January 23, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

School Board Chooses New Leadership:

After very little discussion, members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) Board of Education elected Board member Ralph Mechur to be its President and Board member Barry Snell to serve as Vice-President.

Mechur, an architect, has been a community activist in Santa Monica for many years.  He was appointed to the Board in August of 2007 when Board member Emily Bloomfield vacated her seat.  He was then re-elected to a four-year term last month.  Snell, an accountant, has been on the Board since 2006.

Prior to the unanimous vote at the December 11 meeting, outgoing President Oscar de la Torre stated, “we are entering into a new era of collaboration, and transparency and accountability are important elements of that piece.”  The new leadership is committed to continuing to lead in that direction.

Interim Superintendent Tim Cueno commented on California’s state budget crisis during his Superintendent’s report by noting the State’s budget deficit is $14.8 billion and growing every day. “We are carefully putting together a budget development process that will carefully look at how we use our dollars to educate children in our district.  We will solve the problem here within our community without help from Sacramento.  We will be able to develop a budget to maintain the type of education our community expects,” Cueno said.

The Board also heard an update on the work of the Special Education Coalition Working Group which is in the process of preparing recommendations for the Superintendent on improving the District’s Special Education program.  Before the report Cueno mentioned that he would make recommendations to the Board based on their suggestions.  Additionally, he would look at “how [their recommendations] may be incorporated into [the District’s] budget process if there are budgetary implications, and for those areas that don’t have them, I’ll be making recommendations on how to move forward instructionally.”  He also added that their work is about one-third complete.

Martha Duran-Contreas, the group’s project leader, mentioned that the overarching goals of the Working Group are to recommend strategic priorities, decide on the critical factors for their successful implementation, and to decide on how to measure progress.  Thus far, they have reviewed the last 10 years of efforts and strategizing to improve the program, including the Weintraub, Atlas Strategic Plan and Lou Barber Reports. 

Working Group member Lee Jones stated, “from our review thus far, we see certain patterns have emerged,  lack of implementation of recommendations, lack of communication regarding implementation, lack of ownership and leadership, and turnover at a high level.  In order to change their patterns and others that might emerge, we need policies and visions that transcend different administrations.”  She also mentioned the group is in the process of compiling program and financial briefings and responses to their questions.    

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