The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education met for the first time in the new decade Thursday at the district offices in Santa Monica, where district leaders enjoyed a relatively short meeting.

The SMMUSD board kicked off its first meeting of 2020 with a celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, which featured a brief message from John Muir Elementary School Principal Paula Lytz and a team of students who accompanied her.

Ansel Brodkin, Lazaro Johnson, Calliope Kirschbaum, Anais Pradhan, Carmela Brizuela, Malia Duppel and Ben Cantor each took a turn speaking from the podium Thursday night, where they shared information related to King’s accomplishments, speeches and why students find it important to still honor the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“In conclusion, King was a peaceful human being who believed in Civil Rights for all,” Kirschbaum said during the presentation. “Even though King got arrested over 20 times, he fought against segregation and racism,” and is still honored to this day.

Later in the meeting, SMMUSD’s board of education agreed to adopt Resolution No. 19-15, which declares that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District aims to celebrate the life and legacy of King, who was a man who brought hope and healing to America.

“We commemorate the timeless values he taught us through his example – the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King’s character and empowered his leadership,” the resolution states. “On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit, and speaks to the best of who we are as human beings.”

Not too long after the celebration, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Jacqueline Mora took the podium to head a study session where staff and the board of education reviewed student achievement data related to the district’s FASTbridge screening assessments as well as the district’s interim assessments for English Language Arts and Math in all grades.

The presentation focused on the lead data from quarter 2, which has been collected since the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, according to Mora.

“This is a process that we engage in four times a year,” Mora said, before stating a copy of the presentation is currently available online at

Later, during the meeting’s Major Action Items section, the board adopted its second resolution of the night, which encourages all schools and teachers in SMMUSD to observe the Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on Jan. 30.

“Fred T. Korematsu was one of these individuals, who refused to comply with Civilian Exclusion Order 34, based on the federal Executive Order 9066, which imposed strict curfew regulations and required 120,000 Japanese Americans to leave their homes to be incarcerated in American concentration camps during World War II,” the resolution states.

The approval of a 2018-19 Annual Financial Audit Report was the final action item of the night, and after a short rundown of the 2018-19 Annual Financial Audit Report by Craig Hartzheim of from Moss, Levy and Hartzheim LLP, SMMUSD’s board of education moved to adopt the findings of the audit report.

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