Wanted: a new MBUSD Board of Education trustee

by Mark McDermott

The job description includes some unusual aspects. Hours, 10 to 30 a week, depending. No pay. Be prepared for frequent criticism, often delivered extremely publicly. Manage a budget that includes an array of spiking increases on the cost side and vast uncertainties on the revenue side. Oh, and then there is this provision —  if a small fraction of the local citizenry doesn’t want you in the job, you will be unceremoniously removed shortly after being appointed. 

The upside of being a Manhattan Beach Unified School District Board of Education trustee, of course, is arguably more considerable. It offers the chance to help steer the course for a high-achieving school district and positively alter the lives of thousands of schoolchildren. 

The MBUSD school board, due to the resignation of trustee Jason Boxer,  is in the unusual position of accepting applicants for a new trustee to serve the remaining two years of Boxer’s vacant seat. The board, at its February 1 meeting, officially moved to begin accepting applications for a new trustee. At the same meeting, the board received a cost estimate from LA County for what the other alternative —  a special election —  would cost. The Registrar-Recorder’s office estimated an election would cost $879,000, which the board determined was too costly for its budget. 

“We would obviously love to have our community make this decision, but not at the cost of nearly $880,000,” said Cathey Graves, MBUSD school board president.  “But we don’t have a whole campaign season where we get to know the candidates. So,  this, this is our opportunity.” 

MBUSD has posted the application on its website and is advertising the position in local papers. The application, in addition to providing a certification of qualifications (such as residency), includes a questionnaire for candidates to fill out. The questions range from asking the candidates to describe activities they have been involved in that demonstrate “your understanding and support for public education” to soliciting ideas on how best to focus on maximizing academic success for students, developing a climate of care at MBUSD, and what decisions could be made to help the district maintain itself fiscally. At the Feb. 15 meeting, candidates will be given two minutes to present themselves, and then face additional questions from the board. 

“I think that sounds ultimately very workable,” Graves said. “And hopefully enough to give us a sense of who each candidate is.” 

The Board will vote on candidates at that meeting, and the new trustee will be sworn in that night. The only caveat is that if 1.5 percent of registered voters in Manhattan Beach, about 400 people, petition for an election, the new trustee will have to step down and an election will be scheduled for November. 

See mbusd.org or email hhoffman@mbusd.org for more information. ER


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