• Name: Laurie Lieberman
• Age: 57
• Occupation: Education activist/parent/
• Marital status/children: Married/two children, three step-children
• Your neighborhood? How long have you lived there?: 30-year Santa Monica resident; north of Montana (nine years); previously, Ocean Park and Sunset Park
• Own or rent?: Own
• Public school or private?: Public
• 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?
I support the district’s current policy, which evaluates permit enrollment annually with the goal of achieving enrollment stability. At approximately 1,600 students, current permit enrollment is down considerably from prior years. To arbitrarily cut the number of permits by half would be unfair to current students and economically harmful.
Permit students should be held to the same standards as other students. All students should be treated equally, regardless of where they live.
• Should teacher evaluations be made public?
No. If we want the evaluation process to be candid and productive, it should be confidential. I support the current national discussion about how to best measure and affect teacher performance. This discussion should be conducted in a positive, well-researched and thoughtful way, which involves teachers themselves. The primary purpose of teacher evaluations is to help teachers become better teachers. In a minority of cases, evaluations identify teachers who can’t meet the district’s standards. We should focus on developing a comprehensive system that gives teachers guidance and feedback, and the support necessary to improve performance, while identifying ineffective teachers.
• 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?
The most immediate way to raise school revenue is to pass measures Y and YY this November. These measures will provide about $6 million in annual school funding — more than a parcel tax.
We must step up private fundraising district-wide, building on the success of the “Save Our Schools” campaign. We must improve our partnerships with the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu, Santa Monica College, and other institutions, ranging from the RAND Corporation to the Boys & Girls Club.
• How much homework is too much for a student in middle school and high school?
The most cited research — supported by the National Education Association — concludes that students should spend 10 minutes per grade level on homework, beginning in kindergarten. A well-rounded education and childhood also includes time for exercise (whether team or individual) and the pursuit of other activities (music, art, reading, etc.), in addition to family time and even a social life!
• 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 wholeheartedly support the goal of the district’s Equity Fund policy, which is intended to address the disparity in fundraising capacity among our schools. This disparity affects the achievement gap and our ability to ensure that all students receive the best education our district can offer. I support a comprehensive review of our current policy to assess its effectiveness in achieving our fundraising and equity goals. This review should explore what other districts do in structuring their private fundraising efforts consistent with equity and fairness. School site fundraising is valuable and should be preserved, but its place in our diverse district should be consistent with our commitment to equity.
• What do you think is the appropriate class size for elementary, middle, and high school students?
Middle and High School: Somewhere between 30:1 and 35:1, depending on subject area and other issues. Above 35:1, teachers cannot give students the attention they need. Currently, many classes are overcrowded.
• What role should the district play in ensuring there is more affordable, workforce housing for teachers/staff?
Santa Monica’s new LUCE includes policies favoring workforce housing. The district should collaborate with City Hall to ensure implementation of these policies in ways that include our teachers and other district employees. Workforce housing is important to attracting and retaining quality teachers and other personnel. District leaders should approach leaders in Malibu about this issue as well. Teachers and staff who live in our district tend to remain in our district.
• In remodeling campuses, what should be the top priority?
The top priority is to make investments that tangibly affect the educational success of our students, including classroom technology.
Since 80 percent of our students will attend Samohi, its revitalization should be a top priority — combining district resources with City Hall/Redevelopment funds. A similar effort is needed at Malibu Middle/High School.
The district will need to convene a group representing Santa Monica and Malibu to prioritize the many outstanding capital needs of our schools, beginning with elementary school needs that BB was unable to address.
• How do you propose closing the achievement gap?
We need to develop and implement a comprehensive plan that includes:
1) Early childhood and parent education;
2) Reduced class sizes in K-3 so that teachers can give necessary attention to literacy and numeracy;
3) Early intervention, including mentors and tutors for students who fall behind;
4) Scholarships and enhanced programs in music and arts;
5) Expanded classroom hours, including targeted summer school programs;
6) Differentiated and culturally-responsive instruction;
7) Partnerships with SMC, youth-oriented non-profits, and volunteers to provide greater attention to at-risk students and families.
• How can Santa Monica-Malibu remain competitive with private schools such as Crossroads, St. Monica’s, Wildwood, New Roads, etc.?
As the parent of a recent Samohi grad and current junior, I think our schools are competitive with the area’s private schools. Malibu High and Samohi, with their many excellent teachers, send students to the best colleges in the country, offering advanced placement classes, outstanding music and arts, and high-level athletics that private schools cannot match. The diversity of our school population presents the valuable opportunity for children to develop friendships, respect and empathy for people from many backgrounds.
Because of our much larger size, heterogeneous populations, and lower funding, public schools have to work harder to know every child and to ensure that students do not fall through the cracks. Despite that, SMMUSD’s free public education is an unbelievable bargain. To remain competitive, we need to expand our local revenue sources, beginning with passage of Measures Y and YY.
• What qualities make you a good candidate for school board?
I have many years of experience as an attorney in local government working on policy issues. I understand the needs of different school populations from over a decade of experience in our schools; my children attended Will Rogers (a Title 1 school), Lincoln Middle School, and Samohi. My volunteer efforts range from running the elementary school bookfair and serving in PTAs to chairing the district-wide fundraising campaign for Measure A, co-chairing the Samohi Coalition which helped obtain $57 million of city funding for the Samohi campus, and co-chairing LEAD, an education advocacy group which strives to make our district more open, inclusive and accountable. I’m not afraid to ask questions, I listen, I am a strategic thinker, and a collaborative leader.
• Administrator and teachers salaries are among the highest in the state, How will you keep these and other personnel costs under control?
Having outstanding teachers and administrators is critical to our district’s success. As to salary level, you often get what you pay for. We pay competitive salaries to attract talented administrators, teachers and staff in a competitive hiring environment, and in communities with some of the highest living costs in the state.
SMMUSD has a teaching staff with higher than average levels of education and training. As a result of state budget problems, SMMUSD employees have not received a cost of living increase in two years, and agreed to five furlough days last year and this year.
It is important for the district to have a structurally sound budget and to achieve efficiencies wherever possible. But it would be counterproductive to accomplish that goal by underpaying personnel.
• What will you do about teachers’ union president, Harry Keiley’s “No show” job that costs the district a minimum $55,000 per year?
This is a negotiated item which is outlined in the SMMCTA – SMMUSD contract, having been part of the bargained-for contract for many years. It is neither productive nor fair to look at this item in isolation, without understanding what the job entails or the practice in other districts. In my experience, Mr. Keiley is a consistent presence at board meetings and various school and district functions.
• If elected, what would you change about the food that is fed to our students?
We should provide fresh, healthy, tasty food in all of our schools.