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Opinion

Learning Matters: A new year brings surprises, questions, as local elections are around the corner

Voting
The new year will include the elections of several local school and city posts.
(File Photo)

“Ready or not, here I come!” So calls the new year, shouting out like the child who’s “it” in a game of hide and seek. I don’t know that I ever feel ready for Jan. 1, but I’m usually eager.

As I’ve confessed before, I’m not much of a long-term planner, but I enjoy the annual sense of resolve that comes with the new year.

Eight candidates will vie for two Glendale Unified School District board of education and two Glendale Community College board of trustee seats in the March 3 election.

Although I’m usually still scurrying to finish off year-end lists or write the cards I missed sending before Christmas, I like reflecting on the past year’s encounters and pondering the possibilities ahead.

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I think about the turns that will surprise me, like the one I took in 2005 when I decided to run for an open seat on the school board with less than a week before the filing deadline.

The deadline was later then, before our local elections moved up from April to March.

Running for office wasn’t even on my radar as 2005 began. I was busy working as a substitute teacher, pursuing a teaching credential and leading choruses and music classes.

Our two older children were off in college or teaching, but our youngest was in eighth grade. I was still somewhat active in PTA, but not as involved as I had been.

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Admittedly, I’d thought about running for school board before, ever since I moderated my first candidate forum in 1991.

However, by the time I reached my sixth election cycle as a PTA forum organizer, I’d come to the conclusion that I’d rather ask the questions than answer them.

I remember the moment in the Glendale Unified board room, during an evening questioning Greg Krikorian, Chuck Sambar, the late Jeanne Bentley and others, when the thought came to me: “I don’t think I want to do what they’re doing. I don’t want to run for office.”

And then suddenly, four years later, running for office was exactly what I wanted to do, what I felt best prepared to do. Serving on the board the next eight years came as a very happy surprise.

Now I’m thinking about all of the candidates and the questions they’ll face, the questions I and others will ask in yet another cycle of forums.

What issues have changed for the school board, college board and City Council? How have prospects changed for the young adults who’ve come through our schools in the last decade or two?

The average age of candidates is skewing younger than in decades past, when holding local office was more often the capstone of a career rather than a launchpad.

How might younger perspectives alter the course of our schools and community?

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How much flexibility will the budding careers of candidates afford them as they strive to meet the needs of their office?

As schools in Glendale and much of California continue to experience declining enrollment, tied in significant part to the cost of housing, budget cuts will be among the daunting questions school boards will need to face.

How will the candidates prioritize spending once they’re in office?

With housing and homelessness such pressing issues, how might school board members and college trustees work more closely with their colleagues in the city to address the financial instability experienced by so many of our students and their families?

The more I learned in my years on the school board, the more I enjoyed answering questions at candidate forums. I came to see election cycles as welcome opportunities for community education as well as valuable exercises in listening to the concerns of voters.

I also came to recognize that the questions and answers don’t tell the whole story, that people vote or don’t vote for a variety of reasons unrelated to specific issues, and that experience often modifies one’s viewpoints.

I wish candidates and voters alike a time of pleasant surprises in this year’s election season. Then it’ll be a new game. “Tag, you’re it!”

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