The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has seen a lot of changes lately with the recent departures of Superintendent Dianne Talarico and Deputy Superintendent Tim Walker, and now the District has made changes in some of its school site administrators.
These changes, which were suggested by the School District staff and approved by the out going Superintendent, were officially approved by the School Board on June 26 and included both new administrative appointments and reassignments. The most controversial reassignment was the placement of Lincoln Middle School Principal Tristan Komlos, as the principal of John Muir Elementary School. John Muir’s current Principal, Martha Contreras, will now become a principal on Special Assignment working with the District’s Title I schools.
School Board President Oscar de la Torre explained his support for the changes by stating that the District is “trying to align the needs of our schools and students with the talent and experience of our staff.”
Several John Muir parents told the Board they were very unhappy with the way they learned of the principal change at their school. Parent Jane Bardell went one step further by telling the Board, “I’m worried the new principal is not set up for success because the manner unfortunately we were introduced immediately angered and alienated many John Muir families, largely because we were not part of the process on any level of the appointment.”
Charlene Nakamura stated that the “timing of the appointment was disrespectful to the students at the school” because it was announced after the school year ended. The students therefore had no opportunity to thank the outgoing principal for her work or to say goodbye.
Other John Muir parents were concerned that that the new principal was not fluent in Spanish, which in their view is necessary because 30 percent of the student body is Latino. Parents also expressed their concern about the new principal’s lack of experience at the elementary level and asked the Board to make sure she receives the support she needs to be successful.
Board member Barry Snell stated that he too was “troubled by the process” that resulted in the changes and requested that the Board should discuss a better way to handle changes at the Principal level.
Board member Maria Leon-Vasquez was the only Board member who voted against the changes because she said she did not agree with all of them.
Other reassignments include having Amy Teplin move from Education Services to become the assistant principal at McKinley Elementary School, promoting Leslie Ricardo Wells to House Principal at Santa Monica High School, and hiring Lawrence Boone II from outside the District to become a House Principal at Santa Monica High School. The last approved change was having SMASH’s principal, Carrie Ferguson, reduce her hours to part-time status.