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Santa Monica-Malibu School District Starts Search for New Superintendent
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

June 16, 2016 -- With weeks left before the superintendent's departure, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is seeking public imput on a replacement at two sessions Thursday night.

Parents, students, educators and others from the community are invited to meetings tonight from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at John Muir Elementary School in Santa Monica and at Malibu High School, said SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker.

Translators are available at both meetings, and reservations are not necessary, she said.

The district also has established an online survey, which includes room for comments, and can be found at or for Spanish speakers.

Superintendent Sandra Lyon exits SMMUSD at the end of the school year to take the same position at Palm Springs Unified School District. Her resignation is effective July 1 and was announced in May after five years in the post.

Pinsker said the district’s Board of Education has launched a confidential search for Lyon’s replacement and hired Leadership Associates Executive Search Advisors for recruitment and other assistance.

The new head of the district will face several ongoing challenges that include closing the achievement gap for minority students and continuing negotiations to allow Malibu to secede and form its own district. The longstanding debate gained momentum late last year but was briefly derailed recently.

Disgruntled Malibu parents also are accused of boycotting the foundation responsible for district fundraising and have been at odds over toxic contamination levels at Malibu schools.

In all, the district – with an estimated enrollment of about 11,000 students – does well in standardized testing. But it shares the nation’s persistent problem with gaps in scores between its white student majority and a significant population of lower-income and mostly Latino and African-American counterparts.

Pinsker said the meetings Thursday with focus on two primary questions.

“What are the desirable qualities, characteristics, background and experiences (professional and personal) for the next superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District? What do you see as the strengths of the district and the major challenges facing the district in the years ahead?” she said.

Input from the meetings will be compiled and sent to the board to help develop the recruitment brochure, the overall recruitment process, reference checking and, ultimately, the selection of a new superintendent.

Active recruitment starts in July and August, with an application deadline of mid-September, Pinsker said.

Candidates will be interviewed in October, with the board expecting to approve a contract at a November school board meeting. The new permanent superintendent will start in January 2017.

The board plans to hire an interim superintendent in late June, to start in early July, she said.

John Muir Elementary School is at 2526 Sixth Street in Santa Monica and Malibu High School is at 30215 Morning View Drive.

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