There are numerous challenges facing the Santa Monica-Malibu school district, among them changes in state funding and local fundraising, longstanding achievement gaps, environmental concerns in Malibu and even possible separation.

But its top administrator plans to stay for a while longer.

Last week the local board of education approved a contract extension for Superintendent Sandra Lyon, who is now on course to hold her position through the 2017-2018 school year.

“I have tremendously enjoyed my work at SMMUSD these past four years, and the opportunity to build strong relationships with those in our amazing district and community,” she said.

“I am excited about the opportunity to continue the great work that our board, administrators, teachers and support staff are doing to create equity and access for all students in each of our schools and prepare all of our students for rewarding, meaningful lives.”

Lyon will continue drawing a base annual salary of $239,200, according to a copy of her contract obtained by the Daily Press, the same amount she received this past school year.

The superintendent is entitled to 24 vacation days, 13 sick days and five bereavement days, according to her contract. She also receives $900 per month for transportation and cellphone service.

When Lyon joined the district in 2011 she signed a three-year contract with a base salary of $230,000. Two years later her contract was extended through the end of the 2015-2016 school year, and last year her base salary rose to $239,200 as part of a cost-of-living adjustment, spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said.

As the chief executive of the district, Lyon is responsible for managing all staff, working with stakeholders to develop short and long-term goals for SMMUSD and ensuring that all state laws and other policies are followed.

A school board subcommittee will work with Lyon on goals for 2015-2016, according to a district report.

The board assesses Lyon’s performance annually. Details of this year’s evaluation, completed during closed session on June 29, were not disclosed.

Her contract extension comes at a pivotal juncture for the district, which is rolling out facility and technology upgrades with voter-approved bonds as it shoulders more responsibility in handling state funds. Additionally, the district is moving forward with a recently implemented centralized fundraising system while focusing on preparing students for 21st century careers and trying to narrow the achievement gap.

Malibu parent groups now pushing for separation have criticized Lyon for the district’s handling of chemical testing and cleanup at Malibu schools, where the discovery of polychlorinated biphenyls has led to a protracted battle on which the district has spent millions of dollars for consultants and legal fees.

Incidents like the classroom altercation involving teacher Mark Black, the brawl between Samohi and Beverly Hills High School students following a basketball game, the recent measles outbreak and the theft of $40,000 in district technological equipment have also tested Lyon’s leadership.

“While there have been challenges in these past four years, every school district has its own unique challenges and variables,” Lyon said. “We have a tremendous school system and I am appreciative and honored that the board has the confidence in me to continue to lead our high-performing district into the future.”

The district has received several awards during Lyon’s tenure. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Malibu and Santa Monica among the top 150 high schools in California for performance and college readiness. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified was also positioned in the top 10 percent of districts in the state by education rating service Niche.

The Association of California School Administrators named Lyon a regional superintendent of the year in early 2014, and she was recently selected to join the Suburban School Superintendents, a national organization for top education administrators.

“It is a thrilling time in education,” Lyon wrote in her 2015-2016 welcome letter, “and we are fortunate to have excellent staff, supportive parents and committed community members who are willing to collaborate and do whatever it takes so that our students have every opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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