Board of Education Election Question #5: Goals


Board of Education Election Question #1: Budget

As part of myBurbank’s Election 2022 coverage, we have asked all of the candidates in the three races some tough questions to help voters decide who deserves their vote.

In the race for Board of Education, there are seven candidates, and we asked five tough questions. We told the candidates they could write as much as they wanted, and we did not edit their responses in any way. We listed their responses in alphabetical order.

Today is question 1 of 5 – Goals: Why did you decide to run for the Board of Education, and what are two to three issues facing Burbank Unified at this time that are of great concern to you?

Larry Applebaum

I decided to run for the Board of Education because I saw many issues that I felt could be addressed with the experience from my previous tenure on the Board and my ability to build the coalitions and consensus that will allow the District to overcome some of the short term struggles it has been recently undergoing. Obviously, TRUSTED leadership is a key to helping the District to move forward on a variety of issues. As I stated in my first answer, I believe we have to be able to pass a bond in 2024 that will fund the maintenance and repair of our facilities and refresh technology needs into the future. This will free up the scare General Fund dollars that will ultimately be the source of the dollars needed for this work, if we do not pass a Bond. To do this, we need to get the community on board, which will only happen through constructive engagement and transparency in all aspects of District operations.

          Additionally, we need to refocus our efforts and energies in the classrooms to ensure our students are proficient in basic reading, writing, and arithmetic at grade level and only then build on that scaffold history, science, civics, ethnic studies and all the other wonderful curriculum that makes learning engaging and fun. We need to recognize that many of our students are not doing well in these basic areas and by the time they graduate, they lack the necessary skills to be successful human beings, whether it be in college or career pathways. We need to make sure that our students can take care of themselves, be able to balance a checkbook, make thoughtful decisions and choices that will augment their ability to earn a good living and take advantage of all our society has to offer in the future. College professors I have talked to lament the decline in preparedness our current crop of students bring to their doorsteps. Likewise, we have eliminated many of the school to career pathways that our non-college bound students took advantage of in the past. We need to recognize as a District our challenge is to serve ALL our students and the best way I believe we can is by starting to make sure they are grade level proficient by the time they graduate for our schools.

We also need to address the multitude of HR problems in our District and get back to creating a culture of success, opportunity and longevity for all our district employees. Unfortunately, under the current state of education funding, we will never have the resources necessary to compete financially with neighboring districts, whose numbers of economically disadvantage students ensure they get many more education dollars than our District. To one degree or another, this has always been the case for Burbank Unified. We were able to attract and retain staff with the knowledge that we offered a superior work environment, lower class sizes, more meaningful professional development and a collegial group of peers that made coming to work a joy. We need to restore the luster that our District once enjoyed; to be able to attract the best of the best of applicants once again. The Board needs to provide leadership to achieve these important goals.

Finally, we need as a District and community as a whole, to restore order inside the walls of our schools and beyond. We need to develop acceptable classroom behavior standards and ENFORCE them in every school. We need to stop the outrageous actions of bullies who prey on the weak and vulnerable students and destroy the learning experience of many beyond those that are bullied. We can and must insist on civility in our schools, and need to address deviations from these standards swiftly and apply consequences that protect the interests of everyone, bullies and the bullied alike. We must educate our children with values consistent with the expectations of our community and ensure at the end of the day that everyone who graduates Burbank Unified exhibits those behaviors once they leave our schools for the finally time.

Harutyun Ketikyan

Did not respond

Michael Morgan

I decided to run for the Board of Education because I love Burbank and I know it can be better. This city has been a home for me for almost 25 years and I value its contributions to our country and our world. With great power comes great responsibility and in an era of digital information and ubiquitous media anywhere and everywhere, I believe that the time has come for the “Media Entertainment Capital of the World” (Burbank) to step up and step out and lead in education, gaming, and inspiring hope through its public and civic institutions – including its schools. Since my background includes a Master’s degree in teaching from USC as well as the honor of starting a venture-capital backed tech company through the Annenberg Media School at USC, I believe my talents and skills can best serve Burbank right here and right now. 

James L. Morrison

I decided to run for the Board of Education due to the lack of diversity within the district as I feel people of color have a great perspective to offer when it comes to policy. It is true that we only make up 3 percent of the 108,000 residents in this town; however, numbers are not a good enough reason to muffle the voices of an entire community. Burbank’s leadership should be reflective of its rich diversity. Everyone needs to have a seat at the table, and it shouldn’t be limited to one race, one ethnicity, one gender, one ability, or one sexuality. This November, I think Burbank ready to say it’s time for change.

My top issues are staff retention, furthering the mission of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and streamlining the mental health services for our kids.

Thanks for taking the time to read this interview, and I hope I have earned your trust.

Abby Pontzer Kamkar

I ran for the Board because I’m qualified to do so, as both a parent and as someone who has spent most of her career in public education. When it was time to enroll my daughter in kindergarten, I didn’t get any communication from the district and found the process cumbersome and confusing – and I am someone who thinks about student enrollment a lot! I know that a lot of Burbankers come here and stay here for the good schools, but “Burbank has good schools” is a promise that could be better fulfilled. My issues of greatest concern are our finances, our ability to hire and retain excellent teachers and administrators, and expanding access to key programs so that parents want to choose us over their other options.

Brian J. Smith

I’m running for school board because I am an actively involved parent of students currently enrolled in Burbank schools and have a vision and a desire for our school district.  I believe the city of Burbank should have the best public school system in Los Angeles County. The schools are good, better than most, but I think we should have the best. We should have the best maintained classrooms, buildings, and technology. We should have the best curricular programs, with rigorous academic discipline at all levels and we should retain and recruit the highest quality professionals. All this, while demonstrating sound administrative discipline though policy and practice transparency and regular budget performance reports on all funding and expenditures. We should partner with community members and the business community to help with the financial lift necessary to be the best.

We have a retention and recruiting issue, we have a maintenance issue that is only going to increase unless we really start making it a priority and I think we have a public trust issue with the current board and district leadership.  I suggest that we hire a recruiter to actively post jobs, search for great staff, attend job fairs and promote the good programs of the school district.  I think we need to hire an outsourced firm to build a facilities master plan for the entire district so we can begin to understand what it will take to have top notch buildings and classrooms.  The district and the board need to focus on providing more transparency with regard to finances, policies and procedures and make that information easy to find and consume by the general public.  That will begin to rebuild trust with all the stakeholders.

Charlene Tabet

My goals for the district are centered around our District goals:

1. Students will be career/college ready via high quality instruction
2.Students and Staff will be physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy.
3. Recruit and retain highly qualified employees
4. Maintain efficient and effective operations.

Of these, the 1st goal is of the most important. I will continue to advocate for increasing the amount of dual enrollment classes available to students, so that they will leave High School with college units, increasing the rigor of their education and allowing them a jump start on their college education. I also will continue to advocate for increased Career Technical Education classes so that students can have a broader range in choices for areas of their and the community’s interest.
Additionally, with the focus on teaching and learning, we have taken great strides in our District’s focus on Algebra but will need to continue the work in advancing the number of students who reach this level which will also open the possibility of more students reaching higher math levels.

I also focus on the 4th goal of the district to maintain effective and efficient operations.  Our school sites need to be maintained so that they are positive places for student learning and achievement.  Our district employees that maintain our structures also need to be a focus with an emphasis on compensation.

I am running for re-election to the Board because I care about our students in this community and want to continue to advocate for them.  These students are the future and with encouragement and concern for their well-being, we will have a bright future.  Our students are amazing and I want continue to be a part of working towards their growth and help them to achieve in all areas.   As a lifelong Burbank resident, graduate of BUSD (as well as my 3 children) I want to make sure my school district and hometown provides the best experience for all. I truly believe that Burbank Unified is a great district, but with work from all of us, would be an amazing school district.