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Lieberman Keeps Top Post on Santa Monica-Malibu School Board

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

December 16, 2016 -- While the Santa Monica City Council likes to rotate the mayor's seat frequently, naming its third mayor in three years this week, the local school board prefers consistency and appointed Laurie Lieberman to her third consecutive year as president on Thursday.

Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein was named vice president. Both he and Lieberman were appointed to their posts by a unanimous vote of the board.

Also on Thursday, the board installed three members that are beginning new terms.

This includes Maria Leon-Vazquez and Ralph Mechur, who were renewing their tenures begun in 2000 and 2007, respectively. And Jon Kean is beginning his first term on the board.

Kean took a unique path because he was not elected or even appointed. He just had to collect 100 signatures and sign his name on a form. That's because there was no school board election this year.

The school board election was canceled when only the minimum three people qualified for the ballot by the August deadline.

There had been others who said they were considering running, including community leader Phil Brock, but they either changed their mind or failed to collect the minimum number of signatures on the candidate papers.

Kean has been a volunteer in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District for more than 12 years, including stints as president of the PTAs at Lincoln Middle School and Roosevelt Elementary.

"My desire to seek a seat on the SMMUSD Board of Education comes from the reality that if I truly want to continue my work for all the students of Santa Monica and Malibu, I need to do so from the highest and most effective position available to me," Kean told The Lookout in March when he announced his candidacy.

Kean is filling the seat formerly occupied by Jose Escarce, who decided not to run again this year after having served on the board since 2000. He was given a recognition for his time on the board late last month.

"I was deeply moved by the commendation organized for my last school board meeting," said Escarce after that session. "It's been an honor and a privilege to serve on the board for the last 16 years.

"I am reassured that our district is on the right path and that our students are in wonderful hands all around," he said.

Among those who will be in charge of the district is Ben Drati, the SMMUSD's new superintendent who will begin working on January 1.

Drati comes from the Santa Barbara Unified School District, where he was assistant superintendent since 2012 (“Drati Appointed Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Superintendent,” November 4, 2016).

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