One of the many choices voters face on Nov. 6 is who to elect as school board members. Although not the highest profile race, it’s an important one for our community and for our students.

We are supporting the re-election of Ben Allen, Jose Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez because they have a proven record of commitment to all students throughout the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

Over the past four years, school board members Ben Allen, Jose Escarce, and Maria Leon-Vazquez have worked to tackle some of the toughest problems our school district has ever faced.

Working together, they have improved fiscal responsibility and academic achievement, are bridging the opportunity gap, and have created a more cooperative, open partnership with the community.

District test scores have soared under their leadership, despite tough economic times because they kept state budget cuts as far from the classroom as possible, earning well-deserved praise from the independent citizens Financial Oversight Committee.

With cuts in state education funding a continual challenge to our schools, we need Leon-Vazquez, Allen and Escarce on the school board now, more than ever.

While we can all be proud of the many accomplishments of our students and the district, there is no doubt more work to be done.

We support Allen, Escarce and Leon-Vazquez because they are not afraid to say so and to have the open, honest conversation about how we can continue to improve our schools.

For example, like other large urban, culturally and economically diverse schools, Santa Monica High is home to many students who struggle, and who need extra support to succeed.

These board members and their colleagues are devoted to the support of all students from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. The board engages multiple resources within the school community including Racial Harmony, the African-American Student Staff Support Group, ELAC, AVID, Facing History and Ourselves, the Black Academia Movement, and Xinachtili Tutoring. In addition, Village Nation will be debuting this year.

Under Dr. Escarce’s leadership, the district supported collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice which brought the Dialogue on Race to the Samohi campus.

When it comes to addressing the challenges of cultural diversity in our schools as a top priority, and putting students first, all three of these school board members seeking re-election have shown unparalleled commitment.

That commitment is paying off. Student achievement scores consistently outpace state and county averages. Our students excel in state and national academic competitions, and our music program is recognized internationally.

SMMUSD students are well prepared for college, with our high schools offering more honors and college-level advanced placement courses than many private schools.

Santa Monica-Malibu schools are known as some of the best in the state, and it will require strong leadership on the Board of Education to keep them that way — leadership that continues to put students first. That’s why it is so important to re-elect Ben Allen, Maria Leon-Vazquez and Jose Escarce.


Lisa Balfus, Co-Chair, Collaborative Steering Committee on Race

Barry Snell, Past President, African-American Parent Student Staff Support Group

Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns, Past President, Santa Monica High PTSA

Maria Rodriguez, Past President, Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council

Consuelo Perez, President, English Language Learners Advisory Committee (ELAC)

Debbie Mulvaney, Immediate Past President, Santa Monica High PTSA

Craig Hamilton, Member, SMMUSD citizens independent Financial Oversight Committee


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