May 8, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMMUSD Counselor Controversy at Rest:

The SMMUSD Board of Education approved restoring three counseling positions at Olympic High, Lincoln Middle School, Malibu High, and John Adams Middle School– Olympic and Lincoln will increase from part-time positions to full.

The board approved a controversial decision in April to cut counselors from Samohi and Malibu High that left both with exaggerated ratios for students to counselors, especially for Malibu that shares three counselors at the joint middle and high school building.

Board members are looking to the future, especially as far as the elections in November lurking in the horizon. Debates were long-winded and terse compared to other meetings, although BOE meetings are not known for brevity.

“It doesn’t need to be said that this decision has implications that are sizable,” Board Member Jose Escarse said. “I do think that we need to provide that minimum level of service to students at our secondary schools.”

Board members Kelly Pye, Oscar de la Torre, and Ralph Mechur all pushed for reinstatement of three counselors for both schools, plus an additional position for the high schools despite the budget crunch of allocating up to $300,000 for the three reinstated positions. The board withheld any further appointments until after the Save Our Schools campaign funding could be contributed to the strict budget.

The Save Our Schools funds may add additional counselors when totals are tallied from the bucket designated for reducing secondary class size and adding counselors. Superintendent Tim Cuneo said the decision for how the funds are used will be based on need.

To add to the sense of urgency, the SOS final numbers may not be counted in time for the next BOE meeting on August 18 where additional staffing and fund allocations will be decided.

Council Appoints New SMMUSD Staff

Debra Washington is the new assistant superintendent for human resources at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, just in time for upcoming expected rehiring of teachers who received pink slips. Washington replaces the beloved Mike Matthews who left for a superintendent position at Manhattan Beach Unified School District.

Washington is from the Sequoia Union High School District, where she has been serving as the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources. At SMMUSD, she wants to keep instructional best practices in mind when hiring and training certificated and classified staff and their managers. She also has experience with budget negotiations and teacher training.

The board also appointed Steven Richardson as the new principal at Will Rogers Learning Community. He comes from the Lawndale Elementary School District, where he has served as Director of Extended Day Programs. He also served as an administrator of a Title I school that also housed a special needs program.

Richardson connected his respect for children that he brings from home to the classroom, he has three children ranging in ages from three weeks to 10-years-old who all attended the meeting to greet the board.

Victoria Hearst has been appointed as the designated Special education coordinator for the district. She served as assistant principal at Roosevelt Elementary School for the past three years. Prior to that, Hurst served as the family literacy specialist, a summer school intensive intervention teacher, and a second and third grade teacher, all at Roosevelt. She is familiar with present special education services at SMMUSD.

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