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Malibu Resident Announces Candidacy for School Board

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

July 11, 2014 -- Although two cities are included in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, no Malibu resident has sat on the Board of Education since 2008. Education activist Craig Foster hopes to change that situation by getting elected to the board in November.

Foster announced his candidacy this week. He will make his second bid for a seat on the seven-person board. Foster ran in 2012, and placed fourth of six candidates in a contest in which the top three earned seats.

The Malibu resident is the third person to enter the race for four seats. Incumbent Laurie Lieberman, who was the top vote-getter in 2010, has filed paperwork with the City Clerk to form a campaign committee. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, co-chair of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, announced his candidacy last week.

School board members Ralph Mechur and Oscar de la Torre, whose terms are up for renewal, have not said if they would run. De la Torre told The Lookout he is considering a bid for City Council.

There will be at least one open seat in the school board election because Nimish Patel announced last month that he would not seek a second term.

Foster is the president of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS). The organization says on its website that it is “a community of concerned Malibu residents devoted to the mission of creating an independent Malibu School District dedicated to excellence in education for the Malibu community.”

The Lookout asked Foster some questions about his candidacy in an email interview. His unedited answers can be found below:

THE LOOKOUT: You were quoted in The Malibu Times saying "I really do think and hope that there’s not only an acceptance, but a certain amount of desire by a lot of people in Santa Monica to hear Malibu’s voice and include Malibu’s voice and vision more directly.” Why is it important to have a Malibu voice on the school board and how can you assure Santa Monica residents that by electing you, they will be gaining a school board member who works for both cities?

CRAIG FOSTER: I am running because I care deeply about excellence in public education and I want to bring that passion to the SMMUSD school board for all the students in the district. I am extremely qualified: I am a parent, a teacher, I have a master’s degree in education, I have deep experience in organizational leadership, I am innovative, creative, and deeply knowledgeable, and I have been and continue to be deeply involved in the district. Geographic diversity is important and the fact that I also bring some geographic diversity to the board is important, but it’s just an added plus.

THE LOOKOUT: How far along is the district separation process and is that still your goal and AMPS' goal?

CRAIG FOSTER: My commitment is to make sure that we provide the children of Santa Monica and Malibu with the best public education we can. Everything I see and all the research that’s been done tells me that independent Santa Monica and Malibu school districts are better for the children of both communities. AMPS Foundation is working with the district, the cities, the unions, and the residents to fully explore that possibility. That research going very well and all the facts that can be known will be known in the next few months.

THE LOOKOUT: Why were you unable to win two years ago? What will change this time?

CRAIG FOSTER: I only missed winning by about a thousand votes last time. Since then, I have been hard at work on making SMMUSD better. That has helped me grow and become, I hope, a better communicator and community leader. It has also given me more knowledge and experience and given more people in both communities the opportunity to see my skills and my passion. This campaign will be an opportunity for people who don’t know me to get to know me. Once they do, I hope and trust that they will want me fighting for their children and their schools.

THE LOOKOUT: Will any other Malibu residents be running, at least that you know of?

CRAIG FOSTER: None that I know of.

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