January 29, 2023 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMMUSD to Appoint Interim Superintendent Next Week

District looks to replace Dr. Ben Drati who is leaving to head up the Bellflower Unified School District

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) will appoint an interim superintendent next week following the resignation of Dr. Ben Drati. 

Drati last month announced that he would be leaving the SMMUSD to head up the Bellflower Unified School District where he will begin in January 2023. 

I realize this is unexpected. I want to let you know that I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated serving as the Superintendent of SMMUSD and will always cherish my time here,” Drati said in a press release. “Together, we have accomplished many goals and laid the groundwork for continued success. I believe the district is poised to accomplish the mission of ensuring that all students are able to reach their full potential by providing an extraordinary educational experience for all while simultaneously closing the achievement gap.” 

According to the SMMUSD, due to the sensitive nature of the interview process, the Board of Education did not have prior knowledge of Dr. Drati’s decision. 

“While we are sad to see Dr. Drati move to Bellflower USD, it is not uncommon for superintendents to serve three to five years in a school district. Dr. Drati served SMMUSD for six years, and for that we are grateful,” said Maria Leon-Vazquez, President of the SMMUSD Board of Education and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Vice-President, of the SMMUSD Board of Education in a press release. “We thank Dr. Drati for his leadership in moving SMMUSD forward during a most difficult time in world history and wish him well in his next endeavor. His departure will not diminish our dedication to our mission to provide extraordinary achievement for all students while simultaneously closing the achievement gap.”

The Board of Education will seek to appoint an interim superintendent at the December 15 board meeting. It will also create a sub-committee of the board at the December 15 meeting that will identify a process to hire a permanent superintendent. This process will be public and the opportunities for community input will be identified. The board sub-committee will bring back recommendations, and they will be presented to the full board at a future public meeting and the process will be communicated widely. There is no timeline yet for when a new superintendent will be named, according to Leon-Vazquez and Tahvildaran-Jesswein. 

According to Leon-Vazquez and Tahvildaran-Jesswein, the board subcommittee will be working during winter break so that a superintendent search process update can be presented publicly at a January school board meeting.

“The direction of our school district is solid and many of the structural changes and advancements are the result of the hard work of Dr. Drati, his staff, and all SMMUSD employees. We have heard some concern that a new superintendent will disrupt or abandon some of the initiatives and successes in our district. It is important for the SMMUSD community to understand that the Board of Education will support and protect the incredible work that is happening daily at every one of our school sites,” Leon-Vazquez and Tahvildaran-Jesswein said.

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