Eight days and counting

Eight days remain for at least one more La Canada resident to file a declaration of candidacy for one of the two seats opening up on the La Canada school board. If no one steps up, the Nov. 8 election will be canceled and these two seats will be uncontested for the third time since 2003. They will be filed by the two candidates who have filed.

To date, incumbent Jeanne Broberg and first-time candidate Ellen Multari have declared their candidacies. Cindy Wilcox, like Broberg a board incumbent, declared in March that she would not seek a third term.

Wilcox said she thinks it’s time for new leadership from people more in touch with the district’s current situation to step up. Since her youngest child graduated the school system in 2008, Wilcox feels that keeping in touch with parents has become increasingly difficult.

“It’s a very important time to have people on the school board because important priorities will be set — what programs we keep if we have to downsize the district; what will be basically cut,” said Wilcox. “I think that there’s a new set of priorities coming along and the current parents need to weigh in, and so I feel like it’s time for me to step aside after eight years.”

According to election rules, if an incumbent does not file to run for reelection, an extension period of one week is applied, extending the filing deadline from Aug. 12 to Aug 17.

Current Governing Board President Susan Boyd is not concerned by the possibility of the no-contest in filling the two vacancies. She said it’s her belief that if the community feels that the board is doing a good job, is managing resources well and the two people running are good candidates, there is no reason to hold a costly election.

“The year before last, when Scott and Joel and I ran, there were five or six candidates. And four years before that, when there were three seats open, there were, I think, six candidates,” said Boyd. “So it’s not as though we never have an election and the issues are never discussed in public. It’s just that for some odd reason, the last few years, when there are two seats up, there haven’t been enough candidates to force an election.”

Awarding two candidates uncontested board seats may not be a perfect solution, said Peter Dreier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College. But it’s completely understandable, given that elections are expensive and the school district is working to save money, he said.

Even with the parcel taxes in La Cañada and parent contributions, Dreier added, La Cañada still spends less per student than districts in other states.

“Basically school districts are broke and it costs a lot of money to run an election,” Dreier said. “It’s the machines, the contract with the county, mailing sample ballots. That’s really expensive. Even if 10% of the voters turn out, you still have to send everyone a sample ballot.”

Multari, who filed her candidacy papers on July 21, said people have indicated a willingness to assist her with campaigning, but until a third candidate files and forces an election, she will continue to invest her time and energy addressing other needs in the district.

“I would like to see more people step up just because I’d like to see that interest in the schools and a willingness to be part of the solutions to some of the problems that we face, “said Multari. “On the other hand, I understand that it’s a daunting commitment. It was something I had to give a lot of serious thought to, in terms of time and energy and the public persona it creates — not just for me, but for my whole family.”

Broberg, the mother of eight children who all attended La Cañada’s public schools, filed July 18. She is seeking her third consecutive term, and her fourth term overall. Preserving La Cañada Unified’s quality education for her five grandsons is the primary factor motivating her to pursue another four years of service, Broberg told the Valley Sun in May.

To qualify to run, candidates must be registered to vote in the district at the time nomination documents are filed. Detailed information regarding the candidate filing process is available on the Registrar Recorder/County Clerk website www.lavote.net.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated from an earlier version.]

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