Monday evening, the Culver City Democratic Club held a virtual forum for six candidates vying for a seat on the Board of the Culver City Unified School District (CCUSD).

Darrell Menthe was first up and said he entered this race because, “our schools face real challenges and opportunities after COVID-19. Now is the time for our schools to ‘build back better,’ as our president would say, and we should set big goals for recovery.” He commented that his top three goals are smaller class sizes, clean and safe learning environments, and excellence in education.

Brian Guererro, a representative of the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) and educator for more than 20 years, talked about his experience with distance learning and preparing school districts and their educators for new policies that emanate in Sacramento. He said he’s running because, “the skill sets and perspectives that I’ve mentioned are not currently represented on our school board.” He called out the fact that no one currently on the school board has taught at the K-12 level.

When discussing his motivations for running, Howard Adelman, a foster youth counselor with the L.A. County Office of Education (LACOE), was a bit more dramatic. “Over the past year, the district has been plunged into complete chaos by a school board and administration that has been hijacked by an incompetent horde of race-baiting, virtue signaling bile-spewing ideologues whose every pronouncement and action have flown in the face of rational, intelligent educational decisions.”

“I believe in building a culture of care that empowers students, families, faculty, and staff to thrive,” said candidate Stephanie Loredo, an ad buyer and school volunteer. “My mission is to strengthen the pillars of achievement, belonging, and community that support this culture of care.”

Current school board member Summer McBride reminded club members that she served as the chair of the CCUSD board for the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic and claims to have prioritized the needs of the district’s most vulnerable students and protected staff and teachers during that unprecedented period in time.

Triston Ezidore, who coordinates youth programming for the L.A. Housing Authority at Jordan Downs, sees this current period as “an inflection point” for the district. “I’m so proud to have a policy platform that is rooted in community, rooted in diversity and inclusion with a racial and equity justice lens,” said Ezidore. He, as did Stephanie Loredo, boasted of his endorsements from current and former culver city elected leaders.

Questions from moderator Maximina Juson opened with what should be done about school safety and whether students who live outside of Culver City but attend CCUSD schools “on permit” are held to a higher standard. On school safety, most candidates focused on making students feel safe through a nurturing school environment. Mr. Menthe added, however, that he thinks Culver City police officers should be invited on campuses to familiarize themselves with the building makeup in case of an emergency like a live shooter. In regard to a campus brawl that occurred during the previous school year, Howard Adelmen found CCUSD’s decision to remove a larger security presence wrongheaded. While some like Mr. Ezidore feel a large security presence can traumatize students of color, Adelman argued removing added security directly contributed to the fight, which happened to be predominantly among students of color.

Adelman was also toughest on students who attend CCUSD schools on a permit, saying, “When you come in on a permit, out of district, you sign a contract. And I think it’s very reasonable to say, ‘it’s a privilege to be here. I don’t care what race you are; I don’t care what gender you are; I don’t care what your sexuality [is] – it doesn’t matter.’ To tell someone that they aren’t going to be held to a certain standard because of their race is insulting to them, it’s insulting to everybody.” Adelman also doesn’t see permitted students being held to a higher standard to begin with.

“Permit students – who by the way are overwhelmingly black and brown – are held to a different standard,” countered Ezidore. “They should not be criminalized simply for how they show up in the world.”

Juson also asked about moves to attract and retain teachers and staff. Stephanie Loredo thinks the housing and affordability crisis needs to be addressed so that CCUSD teachers can live nearby, and thinks livable wages are also key in recruitment efforts. Brian Guerrero added transportation assistance, but also argued that CCUSD needs to treat teachers and staff like the professionals they are. “Word gets out how you’re treated by your district,” said Guerrero.

Board relations with one another and with the community was also a point of inquiry, with Juson asking the candidates how both could be improved. With regard to the board’s relationship to the public, Guerrero and Ezidore talked about the importance of board members going out into the community and attending events. Summer McBride, the lone incumbent on Monday’s panel, spoke of the need for board members to participate in some of the very things teachers and staff are engaged in, saying, “Board members need to make sure we are participating in training and professional development to understand education, the systems of education, and how they work; best practices on what has been proven works in the classroom and what we can do to support our staff and the teachers that serve our students.” She added it is also imperative for board members to come fully prepared to board meetings for all agenda items. Mr. Menthe bottom-lined what boards of directors in general need, saying, “There are three things you gotta focus on: compromise, consensus, and collaboration. Sometimes those seem like dirty words, but they’re important.” He added, “The board needs to work toward consensus when it can because, unlike a legislative body, it needs to be able to speak with one voice.”

In closing arguments, Howard Adelman called himself “a reluctant candidate” and again repeated his admonition that the district has been heading in the wrong direction. Ezidore spoke of his hope for “big, systemic change” and brought up a recent endorsement by labor icon Dolores Huerta. McBride summed up by saying, “I’m the most experienced candidate in the area of local public policy directly impacting our Culver City schools. I know this district and I’ve built relationships with countless people.” She also added, “I love this district, but I’m also critical of it because very few challenges we face are black and white.” Guerrero acknowledged staff morale is an issue and that the district needs to do what it can to keep teachers and staff incentivized and motivated. He cautioned against “window dressing” inclusion and diversity efforts, and said those aims need to be addressed honestly. Menthe repeated his three main goals and added the district needs to, “Make sure every child is challenged. Every child deserves to be challenged in school.” Loredo closed with, “I am a queer, Philappina-American progressive who Culver City Democrats can trust to build and nourish lasting relationships in the community; to fight for diversity, equity, and inclusion, sustainability and housing.”

The candidates will get one more chance to address the Culver City Democratic Club on Wednesday evening before an endorsement vote among the membership takes place online immediately afterwards.

west los angeles news
west los angeles news
Stay informed. Sign up for The Westside Voice Newsletter

By clicking submit, you agree to share your email address with Westside Voice. We do not sell or share your information with anyone.