre by less than a percentage point.
He’ll be submitting an application.
At a board meeting, after the election but prior to the end of his term, members of the teachers union expressed support for Mechur’s appointment.
Mechur joined the board through an appointment in 2007 after Emily Bloomfield announced she would step down because her family was moving to Washington, D.C.
Mechur was elected in 2010.
He was endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Right (SMRR), the city’s largest political party, before this election.
Jon Kean, who’s currently the PTA President at Lincoln Middle School, said that he, too, will throw his hat in the ring this year. He’s also served as the PTA President at Roosevelt Elementary School.
“As someone who has spent over a decade working as a parent leader at both the site and district level and as a PTA President at two schools, I am uniquely qualified to participate in the discussions necessary to determine and set policy with the Board of Education,” he said in an e-mail. “At the same time, thanks to my experiences at various sites, I understand the realities of how things operate in the actual world that is our schools.”
Kean presents himself as someone who’s willing to jump the logistical hurdles in order to deliver the best outcomes for kids.
“I believe that the one guiding principle in our district should be: if there is something that would be beneficial for a student and we are capable of doing it, then we must do it,” he said. “Too often, our first instinct is to resist change, based on budget constraints or institutional tradition.”
Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council President Rochelle Fanali said she is not planning to apply for the vacated Ed Board seat. As a PTA officer, she can’t endorse any of the candidates.
The Daily Press reached out to the sixth and seventh place candidates in November’s race, Dhun May and Patty Finer, to see if they were interested in the seat.
May had expressed interest in filling the open seat while on the campaign trail but did not respond to request for comment by press time.
Finer expressed interest in being on the board but was not aware, prior to the Daily Press’ inquiries, that she could apply for the position. She will apply, she said.