School Districts and their School Boards became real punching bags during the heart of the COVID pandemic, none likely more so than that governing Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). But using the best science they were given (and it would change at times!), and despite some clear academic and socializing deficits that have clearly resulted from students being home, I feel the district and its board have done comparatively well, and have continued to strive for improvement in student achievement and opportunity. Therefore, we believe Laurie Lieberman and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein deserve re-election for another term. We would like to see them joined by district parents Alicia Mignano and Stacy Rouse.

Relationships can create bias, but we also feel relationships provide an opportunity into the soul of who people are. And in our case, our relationships with Lieberman and Tahvildaran-Jesswein are ones of great respect, and we’ve always liked them personally. In Laurie Lieberman, we see a Board Member oozing with competence. We want her in the room for just about any challenge or policy debate, be it education-related or some other issue entirely! We have the highest confidence she’ll continue to ask good questions and get to the heart of district problems and their solutions.

In Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, we find one of the biggest-hearted individuals we’ve ever known, someone who is really sensitive to what students in the district experience and need. We know he’ll continue to seek positive learning environments for both students and teachers.

And as boots on the ground that have served multiple terms, we are confident these two incumbents should be involved in the recruitment and retention challenges plaguing or soon to challenge so many school districts around the country. They each have the support of our Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association and their fellow School Board colleagues, as well as other local leaders and organizations we trust.

Alicia Mignano we’ve only met this year, but in just brief conversation she made a strong impression. We love her story as someone who rose from being categorized as an “at risk” student and an English-language learner as a child to the active, productive student/parent advocate she is with the district today. It is this advocacy that has motivated her to run, and we applaud her platform which calls on stronger parent engagement and communication, spending focused on repairing learning loss, smaller class sizes, and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools. She already has Lieberman and Tahvildaran-Jesswein’s support to join them on the board, as well as from many of the same local leaders and organizations we trust and respect.

We support Stacy Rouse, a Malibu resident, because we genuinely believe in Malibu representation on the board. But among the other remaining candidates, she stands out because of her background as a trained conflict resolution specialist. This background is certain to help not only her relationship-building with fellow board members but also the board as a whole as tough issues are negotiated (including union contracts).

We recognize the District hasn’t handled every issue well. We acknowledge the frustration many parents have felt, and the resulting chaos their student children have suffered, due to the mold crisis that struck the district. It has separated friends, broken up carpools, and abatement has genuinely been frustrating. But we’re simply not prone to electing candidates being backed by spoiled, wealthy Santa Monica-Malibu parents that just want representatives to be their proxies for yelling at everybody. These people will NEVER be happy, no matter how well the school district, its students, teachers, and other faculty, are performing.

Please support Lieberman, Mignano, Rouse, and Tahvildaran-Jesswein to lead SMMUSD.

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