100120 MBUSD board

L-R Heather de Roos, Mike Brunick, Cathey Graves and Jason Boxer are running for Manhattan Beach Unified school board.

Manhattan Beach Unified School District has four candidates running for two board member positions. 

Here's a bit of what they're about.

Mike Brunick, 43, a 17-year resident said he would approach being on the board position with values of accountability, innovation and revenue.

"We have to address our funding challenge by focusing on what we can directly control first," Brunick said.   

Brunick, also on the board of directors for the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation, said he will listen to the greater school community; balance perspectives, opinions, options and outcomes; and act on what he learns from that.

A renewed focus on improving communication and collaboration in the district community is necessary, Brunick said. 

"Our communication must get clearer, more frequent and be used to bring us together so we can work collectively to advance our schools," Brunick said. "Accountability is a critical component to achieving success, and the task of learning is never complete." 

Jason Boxer, 27, has lived in his hometown of Manhattan Beach for most of his life. He's now an early childhood educator, and grew up attending Pacific Elementary, Manhattan Beach Middle School and Mira Costa High School. 

Boxer is running for school board, he said, because "our community is dissatisfied with the lack of contrasting voices among school leadership."

He's been a teacher, a supervisor to teachers, and a student himself, Boxer said, adding that he has a theoretical grounding in pedagogical best practices.

"That’s why I’ve been asked by members of the community to run," he said.

"Our school board has traditionally been comprised of committed and able parent volunteers with fundraising backgrounds," Boxer added, "But this leaves us without a necessary voice: that of a professional educator."

The district's biggest issue, Boxer said, is a recurring budget crisis.

"The first action I will take if elected will be to encourage my fellow board members to organize a zero-based budgeting exercise in partnership with our community," Boxer said.

This reassessment will ensure transparency surrounding the ever-changing needs and costs of our schools, he added, making sure all expenses are justified and explained in a way that is easily accessible to families. 

"MBUSD needs an advocate — a board member that drives our district toward long-term cures, a representative working in harmony with the commendable efforts of our local education foundations," Boxer said. 

He has started building relationships with school boards across the state, he said, as part of his work to reform California's education funding. If elected, he added, Boxer plans to take an active role within the California School Board Association, bolstering their legislative advocacy to better fund schools.

Cathey Graves, 62, has been a volunteer leader with MBUSD for 17 of her 20 years living in Manhattan Beach.

From her time in the city, she's grown a "heartfelt commitment to our schools and the children of our community," said Graves, an accountant and attorney. Her four children went through the Manhattan Beach education system, with her youngest now a senior at Mira Costa.

Graves' focus, she said, is "safely returning our students to school with solutions for both the short and long term." Maintain high quality education for students.

She would look for creative solutions to facilitate safe in-person classes, she said, and participate in state school meetings as well as research other districts' changes to do so.

"I have seen class size, libraries, PE, music, art and counseling services impacted, as well as young teachers pink slipped," Graves said.

Despite fundraising efforts with district partners, she added, the schools are facing a dire financial situation, and new safety protocol may only add to budget concerns.

"As a school board trustee, I will continue to push for education funding on the state and national levels, work closely with the District Financial Advisory Committee to look for areas to save costs and explore more consistent revenue streams," Graves said.  

Heather de Roos, 48, has lived in Manhattan Beach for 16 years and has an 8th grade son at Manhattan Beach Middle School. 

A continued lack of funding and rising costs are the district's biggest challenges, de Roos said.

If elected, "I will collaborate with my fellow board members, the MBUSD teachers and staff and our community to find ways to raise revenue and control costs," de Roos said.

Her multi-faceted approach to raising revenue would include seeking increased enrollment, extend the Manhattan Beach parcel tax that currently ends in 2024, identify alternate funding sources on all levels and support MBEF fundraising, said de Roos, who is also on the MBEF board, 

With 10 years of involvement in the district, "I have a passion for making Manhattan Beach schools the best they can be," de Roos said. "Being your representative on the Manhattan Beach school board would allow me the opportunity to do more of this important work on a bigger scale." 

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