SMMUSD HDQTRS — Public school officials are taking another look at a series of controversial changes to district advisory committees following concerns raised recently by the Board of Education and parents about including more public input in the proposed revisions.
The policy, which would affect the eight volunteer committees that currently advise district officials on matters ranging from finances to student health and safety, was scheduled for adoption by the Board of Education on Nov. 19. It was postponed for several weeks because two key school board members who worked on the policy — Barry Snell and Maria Leon-Vazquez — were absent and ongoing concerns from committee members about providing more public input in the policy changes.
A meeting of DAC chairs, vice chairs, Superintendent Tim Cuneo and several board members was scheduled for Monday night to go over some key areas of concern, including how members are selected for the committee. The policy will be brought back to the board for action on Dec. 10, Cuneo said.
One of the biggest areas of concern involves how the committee makes decisions. The policy currently states that a committee can take a vote provided that there is a quorum. The board at its recent meeting last month, however, was divided on whether there should be a quorum or majority of total membership available.
“That is not super feasible in terms of getting any work done because we rarely get a quorum,” Theresa Harris, the chair of the Special Education District Advisory Committee (SEDAC), said.
Also up for discussion is the development of the committee’s agenda and who will be responsible for it.
“It’s always the chair person with staff who puts together the agenda for the DAC and the board has talked about having the chair, the vice chair with the staff to put together the agenda,” Cuneo said.
Cuneo said that the selection process of committee members might change. The board has expressed a desire to appoint members rather than the committee review the applications first.
Kelly Pye, who was among the board members expected to meet on Monday with the DAC chairs, said she wanted to send the policy back to include more collaboration between the different committees in the policy, creating a document that will reflect different viewpoints.
“Several of our DACs operate differently and have different types of membership and we want to make sure that the policy works for each different (committee),” she said. “We don’t want to prescribe something that won’t be workable for them.”
Some committee chairs said that the district should try enforcing its existing policy.
Pat Nolan, the chair of the Health and Safety District Advisory Committee, said that if the district enforced its existing policy, revisions might not be necessary.
The DAC policy is one of the last remaining pieces in a more than year-long effort by the district to review over 400 policies, administrative regulations and exhibits that guide the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District every day, some of which haven’t been updated since the 1970s.
The proposed changes first drew concerns in September when district staff originally proposed revising the policy to restrict members to two, four-year terms with the possibility of a third term with a two-thirds vote by the school board. Some have questioned whether the district is looking to impose more control over the committees.
That term limits has since been removed.
“We all want the DACs to function effectively so we need to understand what the board and superintendent are trying to accomplish, as well as define the specific area that is targeted with each change, in order to help evaluate the proposal and understand what the ultimate effect will be,” Zina Josephs, member of the Visual and Performing Arts District Advisory Committee, said.