In person, he’s “Coach Dave” running for a non-partisan seat on the Saugus Union School District board. Online, however, he’s a liberal-leaning activist fighting what he sees as fascism in this country.
These are the two sides of David Barlavi. He wants to “Make American FUN Again” (his campaign slogan, and he has a website, teamMAFA.com) yet rails at Donald Trump, calling him “a treasonous president” and “Cheeto.” He refers to Republicans as “Repuglicans” and posted a picture of himself flipping off a person dressed like Trump in a striped jailbird costume.
He admits he has no idea how to run a campaign, but has definite ideas about how a school (and a district) should be run.
“Everything in life should be FUN and enjoyable, including politics,” he said on his campaign website. “This is especially true when it comes to the education and well-being of our kids, grandkids, teachers, and school staff & administrators.
But in recent years, we’ve lost the FUN of America. Fortunately, we can get America’s FUN back with a new attitude toward our neighbors, communities and public service.”
In the course of a 56-minute interview Monday at The Paseo Club, Barlavi focused on his love of children, their importance and his history of coaching them, which helped formulate his platform. He also expressed conviction that his liberalism is the side that’s right and helpful, and the conservatism practiced in Washington today is harmful and on the side that’s wrong.
First, however, came the kids. Barlavi, 49 and an attorney, said he has coached more than 100 youths, including his children and grandchild, over 13 years in basketball, flag football and soccer (he also volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters). Some of that coaching took place at Bridgeport Elementary after a teacher who feared she was ill-equipped to teach football to her fifth graders reached out to him (Barlavi played football at Grant High in the 1980s.).
Running for school board, he said, is just a different way to help children. His platform centers on children being safe from what he calls the three Bs: bullies, bullets and bias.
“Bullying is counterproductive to education and learning,” he said. “We need to make sure kids are having fun.” Also, teachers need to be safe from bullying administrators.
“It’s a fear of open and honest communication that might lead to repercussions,” he said. “Teachers fear being able to express themselves in the classroom. … The board can be a leader in saying open and honest communication will not be punished.”
Barlavi said he is concerned with the “epidemic of school shootings,” reminding that a severe one happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. “There are steps we can take to make schools safer,” he said, including visitor photo-ID badges, searching bags, a full-time security guard at every school, cameras and motion detectors. He opposes metal detectors, however. As for bias, Barlavi said he’s worried about Muslim, immigrant and non-white children coming under scrutiny. “I want to make sure kids don’t feel uncomfortable at school and teachers feel welcome and comfortable,” he said.
Other platform points include:
•Working to increase state funding by creating ways that teachers, parents, business leaders and other stakeholders can directly pressure state representatives to make school funding a priority.
•Increase sports, music and the arts in the schools. Barlavi wants to hire physical education teachers, partner with the city and private leagues to ensure kids can participate, and ensure anyone who wants to play an instrument or engage in drawing, painting, sculpting or any other art can. He said he knows this costs money, which is why there needs to be an increase in school funding. He credits West Creek Academy for introducing African and Central American music and wants that to spread across all 15 district schools.
•All board members should be fingerprinted.
•Board members should serve no more than three terms (12 years).
Barlavi’s activism goes back to the 1992 beating of Rodney King. He has especially stepped up the rhetoric after Trump won the presidency.
An example comes from a July 22 Facebook posting: “90 percent of registered repuglicans are still trumpanzees, and their support for cheeto did not falter even last week with cheerio’s lips firmly on Putin’s rear end on world television. How will we be able to move on as a country like this? Even when we take our democracy back, these open bigots will still be among us? How will we deal with their undying support for fascism?”
Barlavi has his supporters. Meghan Rafferty posted that she would vote for him.
Scott Ervin, while not coming out and saying he supports Barlavi, played devil’s advocate when he posted, “So why CAN’T he be on the school board? Everyone knows DB is very supportive of ‘the children.’ His personal views, outside of being a (potential) school board member shouldn’t preclude him from serving on the board … right?”
But there are also people such as Wendy Garcia, who posted, “David Barlavi is a scary man. Anyone with children in the Saugus school district, I suggest you get out and vote. Stop thinking it doesn’t affect you, it does!”
And from Betty Arenson: “This type on a school board? NOOOO!”
To which Barlavi responds, “If you don’t feel my outspokenness and my beliefs don’t qualify me for serving, then don’t vote for me.”
It remains to be seen if he can defeat Jesus Henao and Evan Patlian and win the seat Paul De La Cerda chose not seek again.