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Meet Shane McLoud

By Constance Tillotson

Dec. 3 -- In the end, newly elected School Board member Shane McLoud practiced what he has been preaching to his third grade students in South Central for the last six years -- use your brains, believe in yourself and never give up.

McLoud beat the odds facing an unknown political newcomer last month by outsmarting the competition, using the latest technology to reach the voters and scoring high grades for effort. He also capitalized on his designation as the only teacher on the ballot.

Despite his failure to win the backing of SMRR or the Teachers Union, McLoud placed a strong third in the race for four seats on the seven-member board with 14,247 votes. He won more votes than Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights backed candidate Oscar de la Torre, who got 13,515 votes, and incumbent Brenda Gottfried, who got 11,734 votes.

A Santa Monica renter, McLoud won his seat by scoring high marks with homeowners, winning 13 out of the 15 Malibu precincts and tying in one and posting a strong showing in single family areas in Santa Monica.

"I spent a good deal of time campaigning in Malibu," said McLoud. "I had the support and endorsements of four out of the five City Council members, as well as many community leaders in Malibu and most of the PTA presidents."

McLoud attributes his newfound support to his "vision of education," which includes a "smaller class size, greater parent participation" and greater resources and academic attention to those students who "perform below grade level and the economically disadvantaged."

"A SMRR official told me I didn't get the SMRR endorsement because I just wasn't known well enough in Santa Monica," said McLoud. "My response to this person was that I understood the importance of being involved in SMRR issues, but that I have been spending the past six years teaching in the classroom, obtaining skills and knowledge that are extremely valuable to a member of the Board of Education."

McLoud was politically astute, plotting a well-thought-out campaign.

He raised $16,000, much of it in donations from employees he worked with during a three-year stint with the County Supervisors, as well as from teachers and administrators at LAUSD and from Santa Monica and Malibu residents. He also believed in himself, contributing a $2,000 loan to his campaign, which his parents matched.

"I had many contributions from SM and Malibu residents," said McLoud. "I had approximately 70 contributions of under $100."

The donations helped the candidate reach voters with more than 8,000 brochures. He also cashed in on dozens of volunteers who helped him distribute campaign information door to door, focusing on precincts with traditionally high turnouts.

McLoud also capitalized on free television time -- doing well in televised candidate forums and a candidate interview -- and reached the district's computer-savvy electorate on the Internet.

"I believe I was the only candidate to host a web site, allowing voters to find out information about my platform," McLoud said. "I was gratified and elated to learn on election night that the effort of my campaign team had paid off."

McLoud is well aware of the challenges facing the board, which he will join on December 10. He comes in at a time when the district faces a shortfall of approximately $2 million this year and $5 million next year.

With the failure of a parcel tax that would have pumped $9.6 million a year into the district, the board must make painful budget cuts and hope a new measure on an upcoming ballot can win the necessary two-thirds majority.

"The public has spoken," said McLoud. "The next measure needs to be written so it is more appealing to the public. They need to feel secure in that we are providing services that are cost effective.

"The cuts we will have to make will be very difficult, but through our cuts, we need to show them that we can operate in a way that needs to be cost effective. It is now up to our ability to convince the public. We need their support."

The first in his family to go to college, McLoud graduated from Loyola then went on to receive a Masters degree at Cal State Long Beach before pursuing his passion for education by becoming a teacher.

Since 1997, he has taught third grade at Figueroa St. Elementary School in South Central. His experience with the daily struggles of his students, he feels, gives him a greater perspective on how a district needs to be run to best serve its students.

"I see a very clear connection to the quality of life and the quality of education," said McLoud. "Teachers need to continually be trained and energized. As a teacher, I have seen the great impact on students learning and retention by smaller class rooms."

The current cuts may include larger class sizes as well as mandating that all principals reduce their budgets for school improvements by 25 percent. McLoud said he "does not have all the answers" but has many innovative ideas he plans to bring to the board for discussion but which he is ready to talk about publicly.

"I feel really good about our superintendent, John Deasy," said McLoud. "He is a strong leader who can bring together the common interests of groups with their own agendas."

As a Santa Monica renter for eight years, McLoud is familiar with the many groups that represent the diverse interests in town. However, he sees that one group has been omitted from the equation.

"Renters are represented," said McLoud. "Employees are represented, but not the students. My decisions will not be made for political reasons. My decisions will always be made based on what is best for the students. A well-educated society should be our goal."

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