After four public meetings and heated discussion about changes to a policy on district advisory committees (DACs), the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education directed staff Thursday, February 2nd, to restore policy language that was established for more than a decade.
Confusion about the role of district advisory committees began at a December 8th school board meeting in which board vice president Kathy Wisnicki recommended that board policy be revised to identify committee functions more clearly.
Some committee members and parents thought the school board wanted to diminish district advisory committee advice.
“I asked that the language be removed to clear up a sense of frustration that I heard from the DACs with respect to their specific functions and it was never intended to silence the public,” Wisnicki said.
“When we ask our volunteers to weigh in on something, we should respect their time, energy, and what they are putting into the charge we are asking them to fulfill for the year.”
The purpose of the committees is to allow the public to advise the school board on what the district needs and to comment on issues that arise in various areas.
Advisory committee topics include childcare and development, bilingual education and English language learners, community health and safety, fine arts, technology, intercultural programs, special education, and sports and physical education.
The school board appoints or reappoints district advisory committee members as current terms expire or unexpected vacancies occur. The district accepts applications from Santa Monica and Malibu residents on an ongoing basis.
Under school board policy that had been in place since 1994, one specific function of a district advisory committee was “to assist in the overall planning of the educational program and of budget resources.”
The district advisory committee policy was amended January 5th, clarifying the budget function of the committees: “to assist in identifying, mobilizing and coordinating resources, both human and material, available from the community for the benefit of the schools.”
The school board agreed last week to restore the 1994 wording.
“Why was there a policy change in the first place?” asked Tricia Crane, chair of the Special Education DAC.
“The widespread response from the community to this board action illustrates how strongly people feel about preserving the open flow of communication in government.”
Craig Hamilton, co-chair of the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee, said “messages that are coming from the district are not good.”
Board member Emily Bloomfield said the school board’s only intent was to clarify the language so that every district advisory committee does not feel obligated to review the district’s budget in its entirety.
“What we are doing is asking DACs to perform certain functions, which does not mean we are precluding them or excluding them from providing other types of functions,” Bloomfield said. “We absolutely ask and want their advice on policies, programs, and budgets.”
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, February 16th, at Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main St., Santa Monica.
District advisory committee applications can be obtained at district schools, the main office at 1651 16th St., Santa Monica, or at www.smmusd.org
MORE TEACHERS OF THE YEAR — Four teachers from Santa Monica High School were named “Teachers of the Year” for the 2005-2006 school year.
They join four other teachers who were named to the list last week. The eight teachers of the year are:
n Darci Braverman, Lincoln Middle School special education department chair and special education teacher;
n Patrick Cady, a history teacher and track and field coach at Santa Monica High School;
n Greg DiLeo, Lincoln Middle School technology coordinator and technology teacher;
n Michael Felix, a history teacher at Santa Monica High School;
n Jose Lopez, a Spanish teacher at Santa Monica High School;
n Meredith Louria, Santa Monica High School S House teacher leader and Freshman Seminar teacher;
n Elizabeth Martinez, an artist and singer who develops lessons for students at the Edison Language Academy Charter School by integrating math, science, and the arts; and
n Rozita Moazzez, Lincoln Middle School English Language Learners department chair and coordinator. She also teaches Humanities and French Exploratory classes.