The four recently elected Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education members were sworn into office Tuesday evening with two new faces to the educational body keen to stir the pot.
As part of a special Santa Monica City Council meeting at City Hall, returning board member Laurie Lieberman, who topped the vote with 20.75
percent, was sworn in alongside newcomers Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Craig Foster, and incumbent Oscar de la Torre, who claimed the fourth and final seat with 16.32 percent of the vote.
Representing the Malibu half of SMMUSD, Foster said that he and fellow new addition Tahvildaran-Jesswein bring fresh directions and grassroots’ views to the board.
“Richard and I have new ideas and perspectives and a mandate to get them implemented,” Foster said. “The more experienced board members have their passion for education, their ideas, and their knowledge. Putting those resources and aspirations together is a matter of dialogue and collaboration, finding areas of agreement and/or opportunity and working from there.”
Acknowledging that every member of the school board, old and new, is there to give students the best education possible and to provide the community with the best schools, Foster explained that he nominated for office to ensure that every child in the district has representation.
“I ran to help define and execute our transition to 21st century education goals and practices, to make sure our district gives all of our students the skills they’ll need to be successful in their lives in this quickly changing world,” Foster said. “I will start that in our first board meeting Thursday, asking one simple question over and over: what’s best for the kids?”
Beginning his education activism as a teenager, Tahvildaran-Jesswein said that he has dedicated his life to creating better educational opportunities for all families.
“I’m looking forward to working collectively to close the achievement gap,” Tahvildaran-Jesswein said. “I’m very committed to collaboration and I’m excited to work with the men and women on the board.”
As a professor teaching Political Science at Santa Monica College (SMC) and Associate Director of SMC’s Public Policy Institute, Tahvildaran-Jesswein said that he is passionate about creating pathways to success for young people and thinking about how we can connect with the college and different high schools in the community.
The SMMUSD Board’s mission is for “extraordinary achievement for all while simultaneously closing the achievement gap.”
They convene every second Thursday at open meetings at either Santa Monica or Malibu.
For more information, visit smmusd.org/board.