SMMUSD HDQRTRS — Elevenpeople have thrown their names in to be considered for the open Board of Education seat.
The list of candidates, who have not yet been vetted for eligibility by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School district, includes a recently-ousted board member, a local real estate attorney, a district attorney, Santa Monica High School’s former baseball coach, a PTA president, and the leader of a Malibu organization focused on having PCBs removed from the schools.
Earlier this month former Boardmember Ben Allen resigned with two years left on his term after being elected to the State Senate. The six remaining board members will select a seventh through a public appointment process.
Thursday was the deadline for candidates to submit their applications to the district.
Tom Larmore, an attorney and partner at Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, filed his application on Thursday.
He’s running, he says in his application, because he supports public education but sees the district losing students to private schools.
“I want to assist in addressing significant issues pending before the District,” he said in his application, “such as the achievement gap, the ‘unification’ proposal from some in Malibu, and adoption and updating of the LCAP, as well as the constant issues that surround school finance.”
He expressed a desire to strengthen the district’s relationship with the local business community for the sake of potential internships and summer jobs for students, as well as for the fundraising opportunities it will allow. Finally, he wants the district to create a “robust curriculum in financial literacy.”
One of Larmore’s partners at his law firm is Chris Harding, who is married to Board President Laurie Lieberman.
Both of Larmore’s children graduated from Santa Monica High School.
Former Boardmember Ralph Mechur placed fifth in a race for four seats in November’s election. He first joined the board through appointment in 2007 and was elected in 2010.
Jon Kean, who’s currently the PTA President at Lincoln Middle School and previously served as the PTA President at Roosevelt Elementary, has applied.
“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 told the Daily Press earlier this month. “Too often, our first instinct is to resist change, based on budget constraints or institutional tradition.”
Kurt Schwengel, who was controversially removed as the head coach of the Samohi baseball team earlier this year, applied for the slot but will likely withdrawal. Schwengel, who was recently appointed to Santa Monica’s Recreation and Parks Commission, is a kindergarten teacher within the district.
“I was hoping to use my 33 years experience in SMMUSD (14 as a student, 19 as a teacher) to help out but alas, I was just informed of an ed code which states that I would have to quit my teaching position in order to serve on the school board,” Schwengel told the Daily Press.
Jake Wachtel placed eighth out of eight candidates in the 2010 Ed Board race, pulling in just over 6,000 votes.
“I filed the very last day,” Wachtel told the Daily Press earlier this month. “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.
Jennifer deNicola has been one of the most vocal advocates for the removal of PCBs from schools. DeNicola, a Malibu resident, speaks at many of the Ed Board meetings, calling for greater transparency surrounding the environmental and health concerns at Malibu High School.
She is the president of Malibu Unites, a nonprofit founded with the intention of addressing these concerns.
Larry Droeger, of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, is applying for the open seat because he has two kids currently in the district and one who just graduated from Malibu High School.
Droeger told the Daily Press that he grew up in a rural farming community in Northern California where educational opportunities were sparse.
Unlike some of his classmates, he said, he was able to seek out the educational opportunities and he wants his own kids to have “greater awareness and opportunity” than he did.
“At the same time, particularly from exposure through my work, I see many families living in our community that are hampered by the same type of limitations, albeit, manifested very differently, of the people I grew up with,” Droeger said in an e-mail. “Economic limitations, gang influences, and many other barriers that keep them from truly getting access to the educational opportunities that are necessary to survive and do well in today’s world.”
Sion Roy, a member of the Santa Monica Democratic Club’s executive committee, is applying for the open seat. He’s a cardiologist at Harbor UCLA and chairs the district’s Health and Safety advisory committee.
His children, he said, will eventually go to school within the district.
“I think I have the proper experience as a leader in the community and in our education system to be a valuable member of the school board,” he said in an e-mail. “Finally, as a person early in my career who will start a family soon and will be invested in the success of the school district over the few decades, I offer a fresh perspective to the board. I hope that my application is strongly considered.”
Dhun May, who placed seventh out of eight in November’s election, filed for the seat. She received 5,169 votes.
Patty Finer, who placed eighth in November’s election, submitted an application. She pulled in 5,148 votes.
David Hays has also applied for the position. As of press time, the Daily Press was not able to reach Hays.
The district will verify each potential candidate’s eligibility during winter break.
Candidates will be interviewed in public on Jan. 15. The board may choose to make a nomination that night.