The Malibu Times sent a questionnaire to eight candidates running for four seats on the Board of Education for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. They were given the same time frame to respond and were limited to 150 words per answer. One profile will be printed each week beginning with this issue until the Oct. 19 issue. Election Day is Nov. 2.
Name: Nimish Patel
Birth date: January 15, 1969
What is your education and employment history?
I attended California public schools for elementary, middle and high school. In high school I was in student government, yearbook editor and a camp counselor. I received my undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Southern California. I went to graduate school at the University of San Diego where I received my law (JD) and business (MBA) degrees. Throughout high school and college I worked at various jobs to help with family expenses.
I am a former CPA and worked with a national accounting firm for five years. It was during my employment in public accounting that I gained valuable experience analyzing budgets, projections and financial statements. I am currently a licensed attorney and the managing partner at Richardson & Patel, a law firm that focuses on advising small businesses. I want to use my legal and financial skill sets to help the Board tackle the budget crisis.
How did you become involved in school issues? What has your involvement included?
My wife and I have two children who will complete all 12 years in our public schools. Since kindergarten we have been overjoyed with the quality of teachers and the top-notch programs, but over the last several years, there has been a dark cloud looming over our School District caused by the severe financial crisis. I am proud of our public schools and I want to protect and preserve what we have.
I have been actively involved in the Malibu and Santa Monica schools. My community and education involvement includes:
– School District Financial Oversight Committee
– SMC Bond Oversight Committee
– School Site Governance Council
– Steering Committee, Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS)
– Parcel Tax Feasibility Committee/ Measure A Campaign/S.O.S. volunteer
I am running for School Board because I want to ensure that my children and every child in our community has the best education possible.
There is a feeling by many in Malibu that this city is an afterthought for school district officials. Why does this sentiment exist? What can be done to change this feeling?
The sentiment exists because in the past some of the School Board members have not done an effective job of reaching out to the residents of Malibu and hearing their concerns. This is also magnified by the fact that there has not been a Malibu resident on our School Board since Kathy Wisnicki, and with the departure of Assistant Superintendent Michael Matthews, there has been a Malibu representation void at the districtwide level.
I welcome Malibu representation on the School Board, and at minimum the Board should appoint a Malibu representative to serve on an advisory capacity. At board meetings, the representative should be given the opportunity to brief the Board on Malibu issues and provide input on any pending action items. The Board should also host events and town hall meetings in Malibu through out the year so that the residents have greater access to the district officials.
How have you tried to interface with Malibu residents, including education and city leaders? What have you accomplished?
Over the past year, I have been actively interfacing with many Malibu residents and attending numerous events in the City. I have met with the principals at Point Dume and Webster Elementary and many parents whose children attend the Malibu public schools. I have also met with many education and city leaders. I am proud to have the endorsements of Malibu City Council members Laura Rosenthal, Lou La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem John Sibert, former Assistant Superintendent Michael Matthews and former School Board Member Kathy Wisnicki.
By taking the time to interact with the residents, I have a stronger understanding of Malibu’s issues and concerns and what its community members value. Without the constant interaction and dialogue, a School Board member cannot effectively represent this community. If I have the honor of serving on the School Board, I pledge to continue my involvement with the Malibu residents.
Other than Board meetings, how many times have you been in Malibu in the past year? With whom have you met? What have you learned?
I have been in Malibu many times over the past year attending various educational, political and charitable events. In addition to City Council members and education leaders, I have also met with and received endorsements by many prominent business and community members such as Dr. Amarjit Marwah, Malibu resident and philanthropist Ron Semler, owner of Malibu Family Wines, and Laureen Sills, cofounder of Malibu Special Ed Foundation.
I have learned that Malibu is a unique city that is loved by its residents who are involved and care about local issues from education to the environment. The residents are proud of their local heroes, family businesses and their natural resources. Malibu faces its own special issues from fires to water runoff; from traffic congestion to the high speed accidents on the PCH. The residents are confident and resilient and will be able to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
What is your opinion on the demand by some Malibu parents for the formation of a Malibu school district?
Over the past several years there has been a rift between Santa Monica and Malibu schools. Part of the rift is caused by the unique challenges and demographics of each community, but also because the District has not done a good job to unify our two communities. I believe every community has the right to self-determination. It is important for a community to be involved in its neighborhood schools and having its values reflected in the classrooms.
I would support a separate Malibu school district, provided that it is financially feasible for the two districts to exist on its own and there is no detriment to the students that they serve. If it is not feasible, we must reconcile our differences and stand united and unified on school issues so that we can provide the best education experience to the children of our two wonderful communities.
What is your opinion on the effort to make Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School a charter school?
Point Dume is an excellent elementary school having recently received the coveted California Distinguished School Award. Unlike other public schools that convert to charter because of sub-performance, the parents of Point Dume want a charter school because they can control its destiny. With decreasing enrollment at Point Dume and the financial crisis the School District is facing, the parents are concerned about the school’s future.
I understand the parents’ anxiety of their school being closed and their children being sent elsewhere. Converting to a charter school is designed to preempt this terrible action. As a charter school, it will continue to abide by the state education standards, including testing, but it will have self-rule. Assuming there are no material adverse consequences to the students at Point Dume or to the School District as a whole, I would support Point Dume as a charter school.
Is the school district doing all it can to solve budget issues? Are there concepts that have not been tried?
The School District can do more to tackle the budget issues. Over the past several years, the District’s primary focus has been on expenditure reduction which has translated into teacher layoffs and the elimination of education programs. While attention must be given to the expense side of the ledger, there appears to be limited attention given to the revenue side of the ledger.
The Financial Oversight Committee, of which I am a member, has recommended to the School Board that they take specific actions that can increase revenue to our District. For example, we have recommended districtwide fundraising, naming rights, and responsible and age appropriate advertising on school buildings and leasing of underutilized school facilities during non-school hours. Based on what other school districts have done, it is estimated that our District can raise $3 to $5 million in additional revenue.
What is your experience dealing with budgets? How about legislation?
I currently serve on our District’s Financial Oversight Committee. As an FOC member I have reviewed and analyzed our school budgets for the past several years and participated in numerous budget workshops with the School Board, Superintendent and our Chief Financial Officer. In addition, I am a former Certified Public Accountant serving as an auditor for 5 years. As a CPA I have received extensive training in reading, analyzing and understanding budgets, projections, and financial statements.
As a licensed attorney I have strong understanding of our legislative process. In March of this year, I went to Sacramento along with other PTA leaders to lobby our state representatives for greater funding for public education. I had the pleasure of talking with our Assemblywoman Julia Brownley and meeting the staff of Senator Fran Pavley. Both continue to be supporters of public education but they need us to continue our lobbying efforts.
How many people are in your immediate family? Regardless of whether they live at home? Feel free to mention their names and ages.
We have five people that are part of our immediate family. There is me, Nimish Patel, and you can find more information about me on my web site www.patelforschoolboard.com. My amazing and talented wife Nancy Patel, who is on the PTA Board at the middle school and the past PTA president at the elementary school and yet still finds time to be a pharmacist. My son Dylan is 11 years old and is in 6th grade at Lincoln Middle School. My daughter Priya is 10 years old and is in 5th grade at Franklin Elementary School. Last but not least in our family is our puppy Chewy Patel (short for Chewbacca and not because he likes to chew every shoe that I own).
What are your interests and hobbies not involving school issues?
I like to read nonfiction books and travel but most importantly I love to spend time with my kids. They are at the perfect age right now; inquisitive about life but still want to hang out with their mom and dad.