Three members of the Board of Education left office last month — each for different reasons — and were honored by their colleagues at the Board’s last meeting.
Ben Allen, who was first elected in 2008, is leaving mid term after having been elected to the State Senate. Nimish Patel, who was elected in 2010, announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection. Ralph Mechur, who was appointed to the board in 2008 and won election in 2010, failed at his reelection bid this year.
Two board members spoke about each colleague at last month’s Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education meeting.
Allen moves on
Boardmember Oscar de la Torre honored Allen through a roast-style speech that focused on Allen’s love for people.
“There’s a lot to say about Ben and his many accomplishment but many of you got how many mailers that the campaign put out,” de la Torre said.
He called Allen the “real deal” contrasting him against other politicians.
“They’re shaking a hand but they want to shake the next person’s hand because it’s about quantity,” he said. “Ben really is about quality; getting to know people’s stories. That’s something that’s important for someone who’s elected to office is that he has a genuine love for people.”
De la Torre also lauded Allen as a collaborator.
“I know myself, I sometimes like to shoot from the hip but Ben likes to calm down and ask some tough questions and get some reason before he throws himself on an issue,” he said.
Patel spoke about Allen’s influence on him, citing Allen as a reason that he decided to seek election to the board in the first place.
“I’m older than him but he’s been a mentor to me,” Patel said.
Allen thanked his colleagues and numerous members of the community. He promised to continue to listen to the school community as a member of the State Senate.
Patel to spend time with family
Colleagues called Patel a gentleman and voice of reason on the board.
“When we get bogged down in our discussions, it is often your insight that resolves the issue because it is always focused on how decisions we make will impact our students,” Mechur said.
Boardmember Laurie Lieberman noted that Patel’s business savvy will be missed.
“I feel, in my words, that he brought a freshness and an openness, a graciousness and a kindness and compassion that really, in the way it has played out, has really pulled the board together in a really terrific and positive way,” she said.
She called him a “detail person” and reiterated her appreciation for his warm personality.
“Nimish is the paradigmatic respectful colleague, who brings a healthy respect and a gentlemanly approach in the best of senses to the job and to everybody involved,” she said.
Patel thanked the board and the community for the opportunity to serve.
Mechur unseated, for now
After placing fifth in a race for four seats, Mechur noted that he’d be interested in reappointment to the board.
Boardmember Jose Escarce said that Mechur was one of the first people in the education community that he looked up to after moving to Santa Monica years ago.
“I think Ralph was a pillar of the sort of school community, if you will, in the entire Santa Monica and Malibu district,” he said. “I found that so admirable.”
He noted that Mechur’s professional experience as an architect served the board well during his six years in office.
“That has been tremendously valuable on our board … The perspective of someone who is deeply involved in architecture and construction projects and contracting has also been quite helpful,” Escarce said.
Allen lauded Mechur’s work on the board and his work, prior to joining the board, as an advocate for the district.
“He was a member of the original schoolyard bullies who pushed the city of Santa Monica to fundamentally change the nature of the relationship between the city and our school district and it was a precedent-setting relationship that I think has sent signals and actually inspired school systems all over the state,” Allen said.
Mechur thanked his colleagues and brought up the issue of equity, which many of his colleagues said was his most passionate goal.
“I’ve always believed that every child should be given access and opportunity to learn,” Mechur said.
Incoming board members Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Craig Foster will join the board later this month. An appointment process is underway to fill Allen’s seat, which will remain vacant until at least February.
This story first appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press