Following weeks of discussion and gathering of community input, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) has put together a clear picture of what it is looking for in a new leader.

The Board of Education will vote to approve a written position description for the superintendent job at a special meeting on March 29 as the next step in the search to fill the vacancy left by Ben Drati’s departure in December 2022. The multi-page document lists professional and personal qualities as well as desired education and experience.

Among these are general characteristics including “strong communication skills,” “collaboration and teamwork” and “passion” for improving student achievement levels,” as well as more district-specific requirements such as “recogniz[ing[ and understand[ing] the implications of Malibu becoming its own district and work[ing] with the Board and staff to plan effectively for that transition.”

The description expresses preference for someone who holds a doctorate degree, is bilingual and has previously worked as a superintendent and also emphasizes a need for the successful candidate to deeply value diversity, equity and social justice.

These qualifications are reflective of nearly 1,000 responses to an anonymous public survey on the topic and meetings with various stakeholder groups, according to Peggy Lynch, the lead consultant with Leadership Associates, the firm hired by the board to lead the search.

Lynch said that the firm also met with certificated, classified and administrative district staff, representatives of the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu and other community and business partners including PTA representatives, District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC) parents, the Santa Monica Education Foudation, Santa Monica College and SMMUSD students.

Once approved, the position description will be posted on the SMMUSD and Leadership Associates websites along with instructions for requesting an application. While the posting of the description will help recruit qualified candidates, Lynch said Leadership Associates has been actively advertising the vacancy and reaching out to potential candidates since the application period opened on Feb. 27.

Applications are due at 5:00 p.m. on April 7, an extension from the previous April 4 deadline.

The Leadership Associates consultants will then screen the applications and make recommendations to the board for candidates to interview for further consideration. Interviews are scheduled to take place in early May.

The Board of Education will make the final decision on who to hire with the goal of a new superintendent beginning on July 1 of this year, approximately six months after Drati left the position.

“At the moment, I think finding the right person for the community to be the superintendent, that is our number one job as a school board,” Board Member Alicia Mignano told the the Daily Press. “It’s key to everything that we do.”

To view the full position description visit and the agenda for the March 29 meeting visit:

The meeting will be the first to be held at the district’s new headquarters at 1717 4th Street and will begin at 4:00 p.m..

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...