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New Ed Group Endorses Challenger

By Jorge Casuso

October 6 – Reflecting its reservations about the current School Board, a new grassroots association of parents and community members is “enthusiastically” endorsing challenger Ben Allen in the November 4 race for three open School Board seats.

LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness Accountability Direction) -- which was created to help usher in a “new era of leadership” in the District -- only “recommended” that voters re-elect incumbents Jose Escarce and Maria Leon Vazquez.

“Ben has demonstrated in both oral and written interviews that he has the values, leadership skills, intellect, independence, and knowledge of our School District to be an excellent School Board member,” LEAD Co-Chair Laurie Lieberman said in a statement Monday.

“While the incumbents have made positive contributions, LEAD believes they have failed to provide leadership at key points in the past couple of years,” said LEAD Co-Chair Debbie Mulvaney.

“We need their commitment and experience to translate into better leadership as our District faces major challenges,” Lieberman added.

The group decided that Chris Bley, the only other challenger in the race, “lacks the knowledge of our schools to be an effective Board member,” according to the statement.

Instead of a full endorsement of the two incumbents, LEAD “recommends” a vote for Escarce and Vazquez “with the expectation that they will provide the District with the leadership it needs going forward.”

“We recognize that each of the incumbents has considerable Board experience as well as a commitment to public education, and we believe that they will continue to advance our children’s best interests,” Mulvaney said.

Lieberman said the group was “encouraged” by the board’s hiring of new Interim Superintendent Tim Cuneo and the steps it is taking to overhaul its special education program and policies, which have come under attack from parents. ("School Board Picks Interim Superintendent," July 8, 2008 and "District Officials Recommend Changes to Special Ed," April 16, 2008)

The group is also encouraged by “the public commitments by incumbent candidates to greater openness and transparency made at interviews and in candidate forums,” Lieberman said.

“We formed LEAD because of our dissatisfaction with the performance of the School Board and the former Superintendent,” Mulvaney said. “LEAD is committed to a culture of transparency, accountability and proactive leadership in our school district.”

LEAD is calling for an “open and transparent” process in selecting a permanent superintendent, an “overhaul” of the Special Education culture and program and strengthen ties with the City to ensure continued funding.

“Most importantly,” according to LEAD, “the Board must regain the trust of the various constituencies it serves in order to accomplish these tasks.”

Ted Winterer for Santa Monica City Council

Dr. Margaret


Vote # 158


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