Ralph Mechur plans to campaign to keep his seat on the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education.
The architect and longtime Santa Monica resident, whose term expires in December, told the Daily Press last week that he intends to run for re-election.
Mechur said he’s motivated by the local school district’s ongoing attempts to close academic achievement gaps and its efforts to resolve issues surrounding the possible creation of a separate Malibu district.
“I’m excited about the work we’re doing, providing equitable services for all students,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to serve the community and our kids. … I look forward to being able to continue to be part of the governance team to help this be a stronger district.”
Mechur, 66, is one of three school board members whose terms are up at the end of the calendar year, joining Jose Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez. The other four board members’ terms expire at the end of 2018.
Mechur, who replaced Escarce as the board’s vice president in late 2015, said he’s curious to hear from Pedro Noguera about how SMMUSD can improve outcomes for minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Noguera was hired by the district to address equity and access issues and is expected to report to the board this spring.
“What he’s doing is analyzing our district so we can change our practices so students of color receive services they need to achieve at a higher level,” Mechur said. “But changes aren’t going to occur overnight.”
As for possible district separation, Mechur acknowledged the liability issues stemming from the discovery of polychlorinated biphenyls at Malibu schools more than two years ago. He said the district has “lived up to its promises” regarding environmental remediation, adding that the forthcoming negotiations will be broader in scope.
“The main issue about unification is to make sure that each district has the necessary resources to continue to providing educational services,” he said.
Mechur was appointed to the board in January 2015 after beating eight other candidates for the seat vacated by Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), who was elected to the California State Senate. At the time, four of the six deliberating board members – Escarce, Leon-Vazquez, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Oscar de la Torre – supported Mechur. Board president Laurie Lieberman nominated lawyer Tom Larmore. Craig Foster backed local parent Jon Kean.
Mechur rejoined the board after failing to earn a seat in the 2014 election, when he tallied more than 11,000 votes but finished fifth in a race for four vacancies. As Mechur prepared to leave the board following that election, Escarce said his colleague’s professional experience served the board well.
“The perspective of someone who is deeply involved in architecture and construction projects and contracting has … been quite helpful,” Escarce said.
Mechur served on the school board before his recent appointment, joining the seven-member entity as an appointee in 2007 after Emily Bloomfield announced she would step down to move to Washington, D.C. He kept his seat through the election in 2010, when he was endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights.