The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education has unanimously elected Barry Snell and Kelly Pye as president and vice president, respectively, for the 2010 school year.

The new board officers assumed the roles at the December 10th meeting. Pye replaced Snell as vice president and Snell succeeded Ralph Mechur as president of the seven-member board.

The Board of Education votes at the end of each year to elect its new officers.

Snell, who was elected three years ago, said he was honored to receive the leadership position and believes he is prepared to manage its various responsibilities.

“I was very honored that they feel I’m prepared to take the helm of the district,” Snell said of his colleagues’ support. “It’s a lot of responsibility but I look forward to taking it on.”

Pye, who was elected in 2006, also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve the district as a board officer.

“I am thrilled to be serving the children of Santa Monica and Malibu in this new capacity,” Pye said.

Both new officers conveyed a sense of privilege to serve the district and offered praise for the achievements of the schools during the past year, despite a number of economic challenges. Snell said the district has been able to maintain its high standards academically and cope with its financial struggles.

“I think that we’ve been staying out in front of the financial challenges,” he said.

Pye explained that her goals for the upcoming year correlate with those of the district — reaching extraordinary achievement while closing the achievement gap.

“We are fortunate to have dedicated educators and administrators who are focused on instructional excellence and a community that continuously demonstrates its commitment to education. These things make us wealthy beyond measure,” the board vice president said.

But Snell and Pye both acknowledge that the district faces its share of obstacles during the current economic crisis and has had to make sacrifices to continue its quality of performance.

In an effort to tighten its budget gap this past year, the school board approved a small increase in class sizes for a number of grades and cut one of six houses at Santa Monica High School. The board was able to avoid issuing layoff notices to employees.

Anticipated to face a similar significant deficit in next year’s budget, the school board has been discussing the possibility of placing an emergency and temporary parcel tax on a future ballot to help offset the projected $12 million deficit.

“We are looking at a budget crisis of unprecedented magnitude,” Pye noted. “It will take all of our best efforts to continue our progress towards our goals as we face the challenges of these times.”

Snell said that as president, he hopes to encourage the board to explore ways to generate additional revenue so that the district will not have to rely heavily on state funding.

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