Name: Dhun May

Age: decline to state

Occupation: Teacher

Neighborhood of residence: Ocean Park neighborhood

Own/Rent: Own

Marital status: decline to state

Kids: Dr. Armaiti Khorshed May and Daniel Byram May (who’s in the world beyond)

Political affiliation: Independent

Schooling: UCLA, Mount. St. Mary’s College, California State University at Northridge

Highest degree attained: Master’s Degree in Mathematics

Hobbies: none

Reading list: Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, Power Foods for the Brain by Dr. Neal Barnard, The Secret of Secrets by U.S. Anderson, Only Love by Daya Mata.

Favorite song: Chaye Amay Zarathosti

Favorite restaurant: Real Food Daily

Would you rather spend a day at the Third Street Promenade or Santa Monica Beach? Probably at the beach

Do you have kids in SMMUSD? Not at present (but I did in the past).

Some residents in Malibu believe the best thing for their kids is to create a separate school district. How can the district keep Malibu in the fold or should it split? How can you ensure Malibu representation when there is no one on the board from the seaside city?

The district can try to keep Malibu “:in the fold” by listening to the common sense requests of the more vocal parents. These parents want testing of caulking in all pre-1980 classrooms, removal of caulk that has a higher concentration of PCBs than is legally allowed and the use of portables while the remediation is being done. (I agree with the parents and consider the problem of toxins in classrooms to be a very serious issue.) The district could also try to work with Malibu stakeholders who are concerned about centralized fundraising and issues regarding the lighting of the football field at Malibu High School. Even though there is no one on the board (at present) who is a Malibu resident, representation for Malibu could be ensured if a special task force is set up to represent Malibu.

What kind of discipline should be used within the district? Is zero tolerance still the right philosophy? What other methods of student discipline are effective?

Discipline policies should be reasonable with some flexibility for extenuating circumstances. and parents should be involved as far as feasible. The so-called “zero tolerance” discipline philosophy can be problematic. It can result in a basically good kid getting over punished for a small or an inadvertent infraction while some kids get away with all sorts of unacceptable behavior, including excessive use of profanity. One simple policy that will help improve discipline in the classroom is for administrators to reasonably support teachers who refer pupils for inappropriate or severe behavior problems. Teachers should feel empowered to have disruptive pupils removed from the classroom without worrying that it will be held against them.

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

One way that that the district can remain competitive with private schools is by allaying the concern of some parents that public schools are engaging in what some might refer to as indoctrination. Parents should be made to feel that all age-appropriate facts, consequences and viewpoints in connection with a given topic are being presented to children. Parents should feel confident that real critical thinking is being promoted through balanced presentations which empower young people to figure out which choices will bring lasting success in life.

Another way that the district can remain competitive is by making a conscious push for positive influences that re-enforce the ambition, courage and compassion within a child. Conversely, the district can discourage children’s consumption of negative, inappropriate or violent material – in the media or elsewhere. More character building books could be made available in elementary school classrooms and school libraries – including books in which boys are portrayed as heroes. Also, stories like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Anderson – which encourage children to really think for themselves – could be integrated into the curriculum.

An additional way to be competitive is by introducing a ” moment of silence” into the school day – as has been done with much success in 19 states. There is evidence that the “moment of silence” program helps kids to be better behaved, feel good about themselves and do better academically.

Also, the district could challenge its competition and improve the health of kids by teaching children the real facts about nutrition and providing washed sticker-free (preferably organic or veganic) fruits and other whole- food, plant-based food options.

Do you believe in performance-based pay for teachers? How many years should a teacher have to work before being granted tenure? Do you agree with the recent court rulings over tenure?

Performance based pay for teachers makes sense in a way but it might be tricky to evaluate the over-all performance of a teacher fairly. Pupil scores on standardized tests, administrative evaluations and peer reviews do not necessarily determine the ultimate effectiveness of a teacher. There is always a risk that a teacher may be evaluated unfairly because he or she does not conform to some imperfect standard or is critical of a school policy.

After three years of satisfactory probationary teaching, a teacher should normally be granted tenure.

I agree to some extent with the recent court rulings over tenure but I think the rulings should be refined. Certainly, any tenured teacher who really commits any serious misconduct should be immediately disbarred from the teaching profession and, in addition, be subjected to appropriate civil and/or criminal penalties.

When remodeling a campus, what should be the top priority? Has recent construction met with community standards?

When remodeling a campus, environmental considerations and safety of workers should be given priority. Materials should be re-used, used elsewhere or recycled as far as feasible

Unfortunately, not all recent construction has met with community standards or approval. For example, construction at Edison Elementary School was supposed to provide a state-of-the-art temperature control system so that air-conditioning in classrooms would not be needed. But this system appears to be totally dysfunctional at this time.

Is Common Core good for SMMUSD students?

Not in some ways because there appear to be logical errors in some of the common core materials and some educational experts claim that there is an element of indoctrination in the Common Core curriculum.

I personally noted errors in a Third Grade Common Core workbook – and they were definitely not typos. The errors appeared in a lesson where the concept of division was being discussed. The author was explaining that one way to think about division is to think about division as repeated subtraction – which of course is perfectly correct. The example used to make that point might have been “15 divided by 3”. To show that the answer was “5” because 3 had to be subtracted 5 times before a difference of 0 was attained the author had an incorrect mathematical statement. The incorrect statement looked like what is shown below – with four exceptions:

15-3= 12; 12-3=9; 9-3=6; 6-3=3; 3-3=0

The incorrect statement was just like what is written on the line above except that an “=” was used in each of the four places where a “;” is used above.

Does the District do enough to keep parents informed about important issues?

I think the District keeps parents informed on most but not all important issues.

Are schools in Malibu safe? If not, what should be done to improve the situation. If so, what should the district do to communicate that message to parents? Is the district in financial jeopardy due to the situation in Malibu?

Schools in Malibu are not safe according to articles in local papers and public comments at board meetings. I think the district should simply agree to the requests of the activist parents: test caulking in all pre-1980 buildings, remove all caulking that contain PCB levels higher than the legally allowed level and provide portables for use as classrooms during the remediation process.

The district may be in financial jeopardy due to the situation in Malibu but also possibly because the district has not been accruing the proper value from its assets. For example, it is not clear that SMMUSD has received the proper amount of rent from the Double Tree Hotel (which sits on land owned by the district). An Estoppel Certificate was signed by the district’s chief financial officer and a lawyer hired by the district which means the district can never collect any monies for rent that might have been owed to it from the Double Tree Hotel before July of 2010. It is my understanding that no clear evidence was ever presented indicating that “percentage” rent was not owed to the district under the third tier or “percentage” part of the rental agreement. Also, pressure (from a labor union) to negotiate a “favorable” rental agreement with the owner(s) of the Double Tree Hotel could (but hopefully won’t) mean a financial loss for the district.

Does SMMUSD have the correct plan for funding schools? Is centralized funding working? Should the program be revised? How has local control funding changed the status quo?

Centralized funding is working at least to some extent – as evidenced by a check of millions of dollars that was presented to SMMUSD superintendent Sandra Lyons at a recent board meeting. However, I think it should be revised to allow schools who wish to their own additional fundraising to do so – as long as the fundraising does not promote the proliferation of junk food or any thing that’s unhealthy.

As the name implies, the Local Control Funding Plan has changed the status quo by giving school districts more financial control and flexibility.

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