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School Board Appointing Ben Allen’s Successor Will Avoid $1 Million Election

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

December 1, 2014 -- A majority of the Board of Education must agree on a replacement for former member Ben Allen next month, or the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District would have to pay for an election that could cost approximately $1 million.

Superintendent Sandra Lyon explained the process at the most recent board meeting on November 20. 

Lyon said district residents can apply for the open seat December 2 through December 18, and board members will interview qualified applicants in public on January 15.

The board is expected to make an appointment after the interviews. If an appointment is made, residents have 30 days to challenge the selection and call for an election. 

The challenge would be made through a petition that must be signed by 1.5 percent of the district’s registered voters.

The potential election’s price tag was estimated to cost up to $1 million, Lyon said. A mail-in election would be cheaper by several hundred thousand dollars, but Lyon said she did not believe the district would be allowed to have one.  

A petition for an election must feature information about the cost.

If the board members thought an election was a better method than an appointment, they would have had to say so at the November 20 meeting. Nobody voiced that opinion.

The vacancy was created because Allen was elected to the State Senate last month. He officially resigned November 24, after having served on the board since 2008.

Among those expected to apply for the appointment is Ralph Mechur, who had served on the board since 2007, but was forced off in November when he placed fifth in the election for four seats.

Mechur told The Lookout last month, “Supporting Santa Monica and Malibu public schools is my passion and always will be. I would be honored to continue serving on the Board of Education with the existing board as well as its newest members.”

An appointment to the board is familiar territory for Mechur. He was appointed in 2007 following the resignation of Emily Bloomfield, who moved out of the state.

At the time of his appointment, Mechur was president of the district’s Education Foundation and had many years of SMMUSD activism under his belt. 

Only one other person, who did not have much experience, applied for the seat. Mechur was not a controversial selection.

No board members have stated publicly who they’d like to fill Allen’s seat. A teachers union leader said at a meeting last month that the organization wants Mechur appointed.

Information on how to apply for the seat is expected to be posted this week on the district’s website at

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