The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will be facing unprecedented challenges this year due to the state budget crisis and helping with those challenges will be the new School Board President, Barry Snell, and the new Vice-President, Kelly Pye.
Snell, an accountant, has been on the Board since 2006 and he served as Vice-President this past year. Pye works for Richard Pye Masonry Incorporated and also has been on the Board since 2006.
Snell told the Mirror one of his main immediate goals is to have the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu approve an emergency parcel tax. The District is facing a budget deficit of $12 million over the next 18 months. Snell noted that if the voters approve the emergency parcel tax it would still not generate enough revenue to cover the budget deficit so the Board would also have to make additional cuts in order to balance its budget.
“The magnitude of the crisis will change the face of our School District,” noted Snell, “if we don’t identify new revenue enhancements and streamline our programs.” He doesn’t “believe people outside the educational community really understand the magnitude of the District’s financial crisis.” Therefore, he and Pye would like to have periodic meetings with the community and members of the press to improve communication about the crisis.
The President hopes that despite the cuts that have to be made the District can still “keep high standards” for educating the District’s students. He admits that the financial crisis has been overshadowing other priorities in the District but he hopes during his presidency the Board can start to “talk more about curriculum and best teaching practices.”
Pye wants the Board to look at everything before making any cuts to “make sure we are making the right choices in order to keep our schools strong.” She also wants any cuts that are made to have the “least impact on student achievement.” She also hopes that if the District “maintains an unwavering focus on instructional excellence it will help see us through these tough times.”
Snell and Pye are also both “excited” about the update of the District’s Strategic Plan which will set the District’s priorities for the next 3 to 5 years. Snell’s goals for this process include making sure the plan is implemented and sustainable.
Another priority of Snell’s is the District’s facilities update. He mentioned that later this year the District would be breaking ground on the construction of a new school for the Edison Language Academy and also updating the Santa Monica High School (SAMOHI) campus. The Board will be making decisions on the allocation of the money it will receive from the City of Santa Monica for the SAMOHI campus update.
Pye also wants to focus on having better transitions for the students from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school. She and Snell also want the District to continue to improve its Special Education program.
Hannah Heineman* [email protected]