BHUSD School Board Candidates Host Kickoffs

Three candidates for the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education, Rachelle Marcus, Judy Manouchehri and Michal Amir-Salkin, held campaign kickoffs on Aug. 28.

Also running for the two open seats are Farrah Dodes, who held her kickoff on Aug. 21, and Janessa LaVoice. 

The seats currently belong to Marcus and Gabriel Halimi, both of whose terms expire in December. Halimi was appointed last year following the resignation of Tristan Walker-Shuman, but he will not be running again. Marcus is thus the only incumbent running for reelection.

Marcus held her event at a home on North Elm Drive at 10 a.m., early enough to welcome her guests with breakfast bagels. She was introduced by Councilmember John Mirisch, who offered kind words regarding the work Marcus has done for BHUSD. “I’m someone that believes that institutional knowledge is extremely important, and there is no one who has more institutional knowledge than Mrs. Rachelle Marcus,” said Mirisch. “This is someone we have to have on our school board, and we are lucky that she has agreed to run for another four years.”

In addition to her role as a board member, Marcus has offered over 50 years of her life to the BHUSD and isn’t ready to let up just yet. She reminded the attending audience of the work she has done, such as addressing a decline in enrollment, appointing a Coordinator of Elementary Education and selecting new bonds and construction managers. She also reflected on the work she still wants to do, like improving test scores and teaching methodology. “What will make us the best? Academics,” said Marcus. “This can’t happen without the best teachers and their continuing professional development.”

The second event of the day belonged to Manouchehri, who was host to a sea of supporters wearing orange T-shirts on North Beverly Drive. Manouchehri is a construction and real estate attorney and hopes to use that experience in ironing out some of the developmental issues she claims are burdening the district. Among other topics, she highlighted the need for enhancing student activities, advancing security and strengthening the relationship between the district and the city in general. “It would be my pleasure to bring my professional expertise to the BHUSD, while it is at a crossroads in the construction program,” said Manouchehri, referring to the ongoing improvements being made to the district’s schools. “I also have a proven track record of being able to think independently and to put our district’s needs at the forefront of my analysis.”

Her speech was followed by supportive statements from former Board President, City Councilmember and Mayor Barry Brucker. “Judy Manouch ehri has the experience, temperament and love for our community,” said Brucker.

The last kickoff of the day was on behalf of Amir-Salkin, a retired doctor who now teaches at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. At her event on North Rexford Drive, Amir- Salkin expressed her hopes to strengthen relationships with California universities, improve communication across the community and increase accountability. “I am passionate, but I’m not partisan,” said Amir-Salkin. “BHUSD is not an island, it’s part of the larger community. There is a tremendous need for open, honest communication between the district and the families.”

One weekend before the three-candidate kickoff on Aug. 28, Dodes held her own event at a home on North Beverly Drive. Dodes is a familiar face in the district, serving as the President of the Beverly Hills Education Foundation, Horace Mann PTA Executive Board Communications Co-Chair and is on the Beverly Vista Middle School Site Council. Dodes is concerned with strengthening community and family engagements through events, eliminating worries around safety, widening mental health support and raising academic standings. 

“Will I ensure, as a board member, that there is a clear path of accountability, oversight and addresses at regular intervals? Yes,” said Dodes. “But I desperately want this board to get back to focusing the majority of its time on its primary objective: the education of our kids and truly achieving academic excellence.”

LaVoice told the Courier that she has yet to finalize the date of her kickoff. “Right now, I’m allocating my resources and spending time knocking on doors, engaging with the community one-on-one to spread my campaign message,” she said. 

Beverly Hills residents will have the opportunity to vote for their two preferred candidates on Nov. 8.