SMMUSD HDQTRS — A proposal to impose term limits and reduce the number of parents serving on school District Advisory Committees (DAC) is drawing concerns from existing members who believe that the changes would send the wrong message to the community.
The Board of Education tonight is scheduled to discuss the potential revisions to the committee policy, among the final pieces in a nearly year-long effort to review over 400 policies, administrative regulations and exhibits that guide the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District every day, some of which have been updated in the past few years, others untouched since the 1970s.
The issue concerns the proposal to reduce the number of bodies on the DACs from a maximum of 20 down to 11 and to restrict members to two, four-year terms with the possibility of a third term with a two-thirds vote by the school board.
The existing policy allows members to reapply after serving one term without limits.
The Special Education District Advisory Committee, which led the reform movement in the troubled special education program several years ago, took a position at its meeting on Tuesday to oppose the revisions.
Members of the group, commonly referred to as SEDAC, have voiced concerns in the past that they believed such changes could be in store. There are currently 19 members who serve on the committee.
“My concern about this is that it represents an initiative to reduce the involvement of the community and parents with the public institution,” Claudia Landis, the vice chair of SEDAC, said. “I think it actually could have the unintended consequence of reducing the diversity of members on these committees.”
There are currently eight committees that advise the school board on matters ranging from finances to health and safety to childcare.
Cuneo said the revisions were modeled after the City Council’s policy on its advisory boards and commissions, providing members to serve up to 12 years.
He added that smaller groups are typically run more smoothly.
“It’s much more efficient and people who manage meetings or deal with meetings tell you that 12 (members) is about the max for really getting things done well,” he said.
Cuneo said that there are still opportunities for input even with a smaller board, noting that the public can attend DAC meetings and participate.
Not all committees are as concerned. Cynthia Torres, who chairs the Financial Oversight Committee, said she doesn’t see the proposed policy changes having any effect on her particular group.
Tricia Crane, a long-time member of SEDAC, said the term limits would send the wrong message to the community, adding that special education in particular is a complex topic and it’s important to have continuity.
“It’s very difficult for new parents to understand the scope of some of the implications of the things without members who have (served) a long time,” she said. “I think it would be a shame to lose that long-standing well educated conversant community members.”