Acknowledging the Santa Monica-Malibu school district’s achievement gap was one thing. Coming up with a plan to address it was another. And implementing it successfully will be yet another.

But with the 2015-16 school year in the books, district officials are trying to figure out how to move forward with the recommendations for improving equity that have been laid out by education reformist Pedro Noguera.

The local Board of Education met Thursday with Noguera to review the district’s problems, outline goals and determine how to assess progress over time.

“The biggest danger is paralysis — talking about it but not doing it,” said Noguera, who was hired by the district last year to address longstanding disparities in academic outcomes along racial and socioeconomic lines. “I’m encouraged by the alignment of these priorities, but I’m cautious about celebrating. Because I know all the things that get in the way of actually moving forward.”

The recent meeting at SMMUSD headquarters came about two months after Noguera’s presentation to the school board, stakeholders and community members at Santa Monica High School, where he discussed in details the problems that have kept the district from improving equity.

“There was a real sense of the need to sustain momentum,” he said. “The goal that you share is to create a district that’s good at serving all kinds of kids, not just those who are affluent.”

Noguera cited frequent changes in leadership as an obstacle, a relevant point as Supt. Sandra Lyon prepares to leave for the Palm Springs Unified School District starting July 1.

He pointed to the district’s history of racial tension, which has fostered feelings of distrust and marginalization among parents, students and staff.

And he lamented inconsistent training, ineffective buy-in on the part of site leaders and staff and less-than-ideal patterns of communication. Those factors, Noguera said, have contributed to the failure of previous initiatives to close achievement gaps.

“There are way too many cases of teachers working in isolation,” he said. “Some of your best teachers are not a resource for the others. … When it comes to pursuing equity, we want to make sure everyone’s clear on what they should be doing.

“A plan is only as good as a commitment to implement. If we can’t get that commitment, we’re stuck.”

Mark Kelly, assistant superintendent of human resources, said there’s still a disconnect between district and site leadership and added there’s a need for improved professional development.

“In many ways, for a long time we left everybody out there in 16 institutions doing their own thing,” he said.

Significant time was spent discussing how distractions have kept the district from addressing inequity. Environmental issues in Malibu, centralized fundraising, bond-backed facility projects and the possible creation of a separate Malibu school district have dominated board attention in recent years.

Lyon said the equity work is part of a dynamic process that will take time to develop and sink in.

“We have made some huge cultural shifts in how we operate as a school district,” she said. “We are going to have people who are unhappy, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. … How to we get that voice, how do we get that input, and keep moving forward?”

Board member Craig Foster, participating remotely through a video chat service, said the district must collect data and set quantitative metrics so the board can evaluate its progress.

Board member Oscar de la Torre, who has advocated for more culturally relevant education, said he’s never been more optimistic about a district attempt to close achievement gaps.

“It feels hopeful,” he said. “We have the capacity to overcome those challenges.”