The Santa Monica Unified School District invited community members to the first of three Strategic Plan Open House Events at the John Muir Elementary School on Monday. District officials welcomed parents and residents to peruse panels describing district goals and offering the chance to give comments.
The SMMUSD Strategic Plan Team (SPT) is comprised of 19 members of parents, teachers, school staff, and community representatives. The team is designed to advise the Superintendant in the plan for the next five years of the district’s curriculum, budget, and its long-term vision. The open house is an early stage in the four-phase planning process.
“A key attribute is in 2023, when the today kindergarten child will leave this district,” said Superintendant Tim Cuneo at the meeting. “The world is flat and we have to prepare our children.”
The open house is the first step involving the larger community after the SPT compiled preliminary commentary and research. The district held another open house on Tuesday, April 13 at Lincoln Middle School. The last open house is Thursday, April 15 from 6-9 p.m. at Malibu High School.
Following the three open houses, the group will involve about 80 people to pull all the comments together to design a draft plan. A second round of open houses in June will unveil the draft Strategic Plan for further input. Once that round is complete, the Board of Education will finalize and adopt the Strategic Plan in June/July.
The presentation encouraged community involvement with large sticky-notes to write suggestions, comments, and concern, to place on the panels themselves. Cuneo said it’s really interesting how people have been thinking about technology in school and how teachers will utilize it in the future. Cuneo said it is generally accepted that teachers will always be present in the classroom. He said the question is how phones, computers and other technologies students already use can be utilized for education.
Comments ranged from incorporating green energy ideas, “intervention at an early age,” the “horrible” nutritional program, and continued education. Other notes recommended more community events like the open house to keep dialogue between the district and parents.
“I think there is a disconnect between the school and the district,” said Debra Shepherd, a parent of two children in the district. “Each individual school might have great teachers, but as soon as the district gets involved it’s chaos.”
Her feeling is “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” when it comes to the school system.
Elizabeth Kramer, who has a kindergartener in the district, said the district has open lines of communication. She said that the budget is such a hot topic, especially when no one wants to make cuts. She feels SMMUSD is making cuts across the board instead of taking large cuts in certain areas.
“It poses really tough decisions,” Kramer said, about the budget. “I feel like we will be in really dire state if we don’t pass Measure A. Santa Monica and Malibu needs to band together.”
As part of the PTA, Lisa Balfus also represents the community as part of the SPT. She has one sophomore at Santa Monica High School and one who graduated from Edison. She worked the event as a representative to address community concerns and guide parents through the exhibit.
“As the circumstances in the community change, the district needs to be efficient and effective with resources at this point,” Balfus said. “What is impressive is the overwhelming scope of community, getting everyone in dialogue. It’s not really business as usual.”
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