The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) Senior Director of Secondary Education, Ilene Straus, will be leaving her newly established post to become the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services with the Beverly Hills Unified School District on October 16.
Straus has been with SMMUSD for over 20 years and became the Senior Director only three and one-half months ago after helping to define the responsibilities of the position. In an interview with the Mirror, she stressed her decision to leave the District was made because her new opportunity is a promotion to work at the senior cabinet level and a “great opportunity to grow.” She also noted that the Beverly Hills School District will be “looking at higher level education for all students similar to the academic goals in Santa Monica.”
The District’s press release stated, “During Dr. Straus’s time as principal, both Lincoln Middle School and Santa Monica High School (Samohi) became state and national models for effective redesign of secondary schools, with the focus on knowing students well and increasing academic achievement for all students, combined with a strong culture of professional learning communities for teacher collaboration and improvement.”
Both Latino and African American parents and students criticized Straus’ work on redesign during her four years at Samohi. When the Santa Monica High School Committee On Redesign Efficacy (SCORE) presented their annual report to the School Board in June some parents and students questioned whether she should be offered the job of Senior Director after resigning as principal because they believed the high school’s redesign was responsible for the increased racial tensions on the campus.
Senior Director Straus helped with the “screening and selection process” for the new principals at Samohi and for John Adams and Lincoln Middle Schools. She also helped coordinate “all educational services to meet District goals.”
District Deputy Superintendent Tim Walker said, “Dr. Straus has been a strong educational leader in our middle and high schools, and her talent and knowledge will be missed at the District and throughout the community.”
Straus stressed to the Mirror that she “has totally loved the 20 years” she spent in Santa Monica and is very “proud of the work we’ve done.” She is looking forward to working with her new district “to identify the goals and focus” for her work there.