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During its organizational meeting on Dec. 15, the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education installed Mary Wells as its newest president. She was sworn in by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Fred N. Wapner, and Noah Margo was elected vice president.
Wells, who was elected in 2020, said she wants to improve the functionality of the school board and promote more collaboration between board members and the community “at all levels.” She also wants to ensure transparency and an “efficient and well-conceived” building plan for district facilities.
“By accomplishing this, we will continue to successfully confront the challenges brought about by the pandemic and continue to implement protocols and safety measures necessary to keep our schools open,” Wells added. “Our students, teachers, staff and families continue to endure heightened levels of stress and anxiety that must be addressed. We must find ways to lessen the impact the pandemic has had on our mental health and social and emotional wellbeing.”
To address declining enrollment at Beverly Hills schools, she wants to identify ways to increase the district’s visibility and make plans to develop a “dedicated” early-education program.
“This is where parents and students form lifelong friendships, which in turn anchors their commitment to public education,” Wells said.
Additionally, the school board president said the district must resolve the budget shortfall facing its building program, which needs approximately $130 million to complete its remaining projects.
“I believe that incorporating these actions into our strategic plan will provide a roadmap that will bring this district back to the stature of delivering the highest education at the highest level,” she added.
Prior to being sworn in, Wells read aloud a resolution honoring immediate past president Rachelle Marcus and thanked her for serving as president over the last year. BHUSD school board presidents typically serve for one year.
“You are one of the most beloved people in this city,” Wells said. “For over 50 years, you’ve taught generations of students with compassion and understanding, as you have shown them the path to success. Your time as board president has been the same. … Not only have all your decisions been based on what’s best for our students, you are all about the students. I have watched you this past year. You’ve never missed a school event, and while attending an event, you never miss the opportunity to stop and connect in a meaningful way with our students. I’m proud of you and what you have accomplished as board president.”
Marcus said the past year has presented many challenges, but the school board and district had accomplished a lot in that time. She referenced the opening of the remodeled buildings (B1 and B2) at Beverly Hills High School, the completed renovations of the high school’s Swim Gym, the successful negotiation of a three-year collective bargaining agreement with district unions, an approved memorandum of understanding to return to in-person learning and the formation of the board’s Facility and Construction Committee.
“All of this was only possible with the help of all the dedicated, certificated and classified administration, our school board stakeholders and community members,” Marcus said. “As a colleague of mine once said, it takes a village.”
Former school board member and president Howard Goldstein, currently chair of the facility and construction committee, administered the oath of office to Margo, who spoke briefly.
“President Wells put it very succinctly on what we have in front of us and what we need to accomplish, and I agree with that,” Margo said. “And we will do so diplomatically, and we may not always agree, but we will work together. I think that’s the most important thing.”
Margo was also selected to continue serving as the board’s representative to the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association and the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization.
The president and vice president will continue to serve as board liaisons to the city of Beverly Hills and the board’s Facilities and Construction Committee, while Marcus was selected as a liaison to the city’s Health and Safety Commission. Board member Amanda Stern will be the representative for the city’s Human Relations Commission.
Marcus and board member Gabe Halimi will be liaisons for the board’s Finance Committee and Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.
The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18.
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