The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education played musical chairs Thursday night, although there was no music and there were no chairs removed.
At its annual organization meeting, the local school district’s board re-elected Laurie Lieberman as president and chose Ralph Mechur to serve as vice president. Their titles take effect immediately and last until next December.
Lieberman, a lawyer who previously worked in the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, has served on the school board for about five years.
She’ll continue presiding over a governing body that is currently grappling with a variety of district issues, including chemical testing and cleanup, bond-backed improvements, achievement gaps, centralized fundraising and potential separation.
Lieberman, whose two children are SMMUSD alumni, has been involved in the district since 1996. She co-chaired the district’s campaign for Measure ES, a $385-million bond for facility and technology upgrades that voters passed in 2012.
Lieberman’s term expires in 2018.
Mechur, meanwhile, will replace Jose Escarce as vice president. He won the position over Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, the only other board member nominated for the position.
Mechur was appointed to the board in January after a long meeting during which he and eight other candidates were vying for the seat vacated by Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), who was elected to the state senate last year.
At the time, four of the six deliberating board members – Escarce, Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Maria Leon-Vazquez and Oscar de la Torre – supported Mechur. Lieberman voted for real estate finance lawyer Tom Larmore. Craig Foster backed parent activist Jon Kean.
Mechur rejoined the board after failing to earn a seat in last year’s election, when he tallied more than 11,000 votes but finished fifth in a race for four vacancies.
Mechur, a professional architect, had served on the school board before his recent nomination. He joined the seven-member entity as an appointee in 2007 and reclaimed a seat through election in 2010. His board term ends next December.
“We are fortunate to have seven dedicated elected officials serving our community,” district Superintendent Sandra Lyon said in a press release. “Ms. Lieberman and Mr. Mechur will provide excellent leadership this coming year as we embark on numerous initiatives including our equity review, technology installations and facility improvements.”
Several board members were chosen to represent SMMUSD beyond the district.
Tahvildaran-Jesswein will serve a stint in the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association, which provides board members with training, information and networking opportunities, according to the county’s education website.
Foster was nominated to serve on the California School Boards Association’s delegate assembly. He was also selected as the district’s representative to the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization.
As the local school board’s main Malibu voice and the founder of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, Foster has used his board seat to rally for the creation of a separate Malibu district.
The board has generally expressed conditional approval of a split, although momentum appeared to slow this month following analysis of updated financial projections.