February 25, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

School Board Chooses New Superintendent:

After an extensive national search that included over sixty applicants, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) Board of Education has chosen Dianne Talarico, the Superintendent of the Canton City Schools in Ohio, to be the District’s new Superintendent.

During her five-year stint as Superintendent of the Canton City Schools, Ms. Talarico, according to a story in the July 15 Canton Repository, provided the leadership that helped them climb off the state’s academic emergency list.  The District press release states that she also helped the District raise “academic achievement at every level and the high school graduation rate by 25 percent,” secured “$42 million in competitive grants, oversaw a $178 million reconstruction project and secured voter approval of a $7 million annual tax levy, while curbing expenditures and streamlining district operations.”

In an interview with the Mirror Tuesday, School Board President Julia Brownley stated Talarico was the “unanimous choice” of the Board because she is the “absolute right fit based upon her experience and passion.”  The Board believes she will be able to “continue the leadership started by former Superintendent John Deasy of raising achievement and closing the achievement gap.”  Brownley also noted that Deasy used “data driven decision making” and that Talarico “operates the same way.”

Talarico, who has been an educator for more than 20 years, began her career as a special education teacher in her native Ohio.  She then spent the majority of her educational career in the 64,000-student San Francisco Unified School District as a special education teacher, principal and as an Associate Superintendent for three years.  She was also an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University where she received a Masters Degree in Educational Administration.

In the District’s press release Brownley noted, “Her experiences in San Francisco and Canton have prepared her well to address the challenges that face us in Santa Monica-Malibu.  Other Board members were impressed with her knowledge of instruction and learning, her inclusive and collaborative approach, her understanding of cultural issues, her interest in involving parents in their children’s education and her success in attracting and retaining top-notch professionals in her district.”

The 13,000-student Canton School District is similar in size to SMMUSD but less affluent.

A July 18 article in the Canton Repository states Canton School “Board member Nadine McIlwain has said she wants to see the board make an offer to Talarico in an attempt to keep her in the district.  Talarico’s contract, which is not up until next July, pays her $135,500 a year.  She also receives such perks as 30 days vacation time and a $500-per-month car allowance.”  The Board was scheduled to meet that evening.

Talarico was recruited by the firm of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd., an educational management recruitment firm located in suburban Chicago.  The qualifications for candidates were developed from feedback received from District stakeholders which included parents, staff, students and community leaders.

A community-wide reception and celebration is planned for Talarico within the next few weeks.

Talarico could not be reached for comment.

SMMUSD Assistant Superintendent Tim Walker has been named the District’s Interim Superintendent.

In other School Board news, the Board recently discussed the feasibility of placing a District facilities bond measure on this November’s ballot.  Dennis Crane, a member of the District’s Bond Feasibility “Blue Ribbon” Committee, told the Board his committee’s consensus was that “a bond could be drafted that would be technically and legally sufficient.  There was also a strong sense that the projects that…would be enumerated would be in broad categories across the spectrum of the District as opposed to projects on a site by site basis.”

Board member Emily Bloomfield told her colleagues in her view they should “keep the process moving as aggressively as possible.  We need sufficient time for a campaign to get up and underway.”  According to the District staff report, the 88-Day Rule requires the Board to adopt the legally-required resolution by July 27 at the latest.  If this is done, the August 11 deadline for filing the bond measure with the County of Los Angeles Electoral Office will be met.

Bloomfield and the Board also believe the ongoing 20-year Master Facilities Process is far enough along to help support the generalities of the bond measure to “bring schools up to a general standard…and that the specifics can be ironed out later on.”

The Board also embraced Board Member Oscar De la Torre’s suggestion that “the value of equity” be part of the “preamble of the bond because it would be very attractive to many in our community.”

Board member Jose Escarce stated the best way to express “equity” was that the goal of the bond measure should be “ to bring all of our schools to a place where they are relativity equal and where students can learn.” 

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