One parent recalled her young son coming home and saying he wished he weren’t black. Another parent said her daughter lost her confidence and began questioning her skin color.

The anecdotes, delivered at a recent Santa Monica-Malibu school board meeting, accented a troubling portrait of racial disparities in education as district officials reviewed an achievement gap that has existed for years on local campuses.

The district is currently working on the details of a partnership with renowned scholar and educator Pedro Noguera to address a variety of race-related issues in SMMUSD schools, spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said.

Noguera’s contract and scope of work are expected to be finalized by next month and eventually will be presented for board consideration. The plan will likely include overarching goals as well as specific goals and metrics.

Talks with Noguera arise as district officials attempt to narrow the stark gulfs in performance and behavior that exist between African-American and Hispanic students and their peers.

Noguera’s efforts will be part of a broad assortment of district programs aiming to improve academic outcomes and race relations.

District officials ultimately hope Noguera will help them determine what they can be doing better to support African-American and Latino students.

“He has experience that nobody here has,” board member Jose Escarce said. “Our goal is to draw on his expertise in a way that is helpful to us. … I want to set up a mechanism where he can interact with the community. He might be the one who knows how to do that in a way that’s helpful to him so he can understand the different points of view.”

Noguera was recently appointed to join UCLA’s education faculty after a stint at New York University.

He received his bachelor’s degree in sociology and history and a teaching credential from Brown University in 1981, earned a master’s degree from the Ivy League college in 1982 and finished his doctorate in sociology at UC Berkeley in 1989.

Noguera, who taught in public schools in Rhode Island and Oakland, California, has worked with campuses and districts around the country in advisory roles. He has published hundreds of articles and reports on education and has researched the influence of social, economic and demographic factors in schools.

News of the district’s forthcoming work with Noguera was met with a mixture of optimism and frustration. Some were encouraged by the district’s plans to tackle racial problems, while others said they feel it’s a systemic issue that one scholar can’t solve on his own.

Robbie Jones argued during public testimony that i’ll take much more than hiring Noguera to solve the district’s race-related issues.

“He’s a wonderful person, but he’s not a fix-all,” Jones said. “He’s not our savior.”

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, or on Twitter.

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