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Burbank school board hopefuls state their cases in candidate forums

In the race for two seats on the Burbank Unified School Board, three candidates who participated in a forum Friday addressed the district's budget, their support for foreign-language programs for elementary students and whether or not students should be mandated to take a computer-science course.

Residents will cast their votes for the school board in a primary on Feb. 28 and a general election on April 11.

Two of the candidates — Charlene Tabet and Larry Applebaum — are incumbents.

Tabet was first elected to the board four years ago, while Applebaum has served for a dozen years.

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Newcomer Steve Frintner is immediate past president of the Burbank Council PTA.

The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Glendale-Burbank.

When moderator Rita Zwern asked why he's running, Frintner said he has the experience to be a good board member.

"If there were to be change [on the board], I wanted it to be someone who has built up a base of knowledge about our schools through active participation and also someone who has shown passion and dedication to our schools," he said. "I feel I qualify on both counts."

Tabet said she wants to extend her time on the board to "continue to do things that are good for kids."

Applebaum is running with a checklist of goals, which include offering foreign-language courses to elementary students, overseeing Measure S bond improvement projects and giving high school students the ability to take courses that count for college credit in what's known as "dual-enrollment."

Asked whether the candidates favor offering computer science as a required course, there were mixed responses.

"We need to do more with career- and technical-education programs, and a computer program would definitely fit right into that area," Frintner said. "We need to find the jobs that are out there and then find the training that would prepare the students for them."

Tabet said a student would need to show interest in the subject.

"While I think it's important, I think it has to be something that a student is interested in," she said.

Applebaum said he supports introducing modern technology to students.

"I think we need to have a robust sequential program that exposes kids to software programs," he said. "Coding is an important part of that, but I'm not sure everybody needs to take a coding class at this point."

In speaking about how to reduce the district's deficit spending, Tabet said school officials have done a good job.

"We've been very fiscally responsible in Burbank, saving 6% instead of the required 3%," she said, adding that she would rather spend reserve funds than make cuts.

"Cuts affect our kids. That is the last thing that we want to do. Cutting teachers is not a benefit to anybody. Cutting staff, cutting programs that we've worked so hard to restore after the last big budget cuts. Even if we have to go into those reserves … hopefully things will straighten out. If not, we'll have to look at making cuts in the following years after next," she said.

Applebaum also favored that stance.

"I support deficit spending until we have no other option," Applebaum said, while Frinter said he wants to keep the district's reserves at a minimum of 3% of the budget.

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan

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