The letter to the editor entitled “Making election picks,” Nov. 5, is a perfect demonstration of why our school district needs to change. Written by a familiar subset of long-time political insiders, it makes the usual tired, self-evidently false claims about 12-year school board veterans Escarce and Leon-Vasquez’ success.
It says, “District test scores have soared under their leadership” and “Santa Monica-Malibu schools are known as some of the best in the state.” Really? Samohi’s API scores are lower than the majority of similar schools as measured by the California Department of Education. Samohi’s API also lags all the major comparison schools as defined by our own school board, often by a hundred points or more.
It says, “Working together, they… are bridging the opportunity gap.” Really? With just 6 percent of African-American high school students in the district proficient or better in math, it is hard to see how this could be true. Likewise, less than half of African-American students and just slightly over half of Latino students are proficient on their high school exit exams. This is how bad it really is: African-American achievement in our district is below the despicably low state average.
It says, “These board members and their colleagues are devoted to the support of all students from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds.” If by this they mean that the board micromanages the superintendent and creates a blizzard of contradictory and disconnected programs, that is true. What is lacking, however, is an overarching, staff-driven plan to incorporate best practices into our district in a powerful, connected, meaningful way.
It says, “They kept state budget cuts as far from the classroom as possible.” Really? If that is so, why are SMMUSD’s costs for centralized administration more than double Conejo Valley’s costs? Our central administration costs $7 million more than theirs, the equivalent of 70 teachers. Why aren’t we looking at other districts to find opportunities to reduce our bloat and protect our children?
It says, “They are not afraid to … have the open, honest conversation about how we can continue to improve our schools.” Really? Would that include the implementation of districtwide fundraising? It is difficult to see how a policy that was decided before it ever became public could be considered open and honest. Or that it was implemented in just 26 days over the passionate and widespread objections of the majority of the community, the district’s own Financial Oversight Committee, and even those of the Los Angeles Times editorial board.
Our district needs to change. We need fresh ideas. We need transparency. We need disciplined focus on each child’s educational success. We need to put the superintendent back in charge and help her build a plan that puts our district where it should have always been: as a credit to our two fine cities and an inspiration to our country.
That’s why we are running, that’s what we intend to do. On behalf of the children, we ask for your vote, your voice, and your passion to make the changes that need to be made.