Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Three School Board Member's Say Goodbye, Vacancy to Be Filled

It was emotional night at the SMMUSD school board meeting Thursday, as three departing school board members said goodbye and shared memories of their tenure on the board. The exiting members, Nimish Patel, Ralph Mechur and Ben Allen were presented with plaques for their service. In attendance were Craig Foster and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, who will be assuming responsibility of Mechur and Patel's seats. Allen's seat will be filled via an appointment process that will take place later in the year.

Nimish Patel, a board member elected in 2010, decided not to run for re-election. He attributes his decision to a lack of time. Between working as the Managing Partner of the law firm Richardson Patel LLP and his yearning to spend more time with his family, Patel believed he wouldn't be unable to serve another term. Patel's fellow board member Laurie Lieberman lauded his enthusiasm and business expertise at the meeting.

"Nimish's business background and business perspective is very valuable, and in the years I've been watching the school board, I don't think there are many people here who have brought that perspective." Lieberman said.

Architect Ralph Mechur failed to hold his seat on the school board by 250 votes. Mechur is known for spearheading parcel-tax campaigns designed to raise funding for schools in response to statewide budget-cuts. He also helped lead the process of re-designing and updating SMMUSD campuses. Mechur has overseen the construction of additional new buildings and green technology at John Adam's Middle School and Edison Language Academy. As Mechur was awarded his plaque, board member Jose Escarce spoke about why he thought Mechur's tenure on the board was unique.

"The perspective of somebody who is deeply involved, professionally, in architecture, construction projects, contracts and contracting is quite helpful." Escarce said.

Ben Allen was admittedly emotional at his final meeting on the school board. Allen was forced to vacate his seat after being elected to the California State Senate. Allen won his seat in the Senate by a significant margin, defeating fellow Democrat Sandra Fluke by over 20 points. Although Allen begins his term as a Senator next year, he is unable to stay on the board due to the lengthy appointee process to fill his seat. Besides working on the school board, Allen has taught education policy at UCLA and worked as an attorney. During the meeting, de la Torre spoke fondly of Allen's approach to problem solving

"We can rest assured Ben is going to listen to both sides before he makes a decision. Some people get frustrated with that. I know sometimes I like to shoot from the hip, but Ben likes to calm down and ask the tough questions." De la Torre said.

Board members will interview prospective candidates for Allen's spot later this year. The board will then deliberate and decide on the best possible replacement. According to Assistant to the Superintendent Sarah Wahrenbrock, if the board is unable to make a decision, a special election would have to take place. This could cost taxpayers approximately 1 million dollars to conduct. In an effort to avoid this from happening, board members elected to schedule additional meeting days to make sure they could find and appoint a new board member.

Superintendent Sandra Lyons concluded the "commendations" part of the meeting by thanking the board.

"The best thing about [the board] is that each of you believe with every fiber of your being in the promise of public education and what it can do for students and their futures." Lyons said.


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