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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

October 31, 2016 -- Ben Drati, an education administrator in Santa Barbara, will likely be appointed as the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) next superintendent on Thursday.

The SMMUSD said late last week that board of education members had traveled to Santa Barbara for a "validation visit." They met with Drati’s colleagues and community members, according to the statement.

Board president Laurie Lieberman said in a statement that board heard "very favorable common themes" to describe Drati.

He was described as "authentic, noble, a uniter, a good listener, displays trust and heart, builds cohesion and forms highly productive relationships,” Lieberman said.

She added, "His passion for providing educational opportunities so all students may reach their full potential fits in perfectly with our Excellence through Equity plan implementation."

Drati has served as assistant superintendent of secondary education in the Santa Barbara Unified District in 2012.

In Santa Barbara, Drati was "instrumental in bringing achievement and access to all students and helping to create a district focused on diversity, inclusiveness and cultural proficiency," according to the SMMUSD’s press release.

The board is expected to vote on Drati’s appointment at its Thursday meeting. The district says it will provide more information about him after that time.

Drati would replace Sandra Lyon, who announced last spring she would be leaving after five years to head a school district in Palm Springs ("Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Superintendent to Leave Post," May 3, 2016).

The likely new superintendent's experience includes five years as principal of Clovis West High School in Fresno and seven years as an administrator in other schools in the area, according to his Linkedin profile page.

Drati has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and a doctorate in education from Fresno State.

A 2012 profile of Drati in the Santa Barbara Independent says he was born in Uganda and fled from the country with his family as a child in 1978 to escape a civil war. He attended Los Angeles High School

Drati told the Independent that he came to the United States without knowing any English and not having anybody to translate for him into his native language.

With this background, the publication wrote, Drati has a "soft spot" for English language learners (ELL) programs.

"Teachers saw me as a human; someone who has an opportunity, not an at-risk student," the Independent quoted Drati as saying. "Anytime I see an ELL student, I say the American Dream is possible. Institutions can make it possible."

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