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Meet Long Beach’s candidates for Board of Education

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Three candidates are running for two open Board of Education seats in the Long Beach School District’s May 18 election: incumbent Sam Pinto and challengers Dr. Pamela Banks and Alexis Pace. Incumbent Tina Posterli, who is running for City Council, will not seek re-election.

Pinto, 36, a professional firefighter in Long Beach, is seeking his second term on the school board, and is keeping the platform that helped him win three years ago. He is focused on providing supportive education and enrichment to the city’s students so they can be prepared for future challenges.

Pinto said that the board has done a good job of maintaining the district’s financial health, while improving programs that support children. He also noted that the board has proposed a budget with no tax hike. “I’m very happy that we’ve been able to be financially healthy, including this year’s zero tax increase, without cutting any programs,” he said. “I hope that my skill set has been supporting the team effort of the district.”

Pinto, president of the Eastholme Civic Association, Long Beach Professional Firefighters Local 287 and the Long Beach Public Library board of trustees, said that he brings a different perspective to the board, and that that perspective was valuable at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when the schools looked to the county and state health departments for guidance.

“I believe we navigated the best we could under the constant changes,” Pinto said. “I think it was important that we were able to get our students and staff into a safe environment, where they try to regain a sense of normalcy.”

Looking forward, Pinto said, he wanted to improve the district’s nutrition and food service program, and enhance students’ profiles before graduation. He stressed that maintaining the district’s financial health was also vital.

Dr. Pamela Banks, 62, a pediatrician for 30 years with a practice in Merrick, was a school board member there for seven years before moving to Long Beach. She remains the school doctor for the Merrick School District.

Banks said that one of her biggest priorities is to help get people’s lives back to normal and make everyone feel safe at the schools. “Covid has interrupted every aspect of every child’s life,” she said. “I think it’s very important to help them go back to feeling more comfortable.”

Banks added that she had seen more mental anguish in children because of the pandemic, and that with her experience as a pediatrician, she could offer the district more insight into how to make schools safer.

She praised the school’s academic and STEM programs, which she said she strongly supported.

Banks was a member of two state educational task forces in recent years, including a Covid-19 task force that focused on making schools safer during the pandemic. “I feel that I have a lot of knowledge that I could bring to the school board,” she said. “I am also very cognizant that we have to keep expenditures down for our citizens. These are very difficult times, and I know everyone needs to focus on that as well.”

Since moving to Long Beach, Banks said, she has attended many school board meetings, and thinks the district is doing a great job for its students. She also attends many educational seminars and conferences, she said, and she believes she can help the district moving forward.

“I just think that being a pediatrician, I can bring a different aspect to the health and welfare of children,” she said. “I feel that the two most important people, outside of their parents, in a child’s life are their pediatrician and teacher. I feel that working together, we can make Long Beach an outstanding school district.”

Alexis Pace, 44, is also a familiar face at school board meetings, and has championed special education. She has served on a number of PTAs, including as co-president of the Special Education PTA and vice president of the Central Council PTA. Pace said she considers herself an advocate for students and, as a community stakeholder, she wants to have a hand in making the best financial decisions for the community.

“I think it’s very important there is a shared voice on the Board of Education that comes from a parent perspective,” Pace said. “I think it’s really important to have someone with a really deep understanding of schools and how they function and meet the needs of the students.”

With three children in the district, including one with special needs, Pace said she believed she would bring a different outlook to the board. “I think I would add a fair and balanced voice to the board and be an advocate for all students,” she said. “That’s my purpose and my mission. I think it’s really important to have a vested interest.”

The election and budget vote are next Tuesday. For more information, go to www.lbeach.org.