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SMMUSD HDQRTRS – The top vote-getter in this year’s Ed Board election was named president of the board last week.

Laurie Lieberman will chair the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education for the second time in three years.

Longtime Boardmember Jose Escarce will serve as the board’s vice chair.

Lieberman was elected to the position unanimously by her colleagues on the board after a nomination from freshman Boardmember Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein. Escarce was elected unanimously after a nomination from Lieberman.

Deficit increasing slightly

When the board adopted the budget this summer, district officials were projecting a $6.8 million deficit. Now they’re saying it could be more like $8.7 million.

Revenues are a little higher than expected but so are expenditures, mostly due to carryover balances, said Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Chief Financial Officer Jan Maez.

“It might be alarming to have that big of a change between July 1 and Oct. 31,” she told the board, “but that’s pretty standard.”

The gap is expected to narrow, she said.

“Our expenditures are increasing a little slower than our revenue is increasing so our deficit is being reduced,” Maez said.

More students passing AP tests

Nearly half of Santa Monica High School’s senior class passed an advanced placement (AP) exam last school year.

The courses challenge high school students with college-level material. Most colleges accept passed AP exams as course credit.

In the school year prior to last, 41.9 percent of Samohi seniors completed an AP exam. The district is way ahead of the national average in AP exam passage rates. Nationally, only one in five seniors passed an AP exam in 2013.

District officials are working to close equity gaps surrounding the AP exam.

African Americans, Latinos, and students of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to take AP classes and pass AP exams than their White and Asian or wealthier peers.

Samohi’s AP exam passage rates beat the nation in nearly every one of the 18 courses offered.

The only exceptions are Calculus BC and Statistics; exam scores have declined in both of these courses in recent years. Escarce expressed concern about these scores.

Statistics has been taught by a number of different teachers recently, district officials and student Boardmember Alaleh Mokhtari told Escarce. Mokhtari also said that Calculus has had some new teachers. She further noted that some students take the Statistic exam more lightly than they would other exams because they don’t plan on using the credit in college.

District officials said they would pose questions about the decline in these two courses to Samohi Principal Eva Mayoral.

2015-16 schedule

The board unanimously approved next school year’s academic calendar but not without discussion.

Dec. 24 and 25 of 2015 is labeled as the “Christmas Holidays” on the current iteration of the calendar while Sept. 14 and 23 are labeled as “Local Holiday,” despite the fact that they are in observance of the Jewish holy days Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur respectively.

Tahvildaran-Jesswein asked the district to consider labeling the Jewish holidays. Escarce suggested, instead, removing the designation of the Christmas Holidays – an idea Tahvildaran-Jesswein disagreed with.

District officials were asked to examine the legality of recognizing the religious holidays.

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