• Name: Jake Wachtel
• Age: 38
• Occupation: Parent/producer/college advisory board member
• Marital status/children: My wife and I have two daughters; Mia is a second grader. Emilia will begin kindergarten in two years
• Your neighborhood? How long have you lived there?: We have lived in Sunset Park for over five years
• Own or rent? Own
• Public school or private? Public school
• Do you believe the district should cut in half the number of permit students admitted each year? Should permit students be required to maintain a certain GPA to remain in Santa Monica-Malibu schools? Should there be a zero tolerance policy for permit students when it comes to fighting or other acts of violence?
Employees of Santa Monica and Malibu who have children should receive permits. Violence from any source is unacceptable. Permitted students can be valuable additions to our district, especially high-achievers eager to participate in school programs.
• Should teacher evaluations be made public?
Evaluation measures from tests are privately used at several schools in the district by principals and teachers to identify where students are having difficulty. At one elementary school, peer teachers asked a same-grade educator whose students had the highest scores to share teaching techniques that can be used by others. This approach should be used district-wide. Quality teachers want to improve and I have a plan for teacher cross collaboration and professional development that will benefit our students. I support a system that allows public examination in troubling circumstances, but a blanket public evaluation at this stage seems invasive and counterproductive. Pressure to inflate testing scores, which does not foster true learning, may result.
• Given state funding insecurity and the failure of a recent parcel tax, what should be done to increase local funding for schools? Is a parcel tax the right approach? What other ways would you recommend to raise revenue for the district? Will you look to City Hall for more funding?
A commission-based unsalaried director of development should be created immediately. This position has had proven success in other districts, and similar positions are standard in business and nonprofits. The director would supplement and work with the Education Foundation, an organization that proved with its SOS campaign, which I was honored to participate in, that our community cares about education. The development position has far-reaching revenue gathering potential for our district.
Sponsorships and naming rights for facilities, which would need to meet standards and receive school board approval, and the renting of underutilized facilities are fundraising areas that should be explored.
Parcel taxes are difficult to pass district-wide because some residents have multiple parcel properties, one of the reasons Measure A, though it came close, failed. I would work with city councils and chambers of commerce in both cities to generate more revenue for our schools and reach out to state and federal leaders.
• How much homework is too much for a student in middle school and high school?
Academic achievement is paramount for future success, but so are social skills. Good teaching and parental support of learning will foster successful learning in both areas. This is an important teacher-parent issue.
•The district requires PTAs and other fundraising groups at individual school sites to contribute a certain percentage to an equity fund, which is then distributed to schools in poorer neighborhoods where parents do not raise as much money on their own. Do you believe this policy should continue? What percentage do you think is fair?
Our students benefit from strong schools throughout the district. When students meet in middle school and high school, excellent preparation in elementary schools district-wide is vital. For that reason, sensible sharing is necessary. The percentage should be determined year by year based on need.
• What do you think is the appropriate class size for elementary, middle, and high school students?
Ideally, grammar school classes should be limited to about 20 students. Middle and high school classes can succeed with larger class sizes, but there too it is important to keep class sizes down to help teachers work more closely with their students.
• What role should the district play in ensuring there is more affordable, workforce housing for teachers/staff?
Affordable housing attracts good teachers. The district should not enter the landlord business but establish relationships with owners that lead to affordable rentals for longer-term leases.
• In remodeling campuses, what should be the top priority?
The classroom is the top priority.
• How do you propose closing the achievement gap?
Students benefit from strong schools throughout the district. Fostering parent-involvement in their children’s education and early-development programs are critical. After-school programs, which help with learning, should be expanded, and counselors at elementary schools are crucial. Early outreach is vital for closing the achievement gap.
• How can Santa Monica-Malibu remain competitive with private schools such as Crossroads, St. Monicas, Wildwood, New Roads, etc..?
We should not be looking over our shoulders. Support for fine programs will help us retain gifted teachers and attract outstanding candidates. This will provide our students with the best possible education, entry into excellent colleges and success professionally.
• What qualities make you a good candidate for school board?
Having taught and coached in the U.S. and overseas, I have practical experience a school board member needs. Elected Nagasaki City Representative for foreign teachers, I evaluated Japanese public education, gaining a global perspective. Back in California, I was awarded the CORO Fellowship in Public Affairs, a leadership-training program in government, nonprofits, business, labor and media. I worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers and the California Community Foundation on textbook adoptions, allocation of school funds and technology. As an international journalist and television producer committed to education, I serve on Santa Monica College’s Journalism Advisory Board and the Claremont McKenna Media Advisory Board.
My teaching and work in business and international journalism give me a global perspective on our schools that other candidates don’t have. I have spent a career working with budgets, trouble-shooting and executing ideas. I am a strong negotiator who seeks out other opinions, a communicator who listens.
• Administrator and teacher salaries are among the highest in the state. How will you keep these and other personnel costs under control?
Quality educators and workers deserve fair compensation. I will look into salaries and fiscal mismanagement, while working with certified and classified leaders and members to develop agreements that enhance our educational needs and control cost.
• What will you do about teachers’ union president Harry Keiley’s “No show” job that costs the district a minimum $55,000 per year?
The teachers’ union is important, but without justification the district should not be paying union expenses. I plan to investigate how much the union is paying Mr. Keiley and what percentage of his work as union president is done for the district — $55,000 would be well spent on teachers’ salaries.
• If elected, what would you change about the food that is fed to our students?
Having produced and written two integrative health series, I understand nutrition. I have worked with premiere nutritional health experts and would consult with them about ways to improve the food our schools offer. Our daughter usually takes a homemade lunch to school, but that is a family tradition. I am pleased to know that when my daughter eats at the cafeteria, she has access to a salad bar and other nutritional items, but some available choices are not optimal. Healthful eating produces healthier and alert students. I would be delighted to work with food service to improve our children’s menus.