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Five Minutes: School Board President Scott Zeidman

The Culver City Unified School District leader chats with Patch about what his goals would be if he's re-elected in November.

Now that the is open, the Culver City Unified School District Board of Education election season is officially under way. Board President Scott Zeidman discussed his vision for Culver City schools’ finances, facilities and the future in an exclusive interview with Patch.

Culver City Patch: Why should Culver City vote for you?

Scott Zeidman: Our funding has dropped about 20 percent in the last three years and our schools are doing better now than when I started.

We’ve hired the right superintendent in . We’ve hired the right principals. We’ve been able to maintain our classroom aides. I was largely responsible for the passage of Measure EE, raising $6 million for our schools.

We’ve done a lot of good. When I started on the board, we were dependent on LAUSD for . We’ve started the process of weaning that dependency to make us more fiscally sound. We’ve made a lot of good decisions and the schools are in a good position. But the work isn’t over yet.

Patch: What do you mean “the work isn’t over”?

Zeidman: We’re not done. We need to continue to push and make our schools better. All of the good that we’ve done can be undone with a number of bad decisions. We need to find ways to make our student experience better than it is today, to raise funds even when we can’t raise funds.

We still need to decrease our dependency on LAUSD. Any business that depends on one source for 15 to 20 percent for its product is destined to fail. It’s tough, but if LAUSD does pull permits, we won’t be hit as hard.

We have to take our capital improvement funds and use them. Sitting on capital improvement funds doesn’t make sense because the kids in school now won’t get the benefit for it. We can take the capital improvement funds, build something, rent it and use the revenue from that money.

Patch: Can you elaborate on the types of improvements you have in mind?

Zeidman: Let’s start with the . The building has no air conditioning, no heating and seats from 1961. The sound system is below par, and yet it’s a 1,200-seat theater on the Westside. Our students are going to get a better experience, our parents are going to get a better experience if we improve it. What about when the students aren’t using it? Can we bring in a church or temple on the weekend, rent it out and then use the money for the general fund, for things such as teacher salaries?

Patch: What are some of your goals for the district, if re-elected?

Zeidman: The fact that we’ve saved counselors and aides for three years is great, but if we lose them next year, it means nothing. We have to continue to work hard to keep those counselors and aides. We have to continue to keep an open and transparent budget process. If the public can see the budget, they can see where the money is going.

Patch: If you had it to do it all over again, would you change anything about your time on the Board of Education?

Zeidman: The first two years were a huge learning experience. I came on to the board thinking I could change the world, but I learned that things couldn’t change that quickly. If I could go back and change, I would be more patient and understand that things don’t change quickly just because I feel I am right. I have always been a leader, so it was different to be one of five. Now I understand better how it works.

Patch: How do you plan on improving relations between the labor unions and the board?

Zeidman: We need to continue the open and transparent budget process. We have to make certain that there is trust. When there are questions about where the money is, both sides have to understand where the money went. It has to be clear.

It may not seem like it, but we have improved the relationships. We brought our unions in as part of the hiring process for our superintendent. That was a fight with our search team and our attorney. I think the members appreciated that.

Patch: What is the district’s greatest need?

Zeidman: Money. We have incredible teachers and staff members. But these poor people haven’t had a raise since I have been elected. If the state would fund education like most other states do, I can imagine how great our district would be. Every time we lose a teacher or staff member to another district, it's a huge loss. Every time we have to take a furlough day, it doesn’t make sense. But yet that’s what we have to do in order to make things work because the state has decided that it won’t fund education.

Patch: What would be the most major goal that you have for the district?

Zeidman: We need to be fiscally sound and open and transparent with the budget. We have to balance the budget in a way that we don’t have massive layoffs and increased class sizes. You have to be fiscally sound, but you want to educate the kids. The school board doesn’t educate the kids; that's what our fantastic teachers do.

I want us to do our job in such a manner so that our students aren’t hurt by what our state is doing to our education system.

Jerry Chabola October 10, 2011 at 06:27 PM
A school board leader who has accepted the challenges of the position, attended more events than any previous board member, supports the organizations who provide for our young people and more. Scott Zeidman has my vote!
Winter Johnson October 11, 2011 at 01:09 AM
Hello, all: Thank you so much for your comments on Patch and for generating conversation. A friendly reminder: While free speech is encouraged and appreciated, this is not a forum for insults nor accusations. Any comments deemed inappropriate by our terms of use will be deleted. Persistent inflammatory comments could lead to Patch staff deleting your account. Thank you again for conversing on Patch! Best, Winter Johnson Culver City Patch editor
Amanda Copeland October 19, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Edited to conform to Patch standards: The news on the street that Zeidman bribed-  or should we diplomatically say "incentivized with material gain" those high school students at city hall tonight with class credit and "free Dennys" if they came out in staged support of him in front of the cameras tonight. Apparently another such manipulated event using these students who had been promised "free Dennys" by Zeidman occurred on Sunday and then  an "article" - for lack of a better term- was planted with Ari Noonan describing Sunday as an "unprecedented turn out by students in support of Zeidman" in order to falsely manipulate and buy public opinion.    
Amanda Copeland October 19, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Part II: At City Hall last night I  and several other people heard this from the students- that they only came to get their Denny's reward.  The ones I talked to in the back of the room had no idea who Zeidman was or what he stands for- which is deceit and personal power instead of student welfare. Last night the  students were seen bizarrely disobeying the League's rule of no applause in order to pepper Zeidman's comments with clapping. This is the ultimate display of corruption and manipulating  the community- just as Zeidman did tonight about CCUSD litigation against its own students- saying those costs are down- which they are not.  People, if you vote for Zeidman in  November you vote against integrity and against the students  of CCUSD. Patch I urge you to allow the community access to this information. The public must be informed who Zeidman really is- a huge liabilty to our kids- and our community.  
Winter Johnson October 19, 2011 at 07:04 PM
To all interested: Government teacher Genevive Gilbert-Rolfe explains the role of students and campaign events in this letter to the editor. http://patch.com/A-mZxS

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