Candice Anvari co-editor-in-chief
Ava Spina staff writer
Gabriel Halimi was installed as the newly selected provisional appointee on the BHUSD Board of Education on Nov. 16.
After Tristen Walker-Shuman’s resignation, the Board filled her vacancy, as required by the California Education Code, Sections 5091 and 5092.
What follows is a transcript, edited for length, of our conversation with Gabriel Halimi about his past experiences, his goals and his priorities.
Q: What made you want to be a board member?
A: I was on the Board of Education as a student about 20 years ago. I had an incredibly positive and very informative experience doing that. I was able to contribute to how the board operated during that year, especially because it was a very tumultuous time. Around that time, the superintendent resigned and the board members were not getting along, so it was an opportunity for me to use my soft skills, in terms of how to work with people, and advocate on behalf of the students and community. I’m thrilled and humbled that the other four board members decided to give me an opportunity to serve for another year.
Q: Do you think that your experience as a student at BHHS will have an impact on your work as a board member?
A: Yeah. Absolutely. I remember my experience as a student like it was yesterday. In terms of just making decisions, and the challenges and opportunities that the schools are facing today, I definitely think the experience that I had and getting to know more students helps a lot. I’m always interested in learning more. I think our current student board member, Eli Ramer, is doing a fantastic job. I hope I can add a lot of value over the next year.
Q: How do you feel about being appointed?
A: I think it’s a really big honor. There are only four people on the Board who know their job very well. They don’t always agree on issues, but they understand the challenges and opportunities ahead of us. [Since] they’re coming from such an experienced place, and unanimously [decided] to appoint me to the role, I am very humbled by that.
Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing our school district right now?
A: That’s a big question. As a trustee for the school district, my primary concern is the quality of the education and safety of our students. Right now is a very unique time because we still have the effects of COVID-19. I want to make sure I do my part to help keep the students safe from the virus. I think how we react to the virus has an impact on the students. I don’t want people to be in masks longer than they have to. I don’t want people to be socially distanced anymore than they have to. I think the whole experience of going to school is as simple as seeing someone else’s smile. I think continuing to make progress with the construction program is also at the top of my mind because I want the best experience possible for our students. There’s hundreds of millions of dollars that have been funded by our community for our students, and I want to make sure that the students get the most out of that as they can. The world is very different than when I went to school 20 years ago. Yet, the way education has developed over the last 20 years I don’t feel has caught up with how quickly our world has changed. I hope to take a look at the way our academic programs are working and, hopefully, do whatever I can do to accelerate changes that need to be made.
Q: What are your top five priorities?
A: My top priority is to make sure that the Board of Education is operating with excellence, for the benefit of our students. There’s always going to be different issues that come in front of the Board of Education. Where we put our attention is where the administration is going to put their attention. The Board of Education isn’t meant to be an oversight team–it’s meant to empower the administration. I do not believe, at times, that the Board of Education has operated with excellence. If there’s one contribution that I want to make over the next year, it’s to change the Board of Education.
Q: How do you hope to meet your goals?
A: No one person in any business can get anything done by themselves–they have to work as a team. I plan on working very closely, building trust and doing a lot of listening to my fellow colleagues on the Board of Education [and] with Dr. Bregy and his cabinet, build[ing] a consensus and always keep[ing] the students at the forefront of their minds. That’s why we’re doing this and giving our time. It is to improve the quality of education and overall experience and safety for the students.
Q: Aside from everything I asked you, is there anything you would like to add?
A: I’m just very excited to be here for one year. It’s kind of surreal to come back on the high school campus in a suit for a board meeting at night. It’s a real pleasure. I’m so grateful for the experience that Beverly Hills Unified School District has given me as a student, and I’m humbled and genuinely thrilled to have the opportunity to come back as a former student with the experience that I’ve gained over the last 20 years and give part of that back to the community and the schools that gave me so much.