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Six School Board Candidates Make Cut, Share Views

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

August 24 – Bridging the achievement gap between minority and non-minority students, trimming class sizes and improving training for teachers will be the key issues when six candidates vie for four open seats on the School Board.

Making the final cut for the November ballot are three incumbents -- Emily Bloomfield, Oscar de la Torre and Shane McCloud – and three challengers -- PTA official, Mary Kelly McMahon Pye; accountant Berry Snell, and Sidonie Smith, an education administrator and teacher.

Board President Julia Brownley will seek a seat in the State Assembly.

Seeking a second bid for the board, de la Torre pointed to the achievement gap and his homegrown experiences ( he is a former district student and executive director of the Pico Youth and Family Center) as the key reasons voters should send him back to the board.

“In times of change, our students deserve experienced leadership on the School Board,” de la Torre said in his campaign statement. “Oscar provides a valuable COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVE on the School Board.”

Bloomfield, too, pointed to the achievement gap and her experience on the board.

“With your vote, I will pursue excellence for every child,” Bloomfield said in her candidate statement. “As an SMMUSD board member, and past President and Vice-President of the Board, I have worked for excellence for all district children.”

Bloomfield pointed to accomplishments shared by the incumbents. They include “increased test scores, improved instruction, greater access to honors and AP classes, redesign and more personalization at Santa Monica High School, and protection for funding academics and the arts in Santa Monica and Malibu,” she said.

McCloud, who also is seeking a second term on the seven-member board, said his work as a teacher sets him apart from the pack.

“As the only teacher on the Board, I’m honored to have been entrusted with improving our schools,” McCloud said in his candidate statement. “I need your support to continue to bring my unique perspective and 10 years of teaching experience to our schools.”

School board challengers Smith and Snell highlighted their extensive experiences with minority rights groups – such as the NAACP – which they said will give them a different perspective than others on the board to tackle the achievement gap.

“I commit to bring innovative and informed educational leadership to Santa Monica Malibu School District to encourage policies and procedures that support that all students will learn,” said Smith. “Equity in education means that all children must have quality instruction, quality education materials and cultural validation.”

Snell, an accountant and single parent to three children, said bolstering test scores for minority students is important. But improving the districts’ financial position ranks high as well.

He promised to work to “improve the financial stability of the District by seeking alternative revenue sources and reducing financial mismanagement” and continue a funding agreement with the City that carves out more than $6 million annually for the local district.

PTA official and a former newspaper sales executive, McMahon Pye said she seeks “a rich educational experience for all our children.”

“I pledge my wholehearted and dedicated efforts in pursuit of these goals,” wrote the mother of two, who has lived in Santa Monica for 20 years.

Four candidates -- Bloomfield, de la Torre, Pye and Snell -- may already have a leg up on their campaigning after receiving a crucial endorsement from Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) at the powerful tenant group’s August 6 convention. (see story)

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