• Name: Chris Bley

• Age: 37

• Occupation: High school history and government teacher

• Marital status/children: Divorced/none

• Your neighborhood? How long have you lived there?: Montana, Ocean Park, Harvard Street/34 years

• Own or rent? Rent

• Public school or private? Public through college except middle 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?

1) LAUSD may make the decision for us. Public uproar caused them to cancel this year’s plan to revoke most permits, but they face a $1.1 billion deficit and will probably reclaim their students and the ADA funds the state pays for them.

According to the SMMUSD fact sheet, this year’s ADA is $5,307. However, our district spends much more to educate each student. Dividing this year’s budget ($106 million) by the enrollment (11,585) gives an approximate cost per student: $9,100 — a $3,800 difference, made up by other revenue sources, including $20 million from Santa Monica-Malibu taxpayers. Six-hundred fewer students translate into $2 million saved. We should phase out permit students except children of district employees, but do it gradually. We’re not just dealing with numbers, but students’ educational and extra-curricular lives.

2) No. As a teacher, I realize many factors go into students’ GPAs besides their own effort — including home life, illness, trauma, growing, learning disabilities.

3) Yes.

• Should teacher evaluations be made public?

For now no, because the evaluation system is flawed, for two reasons: (1) The L.A. Times sheepishly admits that students have no stakes in standardized tests. And yet the Times used these tests in a very high-stakes game: publicly ranking 6,000 teachers “effective” or “ineffective.” (2) Measuring a child’s progress in separate subjects from year to year is not an accurate indication of academic progress. For example, students who thrive in the multiplication-intensive curriculum of third grade may struggle with the writing-intensive curriculum of fourth grade, which slows their progress in math. Their teacher is then inaccurately deemed ineffective. It is simplistic to use annual “value added” to assess teacher effectiveness.

• 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?

SMMUSD consistently fails to even try to generate revenue, except by renting out a few school facilities. I would use Measure BB funds to equip Samohi’s Greek Theater as a revenue-generating performance venue. I would hire a director of development. Fairfax and Manhattan Beach are nearby public high schools whose DODs have generated millions of dollars over the past few years through grants, corporate sponsorships, and other creative fundraising. The parcel tax should be considered only after the school board generates revenue on its own.

• How much homework is too much for a student in middle school and high school?

Board members, administrators, and parents need to trust teachers. A parent who feels a teacher requires too much homework should first go to the teacher. If the parent still isn’t satisfied, the school principal should work with parents and teachers to establish a policy. This is an on-the-ground, school-level issue. Teacher morale drops when arbitrary rules are imposed.

• 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?

I support the equity fund’s goal: narrowing the achievement gap. But the policy creates resentment toward the district, taking away up to 15 percent of the money groups raise. Having a director of development could eliminate the equity fund. Last year about $300,000 was redistributed; $45,000 went back to wealthier elementary schools. A DOD could raise $255,000 for intervention programs; the wealthier schools could fund their own. PTAs and booster clubs could keep all of their hard-earned money.

• What do you think is the appropriate class size for elementary, middle, and high school students?

18 to 20 students.

• What role should the district play in ensuring there is more affordable, workforce housing for teachers/staff?

For now, the district is in no position to deal with workforce housing, a challenge city officials have struggled with for years. The school board must devote itself to straightening out its finances and budget priorities. Since July I, have been comparing SMMUSD’s administrative budget items with those of comparable districts. In many areas, SMMUSD spends much more than Las Virgenes Unified, for example. The disparity is more than $5 million, and I’m just getting started. This year, 80 percent of the board’s budget cuts occurred at the student-serving level. This must stop.

• In remodeling campuses, what should be the top priority?

Open space, trees, comfortable seats, offices that provide for collaboration and privacy, faculty break rooms with windows and natural light, administrators easily accessible in the middle of campus. Structurally, we should have solar panels and environmentally-sustainable buildings that allow for natural cooling and heating.

• How do you propose closing the achievement gap?

By having and communicating high expectations for all students, close parent-teacher collaboration, and hiring a director of development to raise funds for intervention programs. Budget cuts must be made away from the classroom. When teachers, counselors, nurses, reading specialists, librarians, and music teachers are cut, low-achieving students suffer more, because they rely on these services more.

• How can Santa Monica-Malibu remain competitive with private schools such as Crossroads, St. Monicas, Wildwood, New Roads, etc.?

By cultivating opportunities large public high schools provide that private schools cannot. Our internationally renowned music program — starting in elementary school — is the prime example. If high school students want to perform in a symphony orchestra, marching band, or large choral program, only Samohi provides those. Malibu High also has superior music ensembles. Private schools can’t match our athletic opportunities. We can offer a greater academic variety because of larger student bodies. We need to make sure our college counseling is comparable to private schools.

• What qualities make you a good candidate for school board?

Proactive work effort, outgoing leadership, the belief that a superintendent and his/her staff work for the board, not vice versa. Firsthand knowledge of what goes on in the classroom. I’ll meet regularly with teachers, staff, administrators, parents, and community groups so I’ll stay accountable.

• Administrator and teachers’ salaries are among the highest in the state, How will you keep these and other personnel costs under control?

Our teachers earn their salaries. I know the time, effort, and sometimes struggle we put in to act as tutor, mentor, after-school support system, and amateur psychologist. To control costs and retain our superb teachers, we need to cut the budget in areas I’ve discussed. We can also combine our personnel commission with our personnel department because they do the same thing. Workers would keep the same rights and protections; the district would save at least $400,000 a year. Eighty percent of SMMUSD-sized districts do without a personnel commission. We can stop spending over $800,000 on centralized data processing. Las Virgenes Unified only spends $89,000 in that category.

• What will you do about teachers’ union president, Harry Keiley’s “No show” job that costs the district a minimum $55,000 per year?

I am a Democrat and union supporter, but I believe union dues should support union leaders.

• If elected, what would you change about the food that is fed to our students?

Given the epidemic of childhood obesity, I would encourage lower-fat, lower-sugar meals, with fresh fruits and vegetables. Schools should provide chilled water so students could fill their own bottles. That way, they would drink more water and consume less sugar.

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