At a June 28 board meeting, District Advisory Committees ranging from the arts to English Learners provided the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District with goals accomplished and recommendations for the next school year and beyond.
District English Learners Advisory Committee
District administrator Dr. Irene Gonzalez-Castillo led the DELAC presentation, detailing achievements the committee has accomplished thus far and actions the committee hopes to take next year and in following years.
Gonzalez-Castillo said that this year, DELAC members were interested in how to make recommendations at school sites.
“We developed a workshop where parents reviewed useful data, made recommendations with research, and practiced writing recommendations that would be shared with their site ELAC to start conversations with school site councils,” she said. “This was a new activity that focused on ensuring that [DELAC] were completing responsibilities and it highlights what we call ‘learning by doing’; engaging in the work, unpacking information, and having parents participate in the activities that will build their capacity.”
Gonzalez-Castillo said DELAC hopes to engage in this workshop every year in a better attempt to “hone in and better our students.”
DELAC’s accomplishments this year included updating it’s voting procedures, engaging in community dialogue concerning English Learner progress and programs, refining its master plan for English learners, and updating its family engagement framework.
DELAC Board liaison Maria Leon-Vasquez said she looks forward to doing “more really good work” next year and suggested expanding after-school options English Learner options with a hands-on approach with parents and students.
SMMUSD boardmember Oscar de la Torre applauded the DELACs efforts this year and suggested that due to the “climate of the country in regards to immigration and some of these issues at the national level that have local impact,” that in the future, DELAC offer counseling for students in regards to trauma for fearful students.
Health & Safety District Advisory Committee
Stephanie Lewis led the Health and Safety DAC committee, a group comprised of physicians, attorneys, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. “A lot of brain power when we meet,” Lewis said.
This year the committee focused on screening for and aiding students with anxiety and depression, drug and alcohol treatment and awareness, and wellness among other issues.
To focus and help students in regards to anxiety and depression, the DAC added a mental health counselor to their committee to “understand the mental health needs of students … as well as staff”, and began to analyze data from a Youth Wellness Needs Assessment.
Tackling drug and alcohol treatment, the committee met with Samohi’s principal to learn of any concerns of substance abuse on campus and initiated a plan to provide training to campus security guards to detect substances.
Lewis said the DAC updated the district’s wellness policy, which hadn’t been updated since 2009. She said the update was “vital in promoting physical activity and maintaining a continuity of standards.”
For future additions, Lewis asked the Board to consider a focus on “site emergency response to crisis situations”, no doubt a reference to school shootings and a recent suicide.
In regards to the site emergency response, Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said he would “engage in conversations with our police chief about safety in schools, throwing out ideas at things we could look at our readjust,” and that he’d heavily involve DACs and the community in any such talks.
Visual and Performing Arts District Advisory Committee
Janis Gabbert, VAPA voting co-chair, began the committee’s presentation lauding the importance of community engagement in raising and engaging students as well as the importance of arts programs.
Gabbert showed that in this past school year, VAPA ensured as many students as possible receive an arts education. ALL SMMUSD elementary students were enrolled in a dance, theatre, or visual arts classes, while 76% of SMMUSD middle school students and 74% of SMMUSD high school students were enrolled in a VAPA class.
VAPA noted that while elementary students all were enrolled in a VAPA class, that some TK-5 students don’t receive instruction in all VAPA classes, leading to loss of interest or continuity for students aging through the school district. The presentation said lack of exposure to all VAPA classes is due to “individual principals making independent decisions” on VAPA class rotations.
VAPAs report shows how the creative class effects the city– 43% of Santa Monica’s adults make all or part of their living in arts-related fields, with 1,634 arts-related businesses in the city employ 11,464 residents.
Looking forward, VAPA says they wish to continue equity in the arts, providing access to instruction to all students at every level, advocate for STEAM (STEM, while integrating art projects into the curriculum).
“I hope the expansion of dance, art, and theater, can continue to develop healthy and creative adults of tomorrow,” Gabbert said. “Our responsibility is to help [children] find an achievement that gives them pride in themselves. Sometimes it’s science and math, sometimes it’s art. The child becomes a much more functional adult when they have that belief in themselves. The true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers.”