Jesse “Tangk” Tangkhpanya is a newcomer to city politics with a very aggressive campaign. Since announcing his candidacy for the Burbank School Board last November, Tangk has sent out numerous news releases, set up a camapaign website and Facebook page, and produced several videos (see below). In a matter of a few weeks, the 29 year-old labor representative has gained some awareness among the voters for the upcoming primary on February 24.
Becky Moore, the parent of a student who attended Burbank schools, wrote a letter of support for Tangk to the Burbank Leader. In the letter, Moore states: “I believe he’ll bring badly needed transparency and oversight to this board and make sure our taxpayer money is spent wisely on our kids.”
Tangk wrote about his ideas and plans for improving Burbank schools in his responses, which are quite detailed, to the email questions I recently sent out to all board of education candidates, except Steve Ferguson who answered similar questions in a recent video interview .
1. What are the biggest problems facing the Burbank school district? And what solutions do you have for those problems?
a. A new superintendent and three open school board seats means a huge loss of experience for the Burbank Unified School District.
- This election is a great opportunity to replenish that knowledge and experience; however, we need to be careful to not restrict ourselves to local, isolated resources. We need at least one person with experience from other Districts as well so we can learn from their triumphs, and more importantly their mistakes. I am the only candidate with experience working with many southern California school districts and their issues, and I would love to share that experience with Burbank.
b. Proper disbursement of new state funds will require someone who has experience accounting for the unique revenues and expenditures of school districts. Since LCFF is only funded through 2020, the actions taken by the next school board bear special importance.
- I have experience accounting for the unique revenues and expenditures of multiple school districts.
c. Having 3 of 5 board seats open this election presents a special opportunity for the board to restructure itself with balance and moderation.
- Moderation results from a variety of ideas that can only come when the board truly represents the diversity of its stakeholders. Without that diversity, the board can lead to shrinking ideas. We don’t need to shrink ideas, we need to grow them and shake things up.
- Balance means a restoration of power from the District administrators back to the board. The board should not simply rubber stamp decisions of District administrators. This isn’t a popularity contest – being an elected board member means making tough decisions and not passing the buck, even when decisions are hard or against the trend.
d. The Local Control Funding Formula empowers the community to voice their concerns with school district financials. Burbank Unified can do a better job reaching out to constituents, particularly younger people through new levels of engagement.
- There are many things we can and should do to improve civic involvement in this process. One component of this is to begin hosting E-townhall meetings for engaged citizens who are unable to attend the current physical meetings.
e. Our job is to prepare students for the next step in their lives, whether college or direct to vocation. As part of this, I firmly believe that the increasing cost of higher education tuition can and should be addressed by BUSD.
- By offering additional Advanced Placement courses, BUSD can better prepare students for their next step, and provide thousands of dollars of savings for each student, before they even step foot on his/her college campus.
- I’m excited that the City of Burbank is offering to partner with local businesses and colleges for new vocational opportunities. I want to make sure we aggressively expand into this area by offering support as needed.
- I also want to take a moment to recognize and applaud Steve Ferguson for addressing these student issues.
2. What are the skills and experience you have acquired that make you the best candidate for a seat on the Burbank School Board?.
- I specialize in labor dispute resolutions. My frequent exposure to discipline hearings, grievances, contract enforcement, and arbitration give me greater insight into the complex issues districts face.
- School districts often get in trouble when they violate the Public Employment Relations Act, a law in which I am well versed. This is important because I can catch and resolve unintended breeches before they become issues, potentially saving substantial taxpayer dollars.
- I believe I am one of the top candidates when it comes to knowledge and application of the certificated, classified and non-merit California Code of Education. That means I can catch mistakes from happening in the first place, saving taxpayer money from being squandered.
- I have hands-on experience scrutinizing district general budgets. That’s important because I know how to find taxpayer money that departments either hide or do not account for. The board is responsible for providing oversight and direction, and I can help them do that.
- I am the only candidate that has worked directly with multiple school districts in a watchdog capacity, not as an activist or an advocate but as an exclusive representative of the classified bargaining units. Voters need to keep in mind that there are three seats open, and Burbank needs at least one board member who has not been exclusively “boxed” into Burbank. My broad-based experience gives me an ability to see the forest from the trees, because I’ve worked with so many other districts.
- I don’t have the political baggage that comes with years of public office. I owe favors to no one, have no axes to grind, and am uniquely positioned to provide unbiased, unfettered oversight. Voters can select up to three board members this election. One of those members should be the watchdog candidate – the outside, independent candidate that watches the taxpayer’s money and ensures it is efficiently and effectively applied for the benefit of our students.
3. Does your educational background and experience give you a unique insight or perspective?
- Yes. I’m proud to be running with other talented candidates, some of whom have many years of experience volunteering on the parent and committee level. But as one of my greatest distinguishing features, I’m proud to be the only candidate running that has experience beyond the committee level, dealing with direct negotiations with districts.
- Direct negotiations require one to have a strong grasp of all policy issues affecting not just the surface issues but the “boomerang” effect they have on school sites, various stakeholders, the broader community, and ultimately the children they serve.
- As I begin 2015 entering my thirties, I’m proud to say that a third of my life has been spent working on education and healthcare policy.
- I work with several southern California school districts on a regular basis as we navigate the ever-changing policies, funding guidelines, and employment laws of the state. My exposure to these issues at other districts gives me unique insight for protecting Burbank from similar vulnerabilities. This varied and continual experience differentiates me from the other candidates.
Q&A with other Burbank School Board candidates