Based on candidate numbers alone, making three endorsements for the
Burbank Unified School District Board of Education appeared to be a
daunting prospect before the Leader’s editorial board interviewed all
14 of the candidates in the Feb. 25 election. (Fifteen names appear
on the ballot, but William Birtell dropped out early in the race and
was not interviewed.)
Fourteen’s an awful lot of people to consider. Fortunately (or
unfortunately, depending upon your perspective), the candidates
themselves made picking three a good deal easier.
First, let’s get this out of the way: None of the incumbent board
members running for re-election is getting the Leader’s endorsement.
Elena Hubbell, Mike McDonald and Richard Raad have been at the
heart of the district’s troubles over the past year, including the
board’s secret dismissal of former superintendent David Aponik, its
hiring of Gregory Bowman as the new superintendent without launching
a promised national search, and its approval of a budget that forgot
to include $1.4 million in annual special education expenses, a
deficit that more than doubled by the time the year was over.
Add to that the board’s penchant for getting together and making
decisions outside of closed session -- a flagrant violation of the
Brown Act -- and a general attitude of “we know better, you don’t,”
and there’s simply not much of an argument to be made for keeping the
three members up for re-election.
Several other candidates -- not all, but several -- simply didn’t
know enough basic information about the school district itself to
give the editorial board confidence they could do the job. We asked
the candidates how many schools are in the district, how many
students attend those schools, and what the district’s annual budget
is. Even ballpark figures on those three items would have been
acceptable. Several candidates -- again, not all, but several --
either were wildly off with their numbers, or didn’t offer any
numbers at all.
Three who did -- and who also offered experience, some new ideas
and signs of leadership -- were Ted Bunch, Dave Kemp and Paul
Krekorian. All three have the Leader’s endorsement and deserve your
vote on Tuesday.
* Bunch, a retired Burbank Unified teacher, is concerned about
the morale of district employees and the disconnect between the
school board and the community. He believes the district’s teacher
salary structure must change so that BUSD can attract top-level
teaching talent, that policies and procedures should be reviewed to
find efficiencies and eliminate waste, and that vocational and music
programs should be restored to schools.
* Kemp, also a retired BUSD teacher, also believes employee
morale is at a low point, and that the district’s finances could be
improved by renegotiating contracts with expensive vendors,
encouraging high-cost employees to retire and not replacing them, and
by leasing unused district facilities to outside interests. He also
favors a restoration of vocational programs and funding for music
programs, and believes the public should be as involved as possible
in all district matters of substance.
* Krekorian, a business attorney, wants to bring renewed
accountability to the budgeting process to restore confidence in the
district’s fiscal management. He believes in parent-district
partnerships, and also thinks the district is not effectively using
its means of communicating with parents and the community. While he
thinks testing is important, he is more interested in a curriculum
grounded in the basics and using the arts, community service and
vocational training to develop well-rounded students.
Voters have a lot of choices for the three positions on the
Burbank school board. The Leader believes these three are the best
people to lead our school district over the next four years.