Beverly Hills News – Disputed PTA Election Highlights Beverly Hills Parent Discord
Posted: Friday, March 31, 2017 – 10:16 AM
By Laura Coleman
Years of tumultuous relationships came to a head Tuesday morning when 33rd District PTA representatives invalidated the results of the vote for the incoming Beverly Vista PTA president after newcomer Cynthia Park was declared the winner instead of current executive VP April Jergens by three votes.
The decision to hold a new election followed multiple allegations of “voter fraud” and nearly an hour of arguments by angry parents, making the meeting seem more like the Hollywood movie Bad Moms or the HBO miniseries Big Little Lies than a small town Parent Teacher Association meeting.
“It was a bunch of kids who didn’t get their way, screaming and yelling and throwing a temper tantrum,” described one longtime PTA mother who asked to remain anonymous.
“A grandma in the audience told someone to shut-up. People weren’t kind,” described another PTA mom.
“It was classic bullying; the Beverly Vista PTA is not known as the most friendly PTA historically,” said another PTA mom.
Board member Noah Margo, whose wife Laura currently serves on the Beverly Vista executive PTA board, still recalls the troubling tenor of the Beverly Vista PTA when he briefly served as its president in 2011 before he was elected to the Board of Education.
“For better or worse the PTA of Beverly Vista is more about the PTA than about the students,” he said. “Nothing that happened [Tuesday] happened the way it should have happened. District 33 completely failed.”
Margo called the vote “a complete sham” with the number of ballots cast clearly exceeding the number of people in attendance. Multiple sources said that 84 people qualified to vote signed in at the meeting but that 95 ballots were cast.
Jergens, who emphasized that she believed PTA business was best left out of the local papers, told the Courier: “I just think what is happening is sad and I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our school.”
Jergens, who has served as executive VP on the Beverly Vista PTA for the past two years, had originally been slated to be voted in as president after the school’s nominating committee selected her as the one candidate for next year’s leadership role.
However, after it was discovered that the Beverly Vista PTA for years had been improperly selecting its elections nominating committee by using a hat to randomly draw names–not unlike other schools in the district–the entire executive board slate, which had been decided upon in February, was voided. It took everyone at the school by surprise that the PTA was operating in conflict with its bylaws given that the process had been in use for over a decade and there was always a parliamentarian in attendance during elections, whose role included ensuring that the PTA operated according to its bylaws.
The Beverly Vista PTA subsequently asked its regional PTA governing board, District 33, to get involved, resulting in two District 33 representatives attending Tuesday’s election meeting.
Almost 100 people were in attendance for the meeting–three to four times the number that usually attend meetings. Unlike in previous elections, on Tuesday nominations came directly from the floor. Both Jergens and Park nominated themselves, subsequently giving two-minute speeches on what they would bring to the PTA.
“I’m still just trying to make sense of it all,” Park told the Courier. “I woke up this morning thinking I was going to go to my school’s little PTA election.”
Park, who has a 4th grade son and a 6th grade daughter at the school, said she was motivated to step up and run because she wanted to make a change and help unify the PTA.
“I wasn’t prepared to run,” she said. “I just thought someone needs to step in because we need to make a change…and make it a better place. People want to have a change at our school…because our PTA runs like a small clique. The board members aren’t in for the best interests of their children, but for their own interests…like they’re politicians.”
Park said that she was hopeful that someone outside the “clique” would step up to run in the subsequent election, on a date which has yet to be set.
“I was really hoping that more could step up [Tuesday] but they’re afraid; they’re afraid of this clique; they’re afraid of what’s going to happen to them and their children,” she added.
At Tuesday’s meeting, it soon became clear that there were two factions – those who supported the current leadership (Jergens) and those who wanted someone from the outside.
“There’s a really serious clique and they don’t want the new people coming in and they just keep transferring the positions around,” described one PTA mom.
“It’s not really a clique,” opined another PTA mother. “It’s the same people who step up to volunteer. To the outside working moms it may seem like a clique.”
Both sides offered some choice words about the two candidates, casting them in a disparaging light. One mother condemned Jergens’ public decorum while another disapproved of Park’s lack of meaningful participation in the past.
Shortly after the election was voided, the PTA community took to Facebook writing messages and comments that continued to escalate in anger and aggression as of press time.
“I am urging everyone to take down [their] Facebook posts as they are only promoting the negative backlash and marring the image of [Beverly Vista’s] PTA,” said Laura Margo, who currently serves as 5th V.P. Fundraising/ Community Partners at Beverly Vista and PTA Council Parliamentarian. “We are participating in a version of cyber bullying on social media while we are trying to teach our children to behave more responsibly.”
Beverly Vista Principal Christian Fuhrer said it was imperative to shelter students from the negativity.
“The Beverly Vista administration will continue to create a positive atmosphere for our students and staff so they can learn and achieve,” he said. “And I appreciate all of our parent community’s passion for making Beverly Vista a great school.”
A date for the new Beverly Vista PTA election is expected to be set in April.
Said PTA Council co-president Rose Kaiserman: “With the guidance and reinforcement from our 33rd District PTA representatives, we are confident that the next Beverly Vista elections will be fair and legitimate.”