Finalists Selected for BHUSD Trustee Seat

With a Nov. 21 deadline to fill the board vacancy looming, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education held a Special Meeting on Oct. 19 to begin reviewing board member candidate applications. Of the 20 applicants, the board selected eight who will proceed to the interview: Michal Amir-Salkan, Judy Friedman, Howard Goldstein, Gabriel Halimi, Brigitte Lifson, Judy Manouchehri, Robert Myers, and Aaron Reitman.

However, there appears to have been a miscalculation in the final vote count to advance candidates. Upon review of the transcript, Howard Goldstein only received one vote, which was cast by Noah Margo, in the final elimination round. Therefore, Goldstein does not qualify to proceed with the interview.

“The final motion for the slate of interviewees which passed unanimously, although informed by the tallied numbers, did not include those numbers officially as part of the motion. The miscalculation is a clerical error and something that I hope the board can address fairly at our next meeting on Tuesday, October 26th,” Margo told the Courier.

“Due to an unfortunate miscalculation, Mr. Goldstein was included on the list of applicants who qualified to advance in the selection process,” Mary Wells, who was appointed as the Vice President of the board at the Oct. 19 meeting, told the Courier. “In fairness to all applicants, a correction must be made and Mr. Goldstein should not proceed to the interview process.”

The Courier has reached out to Goldstein, but has not received a response as of press time. However, BHUSD Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy did confirm to the Courier that “The Board of Education will be addressing the issue at its next meeting on Tuesday, October 26 at 5:00 p.m.”

A three-step elimination process took place during the Oct. 19 meeting. Candidates who received the most votes by board mem- bers moved forward to the next round. In the final round, board members chose their top three candidates out of a list of seven and those who received two or more votes were slated to proceed to an interview.

When deliberating, the board looked for experience, history in the city and in the district, temperament, and understanding of the role.

“We have many options for candidates, so that’s really wonderful to see,” said Wells. During the discussion, compromise with each other and sensitivity to candidates were the guiding principles. “We know we’re only going to employ one person,” Margo, who is in his third term on the board, said. “We don’t want to deliberately hurt people’s feelings or talk negatively about anybody in public. It’s not correct to do that.”

In the first round of elimination, board members tallied up their preferred candidates and were given the opportunity to advocate for specific applicants that they feel should advance to the interview.

Board member Dr. Amanda Stern advocated for Gabriel Halimi, saying he “straddles between older adults and younger adults and brings a fresh perspective.” In 2000, Halimi served on the BHUSD Board of Education as a student board member and co-sponsored a resolution that approved and installed foot- ball lights at the high school. “He also set up a preschool with some other parents during the pandemic, and I think that’s amazing,” Stern added. “I think that shows extraordinary understanding of how administrative things work with children.”

“I thought that Judy Manouchehri made a very, very strong application,” President Rachelle Marcus said. “And Michal Amir- Salkan, I’m very much in favor of.”

At its next meeting on Oct. 26, the board will review and approve a set of questions for each applicant to answer during their respective interviews. Details regarding the interview process itself, as well as setting interview times, will also be decided. The board will conduct public candidate interviews the first week of November, before making a provisional appointment by Nov. 21. If the board should fail to make an appointment within the allotted 60 days, the county superintendent of schools would order a special election.

“I do just want to say that I appreciate all 20 people that applied to step up,” Margo said. “To serve your community is a gracious thing, and we can only choose one but, hopefully there’s an election next November, so please keep us in mind. We’ll always be here.”

“As the interview process goes, there may be some additional questions for each of the candidates that may be applicable,” Jabari Willis, the district’s legal counsel, said. “But obviously, there will be a set of questions that you will want to ask to each of the candidates so that you get a sort of across-the-board answer.”

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