(March 30, 2002) -- Four years ago, ELB neighborhood activist and professional educator Jeannine McManigal-Ball came close to liberating ELB from incumbent school board member Karin Polacheck. This time, Ms. McManigal-Ball, who opposes busing and isn't afraid to blast LBUSD's bureaucracy, can finish the job and ELB voters should help her do it.
McManigal-Ball, who is a teacher, and Florence Wilson, who was a teacher, met the regularly scheduled candidate filing deadline. But because incumbent Polacheck didn't file, the filing period was extended beyond the normal deadline and three additional candidates popped up: Beth Hambelton, James Choura and Theresa Burger.
Yes, their later than usual filings are legal, but we don't think it's credible for any serious candidate to miss the regular filing deadline and then show up after the incumbent bows out. We discount their candidacies at the outset.
One of them, Mr. Choura, has made our decision even easier. He's been endorsed by the incumbent and the usual suspects and actually boasts about it.
Yikes! With LBUSD middle and high schools turning in mediocre to appalling academic performance reports, peddling the endorsement of those supposedly in charge (board incumbents Polacheck, Eveland and Stanton, and LB's overpaid Superintendent Cohn) is like boasting of a hospital run by Dr. Kevorkian. If Choura thinks they've done a good job, we're genuinely concerned he'll be part of the problem and not the solution.
And we perceive another problem. Mr. Choura operates the "Prop Room" restaurant at LB Airport and the "El Dorado Country Club Restaurant" under contracts with the City of Long Beach. (He also operates the non-City Hall related "Grand at Willow Centre," a meeting and banquet facility.)
There's nothing wrong with Choura's City Hall business ties, and he's an honest guy, but unless you believe everything LB City Hall may want to do in the next four years will be in the best interests of kids or schools, we don't think it's wise for voters to put even the most ethical fellow in a position where City Hall might exert pressure to do what it wants.
Yes, City Hall and the LB Unified School district are technically different, but in the real world we think that's an illusory distinction. Just look at some of Choura's City Hall endorsers: City Auditor Burroughs, Councilmembers Colonna and Carroll, former School Board member (later LB Aquarium figure) Jim Gray, and former School Board member (now City Hall appointed Harbor Commissioner) Dr. John Kashiwabara.
And, big surprise, Choura is endorsed by the Press-Telegram.
In contrast, Ms. McManigal-Ball, an ELB activist, holds a Masters Degree in Education from CSULB and was nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year award (2001) at Los Alamitos High where she teaches. She heads ELB's Lakewood Village Neighborhood Ass'n government relations committee and is the mother of a ten year old son.
Speaking at a recent candidates forum, Ms. McManigal Ball said she'd target LBUSD bureaucracy and busing:
"[LBUSD] is very, very top heavy in administration and we do not need that. [applause] We also don't need buses to the tune of millions of dollars a year crossing town. Those are two things that are easy to get rid of and put the dollars right back into the classroom...Raise the spirit of teachers so that they stop leaving Long Beach Unified...and secondly lowering the class size so that the kids get more one on one interaction with the teachers so that they have better learning opportunities. This is how you're going to drastically improve the schools, by putting the money directly into the classroom. Get rid of the administration, cut that waste first, end busing, those two things go right hand in hand."
It was profoundly disappointing to hear Mr. Choura say:
"LB Unified is from a percentage standpoint at a fairly attractive position. We're at five percent administrative costs and that's something that is livable if you look at other school systems..."
And there's a final reason why we strongly support McManigal-Ball. She has publicly and consistently favored televising School Board meetings. It's unconscionable that the Board hasn't done this already.
Like the Taliban which banned TV, the current School Board majority apparently thinks it's too dangerous to let people see at home what democratically elected school board members do with our money for our children in our names.
With progressive incumbent Suja Lowenthal's likely reelection to the board in the central city (a highly intelligent, eloquent, savvy advocate), there should be a motion and a second to provide the public with televised access and end the dark ages at LBUSD.
Sunshine is a powerful disinfectant. As in the former Soviet regime, some LBUSD apparatchiks can be expected to resist glasnost. They are on the wrong side of history. Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.
LB's schools desperately need a reformer, not another incumbent clone. ELB residents can protect their children and help their home values on April 9 by putting Jeannine McManigal-Ball on the School Board.