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PTA Council, Residents Host Board Of Education Forum

Instrumental to any political campaign is a live debate. Keeping in tradition, the four Board of Education candidates participated in a Candidate Forum Oct. 22 at City Hall.

Co-sponsored by the PTA Council, the Southwest Homeowners Association and the Southeast Area Homeowners and Residents Associations, the Forum allowed the candidates – Craig Davis, Lisa Korbatov, Jake Manaster and incumbent President Nooshin Meshkaty – to respond to detailed questions and follow-up questions, as well as participated in a debate.

Moderated largely by Ken Goldman and assisted by PTA Council Co-President Nadine Neiman and Southeast Area Homeowners and Residents Assoc. President Chris Biehl, the Forum centered on the major issues the candidates will face, should they be elected, and called for each to answer with a detailed, decisive response.

Due to the current election reaching levels some deem as “nasty,” no comments or questions were permitted for the audience. Three Beverly Hills Police Department officers stood guard in back.

“It’s a sad commentary on the state of the School Board and past board meetings,” said Goldman.

The candidates, who are vying for one of two available seats on the board in the Nov. 3 election, each gave a two-minute opening statement, randomly assigned, which then was followed by a panel question and answer period.

Questions such as general speculations on the greatest weaknesses of the K-12 curriculum, why should voters vote for a particular candidate, candidate stance on merit pay for teachers (Korbatov, Manaster opposed, Davis is for, Meshkaty asks for a group consensus among sitting board members), differences each would make in their elected position, if it is appropriate to seek endorsements from teachers, what each would look for in a superintendent and how each would conduct the search differently and where, if forced, would candidates cut from the budget – programs, teacher/administrative salary or class size (Korbatov said would find excess “waste, Manaster reluctantly said programs, Davis said programs, Meshkaty would work as a team to avoid cuts all together) were addressed by each.

Pointed issue-related questions were asked as well, including when, if ever, it is appropriate to allow no-bid contracts, as was the case for the collapsed relationship between Strategic Concepts, LLC, the company charged with managing building and project management for the $334 voter-approved Measure E funds. Each candidate responded with a resounding, “never!”

Another topic asked of the candidates was if the vacant parking lot at Beverly Vista School should be converted to an income producing structure. Davis was in favor or converting the land into a new district office, Meshkaty would send the issue to committee for study, Korbatov also agreed the issue should be studied more, while Manaster looked at the conversion favorably, suggesting perhaps converting the land into another source of affordable housing within the City.

A winner was not publically declared at the close of the Forum, however among the general consensus of those in attendance, which included  present Board of Education member Brian Goldberg, former Board of Education member Mel Spitz and John Millan and City Council member Barry Brucker  to name a few, the stand out was Manaster.

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