Six candidates are vying for four open seats on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) board of education Tuesday, November 7th.
The school district has 16 schools — 12 in Santa Monica and four in Malibu.
INCUMBENTS — Of the six candidates, three are incumbents:
– Oscar de la Torre, four-year school district board member, founder/executive director of the Pico Youth and Family Center and parent.
De la Torre, a lifelong Santa Monica resident, is running for his second term as board member.
“It’s important for the public to know that we’ve had a lot of change [in our district],” he said. “We have a new superintendent, new principals. All of our most populated schools have new leaders.
“It’s important to have continuity and leadership, and experienced board members are very crucial at this time. That’s why I’m running for reelection — because our schools need experienced leadership, people that hold institutional memory and history.”
De la Torre — a former employee of the school district — also attended Santa Monica schools.
“I’m a former student of our district and I’m the only school board member that actually attended a school in Santa Monica,” he said.
De la Torre is also the youngest member ever elected to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education.
“I’m the only Pico Neighborhood resident to serve on any governing board, so it’s important for us to have an inclusive government, and by having me serve, I bring a unique community perspective to the school board,” de la Torre said.
As a new father, de la Torre said his vision is to create opportunities in education for future generations also.
“My commitment to our students is proven in the fact that I started a youth center in Santa Monica in 2000, and that shows my commitment,” de la Torre said. “I’m not running for office to hold a title. I’m doing it because I’m sincere about supporting our students and strengthening our schools.”
If reelected, de la Torre says he will work to:
— achieve a world-class public school system;
— improve campus safety by implementing consistent student discipline policies;
— eliminate the achievement gap by strengthening our lowest performing students;
— reduce class size;
— support music and arts education;
— teach future generations to protect the environment; and
— ensure accountability through ethical and responsive leadership.
– Shane McLoud, four-year school district board member and ten-year public school teacher.
McLoud, a resident of Santa Monica since 1994, is running for a second term “in order to continue the educational improvements that have been made over the past four years and to continue to bring a teacher’s perspective to the school board.”
He is the only school teacher currently on the board and he teaches fifth grade at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles.
McLoud says his top priorities have been (for the past four years), and will continue to be, to:
— reduce class size;
— improve parent participation;
— increase student achievement;
— increase the professional development of teachers;
— increase operational efficiencies, passing the savings to the classroom; and
— increase resources and programs for low-performing and disadvantaged students.
McLoud says he wants voters to know that there is more work to do in order to improve student achievement throughout the district.
Student test scores have improved the past three years while McLoud has been on the board, but he believes “there is much more work to do to decrease the achievement gap and ensure that the district’s budget expenses are prioritized to put student achievement first.”
“I’m asking for the public’s continued trust that I will use my teaching perspective and my unwavering focus on doing what’s best for the students and prioritizing our budget to support quality instruction,” McLoud said. “I hope to continue to be the only teacher on the school board and use my ten years of experience to serve our schools.”
– Emily Bloomfield, four-year school district board member and parent.
“As an SMMUSD board member and past president and vice president of the board, I have worked for excellence for all district children,” Bloomfield said. “During that time, our [the school board’s] accomplishments include increased test scores, improved instruction, greater access to honors and AP [advanced placement] classes, redesign and more personalization at Santa Monica High School, and protection for funding academics and the arts in Santa Monica and Malibu.”
Bloomfield said she’d like to build on the experience and success of the last four years for another term on the school board.
“I am well qualified to serve in this role, with a B.A. from the University of Chicago, a master’s in public administration from Syracuse University and a master’s in economics from Oxford University,” she said.
Bloomfield also says she has a strong background in public and private administration at international development organizations, The Los Angeles Times and nonprofit organizations pursuing fair technology for youths.
Bloomfield says she is committed to:
— increasing resources to retain high-quality teachers, create smaller class sizes and protect the arts;
— closing the performance gap and raising academic achievement;
— enabling more parent involvement;
— providing access and support for courses required for college admissions; and
— innovative partnerships to provide opportunity for at-risk youths to succeed in school, including universal preschool.
Bloomfield and her husband have three children, all attending school in the district.
“With your vote, I will pursue excellence for every child,” Bloomfield said.
OTHER CANDIDATES — The three candidates who are not incumbents are:
– Kelly McMahon Pye, a company administrator, former newspaper sales executive and parent.
Pye, a Santa Monica resident for 20 years, has two children currently in district schools.
“Working to strengthen the schools has been my passionate commitment for the past seven years,” Pye said.
Pye serves on the Advisory Committee of Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), as well as on the district’s Equity Fund Oversight Committee and Bond Feasibility Committee.
Pye is a former president of the Will Rogers PTA and is currently on the executive board of the Will Rogers and John Adams Middle School PTA.
“My goals are to make sure that every child is served, of every achievement level and every ability level,” she said. “We have to help the struggling student, the average achiever, the advanced achiever. It’s a balancing act. I’m really committed to finding out how to strengthen every child’s achievement. That’s my goal.”
If elected, Pye said her goals include:
— providing a challenging curriculum for all students;
— building stronger school communities by bringing people together to achieve shared goals;
— increasing communication and parental involvement;
— promoting professional development for teachers;
— expanding community partnership to add resources and services for children; and
— enhancing music and arts programs.
“I pledge my wholehearted and dedicated efforts in pursuit of these goals,” Pye said. “With your vote, I will help our district achieve a rich educational experience for all our children.”
– Barry Snell, a certified public accountant and parent.
“I think I can bring perspective to the school board with respect to how to build coalitions with families and school officials and students that maybe haven’t been done before,” Snell said.
Snell has lived in Santa Monica for the past ten years and has two children who currently attend Santa Monica High School and one that has graduated.
“I like the school district and I think it’s one that’s been good for my kids, so I want to give back,” Snell said.
Snell is the former vice president of health and safety for the Samohi (Santa Monica High School) PTA and is also a member of the PTA. He is the co-president of the African American Parent Student Staff Support Group at Santa Monica High School and is also a parent outreach worker in Samohi’s “Our Kids” Program.
If elected school board member, Barry said his goals are to:
— improve the financial stability of the district by seeking alternative revenue sources and reducing financial mismanagement;
— continue the district’s joint use agreement with the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu;
— increase funding for preschool programs; and
— support programs to improve academic achievement for all children.
– Sidonie Smith, an education administrator at ProjectGRADLA.
Smith, a 30-year Santa Monica resident and parent, believes her professional preparation and experience prepare her for a role as school board member.
“My 30-year administrative and teaching experience in the state give me understanding and expertise in management, leadership and instruction,” Smith said. “I will build partnerships with parents, government, community business and associations so that we work together to support our children to successfully prepare for our future.”
She is a credentialed general and special education teacher, principal and administrator.
Smith is also a certified, licensed and credentialed education and clinical speech-language pathologist.
She believes that the district must work to eliminate the achievement gap by supporting all students to maximize their academic potential.
“I commit to bring innovative and informed educational leadership to Santa Monica-Malibu School District to encourage policies and procedures that support that all students will learn,” Smith said.
Smith says equity in education means all children must have “quality instruction, quality educational materials and cultural validation.”
“I am committed to ensuring that SMMUSD provides caring, safe and supporting school environments that develop higher critical thinking skills for all students,” she said.
Smith also believes student achievement and graduation are very important goals.
“I would like to see the community pull together citywide, including the religious or spiritual communities, to really support students in every aspect, to ensure students are prepared to enter the world proactively and with skills to enable them to really lead a productive life,” Smith said.
— Also on the November ballot is Measure BB, a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Safety and Repair Measure.
It is a $268 million bond measure designed to “improve health, safety and class instruction by repairing, renovating outdated classrooms, bathrooms, plumbing, leaky roofs, computer technology, [and] fire safety equipment” in district schools.
The measure would improve handicapped student accessibility, repair aging schools and “insist that all of its schools be healthy and safe from earthquake risks, hazardous materials such as asbestos, mold and fire dangers,” among other things.
Performance and financial audits would be performed yearly and an independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee would monitor all bond expenditures.