Due to the recently enacted “social distancing” order, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District held last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting online, but that didn’t stop dozens of local parents from sharing their opinions on a number of matters like layoffs.

The most recent meeting of SMMUSD’s Board of Education was originally scheduled to occur in Malibu. The agenda listed a study session and major action that was to be discussed by the board but both items were postponed once the meeting was set to go forward online.

The meeting kicked off with a word from Superintendent Ben Drati on the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many parents worried for one reason or another in recent weeks.

“We are in unprecedented times… Things have drastically changed in our lives and social order, and things are pretty much turned upside down right now,” Drati said as he mentioned how staff is working diligently to ensure students, especially those without the necessary electronic resources, will have the opportunity to continue their learning in the future.

Prior to the conclusion of the Superintendent’s Report, board member Oscar De La Torre asked if it was possible for the board to suspend layoffs, which was a subject that would dominate the public comment portion of the meeting.

Though public speakers were unable to attend last week’s meeting, more than 50 residents submitted comments online that were read by staff. Due to the large number of submissions, every comment was given a minute to be read.

One by one, staff shared letters that plead for SMMUSD to retain the various community liaisons and teachers who have received pink slips in recent weeks.

“This proposal is shocking to our school and so inequitable that I’m compelled to request respectfully that you vote against (it),” a comment by Rachel Chow read.

At the beginning of the public comment period, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association Sarah Braff said union members understand that the district needs to use the staffing formula when determining the cuts it will make, “however, the need to RIF more than 50 teachers is unnecessary given the current crisis.”

“We have put teachers and their families unnecessarily in a stressful, vulnerable and insecure position. They do not deserve this,” and SMMCTA looks forward to having most of these notices rescinded as soon as possible, Braff added before sharing the union’s recommendations for the current budget.

“I want to thank the Board and the entire staff for all their hard work during this extraordinary time,” Braff said. “It took endless hours and dedication and collaboration at a time of uncertainty and I am grateful for all we have done together.”

With no remaining items on the agenda, board president Jon Kean moved to adjourn the meeting.


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