Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein is running for School Board. The following answers were submitted in response to questions from the Daily Press.

Name: Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Ph.D.

Age: 45

Occupation: College Professor

Neighborhood of residence: North of Montana

Own/Rent: Renter

Marital status: Married

Kids: Daughter, Nova (age 16/11th Grade/SAMOHi); Son, Zane (age 11/6th Grade/Lincoln)

Political affiliation: Democratic Party

Schooling: B.A. Political Science/American Studies; M.A. Political Science; Ph.D. Political Science

Highest degree attained: Ph.D.

Hobbies: Hiking with my kids; theatre and dance production

Reading list: The Road by Cormac McCarthy; Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore; Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Favorite song: Walk by the Foo Fighters (as of this moment)

Favorite restaurant: The Penthouse at The Huntley Hotel

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

Do you have kids in SMMUSD? Yes. Daughter, Nova (age 16/11th Grade/SAMOHi); Son, Zane (age 11/6th Grade/Lincoln)

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?

I believe strongly that before the District can move forward with the process of separation, legal and financial viability questions, and concerns of continued educational excellence for every student, must be satisfactorily researched and answered. Then and only then, and if the people of Malibu still desire to do so, should we move forward, together, to separate into two districts. I do believe that the process should move forward in a timely manner. This does not mean that I think this will be easy or simple.

While I live in Santa Monica, I believe I can represent the residents of Malibu as I am committed to being responsive to their concerns and interests.

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?

First, zero tolerance is absolutely the right policy when it comes to drugs, alcohol, and violence in our schools. My perspective on discipline is that it should be met out dependent upon the circumstances in question. The Board of Education is to set policies that allow for teachers, support staff, and students and parents to be sensitive to these circumstances yet absolutely clear on safety in a learning environment.

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

This question suggests that the District is losing students to these private schools. I have my children enrolled in our public schools because I believe the District not only offers a level of academic excellence competitive with almost any private school, but also is continually introducing more innovative curriculum and higher standards.

That being said, our school district needs to be a welcoming place where community members feel heard and respected in the articulation of the mission and operation of our neighborhood schools. Continual and substantive dialogue is necessary to ensure that our neighborhood schools reflect our diverse community. A community sensibility, along with highly effective and successful neighborhood schools, will keep families in the District.

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?

As a full tenured professor myself, I believe in and support teacher tenure. I am opposed to performance-based pay for teachers and I oppose the recent court rulings suggesting that tenure is flawed and is harming students.

I also, however, believe in and support rigorous tenure guidelines, as well as rigorous peer-post-tenure review.

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

In remodeling a campus, technology and sustainability should be top priorities, but this must be in tandem with ensuring a safe learning and teaching environment. All new construction in SMMUSD must meet CHPS standards (the school equivalents for LEED certification). The District goal is to exceed these standards. While recent construction meets the CHPS standards, we are finding that the benefits of sustainability may have an adjustment period. In the case of Edison, it is unclear whether the recent discomfort in the classroom is due to the heat wave or the new solar cooling system. I believe the system is being assessed and I also believe that the District must be open to change if, in the end, the environment is not conducive to student learning.

Is Common Core good for SMMUSD students?

I am cautious regarding Common Core. One of the greatest things about American public schools is that they are neighborhood schools where communities of people are engaged in a joy of learning. I want to maintain flexibility in our curriculum and the delivery of that curriculum so to foster innovation.

Imagining learning in ways that meet students’ needs and larger community interests leads to enriched education and a solid core for civic life.

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

As a parent, I believe that the District can do better. I hope to be a good partner in creating better and more effective ways of communicating with not just parents but students and the larger community as well.

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?

My understanding is that environmental experts at the EPA and the medical experts at the Department of Public Health have determined SMMUSD schools to be safe. The District has done extensive testing at two Malibu schools and has a short and long-term plan for addressing PCBs. While this has been communicated to parents, and the mere fact that enrollment in Malibu schools is stable is clear evidence that most parents believe this to be true.

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?

I fully support the District’s Vision for Student Success and while it is still in early stages, I will strongly defend it and work for its complete success.

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