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Talk of the Town: School board appointment controversy

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Photo by Milton Alvarez-Ramos — Steve Ferguson, civic leader and political strategist

A lot of chatter  in B-town and on the Internet about the appointment of Burbank Police Lieutenant, John Dilibert, as an interim school board member — to complete the term of Debbie Kukta — who recently stepped down to take the interim position of city treasurer. Lt. Dilibert narrowly won out over former Park, Recreation, Community Services board member/chair and political strategist, Steve Ferguson.

Lt. Dilibert, 48, has served on a number of community and private boards and committees– including an interim term on the Burbank Unified School District Board from December 2006 until May 2007. Ferguson, 23, is considerably younger but he too has a wealth of public service  experience, which began at the age of 11 on the city council’s Burbank Youth for Youth team. He went on to serve as a student board member of the Burbank Board of Education in 2005, became the youngest person to be appointed to a Burbank commission or board (Park, Recreation, and Community Services Board) in 2007, and later served as a student trustee of the Glendale Community College District. Both educated in Burbank schools. Neither has children.

At a special meeting on August 2nd, some of the dozen or so candidates spoke. Many in the audience were impressed with Ferguson and that’s probably one of the things that ignited the controversy. The other is the apparent elephant in that meeting: sexual orientation. Ferguson addressed that when I asked  him to respond to some e-mail questions a few days ago.

1. You were not appointed to fill a seat on the Burbank School Board left vacant after Debbie Kukta was appointed city treasurer. Many feel you were the best candidate?

No, the vote on the appointment didn’t go our way but this has always been about the beginning of a conversation about the future of public education in this community–not the end of one.

2. Do you think something other than qualifications, such as sexual orientation, influenced the outcome?

I am gay. Did this one fact lose me the appointment? I can’t answer that, as I was not deciding this appointment and it would be unfair for me to speak on behalf of any member of the board. Was it a factor that the board had to consider? Sure.

3. Do you have plans to run for a permanent seat on the school board?

Absolutely. The outpouring of support, since the selection, has been overwhelming and my commitment to these students is unyielding. This campaign is going to be about breaking down barriers, barriers which in the past have done nothing to contribute to our school sites or our students. I am excited for the interactions and conversations ahead and cannot wait until February.


By the way, I sent e-mail questions to Lt. Dilibert, including asking if he plans to run for an open school board seat next year, but he’s apparently on vacation until next week.  Hopefully, the lieutenant will find time to respond to my questions soon and I will be able to share his comments in a follow-up column.

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