The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education on Thursday gave its collective nod to more than $1.25 million in new purchase orders and an additional $176,000 in facility-related expenses.

Approval came during a meeting at Malibu City Hall where the school board studied recently released scores from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress exams, which show dramatic achievement gaps along ethnic and socioeconomic lines.

Arts education

Several orders for arts education were approved, including more than $345,000 to P.S. ARTS and $18,500 to a drama instructor.

The purchase order for P.S. ARTS follows the board’s August approval of a contract topping $607,000 with the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization. Money for the contract, which was raised by the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, will support arts instruction for elementary school students, kindergarteners and preschoolers.

Chad Scheppner, the artistic director for Theatre 31, is being paid to coordinate drama productions at Lincoln Middle School. Scheppner has more than 20 years of experience in children’s theater.

Restorative justice

The district will pay a staffer up to $80,000 to coordinate trainings in restorative justice.

Touted as an alternative to discipline that can simultaneously combat bullying and improve academic outcomes for low-income and minority students, the restorative justice program has been implemented at Santa Monica High School.

The school’s restorative justice coordinator, Robert Howard, gave a speech at last month’s Back to School rally about what it means to be a hero, according to the Samohi student newspaper.

Computer services

In drama-free fashion, the school board approved a contract of up to $60,000 with Kevin McKeown for computer services.

District payments to McKeown, a Santa Monica City Council member, were the subject of controversy last year following a public back-and-forth between him and school board member Oscar de la Torre.

After McKeown heard that de la Torre had tried to reach him through district channels, he recused himself on a council vote regarding funding for Pico Youth and Family Center, which de la Torre runs. A day later, de la Torre recused himself from a vote on a school district consent calendar that included a payment to McKeown.

PYFC is again receiving city funding after being stripped of public money last June.

Parent engagement

The district is paying $13,300 for a state PTA consultant to assist with parent engagement, a recurring topic as the district attempts to close longstanding achievement gaps.

Gail Pinsker, the SMMUSD public relations officer, said at a recent school board meeting that she plans to work with community liaisons to improve outreach to families, particularly those for whom English is a second language.


The district was expected to pay B&H Photo Video more than $16,000 for photography equipment to be used for career technical education.

SMMUSD made headlines in the photography world when Samohi student Nico Young’s series detailing high school life was published in the New York Times magazine.

The school board recognized Young and his teacher, Martin Ledford, during a recent meeting at district headquarters.