Tim Cuneo, the Superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, recommended that some changes be made to the District’s Advisory Committees (DACs) but his recommendations were not well received by the School Board or the community.
These committees advise the School Board about different District issues. Currently, there are eight active DACs and their members include parents of students attending the school District, community members, experts/professionals, and District staff representatives.
“DACs are an important mechanism for providing information to the Board” emphasized School Board member Ben Allen at the School Board meeting on September 17. The Board then uses this information for their policy decisions. Allen also noted that the Board “relies on the DACs to provide an outside perspective” which is different than the information the Board receives from the District’s staff.
The Superintendent suggested reducing the size of the DACS from 20 members to 11 and having term limits for committee members. He also suggested having discretionary DACs which would be created by, and would report, to him. Cuneo explained to the Board he wanted to have term limits because he has had complaints from people who want to join DACs but feel unwelcome because there is not enough turnover on the committees.
District parent David Barry stated his opposition to the Superintendent’s suggestions by noting, “This is proposed because the majority of the revisions tend to limit the discretionary powers of the Board of Education by simultaneously expanding the powers of Superintendent Cuneo.” It would limit the Board’s authority to create DACs as needed because they could only create DACs as required by law.
Also opposed was Special Education Advisory Committee (SEDAC) member Claudia Landis who read a letter she wrote to the Santa Monica City Council about the proposed changes. In her opinion, the Superintendent’s suggestions would help remove current committee members that have been whistle blowers and therefore would, “weaken the committee.” She stressed that the SEDAC was the only committee with a large membership so reducing the DAC membership “would target the SEDAC” specifically.
Another SEDAC member, Chris Chandler, told the Board “term limits would reduce our collective knowledge base and understanding of District policies and goals and would hinder our ability to effectively advise the Board on the issues brought to the Board by the community.”
The Board agreed with the community and expressed their opposition to reducing the DACs size or setting term limits. They recommended to the Superintendent that he meet with the Chairs of the DACs regarding his suggestions to get their input and then come back to the Board so they can discuss the issue once again.
Board President Ralph Mechur summed up the Board’s sentiment when he said, “The issue for me has always been to make the DACs stronger and more effective.”