The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board appointed Mark Kelly to the role of interim superintendent at its Dec. 15 Board meeting. Kelly has been with the district for 23 years and has served as assistant superintendent of human resources since 2015.

School Board President Maria Leon-Vasquez announced the appointment and initiated the approval vote which was unanimously passed by the full seven members of the Board.

“A resounding yes,” Board member Jennifer Smith said.

An announcement of the appointment sent out by the district on Dec. 16 touted Kelly’s years of experience, familiarity with the Santa Monica-Malibu area and his previous roles serving as co-principal of Santa Monica High School and principal of Malibu High School.

“We are fortunate to have our longtime Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kelly available to support us as we begin our search for a permanent superintendent,” Leon-Vazquez said in the announcement. “He is very involved and has a keen awareness and familiarity with our goals, budget, and initiatives, and will jump in as an effective leader immediately.”

Kelly will take on the new role in January when Superintendent Ben Drati is scheduled to begin a new job as the Superintendent of Bellflower Unified School District, a move he announced earlier this month.

I feel honored to support the District during this time of transition,” said Dr. Kelly. “We will continue our tradition of excellence in SMMUSD and will move forward initiatives and plans that Dr. Drati initiated over the past several years.”

Kelly will receive an annual base salary of $250,000 for the position.

In the same Dec. 15 meeting the board also announced the initiation of the search process to find a new permanent superintendent, which will play out in coming months.

“We’re going to take our time in this so it’s not like we’re going to rush this because we need somebody here in February or March,” Leon-Vazquez said. “I think in order to open it up and get community feedback, it has to extend a lot more especially with the holidays now.”

She announced the creation of a sub-committee consisting of herself and Board Members Laurie Lieberman and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein to determine what the hiring process will look like and recommend education executive search firms to assist with recruitment. She stressed that the committee will serve a purely logistical purpose and will not make the decision in regards to who is hired. She also emphasized that there will be opportunity for input from the community throughout the process, including students.

The Dec. 15 meeting was the last before Drati’s departure and board members used it as an opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation for his six years of service.

“You’ve spread inspiration through this district, you’ve moved people,” Smith said. “You will be greatly, greatly missed.”

Along with the farewells, the board also welcomed the two newly elected board members, Alicia Mignano and Stacy Rouse, to the dais for the first time and re-elected Leon-Vazquez as board president and Tahvildaran-Jesswein as vice president. The next board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2023.

Grace Adams

Grace Adams is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she studied Spanish and journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in investigative journalism from City, University of London. She has experience...