Not Clearly Pro or Con: "One reason for separating is that Malibu and Santa Monica are quite different from each other and have different needs.
On the other hand, just as complementary or differing viewpoints can enrich a discussion, a school district is enriched when its jurisdiction encompasses two dissimilar communities.
Nevertheless, it is true that there is tension between some stakeholders in Malibu and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Toxins found in some schools in Malibu, disagreements over lighting a football field, a preference for decentralized fundraising, and not currently having a board member who resides in Malibu are among the reasons for this tension.
However, SMMUSD cannot divide itself into two school districts without resolving several financial and legal issues.
While it seems that the current board is considering eventual unification, I am hoping the tensions will dissipate after the new board takes over and that the district will remain intact."
Con: "The district has done the minimum amount in terms of testing for toxins--but that is not enough! When in doubt about a potentially very serious health matter, it is better to err on the side of safety whenever feasible. There are claims that recent non-district, non-EPA related testing has revealed PCB levels in caulking at Malibu High School that far exceed levels legally allowed by the Toxic Substances Control Act. Since PCBs are now considered to be carcinogenic and people are already often exposed to toxins in their food, water, and air, the district should take this matter very seriously. Activists in Malibu are making a reasonable request, which I support. They want testing of caulking in all pre-1980 buildings, removal of caulk that has PCBs higher than the legal limit, and the use of portables for teachers and pupils while the remediation is being done. Board members indicated (at the last board meeting) that the previously suggested 15 year waiting period before further action would be taken had been re-considered. This may be a good first step in verbally showing some good faith."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "An acceptable student/teacher ratio depends on the kind of class and the financial resources of the school district. For the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, I would recommend the following: Avoid having more than 37 pupils in Physical Education classes, avoid having more than 12 pupils in most Special Education classes, and avoid having more than 25 pupils in most general education classes (including Advanced Placement classes).
However, ultimately, it is not so much the size of the class as it is the quality of the teaching that that takes place in the class that matters most. Of course, while the quality of teaching is largely dependent on the instructor, the quality of materials available to the instructor and requirements of the curriculum also make a significant difference."
Pro: "It appears that the board has not always exercised appropriate control over district officials. For example, an Estoppel Certificate was signed by the Chief Financial Officer and a lawyer hired by the district without any consultation with board members! This signing meant that the district could never collect any rent that might have been owed before July 2010 from the Double Tree Hotel. It is my understanding that no clear evidence was presented by the Double Tree Hotel indicating that 'percentage' rent was not owed under the third or 'percentage' part of the rental agreement with the district.
When pressure (in connection with negotiating a favorable rental agreement with the Double Tree Hotel) was exerted by a labor union, the board should have exercised appropriate control. This was an instance in which board members should have exercised more control over district officials than they apparently actually did."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "Discipline policies should be reasonable with some flexibility for truly extenuating circumstances. Sometimes good kids are over punished for some small infraction while some kids get away with all sorts of unacceptable behavior, including excessive use of profanity. One simple policy that will help to improve discipline in the classroom is for administrators to support teachers who refer pupils for inappropriate or severe behavior problems. Teachers should feel empowered to have disruptive pupils removed from the classroom without worrying that it will be held against them. All adults at a given school, including classified personnel, should work together to help maintain discipline and morale."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "Centralized fundraising is obviously working as evidenced by a check of millions of dollars that was recently presented to the district. However, there is room for flexibility. I do not see any problem if a particular school chooses to do additional fundraising at its own site. In fact, positive engagement of any kind should be encouraged. The main concern I have regarding fundraising is that it should be done in a way that promotes wholesomeness. For example, if children are encouraged to sell something to raise money for a trip (or a football team or anything else) they should be set up to sell something healthy (such as washed, preferably organic, fruits) instead of something unwholesome such candy or the typically unhealthy cookies."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "Perhaps there should not be more required exercise but more exercise should definitely be encouraged and possibly woven into classroom activities in elementary school classrooms. For example, to give the kids a break from sitting, the teacher (or a designated student) could lead children in stretching, breathing and other exercises for about 5 minutes.
Furthermore, students should be required to fully participate during Physical Education classes, rather than standing around on the sidelines as is sometimes the case. Also, physical education teachers should plan for an appropriate amount of physical activity (in the way of games, jogging, work-outs and/or other exercise) for their classes.
It should also be noted that by providing the real facts about nutrition, providing whole food vegan options, encouraging exercise, and encouraging teachers to model a healthy lifestyle, our school district can help students be truly physically fit--without requiring more exercise."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "Teachers and students should have access to more technology in the classroom when it is reasonably determined (by independent, non-industry studies) that there won't be any health issues due to RF radiation --- and when it is financially feasible. The concern about possible health issues is all the more important when wireless devices are involved and when very young children are involved. The younger the child the thinner the bony covering over the brain and so young children are more likely to be harmed from excessive radiation than older people.
In addition, more access to technology should be predicated upon training students to protect themselves. For example, students can be taught to save casual talking for times when they are not near a wireless device that is turned on.
I am concerned that the district is considering over 30 million dollars in connection with technological upgrades---but I haven't yet heard any board member say anything about possible danger from radiation to developing brains of children."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "There is a variety of sports available to eligible students at Santa Monica High School Some of the these sports are Cross Country, Track, Football, Tennis, Volleyball, Water Polo, Swimming, Basketball, Soccer, Wrestling and Baseball. Furthermore, a variety of sports are also available to students at Malibu High School. Therefore, there certainly is some support from the Santa Monica -Malibu Unified School District for high school sports teams.
However, recently coaches who were apparently doing a very good job, were fired without any good reasons to my knowledge. This suggests a lack of really adequate support for high school sports teams by district officials."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "There are many very good teachers and many worthwhile courses being offered at Santa Monica and Malibu Schools. For example, there are about 30 Advanced Placement courses now being offered at Santa Monica High School. In addition, there is a rich array of extra-curricular activities.
However, within the last two decades, coursework and ideologies have been instituted which appear to have limited academic value and which could be interpreted to as promoting a political agenda.
Children are sometimes given some but not all of the facts and viewpoints in connection with current issues. A student should be presented with all age-appropriate facts and viewpoints in connection with important issues. Through balanced presentations to our young people we can promote real critical thinking, avoid what may be termed indoctrination, and make our public schools even more competitive with private schools than they already are."
"Various efforts have been undertaken to close the 'achievement gap'. For example, the Young Collegians Program allows 24 minority students and/or students from low income families to attend college classes during the summer. This collaborative program between the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and Santa Monica College is offered free of charge to eligible students. Its success is evidenced by lives that have been transformed in a positive way. For example, Alvaro Alvardo, who had never used a computer before coming to the United States in 2005, now wants to be a software engineer. Another participant in the Young Collegians program is senior Logan Henderson, who wants to become a doctor who serves low income families.
However, in spite of some successes in decreasing the 'achievement gap' a big disparity still remains. For example, African-American male students' test scores are significantly lower than those of their White and Asian counterparts. There are simple, relatively inexpensive approaches that can help motivate all students rise to their real potential. The district can institute a conscious push for policies that re-enforce the goodness and ambition within children. Let's provide more interesting character-building books in elementary school classrooms and school libraries--including books in which African-American boys are portrayed as heroes. Let's promote inspiring movies and music. Let's empower young people to figure out what will result in real success in life."
I have taught for about 40 years and hold a Master’s degree in mathematics. I am a long-time Santa Monica resident and former Malibu resident seeking to promote inexpensive but very effective practices that can help students be more successful. Examples of such practices are:
--Speaking correct English and noting logical errors in textbooks and workbooks (including Common Core curriculum materials)
--Teaching children real facts about nutrition and applying these facts to the district’s food services
--Promoting proper sanitation in schools
--Being guided by caution (as urged by some scientists) with respect to exposing children's developing brains to radiation from wireless devices
--Promoting real critical thinking and free speech--even when it isn't "politically correct"
--Encouraging district personnel to be role models for good moral behavior
--Introducing a moment of silence in our schools (as has already been done in 19 states with very positive results) and
--Encouraging avoidance of waste and recycling.
Also, I would like to see transparency in connection with the possibility that insufficient rental income may have been paid to our school district from the Double Tree Hotel and possible toxic conditions in some of our schools.