New SMMUSD office


As the 2022-23 school year nears its end, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified Board of education has a packed agenda for this week’s meeting including a review of student achievement data, a presentation on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, discussion of Title I programs, revision of the district’s budget and a slew of repair and maintenance items, among others

The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District has chosen a new Superintendent, but residents will have to wait a couple of weeks to hear the name.

Community and Public Relations Officer Gail Pinsker said a finalist has been chosen with a formal vote scheduled for June.

“Following an extensive national search, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education has selected a finalist for new Superintendent,” said Pinsker. “The school board will formally vote and announce at the school board meeting on June 1, 2023.”

The SMMUSD Board recently conducted candidate interviews and the June 1 announcement will come about six months after former SMMUSD superintendent Ben Drati announced in November 2022 that he would be leaving the district at the beginning of 2023.

The Board appointed Mark Kelly as interim superintendent and hired the executive search firm Leadership Associates to head up the process.

Leadership Associates is the same firm the board used to hire Drati and the SMMUSD superintendent before him. Because of this, board members have said they feel confident the firm and the process they are facilitating will help them to find a candidate that meets the district’s needs.

A new Superintendent will arrive as the District works to finalize an agreement with Malibu over splitting the district.

The two sides greed to a “Term Sheet” in October of last year that outlines a framework to accomplish formation of an independent Malibu Unified School District and Santa Monica Unified School District.

While both parties initially wanted to finalize some details of the agreement by April 15, they have stumbled over details and negotiations are ongoing. Despite the delay, both groups say they are committed to the deal and finalizing the key terms soon.

As the search has continued in recent months, community input has been solicited via an online survey and meetings with various stakeholder groups.

A new superintendent is expected to start work by the beginning of July of this year, just ahead of the 2023-2024 school year.

The SMMUSD Board has a meeting tonight, May 17, and while the Superintendent search is not part of the discussion, the agenda is packed with other items.

Student Achievement Data

SMMUSD staff present data on student achievement to the board throughout the school year to show how students in the district have performed on a variety of assessments and also predict how they will perform in the future and identify areas for improvement.

This week’s presentation is the final one of this school year and includes data from spring diagnostic assessments.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Over the last several years, SMMUSD has been working on better training staff to identify and address bias and racism within educational systems and to develop a strategy “designed to encourage reexamining the current system by all constituents involved — interested staff, administration, school board, and parents — in shaping the system and making the necessary changes through the lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).”

Staff will present on the district’s progress towards this goal as well as share upcoming plans and initiatives including an educational campaign and new approaches to teaching English language learners and changes to the structure and order of high school science classes.

Title I programs

After being pulled from a previous meeting agenda on May 4, the board is scheduled to discuss Title I programs in the district and decide whether to approve a waiver for John Adams Middle School (JAMS) that would allow the school to continue operating a Schoolwide Program using its Title I funding.

Title I funding is given to schools with a high percentage of low-income students. In SMMUSD, this is determined by the number of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Meals (FRM) and there are two types of programs that schools can put Title I funding towards.

One option is the Schoolwide Program which is aimed at improving overall achievement at a school, which schools are eligible for if 40% or more of enrolled students are considered low income. The other, Targeted Assistance programs, is for schools with 35% or more low income students and focuses the funds solely on eligible students under Title I criteria.

While JAMS falls just short of the 40% threshold needed for the Schoolwide Program, with a 38.5% poverty rate, SMMUSD staff are recommending that the board allow the school to continue with the program, stating that they “believe it is in the best interest of our students.”

Other Items

Board members will also review the district’s budget, hear a presentation on SMMUSD’s AVID program and discuss an expenditure plan relating to the Arts, Music, and Instructional Materials (AMIM) Discretionary Block Grant established by a state bill passed last year to allocate funding to school districts to help obtain educational materials and operate programs in certain subject areas. More details will be provided at the meeting.

The board will also vote to approve the job descriptions for several new positions including a Board Certified Behavior Analyst to work in the Special Education Department and a Facility Fiscal Manager in the Business Services Division to help manage and oversee maintenance related budgets as well as provide fiscal leadership.

Numerous award agreements for the many construction and maintenance projects in the district including roof repairs and renovations will also be voted on. To view the full agenda and for more information on specific items visit:

The public portion of the meeting begins at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday May 17, 2023 at the District Administrative Offices at 1711 Fourth Street and will also be available via Zoom.

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...