After months of spending the bulk of many meetings on non-classroom issues, the local Board of Education tonight appears prepared to focus on student achievement.

The governing body is expected to study an action plan for closing achievement gaps in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district, which for years has failed to produce sustainable change in academic outcomes among poor and minority students.

The plan arrives for review following a yearlong analysis of the district by education reformist Pedro Noguera, who was hired to help improve equity throughout SMMUSD.

“The action plan builds upon the priorities adopted by the [school board] to put into place a coherent set of actions that will lead to excellence through equity among the diverse student populations represented in the district,” a district report reads.

The board will assess the plan just weeks after the release of scores from last year’s state standardized tests. Local results from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress reiterated the gaps in success between white and Asian students and their African-American and Latino counterparts.

Arts education

The board is expected to approve a variety of contracts for arts instruction this school year.

SMMUSD will likely renew its contract with Music ’N Motion for $16,000 to provide dance instruction to all third-grade students in the district.

A stretch grant not to exceed $14,895 would allow K-2 students at Will Rogers Learning Community to take music lessons from Music Rhapsody. The Redondo-Beach based program could also reach students at McKinley Elementary School as part of a separate contract of up to $9,000.

Jacqueline de Gallo will be paid up to $9,400 to lead choral music programming in Spanish for students in grades TK-2 at Edison Language Academy, where the district operates a dual-immersion program.

The district is on the hook for $18,500 to cover Chad Scheppner’s after-school drama program at Lincoln Middle School. The money is coming from the school Parent Teacher Association and the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation.

Deva Connett is projected to receive up to $2,500 to lead a therapeutic dance class at Lincoln, according to a district report.

Project payments

In order to spend money on bond-backed improvements, the district must also spend money on firms to make them happen.

Up for approval is a $519,000 increase on the district’s contract with Simpson & Simpson, which is serving as a project liaison for construction activities and operations for Measure BB.

What began as a $338,000 contract in 2013 has now ballooned to more than $3.07 million, according to an SMMUSD report.

Simpson & Simpson is also expected to be paid an additional $396,000 for similar services related to Measure ES, the $385-million bond that voters passed in 2012.

PCB postmortem

The board is slated to discuss in closed session the lawsuit filed by Malibu activists regarding the district’s handling of chemical testing and cleanup.

Both sides claimed victory after a federal judge’s recent ruling, which acknowledged that polychlorinated biphenyls were likely present in non-tested areas while approving the district’s plan to remove all PCBs at Malibu schools by 2019.