At 18, Kevork Kurdoghlian is the youngest school board candidate running in this election, but he has big ideas on how to re-imagine education. He is currently a student a Glendale Community College and has plans to transfer to a university that is close to his hometown. He recently sat down with the Valley Sun in his La Cañada Flintridge home, where he lives with his parents and two younger siblings, to discuss his campaign for the Nov. 5 election.
You've been out of high school for one year. What have you learned since you graduated that would help you as a school board candidate?
Kurdoghlian: I've gotten the opportunity to talk to a lot of La Cañada students who are now at the community colleges. I didn't get a chance to talk to them in high school. It's obvious that a lot of them obviously don't have much direction and that direction could have been provided at La Cañada High School. A lot of them are taking remedial courses in math and English.
I think I've gotten a better understanding of the post-graduate experience of a La Cañada High School student.
I've really appreciated what I have here in La Cañada and what the schools are all about. I'm happy I stayed here.
If I don't get elected, I'm still going to be a part of the community. I don't plan on leaving any time soon.
Do you support a high parcel tax rate?
Not a high taxation. I'm in favor of the $295 [annual rate] because it doubles [the current tax], and by doubling it, it covers the structural deficit.
The structural deficit is at $800,000. At a parcel tax rate of $150, we're bringing in about $900,000, so if we just double that amount, we'll cover the structural deficit. That would be the most fiscally responsible thing to do.
There's a lot of things that need to be done at the school; a lot of renovations. Classrooms are getting pretty old. But there's plenty of other revenue opportunities. We could always sell the old district headquarters on Palm Crest. The market value has to be at least $2 million.
What programs or initiatives would you bring to the schools?
I want to blur the line between extracurricular and curriculum. I want to blur the line between subjects, because quite frankly, they are not subjects, they are disciplines.
At the high school, interdisciplinary courses. It'll show students that history is not separate from English. It'll give teachers the opportunity to co-teach and demonstrate their abilities to their colleagues.
At the elementary school level, language immersion programs.
Right now, there are Spanish classes being offered at the high school, but you take these classes at the sacrifice of something. You go to Spanish, but you lose your lunch.
If elected, I would start research on that. That is something that I would do immediately.
Spanish and Korean would be my top two [languages in the program]. The Armenian population is growing and it's my native language, so somewhere along the line, Armenian as well.
If elected, how would you manage your time between being a student and a school board member?
I'm not worried. I think I can manage my time; I'm managing my time right now. I'm taking five classes, 15 units, and I'm running a school board campaign on my own. I don't have a staff, I just have the generosity of my neighbors and my family friends. I'm hoping that generosity will be there when I get elected, too.
I plan on staying a full-time student [if elected.] If it takes me five years to get a degree, it doesn't bother me. If I have to concentrate more on the school board, so be it.
What are your motivations for running?
This period of time in education can be really transformational, especially with the technology updates that are taking place, especially with the curriculum updates that are taking place with Common Core.
This is such a great opportunity. I want to get elected because I want to be a part of it first-hand. I feel like if I don't get elected, there's so much that will go overlooked because the perspective I bring is pretty radical and I think the district needs that perspective at this time.
It's about my [younger] brother and my sister; it's about what the district can be.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.