Mary Wells Installed as BHUSD Board President

On Dec. 14, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education held an Organizational Meeting during which Mary Wells was installed as the president of the board and Noah Margo as vice president for 2022-2023. Wells and Margo took the oath of office administered by Judge Joseph Wapner and former board member, Howard Goldstein, respectively.

Wells was appointed Vice President in October, after Tristen Walker-Shuman, former board member and vice president, resigned from office following a controversy surrounding her residency status.

Typically, the vice president position is determined by rotation based on how long each member has served on the board. However, because Wells, Margo and Dr. Amanda Stern are all serving in their first terms, the office was determined in descending order by the number of votes received in the most recent election. According to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office, in the Nov. 30, 2020 election, Wells received the most votes with 6,003 cast for her, followed by Margo with 5,913 and Stern with 5,489.

Board bylaws state that the vice president shall succeed the president. Once a member has served as president, they drop to the bottom of the rotation, behind all the other members.

“I’m so excited to use what I’ve learned since joining the board to have the greatest positive impact for the benefit of our students,” Wells told the Courier. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and strengthening our board, working as a deliberative team with respect and decorum to address the needs of our district.”

According to Wells, the biggest challenges facing the district include COVID-19 response management, mental health and social and emotional wellbeing, student safety on campus, continued decline in enrollment and completion of the Beverly Hills High School Modernization Project.

“I’m most concerned about providing the best educational experience and opportunities in a safe school environment, both physically and emotionally, and in modernized facilities,” said Wells. “In order to accomplish these things, I want to improve the functionality of the board so that we are clear about the needs of the district and provide focused leadership with vision and clear direction. To me that means improving how the board operates and gets information in order to deliberate, collaborate and make collective decisions. It means improving transparency and accountability, and it means improving the decorum of the board to be more professional and focused on the issues. It also means fostering collaboration with the community and city.”

Outgoing President Rachelle Marcus made the motion to nominate Wells as the next president, seconded by board member Gabriel Halimi. The motion passed unanimously.

Marcus, whose four-year term expires in December of 2022, was recognized with a formal resolution and plaque. A longtime Beverly Hills resident and educator, Marcus is something of a fixture in the community; she’s known for never missing a Madrigals concert, a show put on by the theater department, or a board meeting.

“Well, after I finished my 50 years of teaching, I could have sailed off into the sunset and enjoyed my retirement,” Marcus said. “But I wanted to stay connected and contribute to the Beverly Hills Unified Schools. My focus within the Beverly Hills Unified School District, from when I started as a physical education teacher at Horace Mann to an eighth-grade science teacher at El Rodeo, to the elementary science teacher at Hawthorne, was always about my students, who have always been my number one consideration. My term as president may be over, but I will continue on the board, and our work is not finished.”

During her time in office, Marcus oversaw the successful return to in-person learning, renovations at the swim gym and other buildings at the high school,

negotiated a three-year collective bargaining agreement with labor partners, effectively collaborated with labor partners, created a governance calendar, formed the Facilities and Construction Committee, returned to a full athletic program, and appointed Gabriel Halimi with a unanimous vote to fill the board vacancy left by Walker-Shuman.

“I am honored that my colleagues have once again elected me as vice president,” Margo told the Courier. “Over the next year I look forward to supporting Mrs. Wells in her role as president. I would like for this next year to see us free from this pandemic. I also hope to use this time constructively and focus on education. We must continue out shift toward project-based learning.”

Board member Stern made the motion to nominate Margo as the next vice president, seconded by Marcus. The motion passed unanimously.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention also the hard work that Tristen Walker-Shuman put in on her years on the board, serving with us and dedicating her time,” Margo added.

Other organizational actions taken by the board included selecting Margo as the Clerk to the Board of Education, as the annual representative to the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization and representative to the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association (LACSTA).

The next BHUSD Board of Education meeting will be held on Jan. 18, 2022.

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