The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education is set to meet for its first meeting in the month of February and there are a number of items relating to diversity in the district.

Thursday’s meeting is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. with two separate celebrations recognizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and Black History Month, but a Report on Staff Diversity is among the higher-profile items listed on the meeting agenda.

Last June when SMMUSD stakeholders first began a discussion on social justice standards, former Board Member Oscar de la Torre asked staff to see the results of a diversity hiring report that was previously approved by SMMUSD. A few months later de la Torre broached the subject again when he asked staff about the possibility of a board policy that calls on the district to regularly review it’s hiring practices and diversity amongst staff.

“I’m not saying we’re horrible in that in that area, but we should have an annual report, so that we are accountable,” de la Torre said back in June as he shared displeasure with what he felt was a lack of urgency on the matter.

“We’re talking about racial justice, (but) we can’t even have a discussion on diversity in hiring so let’s have that report and let’s have that discussion,” de la Torre added. “And for the discussion on ethnic studies — honestly, I feel like we’re dragging our feet… The community has been waiting for too long. So, I think it’s time to have these discussions. I mean, honestly, if we’re about it, then let’s be about it.”

Last month, Superintendent Ben Drati said the district’s dedication and commitment to social justice remains as strong as ever when he detailed the district’s intention to soon have an annual review of its diversity in hiring practices.

Thursday’s agenda, which is currently available online, states the upcoming report will detail race and ethnicity data for certificated, classified and management staff. “Additionally, staff will share information regarding staff recruitment, hiring and retention.”

Following Thursday’s 40-minute report, the Board of Education has invited local parents to discuss the formation of a Black/African-American Parent Advisory Group, which is already in progress.

Residents who are interested in speaking during the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting should complete Google survey “sign up” that will be open to members of the public 30 minutes prior to the board’s closed session.

“Speakers are asked to attend the board meeting virtually through the Zoom invitation link on at the top of the agenda,” according to district staff. “As with all meetings, once discussion begins on an agenda item, any speakers who sign up after that time will be given only one minute to speak.”

To view the complete agenda, visit the website https://bit.ly/3toz7Zm.

Brennon@smdp.com