At its first meeting in three weeks, the local Board of Education last week conducted business with two new faces on the dais.
The school board on July 20 officially welcomed interim co-superintendents Chris King and Sylvia Rousseau to the Santa Monica-Malibu school district, which is currently searching for Sandra Lyon’s long-term replacement as it gears up for the 2016-17 school year.
Board president Laurie Lieberman said SMMUSD is “unbelievably fortunate” to have King and Rousseau as temporary leaders through the end of the calendar year.
“Our district is really lucky and is going to have a good six months with the two of them at the helm,” Lieberman said. “We can already see it in their ability to work together and take on all of the many things that make our district what it is and keep our district moving in the right direction.”
Over the last few weeks, King and Rousseau has been traveling to various school sites, meeting with principals and getting caught up on work in the district. They have also had discussions with board members and district staff.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Rousseau, a longtime schools administrator in the region who served as principal at Santa Monica High School from 1993 to 2000.
“I’m happy to be back,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a really productive six months. I plan to enjoy it.”
Of particular importance to Rousseau is keeping alive the momentum on Pedro Noguera’s efforts to improve equity in the district. She and King have met with the education reformist.
“We’re looking at ways to take his report and turn it into action,” Rousseau said. “That’s where the difficulty is.”
Both interim chiefs are likely to attend the district’s annual convocation Aug. 17, when Noguera will deliver a keynote speech. The district hired him as a consultant last year to help SMMUSD close longstanding achievement gaps between minority and low-income students and their peers.
“It’s a pleasure knowing we can continue doing the work we’re doing,” said Terry Deloria, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services.
King and Rousseau have also met with Santa Monica police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks and City Manager Rick Cole, among other local leaders.
“I’m trying to be out in the community as much as possible so people can put a name to a face,” King said.
King said he’s enjoyed the vibrancy of the Pico Neighborhood, where he has an apartment. But he told board member Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, a Santa Monica College professor, that noisy students living near the campus have kept him awake at night.
“Richard, you need to assign a little more homework,” King joked.
King, who recently served as interim superintendent in the Anaheim City School District, said he “couldn’t be happier” to be working in SMMUSD and thanked the board and district leaders for making him feel comfortable as he settles into his new job.
“We hope you continue to feel that way,” Lieberman said.
Sarah Braff, who represents the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association, welcomed the co-superintendents to the district’s “jolly boat” and said she’s anticipating genuine collaboration on equity work, bias training and other issues.
“I hope we’ll all be rowing together,” she said.