The Malibu Rotary Club hosted a public forum on October 15th at Pepperdine University featuring the candidates running for the 2014 Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board.  The forum was moderated by Parents Advocate League Founder and CEO Julie Collier (L above) , who, along with an audience of 38 from the community, posed questions to the 7 candidates.   
SMMUSD Candidates (L to R in picture below) Laurie Lieberman, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Ralph Mechur, Craig Foster, Oscar de la Torre, Patty Finer, and Dhun May
There are four new positions opened in 2014 for the 7 members comprising the board.  Three current board members are running for reelection, Laurie Lieberman, Ralph Mechur (current board vice president), and Oscar de la Torre.  All of them, along with candidate Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, have been endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renters Rights. No candidate for school board, Santa Monica City Council, Santa Monica Rent Control Board, or Santa Monica College Trustee, has won an election in Santa Monica without endorsement of SMRR.  Although the SMMUSD board governs the schools in Malibu, only 20% of the voters are in Malibu, which has made it difficult for a Malibu candidate to become elected.  In 2012 three Malibu candidates ran, including current candidate Craig Foster, but none were elected. 
The discussion at the October 15th forum often became heated, especially when the subject was PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) found in Malibu schools (and which probably exists in Santa Monica schools), and what the best course of action should be to test for and eliminate them. There is a good chance that any building built between 1950 and 1980 has used the carcinogenic PCBs in caulking buildings during their construction.  Some in the audience did not feel the current board has not done proper testing, that the teachers and children should not go back into the buildings, and should instead be relocated to temporary trailers, until all tests show there is no hazard.  Among those in the audience was actress/model Cindy Crawford, who, along with her husband Rande Gerber, are not convinced that testing done by SMMUSD is adequate, and have volunteered to pay for the testing themselves to make sure the classrooms are safe.
Although the Q & A after the moderator’s questions were dominated by the PCB problem, there were other issues as well.
All candidates agreed there should be better representation of Malibu at the SMMUSD Board meetings, and advocated that even if Malibu's lone candidate (Craig Foster) is not elected as one of the 4 new board members there should be a liaison position created to make sure Malibu is represented at each board meeting.   Each candidate also said that there should be more board meetings held in Malibu (this year there was only one in 6 months).  There are 5 SMMUSD board meetings scheduled in Malibu in the next 8 months.   School board meetings are scheduled at Malibu City Hall on November 6 and December 11, 2014, as well as February 5, March 19, and May 2015.
Some of the other questions asked of the candidates had to do with who the candidates supported as California State Superintendent of Education between incumbent Tom Torlakson and newcomer challenger Marshall Tuck and how each candidate stands on teacher tenure.
In general there seemed to be a consensus among the candidates that the current 2 years for a teacher to be working in the district to gain tenure is too short.   
Rotary connections—Two of the candidates have past connections to Rotary.  Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein was a student at RYLA camp as a high school student, and candidate Oscar de la Torre, who was a member of the Santa Monica Rotary Club, quoted the Rotary 4 Way Test, when assessing the PCB issue:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Indeed, it is the standard to be applied to all the things we do or say.
All the candidates promised to dedicate themselves to providing the best education for children in the safest environment.   The voters will decide on November 4th which ones will succeed in their mission.
   Link to Candidates Pictures, Statements, and Videos: