Four candidates are vying for three available seats on the school board of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. The election will take place Tuesday, Nov. 5 at polling places in the city.
The candidates are incumbent Ellen Rosenberg and Kathleen Paralusz, Jennifer Cochran and Christine Cronin-Hurst.
Manhattan Beach Patch has asked each candidate to answer some questions. Here they are.
Manhattan Beach Patch: How many years have you lived in Manhattan Beach?
Ellen Rosenberg: I moved to Manhattan Beach in 1985 when I graduated from USC. I am a 28-year resident.
Patch: Have you had or do you have children in the school district? If so, what schools are they in now and what grades did any who have graduated attend in MBUSD?
Rosenberg: My husband Mike and I have three sons. Our eldest graduated from Mira Costa in June and is a freshman at Georgetown University. We have a junior at MCHS and an 8th grader at Manhattan Beach Middles School.
Patch: You've been on the board for nearly four years now. What to date are the three biggest accomplishments of the board during your term?
Rosenberg: I have served on the school board since 2009. Our district has had many successes, including:
- Remaining solvent, maintaining a full school year (no furlough days), and keeping financial reductions out of the classroom despite the 2008 recession from which our state economy is still recovering. In the four years that I have served, our annual deficit factor (the % by which per pupil funding was reduced) from the state was 17-21%.
- Advancing academic performance while at an already high-achieving level; MBUSD moved from 4th to 3rd highest ranking K-12 district in the state, and our high school graduates are accepted to the two- and four-year colleges, universities and professional institutions of their choice.
- The district has maintained outstanding communications and relations both within and beyond the teacher, student and parent community. The Facilities Shared Use agreement with the City of Manhattan Beach and the successful completion of Phase 1 of the Measure BB bond construction at MCHS are examples of the entire community supporting our outstanding public schools.
Patch: What to date are your two biggest personal accomplishments on the board?Rosenberg: As a board we work together to provide direction and policy for the district based on community values and input from our education professionals. A governing board is not the place for personal accomplishments. We are a team. That said, there are two areas in the district that I feel are paramount to the continued success of our exemplary public schools.
- I have been a champion of the Teacher Evaluation Pilot since its inception and mutual agreement with MBUTA (our teachers union) in 2012. Our teachers and administration worked together creating a meaningful and rigorous assessment tool using the National Board for Professional Teaching standards. This school year we are piloting the tool among all non-tenured and the tenured teachers who choose to participate. I am proud of this significant step MBUSD and MBUTA have taken together for the professional development of our teachers, who deserve the opportunity for continuous improvement and advancement. We should implement similar rigor for our administrators and counselors.
- I had the fortune of good timing and the hard work of board members who preceded me to be at the table as we finalized the Facilities Shared Use Agreement with the City. It is a mutually beneficial agreement that was eight years in the making, and is in the best interest of the entire community.
Patch: The current board has come under attack from the teachers union as to how funds are used as related to being funneled to teachers vs. other aspects of running a district. What is your comment in regards to this?
Rosenberg: Our budgets are reviewed and approved in public meetings and are available on the district website. We are required by the state to budget three years out and must show positive ending balances in each year. I understand that the teachers’ union priority is to enhance earnings for our outstanding teachers, and we reached agreement to do so when we implemented a 3% raise last year while other districts were initiating furlough days and layoffs. However, as a board we must plan for the long term and reserve beyond minimum state requirements to buffer the students from the uncertainty of the state economy. It is unfortunate that MBUTA feels it is necessary to make these allegations, but I recognize that it is part of the negotiations process.
Patch: The current board and the one that included Amy Howorth have seemed very cohesive. What are the positives and negatives of a board that works well together?
Rosenberg: There are no negatives of a board that works well together. The past four years have been productive and effective because we are a collegial team of independent thinkers. We uphold the mission of the district and value the practices that enabled the district to succeed after the challenges of 2002-3. Important lessons learned during that time were that:
- parity across programs and resources among our five elementary sites is critical as our elementary students matriculate to one middle and high school
- no school site is an island; we are a K-12 district and must take a long-term view in supporting all programs
- we work cooperatively with our support organizations (MBX, MBEF, PTAs), but ultimately the board makes decisions in the best interest of the entire district
Rosenberg: The level of diversity is dependent upon the topic. Our board is subject to the Brown Act, meaning our meetings must take place in public so the “hashing out” referenced in the question occurs at our public meetings; other than specific topics that take place in closed session for confidentiality reasons. When board members participate on subcommittees, at most two board members participate in observance of the Brown Act as well.
Patch: What is important as a district moving forward? What is the duty of a school board and district as you see it?
Rosenberg: Our most significant priority and duty as a district, a board and a community is to create a safe and effective learning environment which prepares our youth as they advance from kindergarten through high school to be academically educated, ethically prepared and humanely considerate as they endeavor to be the next generation of leaders, creators and community members whatever path they pursue in life.
Patch: Much is said about each candidate's financial background. Why do you think a financial background is important, and what skills beyond financial ones are important for a board member to have?
Rosenberg: I think the focus on specific financial training and professional background has been overemphasized in this campaign. I have a business degree in finance, an MBA, and I worked eight years in commercial finance. Is that what makes me a successful board member? It has been helpful, but what is far more important is my ability to:
- work collaboratively with fellow board members and administration
- remain impartial and not allow my decisions to be affected by my personal experiences or special interests
- maintain a professional relationship with constituents, support organizations and special interests while upholding the goals and values of the district.
All of the candidates understand the fundamental financial concepts of managing a budget and the fiduciary responsibility of keeping our district moving forward and prepared for economic uncertainty. What is important is who has the leadership and discipline to make difficult decisions when necessary.
Patch: Anything else you'd like to add?
Rosenberg: Historically, school board elections have a low voter turnout. I encourage every registered Manhattan Beach voter who has not already submitted an absentee ballot to take the time to go to the polls on Nov. 5th and make an informed decision for three candidates. I would appreciate one of your votes and will do my best to continue the success of our outstanding Manhattan Beach public schools.