Contenders for three school board seats in what could become a contentious campaign season will face off in three months and thus far only one new face will be part of the election dynamic in the fall.
Candidates for the Culver City Unified School District Board of Education have until Friday, Aug. 9 to file their paperwork to qualify for the November ballot.
For incumbents who decide to file late, the filing period would be extended four to seven days beyond Aug. 9.
Two incumbents and two challengers have officially announced their intentions to seek re-election, Karlo Silbiger and board president Katherine Paspalis. Robert Zirgulis, a substitute teacher at Culver City High School and Steven Levin, a scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena are the two challengers this far.
Board Vice President Patricia Siever is undecided on a second term.
Typically, teachers and classified unions endorse and support candidates and their backing can be the difference in a close race.
At times ballot initiatives can influence elections. In 2009, parcel tax Measure EE was on the ballot, but it was highly supported by the public as well as most of the candidates, regardless of their local political factions.
This year, a new dynamic has emerged with the advent of a parents political organization called United Parents of Culver City.
“The thing about United Parents of Culver City is they seem to have been formed with the specific intent of effecting political change on the school board,” said Jewett Walker Jr., a Culver City based political strategist and consultant.
The organization’s website states it “
gives parents a voice in the political process in order to positively impact the lives of Culver City families. We promote an educational culture that places the interests of students before those of adults.”
Paspalis and Levin, the brother of former Culver City Councilwoman Sandra Levin, have been endorsed by United Parents. Steven Levin is also a past president of the parent organization.
Walker thinks the parent group can play a factor in the election, given that some of their members and supporters have experience running campaigns and serving in political office. “If you look at the founders and some of the other people who are in the organization, these are people who are familiar with local politics,” he noted. “For many of them, it is a way to extend political influence.”
He also said it was not too late for other contenders to enter the race, although they would begin at a disadvantage compared to the candidates who have already declared and in some cases have held fundraisers and began lining up endorsements.
In 2009, Siever entered the race in the last week of the filing period and was able to secure third place in the race, supplanting Alan Elmont, who had a several months head start on Siever.
By coincidence, Aug. 9 is not the only deadline of importance this summer. It is also the final day that initiatives can be placed on the November ballot.
The school board has been considering a capital improvements bond to repair several of its facilities and Paspalis and Laura Chardiet believe the urgency called for a November initiative. Siever, Silbiger and Nancy Goldberg requested more time to analyze the data collected by the school district’s bond consultant, Ann Noch.
All of the school board members have indicated that a bond initiative is crucial for rebuilding the districts infrastructure.
Given the ensuing acrimony after the board could not reach the three fourths requirement in order to have the measure in time for the election this year July 1, the school bond proposal could also become a campaign issue in the fall.
If a special meeting to vote on a potential bond proposal does not occur by Aug. 9, the next possible date for a bond measure will be next June.