The School Board’s leadership changed in December when Kathy Wisnicki was elected president and Oscar de la Torre vice president.
The new president would like to focus on “building community through collaboration and communication.” She thinks the issues the Board will concentrate on this year will “change by virtue of the change in leadership.”
To Wisnicki, who lives in Malibu, it’s important to have a good, ongoing dialogue with both Santa Monica and Malibu. She would also like to raise the academic bar by helping to “ensure all students are successful in the courses they take.” She wants the District to closely “examine the support” students are receiving at their school sites.
President Wisnicki believes that the five percent raise that is part of the teachers’ tentative contract is “a respectable raise” after looking at the budgets over the last three years. She emphasized that the District will “be able to demonstrate good financial practices to afford the raise” due to “healthy reserves” that can be carried forward from year to year in the District’s budget. In addition, Wisnicki says it’s important for the District to “think about where we are and the cost of living in our area when recruiting new teachers.”
The new Superintendent’s terms for recruiting a new Chief Financial Officer for the District appeal to Wisnicki. She thinks hiring an interim who is “typically a retired CFO will allow adequate time” to hire the right person for the position. She is waiting to hear the “Superintendent’s thoughts on restructuring the central office.”
Wisnicki has been a member of the Board since 2004, and served as its vice president during 2006. She is a former member of the District’s Financial Oversight Committee and the PTA Council, chaired the District’s Measure S campaign and was also a member of the Proposition X Committee. She has a PhD. in Education with a specialization in Applied Statistics.
As for the new vice president, Oscar de la Torre’s major goal is to “eliminate the achievement gap” between different groups of students by helping to “ensure that all students have a quality public education.” He hopes the District can become “a model for the nation in achievement…by having equity serve as a foundation for our educational system.” Making sure all of the District’s schools are “safe and secure” for all students is also very important to de la Torre.
De la Torre would also like “to ensure fiscal stability” in the District and make sure the teachers are paid well.
The new vice president thinks it’s important to “teach future generations to protect our environment” and that “every level of government needs to focus on it.” He also mentioned he and the new president want “to model cooperation between School Board members and build a sustainable partnership with the City and Santa Monica College so we can develop a collective for the future of our City and our children.”
De la Torre said that in operating Santa Monica High School you “can’t just focus on redesign” [which broke the school up into six houses] because in a “diverse school setting relationships are fragile, so you need to continuously build community.”
De la Torre has been a member of the Board since 2002, and is the founder and Executive Director of the Pico Youth and Family Center. He has a Masters degree in Pubic Administration. He told the Mirror, “It’s an honor for me as a product of the School District to serve as its vice president.” He also pointed out that he is the “first Mexican-American male to achieve being elected as vice president.”