Administration Shifts Gears, as School Board Forges Ahead with Bond
By Ann K. Williams
July 14 -- At a streamlined school board meeting Thursday, Tim Walker was appointed Interim Superintendent and the board heard the latest committee report on a multi-million dollar bond proposed for November’s ballot.
Walker, who already wears two hats in the school district’s central office, was given a third by the board. In addition to being Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Services and of Educational Services, he’ll replace Dr. Mike Matthews as district superintendent, starting immediately. Matthews is on vacation and will leave the district for a position in the private sector at the end of the month.
Walker told the board he “look(s) forward to working diligently” on preparations for the coming school year until he is replaced by a permanent superintendent.
“Consistency” and “continuity” characterized Matthew’s brief stint at the top, Walker said later, and he expects his tenure will be “collaborative” and a “relatively seamless” transition.
He will be assisted by Ilene Straus, formerly Principal of Santa Monica High School, who is now working at the central office as Director of Secondary Education.
According to Walker, the board is in “the final stages” of selecting the next district head, and though it’s taking longer than anticipated, the board is meeting its goal of finding the “most competent” person for the job.
The board is conducting a closed search, unlike superintendent searches in the past, which relied on input from community members during the interview process.
Several community members have intimated that there will be an announcement “very, very soon,” but the board had no comment following the closed session in which they discussed the superintendent search Thursday.
Walker did say he is not a candidate for the job.
He’ll have his hands full. Not only do a number of top administrative positions need to be filled -- including principals for SAMOHI, John Adams Middle School and Lincoln Middle School -- but the board seems to be going forward with plans for an ambitious bond measure.
Urging the board to “keep the process moving as aggressively as possible,” Board Member Emily Bloomfield agreed with consultants that work on the facilities master plan is sufficient to warrant “going full speed ahead” on the bond.
The board will have to decide by July 27 if it’s to meet the August 11 deadline for filing a Proposition 39 bond, according to recently hired legal counsel David G. Casnocha of Stradling, Yocca, Carlson & Rauth.
Several scenarios have been presented to the board by consultant Anthony Hsieh of Piper Jaffray & Co., the most ambitious being a 20-year $400 million bond which would add $32.02 per $100,000 assessed value to property owners’ tax bills.
As Bloomfield pointed out, the majority of Santa Monicans are renters, and Hsieh said that under the most costly scenario, they’d have to pay $5.34 a month if their landlords chose to pass the cost on to them.
It will be the job of a citizen’s campaign committee to convince the voters that the price is worth paying for modernizing and repairing the district’s schools. “Equity” – the word first raised by Board Member Oscar de la Torre Thursday night – became something of a slogan in the discussion.
The thrust of the bond should be to “bring all schools to the same standards, framing the discussion in terms of needs,” Bloomfield said. It will be “more constructive and healthier overall to address the issue of equity,” rather than getting specific about how much money should go to Santa Monica and how much to Malibu, she said.
Studying a “nine-inch thick document” – the fruits of the facilities
master plan process -- will be the board’s homework for the next two weeks,
as it prepares for its decision on the 27th.
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