Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) students started back to school “very smoothly” on Wednesday, September 6th, superintendent Dianne Talarico reported at the board of education meeting Thursday, September 14th.

“People really took the time to pre-plan,” Talarico said. “We had very few students who didn’t have things settled [by the first day of school].”

One thing Talarico stressed was the importance of starting out the school year on a positive note because “the opening of the school year sets the tone for the rest of the year.”

“I commend the counselors and principals,” Talarico said. “It was clear to me people had it together. It was really organized.”

Talarico encouraged the board members to visit the middle school math classes, as new SMART Boards have been installed.

“It looks like a white board, except it’s really computerized,” Talarico said of the SMART Boards. “Kids are really engaged — it’s a new tech toy. The teachers are really excited. It is phenomenal.”

At a media breakfast Wednesday, September 13th, Talarico reported that Franklin and Roosevelt Elementary Schools were too full. As a result, some students — including 13 from Franklin — were moved to other schools in the district. She said some parents were upset, but board policy was followed.

Talarico also said she was “engaged in meetings about the bond and negotiations with teachers” and that enrollment data “looks good” at 11,888 students.

KAREN GAROT RETIRES — Karen Garot, assistant to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District superintendent for 15 years, has retired and was commended at the board meeting. Her last day at work for the district was Friday, September 15th.

Garot, who has been in education for 40 years, came to the district in 1977 and was with the district through five superintendents and two interim superintendents.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long,” Garot said.

“She knows every nook and cranny of this district,” said Julia Brownley, board president. “She truly is a cherished member of our district. She really cares about the overall success of the district. She’s a good friend, a shoulder to lean on.”

“I have become very fond and very close to Karen Garot,” Talarico said. “People go to her for nurturing and care.”

The board of education presented Garot with flowers and a plaque thanking and commending her for her years of service to the district.

Board members also took a few minutes to publicly thank Garot, all saying that they would miss her and wished her the best.

“It’s been an incredible career,” Garot said. “I’ve made some wonderful friendships here.”