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Superintendent’s Message: Budget Realignment and Our High-Quality Schools

From Dr. Ben Drati, Superintendent

We are in the home stretch of the 2019-2020 school year! I hope you and your students are having a great educational experience this year.

This is an update to my previous letters regarding our budget. As I’ve mentioned, like many school districts, SMMUSD is facing serious budget challenges.

Like many school districts in California, we must look at balancing our overall staffing so that it aligns with the decline in enrollment we have experienced over the past five years. But, we will need to do more than that to bring our expenditures into alignment with our financial resources.

I want to reiterate that the district’s goal is to treat this as an opportunity to align our district’s resources with the desired outcomes we want for our students. As we navigate the difficult task of balancing the district’s expenditures with our revenues, I make several commitments to you.

1. SMMUSD schools will continue to provide the high-quality education that we are known for while expanding our success to students who have not always thrived. We have longstanding contractual agreements with the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association (SMMCTA) that dictates class size and that will not change. Nor will we harm vital programs that have made our district the outstanding district it is today.

2. Our decision-making will be transparent and our community will be engaged in the process of advising, providing input and identifying changes and reductions. To that end, I have created an advisory committee of 45 stakeholders that includes teachers, staff, parents, students, and Santa Monica Education Foundation and Malibu LEAD committee members.

3. We will be cognizant of the findings made by Dr. Pedro Noguera in his equity audit conducted in 2016. We must better serve students who are not receiving what they need to actualize their potential for learning. We must prioritize initiatives that reduce racial and socio-economic disparities in student achievement and produce significant or sustainable improvements in academic outcomes for African American and Latino students, English language learners, children with learning disabilities, and low-income students generally, while continuing to serve students who are thriving and excelling.

4. We will continue to be forward-looking as we pursue researched practices and initiatives that promote “deeper learning” through project-based, cross-curricular, individualized and “real world” approaches that have the potential to address disparities and increase engagement and preparation of all students for successful futures.

With advancements in technology and globalized interdependence, we must prepare our students for a future yet to be realized. We need to build on what we know and transform some of the ways in which we educate our youth so that they are better equipped to address challenges in the world they will be entering. You will be hearing more from me in the future about these initiatives.

I understand how difficult it can be to talk about or hear about budget realignment or budget reduction. I understand that there will be fears, concerns and differences of opinion, as we move through this process.

I ask that we all please keep our eyes on the facts provided by the school district and that we not spread misinformation. I ask that we all work together, have robust and well-informed conversations, and continue as we always have to make decisions that ensure that SMMUSD continues to grow, improve and continue to be a great place to attend school.

I believe our district will be even stronger if we come together and make the right decisions for our students.

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