Sparks flew during an election forum Wednesday night between candidates for the Burbank Unified school board, as the lone challenger in the race called the three incumbents "stale" and unable to address the district's challenges.
Gregory Bragg made the comments during the election forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Glendale/Burbank at Burbank City Hall.
Topics of discussion relied primarily on the budget as Burbank Unified braces for at least another $3.7 million in state funding cuts for the new year, or the equivalent of $250 per student. The district will have to reconcile those cuts with efforts to improve student learning in the near future.
In his opening remarks, Bragg referred to the incumbents — Ted Bunch, Roberta Reynolds and Dave Kemp — as "stale" in an effort to distance himself and his ideas early on. That set the stage for a heated response during closing statements.
"Frankly, I'm incensed," said Bunch, pounding his fist on the table.
He refuted claims that the community lacks faith in the current school board, and that it is out of touch with the needs and wants of the students and teachers.
"We get responses from the community constantly," he said. "I really resent those statements — our schools do an excellent job."
His colleagues also shot back.
"It's been said that we're kind of stale," Kemp said. "But we have the best interest of the students in mind, and we're not willing to risk what we have."
Candidates were asked to discuss where further budget cuts might come from and how improvements could be made to curriculum through the use of technology.
Bunch acknowledged that most of the cuts will have to come from personnel in some manner. Reynolds and Kemp recommended a combination of approaches, including negotiations, a parcel tax and bond extensions, which all candidates agreed with.
"We will have to find the money and support the rapid-changing nature of technology," Reynolds said. "But the role of the teachers and the skills [they bring] will remain the same."
Bragg suggested corporate sponsorships and other revenue streams in lieu of waiting for the state budget to trickle down to Burbank.
The primary nominating election via mail-in ballot is Feb. 22. Whichever candidate or candidates earn more than 50% of the vote automatically earn a seat on the school board. If necessary, an additional runoff election will be held in April.