March 3, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

School Board Trims DACs Role In Process: Hannah Heineman Mirror staff writer

Meeting in Malibu last Thursday, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education voted unanimously with no discussion to reduce the role of District Advisory Committees (DACs).

Henceforth, the DACs will have no role “in the overall planning of the educational programs and of budget resources.”

According to the Board, the role of DACs is to “advise the Board on school problems, needs and issues from a balanced, logical, and analytic perspective, as the need arises.  It is not the intention that advisory committees become policy-making bodies or that they manage or direct staff.”

In an e-mail to the Mirror, Tricia Crane, Chair of the Special Education DAC,  stated the “chairs of the Board-appointed committees had petitioned the Board prior to the Board meeting in Malibu to allow the language to remain.”  However, during a discussion at the December 8 Board meeting, Board member Kathy Wisnicki called for the elimination of the DACs from the planning process as “it was causing confusion among committee members as to their role.”

Crane said, “Ms. Wisnicki seems to be the one who is confused about her role and I deeply regret and publicly apologize for having endorsed her as a candidate for the Board.  We know Ms. Wisnicki has been trying to control and limit the SEDAC since she became a liaison, but the fact that the rest of the Board went along with this excision is a very disturbing development.  Never in my years of community service have I seen a weaker Board, rubber-stamping what staff seeks and then limiting public opportunities for the public to have input.”

On learning of the change, Zina Josephs, chair of the Fine Arts DAC, told the Mirror by email, “When the DAC regulations were a ‘discussion item’ at the December 8 Board of Education meeting, no one discussed deleting this sentence. When I subsequently  saw the sentence crossed out in the January 8 ‘action item,’ I sent an email to the Board members and superintendent, but have not yet received a response.

“On the one hand, the Board has assigned DACs the responsibility to “advise the Board and superintendent on matters related to educational needs, programs, and suggested priorities, advise the Board and superintendent on adoption of education programs, and work with various agencies to explore and generate funding to support programs”; The templates the district gives to the DACs for our annual written reports include recommendations regarding education programs and budget expenditures.

“On the other hand, the Board has now voted that the DACs are not supposed to assist in the overall planning of the educational program and of budget resources.

“My email question to the Board and superintendent was, ‘Do you want advice/assistance from the DACs regarding educational programs and budget  expenditures, or not? If not, what’s the point of the rest of the ten pages of DAC policies and regulations?’

“At best, it’s a mixed message. At worst, this Board action is a slap in the face for hundreds of District Advisory Committee members who cumulatively spend thousands of volunteer hours each year evaluating district programs and making thoughtful, detailed recommendations to the Board of Education.”

The Board also changed its policy on committee membership, saying, ‘Membership recruitment will be ongoing throughout the year.  Minimally, information about the District Advisory Committees will be shared with the public in August, November and January…committee members [will] be appointed by the Board for a term of up to four  years” but may reapply if they wish to remain on the committee.

In a related matter, the Board discussed the feedback it had received from the eight DACs on the committee charges  that it had proposed in September, of 2005. At its next meeting, the Board will vote on the final language for the charges. 

The committees are the District English Language Advisory Council, Childcare and Development, Community Health and Safety, Fine Arts, the Intercultural Advisory Committee, Special Education, Sports and Physical Education and Technology.

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