Tears, applause and a multitude of mixed emotions were prevalent throughout Thursday night’s board meeting, when leaders of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District met to discuss a number of topics, including prospective layoffs.

With the planned discussion on interdistrict permits moved to March 5th, Thursday’s board of education meeting was mainly centered around the district’s finances and Resolution No. 19-22, which is the first step in a possible reduction of the district’s elementary, middle and secondary school services.

“This is a preliminary legal requirement that we have to adopt in order to move ahead to even consider making any reductions in certificated staff. So, in theory, this really doesn’t constitute a pink slip to anybody yet. That actually is later,” board Vice-President Laurie Lieberman said during the meeting. And this is something the board has to do because the bottom line is the district can’t pay its teachers if it doesn’t consider the bottom line.

So, it pains the board to make these decisions because nobody wants to lose the quality of the district’s programs, Lieberman added, before Superintendent Ben Drati outlined how some positions — like the district’s literacy coaches — will be adjusted and the employees will be given an opportunity to reapply if they wish to.

“We need this action in order to align our resources and this action gives the district this flexibility,” Drati said. “We have to have a conversation around what we are going to have and not have because… we cannot afford how we are right now. We will be bankrupt in three years.”

Board member Craig Foster agreed as he explained how California places 40th among state funding dedicated to education, which means the district starts from a disadvantage and is driven to make decisions based on finances that are out of its control.

“We’re all committed; the superintendent is committed to finding savings… so this is going to be a thoughtful and strategic process,” Foster said.

Drati also dispelled rumors that class sizes would be increased as a result of the cuts shortly before members of the public were given an opportunity to address the board about the layoffs.

Student Board Member Mia Wachtel was moved to tears while she shared her feelings on the prospective cuts.

“I consider myself to be very academic,” Wachtel said. “(Even so) I don’t feel I have the support that even I need from teachers because a lot of the teachers — I personally feel — are there on the basis of tenure and not on the basis of their ability to help students… And I think it’s very, very difficult to hear that these decisions are being made by adults and it seems like its for adults and not us.”

Superintendent Drati said the feelings expressed by Wachtel and others during the meeting are essential to hear and he hopes local residents will attend any of the upcoming budget advisory committee meetings to voice their opinions and receive more context on the district’s fiscal situation.

“As we go forward with this, there will be things that are alarming — and none of this is pleasant,” Foster said, “but the goal is to get to a good place where we can all say under the circumstances we did it smart and we did it right.”

Shortly after, the resolution was approved unanimously by the board of education.

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  1. Santa Monica and Malibu School district, some of the wealthiest areas, have budget cuts in their school district. My own daughter couldn’t go to a Malibu school ten min from my house because of budget cuts.

    With Billionaires running the country, the school districts run by political structures, the schools suffer and teachers hands are tied. Attention placed in politics rather then safety and education the public school system need a type of overhaul that is badly needed.

    More faculty needs to be hired and trained for preventing bullying and bringing more skilled specialists to work with mood disorders and threats. Instead of pouring money into our schools, they are cutting back, the world is changing while the public school systems get cut, art, music, p.e and skilled faculty is removed…children in California are left behind.

    Board member Craig Foster agreed as he explained how California places 40th among state funding dedicated to education, which means the district starts from a disadvantage and is driven to make decisions based on finances that are out of its control.

    It is truly remarkable how outdated our teaching style is, our curriculum, and our safety and prevention measures are. You talk to faculty about this, they shrug their shoulders with jaded looks on their faces and say district budget cuts.

    Our children are mishandled, and are treated like cattle in public schools for the exception of powerful and loving teachers who ignore the system, they ignore their budget cuts and they take care of our future leaders. They buy the supplies with their own little paycheck and teach off script so their kids have a chance.

    Those teachers and faculty who ignore politics are the true unsung hero’s who put children before dollar signs.

    Imagine what 2% of Bloomberg’s or Bezos money could do for the public school system.

    A lot of our children rebel and have no respect for our public schools because they see what is going on as they get older, it’s not true education. They see how outdated and constructed our schools are.

    Schools are supposed to be the number one priority in our infrastructure! These children grow up and make personal and global decisions that shape our future!

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