Election Preview: Big changes possible on Los Alamitos USD Board of Education in 2024

Two of the three incumbents on the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education say they have not decided if they will run for re-election in 2024.

Election Preview: Big changes possible on Los Alamitos USD Board of Education in 2024
A sign outside the Los Alamitos Unified School District offices in Los Alamitos. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

2024 could be a year of changes on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education. 

Three of the five trustee positions will be on the November 5, 2024 ballot. That includes the seats to represent Trustee Area 2, Trustee Area 4, and Trustee Area 5.

While there is still more than seven months remaining until candidates must file paperwork to run, at least two of the incumbents on the Los Alamitos USD board recently told Spotlight Schools that they have not decided yet if they will seek re-election next year. 

That includes the longest-serving member of the Los Al USD school board, Megan Cutuli, who was first elected in 2000.

In a phone interview last month, Cutuli said she has not made any “final decisions” regarding 2024. “I think it’s too early to make one,” she shared.

Cutuli represents Trustee Area 5 which covers parts of Seal Beach. The district serves 8,900 students across nine schools with attendance boundaries that cover Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, and small parts of Long Beach and Cypress.

Pictured from left to right: Los Alamitos USD Supt. Andrew Pulver, Ed.D., Board member Marlys Davidson, former student board member Alexa Dharmapalan, Board member Chris Forehan, Board member Megan Cutuli, and Board Member Scott Fayette in September 2022. Courtesy photo.

Cutuli was just named president of the board for 2024 at its organizational meeting last week. In nominating her to lead the board next year, trustee Diana Hill said Cutuli "has been a tremendous board member for more than 24 years."

No matter what Cutuli chooses to do next campaign season, there is already another candidate who said he will run to represent Trustee Area 5. District dad and former educator Matt Bragman announced his plans to run in early November. 

“This is just the beginning of the process, but I am so excited to have the opportunity to represent students, parents, staff, and the LAUSD community,” Bragman wrote in a recent Facebook post. (Full disclosure: Bragman and I are both parents at McGaugh Elementary School and are serving on the School Site Council together this school year.) 

Less certain about his future plans is board trustee Scott Fayette, who represents Trustee Area 4. “My plans for next year, I still haven’t decided,” Fayette said in a phone interview last month.

Fayette first earned the seat that covers part of Seal Beach in 2020 when he was the only candidate who filed qualifying paperwork to run.

His first term in office has been filled with challenges including governing during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic that heavily impacted public education. He heard regularly from parents over school closures, safety measures, masking and quarantine rules, and vaccines. He also served at a time when public commenters battled over ethnic studies and the discussion of race in classrooms in the board room, leading to some raucous moments and meetings being moved online due to safety concerns

“Our board was kind of baptized in fire in the beginning,” Fayette recalled.

Fayette was also targeted in two failed recall efforts during his first term. The first attempt also included Cutuli and board member Chris Forehan. The second recall campaign was just against Fayette.

Attendees at a September 2021 meeting of the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education where three board trustees were notified of an effort to recall them. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

“That was absolutely horrific for my family,” he said. “To be targeted like that, you wouldn’t wish that on your worst enemy.” 

Spotlight Schools has yet to hear of anyone seeking to run in Trustee Area 4, but at least one parent supportive of the recall efforts publicly expressed a desire to run for his seat at the time.

There is one board member who did not hesitate when asked if he would seek re-election in 2024. Forehan, known as “Papa” around the district, said he is definitely going to seek a second term to represent Trustee Area 2, which covers parts of Rossmoor and Los Alamitos. 

“I see that we are on such a good path, not only with academic achievement but also with the social well-being of all children, I would hate for that direction to change,” Forehan said in a phone interview last month. 

Forehan noted the district's 100% graduation rate for the Los Alamitos High School class of 2023 and the ongoing investment in mental health professionals and WellSpaces at all district schools as examples of the positive work he hopes to continue.

Board members Marlys Davidson and Hill are up for re-election in 2026. Trustees often decide items with unanimous votes and while they offer different perspectives on issues and decisions, there is rarely a clash of opinion on the dais.

“I really do appreciate the current board that we have," Cutuli said. "They are all dedicated to what is best for kids. Even though most boards try to vote 5-0, we do have five different outlooks. I do appreciate hearing from my fellow board members. There is a large amount of trust and respect among us."

Fayette agreed. “I’m very impressed with my fellow board members. They are able to bring many different viewpoints and they all keep the main thing the main thing — what is best for the student.” 

Fayette said whatever 2024 holds for him, he wants the community to know how proud he is of the accomplishments of students, parents, and staff that he's been able to celebrate as a trustee. “I love seeing and acknowledging the incredible work in our district.”

Candidates wishing to run for school board in the November election can file the necessary paperwork between July 15, 2024 through August 9, 2024. To qualify for the ballot you need to be at least 18 years old and a registered voter living in the area you want to represent. For more information on how to become a candidate for your local school board, visit ocvote.gov

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