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SB School Board Race: 1st Candidate Forum Set for Thursday -- Here's How to Get the Zoom Link

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Lanny Ebenstein, former school board member, community activist and public intellectual, on Thursday night will moderate the first candidate forum in the seven-way race for the SB Board of Education.

The online event, sponsored by the Coalition for Neighborhood Schools, is scheduled for tomorrow -- Thursday, September 17 -- from 7-8:30 p.m.

The affair will be conducted via Zoom:

"All are invited to attend and participate," the coalition said in a press release. "To receive a Zoom link, please email: and put 'RSVP to Candidates' Forum' in the subject line." 

Plenty of free parking.

State of play. Three of the five board seats for the Santa Barbara Unified School District are on the Nov. 3 ballot and all seven candidates have confirmed they will participate in this forum.

Among the field are three current board members -- Laura Capps, Jackie Reid and Wendy Sims-Moten -- who took office automatically after the 2016 election because they were the only ones who signed up to run, and now seek new four-year terms. Montecito school administrator Virginia Alvarez, literacy advocate Monie de Wit, realtor Brian Campbell and county health inspector Elrawd MacLearn all are campaigning actively for the board.

To the extent that such a thing is possible in the pandemic era anyway.

As a financial matter, serving on the board is not particularly lucrative: members receive a $400 monthly stipend for attending twice-monthly meetings; in between they read and study staff-written materials about sometimes complex agenda items, which they also may or may not independently research; communicate with parents and other stakeholders via phone and email; participate in various school and district activities, while washing windows with their third hand.

The board has hiring and firing power over the superintendent, and recently recruited Hilda Maldonado from the L.A. Unified School District to replace Cary Matsuoka, who retired early from his contract amid a spate of high-profile controversies.

What's on the agenda. The Coalition for Neighborhood Schools has been active for 20 years and "focuses on creating broad-based support for school improvement," the group said in its invitation to the event.

Alice P. Post, a founding member of the organization, wrote that the group's mission is "to provide neighborhood elementary school facilities in the downtown area of Santa Barbara." In an essay recently posted on Edhat Post said that:

"Neighborhood schools create a number of significant community benefits.   Neighborhood schools promote healthy activities because students can walk to school rather than being forced to ride in cars.   

Neighborhood schools promote community because students remain close to home, parents are more easily able to monitor their activities, and parents are more likely to interact and associate with other parents in the same neighborhood. 

In a downtown area, neighborhood schools result in stable property values, and promote downtown residential property ownership.   Such schools also promote diversity and inclusion, as students interact with other students from different cultures."

The eclectic economist. Ebenstein, a familiar figure active in a host of city and county issues, is the author of 10 books, an economist and lecturer at UCSB. He previously served eight years on the SB school board.

Among the questions he will pose to the candidates:

  • Do they believe every elementary student should be able to walk to school?

  • Would they support consideration of moving the District's administrative offices and maintenance facility from their current location to allow another downtown elementary school?

  • What models of language instruction do they favor?

  • How would they expand music and art education?

There will also be questions allowed from the floor, according to the coalition.

The only other currently scheduled candidate forum in the race is sponsored by the Independent. Set for September 24, it will be moderated by the paper's indefatigable Delaney Smith.


P.S. For reasons that remain mysterious, Reid and Sims-Moten continue to duck sit-downs with Newsmakers, but we have done one-on-one, 30-minute interviews with each of the other five candidates, which you can watch via these links:

SBUSD board president and 2020 candidate Laura Capps is here.

SB realtor and candidate Brian Campbell is here.

Photographer and literacy advocate Monie de Wit is here.

School administrator Virginia Alvarez is here.

Health inspector Elrawd MacLearn is here.

Images: SBUSD credit;; Clipboard via Facebook; Lanny Ebenstein.

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