Craig Foster

Name: Craig Foster

Age: 60

Occupation: Teacher / School Board Member

Neighborhood of residence: Eastern Malibu

Own/Rent: Own

Marital status: Married (Lili)

Kids: One daughter (Amelia), 10th Grade MHS

Political affiliation: Democratic

Schooling (High School / College): Amherst College B.A hons, University of Phoenix M.A.E

Highest degree attained: Masters of Arts in Education


With the district moving toward more autonomy for Malibu and possibly eventual separation, how does a two-city system benefit all students currently in the district?

Santa Monica and Malibu are effectively two distinct and geographically distant districts now, sharing revenues and governance. Each would be stronger with exclusively focused leadership. The agreement in principle in place now has the same revenue sharing as today but with independent, locally focused leadership for each community.

What role, if any, does the Board have in securing work-force housing for teachers in the district?

The district has a strong interest in securing work-force housing for teachers and staff. We can and should meet this interest by being available to partner with our cities and other entities with direct involvement and expertise in housing.

You’re in a kayak on the ocean when you see a Viking Longship approaching clearly on a raiding mission. At the same time, you see a shark fin in the water. What do you do?

If I see sharks and vikings, I’m clearly in Sam Raimi’s movie Bermuda Triangle. I’d find Ryan Reynolds and the wormhole and escape before the Nazis show up because, “Nazis, I hate those guys.”

What is being done at all school sites to address traffic caused by parent drop-off and provide necessary parking for students/faculty?

Our goal is to reduce traffic congestion and increase sustainability. Immediate strategies under consideration include support of alternative options such as walking, biking, and public transit, working with local law enforcement on parking and access, split bell schedules, multiple drop off locations to reduce concentrations, off campus parking, and, in the longer run, potential improvements through construction.

Which three movies best represent the high school experience?

The Breakfast Club

Dead Poet’s Society

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

What kind of discipline should be used within the district and is the district doing enough to protect students on campus?

Some kids will make bad decisions, it is part of being kids. Our job as educators is to make poor decisions into learning experiences such that the transgressor has the opportunity to restore the harm done and learn to make better decisions in the future. At the same time, we need to provide the districtwide education and support so that the we have a community of fairness and inclusion on every campus. Restorative Justice, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, and our nation-leading Social Justice Standards are all directed towards exactly these outcomes. Please see below re: safety.

Are you satisfied with the results of recent construction work on SMMUSD campuses and what are the most pressing needs for the rest of the district?

There is an enormous amount of work to be done to keep our facilities safe for students and adults and adequate to the educational tasks they house. The district has a clear plan to fully rebuild Santa Monica High School and to modernize every aged campus. Those plans are under way and have been well handled. There is much more work to be done across the two communities, from dramatically improved perimeter fencing, monitoring, and control for school safety, to much needed air conditioning, to continued facilities repair and upgrades, to outright reconstruction in support of changing learning environments.

What item of clothing from high school do you still wear today?

Blue jeans and T-shirts. The classics never go out of style.

What role should parent and volunteer groups play in determining curriculum or policy within the district?

I believe we are smarter together than separately. Parents, site councils, outside experts, and the students themselves all have essential contributions to make regarding curriculum, campus climate, and overall district policy. That input should be gathered and weighed by teachers, administrators, district leadership, and the school board as they work together to decide what actions will best accomplish our shared objectives.

¿Como está respondiendo el distrito escolar a las necesidades delos alumnos que están aprendiendo inglés?

El distrito escolar tiene varios programas para ayudar a los alumnos que están aprendiendo inglés. SMMUSD está usando técnicas para el “ELA/ELD Framework” del estado de California. Estos programas incluyen la estrategia de “differentiation,” es decir que cada estudiante, con cualquier necesidad, recibe atención especial por esas necesidades. Otras acciones incluyen asociarse con familias, colaboración con pares, (por supuesto) profesores expertos y altamente capacitados, y, muy importante, que esos alumnos importantes estudian las mismas asignaturas en la escuela.

SMMUSD is a rich district but there’s yet another school bond on the ballot. Voters have already approved several school funding measures in recent years and the District gets a cash infusion from City Hall. Why can’t SMMUSD live within its means?

Unbelievably, funding for public schools in California is in the bottom 40’s of all states in the US. According to EdWeek’s “Quality Counts 2018,” California per pupil spending averages $9,417. The state’s support for its public schools lags national leader Vermont ($20,795), the national average ($12,526), as well as places we should not lag like Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida. We outspend only North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Oklahoma.

We are extremely fortunate in that we are a Basic Aid district, receiving more than the state’s formulaic allocation of funding. We are further fortunate in that our local communities, especially Santa Monica, have been extremely generous in terms of revenue funding enhancements. With those revenues SMMUSD ranks 9th wealthiest amongst California’s unified school districts. Sadly, this only brings our district close to the still inadequate national average funding level.

With these operating funds we support top ranked educational outcomes with Malibu High ranked 45th in California in 2017 by US News & World Report and SAMOHI ranked 105th. The district also offers numerous programs rarely seen in California public schools, programs like school nurses, physical education (PE), smaller class sizes, extensive foreign language choices, and, especially, a spectacular, multiple award winning K-12 Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) program.

There is little to no state funding for facilities repair, renovation, and replacement. Any such work we do has to come from local bonds. Some of our school buildings are approaching their 100th birthday and many, many date from the middle of the last century. Our district has undertaken the desperately needed facilities improvements with a series of local bonds to replace our aged, obsolete buildings. With safety and major usability issues, Edison Elementary has been replaced and the long term 2006 campus reconstruction plan at SAMOHI continues, it will enter its third phase when funded this fall. Continued upgrades across Santa Monica and Malibu will create better, safer learning environments, including the forthcoming construction of the John Adams Auditorium and at Malibu High School. Also dependent on the passage on the November 6th Measure SMS bond are essential planned upgrades to perimeter security for all campuses including improved fencing, perimeter monitoring, and electronic control of all points of ingress/egress, and the completion of districtwide air-conditioning plans.

The district has worked collaboratively and successfully with our cities and communities for decades to provide improved funding for both the day-to-day education of our children and for facilities repair and improvement. This generosity and support, and only this, has allowed us to overcome the disturbingly inadequate or nearly non-existent funding we receive from the State of California.

We have been asking Candidates about the achievement gap for 10 years. Why has this remained a known problem for so long and what measurable progress is being made?

In April 2016, the school board commissioned a report on “Equity and Opportunities to Learn” by noted education expert Pedro Noguera. His conclusions were dire and clear, we had not achieved our goals.

He cited as contributing factors:

high rate of turnover in leadership at both the district and site level

a failure to implement and evaluate new initiatives to ensure fidelity

political distractions

He gave the following clear recommendations:

There must be a clear focus on students and student needs

There must be a vision-driven cycle of development and improvement with clear focus on priorities, strengths and needs

Staff and teachers must operate with cohesion, collaboration and accountability

All stakeholders must act as collaborative problem solvers focused on improving learning and teaching

There must be a clear directive from the board enabling the district’s central staff to carry out their plans without distraction.

We have implemented multiple strategies in support of his recommendations:

We have hired a superb superintendent, Dr. Ben Drati, and, after an 18 month evaluation period have given him significant incentives to complete at least a 5 year term as our district’s leader.

We have created a vision of 21st Century educational practices and empowered teachers and administrators to help lead the district in the implementation of this essential evolution.

We have implemented nation-leading Social Justice standards, Restorative Justice and Olweus Anti-bullying programs, and American Cultures and Ethnic Studies curricula.

We have implemented a quarterly reporting cycle of leading and lagging annual indicators of success regarding both our process and outcome goals.

We have hired new heads of Community Outreach and Data Analysis to provide expertise and leadership for these critical initiatives.

We have set board coherence and focus as a goal for ourselves, with already demonstrated success in focused deliberations and decision-making and shortened meeting length.

We have worked together to find shared solutions which largely resolve the issues of PCBs and Malibu Unification.

Dr. Noguera’s report concludes, “There is no reason why a district with the resources of talents of SMMUSD should not be able to make more progress than it has.” With the input of the Noguera report and the subsequent governance changes we have made, we are now strongly on the path to increasing educational excellence while simultaneously making extraordinary progress in closing our achievement gap. I am excited to continue to work with my fellow board members in my second term of office to create continuity, coherence, and continued success. I ask for your vote of support so that I can do so. Thank you!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *