Oscar de la Torre (File photo)

Name: Oscar de la Torre

Age: 43

Occupation: Founder/Executive Director

Neighborhood of residence: Pico Neighborhood

Own/Rent: Own

Marital status: Married

Kids: 2

Political affiliation: Democrat

Schooling: MA Degree in Public Affairs

Highest degree attained: MA

Hobbies: Hiking, writing and reading

Reading list: Secrets of the Teenage Brain, Sheryl Feinstein, EdD

Favorite song: Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley

Favorite restaurant: Lares Restaurant

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

Station 26, Santa Monica Beach

Do you have kids in SMMUSD?

Yes. Oscar Jr. attends Edison Language Academy and Fidel attends Pre School.

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?

SMMUSD has provided an excellent educational experience for students in Malibu. Test scores at all grade levels, graduation rates, college acceptance rates, advanced placement course offerings etc. prove that students in Malibu have been receiving a quality public school experience. The community advocates in Malibu who want to separate the district have never argued persuasively that the separation will benefit students. I think this issue is more about self-determination and local control of public schools. I respect these political concepts and for this reason I voted to study the impact of separating the two districts. Ultimately, we need to ensure that education for students in Santa Monica and Malibu will benefit from the separation. I am the only school board member that has stood with Malibu parents who are calling for comprehensive testing of our buildings to ensure that they are safe from hazardous toxins. I will always stand with students and parents, no matter where they live, to ensure that our government is responsive to their needs.

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?

As a former counselor at Santa Monica High and a current Executive Director of a youth center, I have a unique perspective on student discipline reform. In 2002 I served on the SMMUSD Taskforce on Race and Discipline. Our discipline policies should attempt to get rid of the problem, not the student. Many students who exhibit disruptive behavior have deeper issues that need to be addressed. On the other hand the State Ed Code is very clear on a zero tolerance for drug sales, weapons and sexual harassment. We need to keep our schools safe from violence and bullying. I have supported restorative justice as a model that can bring healing and a better understanding of acceptable behavior for students. Youth will make mistakes and when these mistakes do not fall into the category of zero tolerance offences, we need to use these mistakes as opportunities to teach life-long lessons that will make better citizens of our youth. The goal is to create an institutional culture of peace, tolerance, respect, school pride, conflict resolution and a love of learning.

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

We are already competitive because our students attend diverse schools that resemble the real world. I support smaller class size and academic rigor at all levels. We can also expand our partnership with Santa Monica College to expand dual enrollment opportunities so that our students complete college level courses while attaining their high school diplomas. More access to technology is also needed. For this reason I am supporting Maria Loya for the SMC Board of Trustees because her platform is all about expanding access and opportunity for local students.

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 think that we need to do all we can to strengthen the profession of teaching. Our teachers should be the best compensated in the region. This is how we attain and retain the best talent in our schools. I do believe in performance based pay but we should not rely solely on standardized test scores to measure teacher performance. I support tenure for teachers after two years and I disagree with the recent court rulings on teacher tenure. As a former student of our school district I appreciate the many public school teachers that gave me instruction and also mentored me to be the person that I am today.

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

The health and safety of our students and staff is my number one priority in all construction related matters. I also want to ensure that our students and teachers have comfortable learning environments and access to the best technology available. We also need to balance this with sustainability goals so that we reduce our carbon footprint.

Is Common Core good for SMMUSD students?

Yes. These standards did not come from the federal government and they offer curriculum guidance to keep our instruction focused on key areas where improvements are needed.

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

We can do better in this area and the Board has approved allocations for improved communications. Also, our PTA’s do an excellent job of informing and engaging parents.

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?

Until we conduct comprehensive testing of our buildings we cannot say that are schools are 100% safe. We also have to remove PCBS’s and all hazardous toxins from our public schools. We should agree on a plan that takes immediate steps to do testing and remediation of hazardous toxins that are found on campuses throughout our school district. We need to inform parents of all testing results and inform them of our plans to remediate. I do not know if we are in financial jeopardy due to this situation but I do know that we will lose trust if we are not completely transparent with our testing and remediation plans.

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?

Yes. Since I was elected in 2002, SMMUSD has implemented a vision of equity in the way we support our schools. This levels the playing field and ensures that all schools provide an excellent academic experience. All of my life I would hear that the schools on the southside got the short end of the stick. I am proud to have used my time on the school board to change that paradigm so that no matter where our students live, they will have equal access and opportunity to attain an excellent public education. As a product of Will Rogers, John Adams Middle School and Santa Monica High I have worked hard to support our students and our schools. With voter support I will continue to move our school district forward. Please visit my web page at: www.oscar4schoolboard.com

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