Pro: "I believe strongly that before the District can move forward with the process of separation, legal and financial viability questions, and concerns of continued educational excellence for every student, must be satisfactorily researched and answered. Then and only then, and if the people of Malibu still desire to do so, should we move forward, together, to separate into two districts. I do believe that the process should move forward in a timely manner. This does not mean that I think this will be easy or simple."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "My understanding is that environmental experts at the EPA and the medical experts at the Department of Public Health, have determined SMMUSD schools to be safe. The District has done extensive testing at two Malibu schools and has a short and long-term plan for addressing PCBs. While this has been communicated to parents, and the mere fact that enrollment in Malibu schools is stable is clear evidence that most parents believe this to be true."
Con: "In my view, the student/teacher ratio is one of the most significant factors in closing the achievement gap. Students need to be seen by their teachers and teachers need time to connect with their students.
Currently, teachers at the upper grades get roughly one minute of individualized instruction per student once course material is presented. This is not adequate.
We must rely on teachers and their expertise in identifying a ratio that is best to address the achievement gap and to ensure that a joy of learning is not diminished in our classrooms."
Con: "The Board of Education directly oversees one employee and that is the Superintendent of schools. The Board of Education is to set policies and ensure mission, vision, and goals of the District. The BOE is to direct the Superintendent whose job is then to manage a staff in the execution of the policies set forth in Ed Code by the BOE.
I am sensitive to the concerns of those who work hard each day implementing board policy -- teachers giving their 'all' to engage our kids, and staff in supporting those teachers -- to the downside of micro-management. I don’t want District officials to see the BOE as seven 'bosses'; rather, there is one Superintendent who answers directly to the BOE."
Con: "First, zero tolerance is absolutely the right policy when it comes to drugs, alcohol, and violence in our schools. My perspective on discipline is that it should be met out dependent upon the circumstances in question. The Board of Education is to set policies that allow for teachers, support staff, and students and parents to be sensitive to these circumstances yet absolutely clear on safety in a learning environment.
I am a fierce advocate for ensuring that our kids are able to find the joy and awe in learning, in education. Because I believe so strongly about this, I have made a review of District discipline policies one of my top priorities. Kids should be going to school to discover and learn and become enlightened democratic citizens."
Pro: "Yes. I believe that the District's Vision for Student Success is working and I will strongly defend it and work for its expanded success.
It will take leadership from the Board of Education and all stakeholders in the District to ensure that our vision of equity and excellence in programs and instruction is reached. Once the community is fully knowledgeable about the policy and the vision, I am certain we will see greater and greater support. I am committed to this work."
Pro: "Physical fitness and good nutrition are keys to creating healthy bodies and healthy minds – minds that are ready to learn. As we are a center for education, raising the profile of physical education and nutrition should begin in Pre-K and continue through the senior year of high school."
Pro: "Yes. One thing is clear – Millennials utilize and rely on technology more than any other generation to date. We need to provide our teachers with professional development opportunities aimed at discovering how best to implement technology into our classrooms and improve comprehension and retention of knowledge. Every classroom in the District must be a smart classroom with all the necessary tools to provide a 21st Century quality education.
Also, we must include in our curriculum attention to media and technology literacy so to ensure that our students are critical thinkers who are able to navigate a world that is exponentially expanding its reliance on technology."
Not Clearly Pro or Con: "This is an area where I will need to investigate further the interests and concerns of students, parents, and coaches.
However, it is important to note that I am a big supporter of organized high school sports and also middle-school and elementary school intramural sports programs. We must provide our kids multiple pathways to academic success and we know that team sports in tandem with rigorous academics strengthen and improve student success."
Pro: "Acceptable? Yes. However, we should never settle for 'acceptable'. As an educator myself, I am never satisfied with the status quo. We can always do better and we should always strive to be better. If there are people who say that 'all is well' and 'acceptable' they should step out of the way and give space to those who strive for improvement, for excellence.
With the tremendous reduction in state funding over the years, we have all had to work harder to ensure and protect academic standards. Our learning environment is dynamic and the students come to us with different needs and learning styles. We need to be on our toes -- ever improving and challenging not only our students but ourselves as educators and policy makers as well."
Con: "No. But, I do not mean to suggest that the District isn't trying. Rather, I believe that we must re-double our efforts and think outside the box as to how we are going to connect with those kids who are falling through the cracks. Our District is in a unique position to be imagining and exploring new and innovative ways to see kids and help them meet their life goals. We have the best teachers, men and women, committed to mentoring and coaching our community’s children.
We need to ask our students about their experiences in our District. We don't do enough of this. We need to include them in their academic progress at every turn. While I don't think there is a single answer to address the achievement gap, I do believe that the best place to begin is by asking the students to be more involved in their education."
Education activist, college professor, and Associate Director of Santa Monica College's Public Policy Institute, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein brings an important skill set to SMMUSD's Board of Education.
At SMC, Richard teaches Political Science and has served on or chaired college committees, including budget, curriculum, accreditation, and district strategic planning. As SMC's Academic Senate President he led the revitalization of the college's shared governance process. In the community, Tahvildaran-Jesswein is the VP of Education for the district-wide PTA, served on the Roosevelt and SAMOHi Direct Investment Campaigns, was Associate Producer of Westside Ballet's Nutcracker, and coached boys and girls AYSO soccer teams.
Professionally and politically, Tahvildaran-Jesswein has a reputation for listening and caring, collaboration and consensus building, innovation and pursuing justice. From Santa Monica to Malibu, he will fight for every child's educational wellbeing. He will protect and improve our exceptional school district. In dialogue with teachers, parents, students, administrators and community leaders, he will make an important difference. With his leadership, experience and passion for public education, no one is better qualified than Tahvildaran-Jesswein.
Tahvildaran-Jesswein endorsers include: Congresswoman Julia Brownley, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, City Councilmembers Gleam Davis and Kevin McKeown, and hundreds of community activists and education leaders.