The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education decided to delay their decision last Thursday on whether to create a new Assistant Chief Education Officer (CEO) of Student Life and Access at Santa Monica High School (SAMOHI) until they review the responsibilities of the school’s other administrators.The position was originally recommended in the Board March 2 agenda by departing Superintendent John Deasy, but it wasn’t discussed until last Thursday. Deasy believes this new administrator could help assist the school’s administration deal more effectively with problems resulting from the escalation in racial tensions at SAMOHI.Deasy suggested that the job description for this Assistant CEO should include being “responsible for student services across the entire school (all six houses) including: access, community relations, external partners providing student support, direct support to students where appropriate and the coordination and management of internal support services to SAMOHI.” He also stated in the agenda that “this position is specifically designed to respond to the needs of historically underrepresented youth and their families.”Before deciding to delay their decision, the Board heard from the community. Some SAMOHI parents felt it would be better to hire a new principal for the high school rather than some one to assist the current CEO, Ilene Straus. Marjorie Allen told the Board, “Dr. Straus has been trying to do a good job for many years. We’ve given her a lot of time to get that job done. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten done. Instead of dealing with the issue, we’re creating another position to support the fact she is not able to deal with a diverse population. This is 2006. As we know, our population is changing. It’s becoming more and more diverse. We can’t hide behind that. We need to step out and deal with it. I expect that the Board will do that. What’s happened at SAMOHI is deplorable, and you as elected officials need to deal with it.”Another SAMOHI parent Lori Williams states, “A change needs to be made and the change is that we need someone to do the whole job” as CEO. Another SAMOHI parent, John Petz, supports hiring the new administrator. “In essence, this person will be a paid advocate championing inclusion, empowerment and improved communication between the underrepresented youth and families and the teachers and administrators at SAMOHI.”Board member Maria Leon-Vasquez told her colleagues that she was “not in agreement about setting up another layer of administration at SAMOHI.” This “may not solve the issues we currently have at SAMOHI.” She then noted that, “we’ve just brought in six outreach specialists,” that have just started. In her view, “the leadership has to come from our CEO. That money could be better utilized. We need to look to see if the leadership team there now is a viable team for another year at SAMOHI.”Alternately, Board members Oscar de la Torre and Jose Escarce liked the responsibilities described for the position. Escarce mentioned that when he attended a conference four years ago with African-American and Latino students they suggested the creation of a similar position. However, he suggested and his colleagues agreed, that before making a decision they should examine “how this portfolio of responsibilities is being handled now” and if these responsibilities could become “part of the duties of the house principals.” In a press release last Friday, the Executive Board of the Santa Monica Malibu Classroom Teachers Association (SMMCTA) “reacted with outrage to news that the district is considering spending over $100,000 to create a new ninth administration position at Santa Monica High School. Union President Harry M. Keiley denounced the move by pointing out that administrators’ base salaries and benefits routinely exceed $100,000 per year, and a ninth school administrator gives SAMOHI, “an administrative board valued at close to $1 million a year. ” The union will strongly oppose the move to create this new position. Don Hedrick, a member of SMMCTA’s Executive Board and a teacher at SAMOHI, argued that far from needing new administrators, the school has too many as it is. “When I first arrived at SAMOHI, we had four administrators. Now we have eight and maybe approaching nine. Teachers and students need smaller class sizes, additional materials and release time to grade papers and collaborate with colleagues, not another administrator.”Union lead negotiator Larry Silvers said that he was outraged by the proposal, adding, “It’s amazing to me that at a time when so many of our members are paying for school supplies out of their own pockets and when our classrooms are overcrowded that the board would elect to spend this kind of money to hire one more administrator. We should be investing our limited resources on things that really matter, smaller class sizes, additional classified support or materials for our students.” The Board will discuss the issue again on April 6.
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