By Jennifer E. Beaver
Rivals for a seat on the Long Beach School Board were united in their condemnation of Sacramento but divided in their approach to educational solutions during a debate March 3 at Hughes Middle School sponsored by the Long Beach Council PTA. Mary Stanton, a 15-year board veteran and former teacher, is defending her seat against challenger Jeff Price, an attorney backed by the Teachers Association of Long Beach (TALB). The winner will represent District 1, which includes Los Cerritos Elementary and all schools to the north.
Both agreed that the reduction in state funding would force the district to do more with less, though they squabbled a bit over how to save money. “We need to make as few cuts in the classroom as possible,” said Price. “I’d rather look at the management side to make cuts.” To his assertion that LBUSD needs to trim administrative costs, Stanton countered, saying that Long Beach has done so already and has fewer administrators per student than other districts.
Stanton hopes that potential new regulations will give LBUSD more local control that can make money go farther. She said the board had been working with state legislators to receive lump-sum funding with fewer spending restrictions. “Give us the money,” she said. “Let us show you what we can do with it.”
Nearly 780 teachers, social workers, counselors and others recently received warning notices from the LBUSD board as it attempts to reduce next year’s budget by $50 million. Asked if seniority should be a factor in layoffs, both candidates responded that state law sets the criteria. Moderator Alan Tolkoff pressed them for their personal opinions.
“Seniority has its pros and cons,” said Stanton. “Since last hired means first fired, some highly trained people will lose their jobs. If there was a change in legislation, I would support examining the issue.”
Explaining that seniority is used because it’s an easy, clear-cut measurement, Price said he would also look at other ways to determine layoffs if the state allowed.
They concluded by arguing about local issues, particularly the traffic surrounding schools. That’s a problem at Longfellow Elementary, according to Price, where his son attends kindergarten. “The school board works in a vacuum. I don’t see the LBUSD working with the city to solve problems,” he said.
Stanton said traffic was a school-wide issue. “If it’s a school-wide issue, why don’t you do something about it?” said Price. Stanton explained that it was up to individual schools and concerned parents to forge a solution specific to each site.
Two other board members, David Barton and John McGinnis, are up for re-election but are running unopposed. The school board election is April 13.
Editor’s note: Reporter Jennifer Beaver is married to moderator Alan Tolkoff.