in Beverly Hills
in Beverly Hills
2014 memoir, Carter Paysinger
1972 trip at age 14 to Beverly Hills High School
as "the most important day of my life."
"Where I lived, in South Central Los Angeles, we had low-slung houses and chain-link fences and lots of giant billboards," he
writes in Where a Man Stands.
"But as we drove down Santa Monica, those gave way to spacious homes, majestic lawns and men with rakes and hoses fussing over sidewalks."
More than 40 years after getting a "multicultural" permit to attend Beverly Hills High, Paysinger
is one of the most recognized men in town.
He's no TV star - he's someone's former coach, teacher or principal.
When the stocky, jocular Paysinger walks down the street, kids in cars yell "Hi Coach!
and parents stop him on the sidewalk to chat.
is challenging an entrenched white school board, which some critics say is weighed down by fiscal mismanagement; is micromanaging the jobs of educators; interferes in the superintendent's duties; and is emotionally chained to a costly and losing battle to stop the MTA Purple Line subway from tunneling beneath Beverly Hills High.
, a popular leader, break a racial barrier in one of America's richest cities to become its first black school board member?
With the election set for Nov. 3, he
stands in the backyard of a spacious home surrounded by teachers, residents and alumni.
"Anytime you have a board of education that is routinely voting against their own superintendent and his staff, there's a problem," he says.
"The interference and micromanaging has to stop."
Even before Paysinger
jumped into the race, the insular community that dominates school politics had been uneasy.
In mid-2014, Paysinger sued the district for workplace retaliation, naming as defendants the district and school board member Lewis Hall, one of the incumbents Paysinger could unseat on Nov. 3.
But in the next breath, Hall slams educators who have sued the district - Paysinger
is not alone - saying, "People see Beverly Hills
as rich, and feeling entitled, and there's an option of being able to get money from us, because we're Beverly Hills and supposedly rich."
Both Hall and Paysinger
could win spots.
Theoretically, the three challengers - Mel Spitz, a businessman and former school board member; Isabel Hacker, who has held multiple PTA positions; and Paysinger - could grab all three seats, ousting Hall and another incumbent, Noah Margo.
Making the racially intriguing contest especially tense is the fact that Paysinger
recently won a settlement of $685,000 from the Beverly Hills School District
That arose from his complaint in U.S. District Court that Hall had launched an illegal retaliation scheme against him when Paysinger was principal at Beverly Hills High.
Paysinger had recommended against rehiring the school's track coach, and the superintendent and school board agreed and made the final decision.
claimed that, in retaliation, Hall launched a wrongful probe against him, then leaked biased, damaging information to the Los Angeles Times
says such micromanaging of educators' duties by elected politicians is rampant, but the larger problem is that the board "has completely lost its way and is completely dysfunctional."
The picture he
paints in his
book, published by Simon & Schuster
and co-authored by his
longtime friend, former school board member Steven Fenton, is that of a once-great district.
August campaign kickoff, Paysinger
said, "We can be the best. ... We've been there before, we know what it looks like."
Hall and some of his board colleagues routinely overstep boundaries, Paysinger
Word has recently spread, Paysinger
says, and as a result Beverly Hills is "not attracting the best and brightest."
Within a few blocks of the manicured real estate where Paysinger
launched his campaign, and on the same August Sunday, Hall made his own pitch for re-election.
Hall claims that "this entire controversy began when Mr. Paysinger
chose not to renew the contract of our former track coach, Jeffrey Fisher.
But in truth, it was Paysinger's
boss, the superintendent, who made that call - and the board agreed.
, Spitz and Hacker reject the idea that the board is some kind of victim.