The race for three Redondo Beach school board seats was tight Tuesday night, March 2, with seven of the eight candidates relatively close to each other with the bulk of votes counted.
Rachel Silverman Nemeth, Rolf Curtis Strutzenberg and Dan Elder were in the top three spots Tuesday night, but Jerome Chang, Karen Ford Cull, Margo Trone and Kimberlee Isaacs not far off the lead.
The election was done via mail, with a few drop boxes scattered throughout the city, rather than having folks go to the polls amid the coronavirus pandemic. City Clerk Eleanor Manzano said Tuesday afternoon that there would be a couple of thousand votes potentially outstanding, because ballots have until Friday to arrive, as long as they were postmarked by election day.
Silverman Nemeth had about 15% of the vote, based on Tuesday’s returns, and Strutzenberg and Elder each had about 14.9%. Chang, seeking to be the first Asian American on the school board, had 13.5% and Ford Cull had 13.4%. Trone, who would be the first Latina board member, had 12.9% and Issacs — who would be the first Black person on the panel — had about 12.6% of the vote.
Keith Arnold was well behind, with about 2%.
Silverman Nemeth, a family law attorney, has volunteered for Redondo Beach schools for 13 years. She’s been on the school site council for Lincoln Elementary and Redondo Union High Schools, an auditor and tax preparer for Lincoln, a member of the Redondo Beach Education Foundation and PTA member at Lincoln, Adams Middle School and Redondo Union.
Elder, a information technology professional, said he plans to use his career expertise to improve children’s classroom experiences. He’s currently chair of the RBUSD Bond Oversight Committee, legislative chair for the Lincoln Elementary School PTA, chair of the Lincoln Elementary School Site Council, secretary for Adams Middle School Site Council and chair of the Redondo Beach Planning Commission.
Elder and Silverman Nemeth campaigned together, focusing on supporting all facets of students’ well-being, fostering communication between parents and teachers, robust financial planning and celebrating the community’s differences.
Strutzenberg, a retired aerospace engineer, has priorities to prepare students for the technologically and creatively changing world, build trust between administrators and educators and fight for school funding.
Ford Cull has held multiple leadership roles on the Alta Vista Elementary School PTA board and Parras Middle School PTA; helped found the South Bay Down Syndrome Association, which is now a community group with Club 21 Learning and Resource Center; and taught university-level history and politics in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.
Her priorities for the district, if elected, include supporting mental health, improving inclusion of students in special education programs and increasing students’ access to technology.
Chang, an architect and founder of a co-working spaces company, said he plans to get the re-entry to school life, after a year of virtual learning because of the coronavirus pandemic, as close to normal as possible by promoting students’, faculty and staff’s overall wellness. He’s also focused on college and career readiness, exposing kids to foreign languages and nurturing a diverse community.
Trone, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Dual Immersion Foundation, said she’d also prioritize safely returning students to in-class learning, while identifying learning loss and providing resources to fill those gaps, as well as providing students adequate social-emotional support. Her foundation promotes bilingual and multicultural learning.
She also used to work in risk management, policy and compliance for LAUSD.
Isaacs, an accountant, said she believes that on top of making changes that adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, the district must also address diversity and inclusion to ensure that all students thrive in a multicultural, multiracial society.
She’s part of the RBUSD Race and Equity Committee, as well as a community group, Neighbors not Nuisance, which works to help house those who are experiencing homelessness. As the country and the communities within it are addressing systemic racism, Isaacs said, it’s critical that a person of color be part of Redondo Beach Unified’s process to be truly effective.
Arnold, an entrepreneur, has goals, if elected, of bringing the school community back to campuses safely and getting students’ families more involved in district decisions.