Laurie Lieberman is running for School Board. The following answers were submitted in response to questions from the Daily Press.

Name: Laurie Lieberman

Age: 61

Occupation: Lawyer

Neighborhood of residence: North of Montana

Own/Rent: Own

Marital status: Married

Kids: Two children of my own, three stepchildren

Political affiliation: Democrat

Schooling: Public school K-12, B.A. in Sociology from UCLA, J.D. from UCLA Law School, Completed all coursework toward Master’s Degree in Urban Planning at UCLA

Highest degree attained: Juris Doctor

Hobbies: I enjoy reading, walking, playing tennis, and spending time with family and friends. I love music, theater, movies, politics, sports and travel.

Reading list: The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley, The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein, Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch, Bombay Stories by Saadat Hasan Manto

Favorite song: Bring Me a Rose, Walking and Singing, The Times They Are a Changin’

Favorite restaurant: Tacos por Favor, Tender Greens, True Food Kitchen

Would you rather spend a day at the Third Street Promenade or Santa Monica Beach? Both. I’d love a day to go for a long walk on the beach followed by dinner and a movie on the Promenade.

Do you have kids in SMMUSD?

I have two children. Both attended SMMUSD schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. They attended Will Rogers Elementary School, Lincoln Middle School and Samohi, graduating high school in 2009 and 2012, respectively. My 23 year-old daughter went on to get her B.A. from Williams College and her Master’s Degree and teaching credential from Stanford University. She is now in her first year as a second grade teacher in a San Francisco public school. My 20 year-old son is a junior at Northwestern University.

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 should explore the financial, legal and educational questions that must be answered in order to determine whether separation into two districts is viable. Simultaneously, the District must look for ways to unite parents and families who attend District schools in Malibu and Santa Monica. Whether we live in Santa Monica or Malibu, we all share the same aspirations for our children and our schools. We need to develop opportunities for District-wide shared educational and social experiences and discussions. I have done my best to represent ALL students and also to build relationships in Malibu so that I can represent concerns particular to 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?

The “zero tolerance” approach relied excessively on suspension without any attempt to seek positive interventions in the lives of students being disciplined. It did not allow for discretion in determining appropriate discipline. Educational institutions must ensure that teachers and administrators have adequate tools to maintain safety and an optimal teaching environment the one hand, while also endeavoring to use disciplinary situations to help individual students improve and eliminate offending behaviors on the other. Discipline should rely on consequences that “fit the crime,” on principles of “restorative justice” and should include counseling and interventions focused on preventing the repeat of undesired behavior.

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

As the parent of two recent SMMUSD grads, 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.

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?

I don’t support performance-based pay because it undermines the necessarily collaborative nature of the teaching profession. I do support paying teachers for taking on additional responsibilities such as becoming mentor teachers and for obtaining higher levels of education and certification. I do not think courts are the appropriate venue to make important decisions about teacher tenure. There are issues involving tenure which I do believe need to be openly discussed and re-visited in a manner that addresses the interests of all stakeholders – newer teachers, longer-term teachers, schools, school districts, parents, and more.

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

The top priority in remodeling a campus is to design and construct safer and superior learning environments. Design standards must encompass new sustainability measures while protecting the integrity of learning environments. Architectural design and innovation must be balanced with the practical needs and funding realities of public schools. Sometimes sustainable design (for example, passive heating and cooling systems) conflicts with other needs and values (for example, the need for tolerable room temperatures on very hot days). “Community standards” are achieved through discussion and process and recent construction has generally met those standards. Sometimes “community standards,” however, change based on experience. For that reason, we must be willing to evaluate our decisions critically, civilly and openly.

Is Common Core good for SMMUSD students?

The Common Core is a set of clear college- and career-ready standards that apply to kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The Common Core standards adopted by the State of California are intended to be robust and relevant to the real world and reflective of the knowledge and skills necessary for young people to succeed in the global economy. Our District has begun transitioning to the recently adopted California Common Core Standards and is committed to assisting teachers, administrators, and parents as this transition occurs. Ongoing teacher training will be necessary for successful implementation. Common Core is new and very promising but it will take time before this question can be answered.

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

While principals, District administrators and teachers use e-mail, phone calling, and letter writing to keep parents informed, we live in a time in which the desire to have information is greater than ever. In recognition of the need to ensure that parents are well-informed about important issues, the District is currently seeking to hire a Community Relations and Public Information Officer to improve communication. This position, which some advocates have sought for years, is a new position. Once this person is hired, I feel confident that the District will be able to do a better job keeping parents informed.

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?

According to the environmental experts at the EPA and the medical experts at the Department of Public Health, our schools are safe. The District has relied on environmental experts and appropriate government agencies to guide the extensive testing at two Malibu schools and to develop a short- and long-term plan for addressing PCBs. As work continues at these schools and other schools in our district, communication to all stakeholders will continue, but this will never ameliorate the voices that seek to promote distrust and fear. Finances have never driven the conversation about the safety of our schools, and they must not. Our general fund budget is in solid shape and the District will prioritize BB and ES bond dollars as necessary to address facilities needs at the Malibu schools.

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?

The new State formula for funding schools has not had a significant impact on SMMUSD funding. Our District is fortunate in that the Santa Monica and Malibu communities have continually supported measures that augment State funding, and the City of Santa Monica provides significant support for our schools as well. Private fundraising makes up a smaller, but meaningful portion of SMMUSD funding. The Board recently adopted a centralized approach to private fundraising for staff. Much remains to be done to achieve district-wide buy-in to the new “Vision for Student Success,” which operationalizes centralized fundraising. The creation of a culture of giving focused on ALL students requires ongoing work and will undoubtedly require revisions. However, the “Vision for Student Success” is fundamental to the District’s mission of “equity and excellence.”

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