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On Education: Time to be a little less polite

March 28, 2013|By Megan O'Neil

Glendale Unified school board candidates are a very polite bunch.

I am convinced, in fact, that our local education race might be the last bastion of civilized discourse in American politics. Two months of campaigning has seen a string of cordial forums during which candidates carefully adhered to time limits and largely avoided voicing criticism.

Tension over the prized Glendale Teachers Assn. endorsement — this year it belongs to second-time candidate Jennifer Freemon, but in the past had been touted by incumbents Christine Walters and others — has remained mostly muted.

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Incumbent Greg Krikorian has even been heard making conciliatory remarks about the teachers union, a group he has verbally tussled with in the past.

With the April 2 vote days away, just about the only surprise in the school board race has been the fundraising prowess of first-time candidate Armina Gharpetian, who has raised $20,000, more than any of the other six candidates, according to the most recent campaign filings.

You need only travel a few blocks from Glendale Unified headquarters to Glendale City Hall to find a bit of campaign-season fury. City council candidate Zareh Sinanyan has raised more than $70,000 despite yet-to-be-refuted allegations that he posted vulgar, vitriolic comments on YouTube and other websites.

In neighboring Burbank, the school board race is generating a bit of buzz, not the least because a super PAC founded by national education reformer Michelle Rhee has injected more than $26,000 into the race. Add to it a 24-year-old candidate and a yard sign heist caught on videotape, and Burbank has itself an election worth tracking.

Even La Cañada Flintridge, a standard-bearer for polite politics and elite public education, has produced a little school board election heat. In November 2011, then-20-year-old Princeton University student Andrew Blumenfeld upset an incumbent and community matriarch to become that district’s youngest-ever office-holder.

All of this makes the Glendale Unified school board race look awfully sleepy.

Perhaps it is something to be thankful for. Watching PTA parents and former educators spitting across a table at each other during a candidates forum might make for an entertaining Tuesday night at the La Crescenta Library, but probably wouldn’t do much to improve the quality of Glendale schools.

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