New members of the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, Alicia Mignano and Stacey Rose, have been in office for just over 100 days and recently met with the Daily Press to discuss surprises, challenges and their priorities over these first few months.
Mignano and Rose were elected just weeks before Ben Drati announced he was leaving the district after almost seven years at the helm.
“I was surprised, but I think this is a great opportunity to participate in the search for someone,” Mignano said. “This is a key position for everything we do in the district, so I am very happy to be involved in this process and to involve members of our community in it.”
Rose echoed this sentiment.
“I was very surprised when Dr. Drathi left,” she said. “I didn’t foresee it.
However, she also takes the opportunity to help find a new leader and has a clear idea of the type of person she thinks will excel in the position.
“Really a community builder who continues to build the community that we have, we are not starting from scratch but someone who comes in and really sees all the pieces…and sees it through the lens of who our kids are and how they learn , – she said.
Mignano has his own wish list.
“Someone with district leadership experience, our district is very diverse and has unique needs…and to make sure that that person is student-centered and able to shape the vision and engage people,” she said.
The mental health and well-being of students is also important to both board members.
“I think the transition from the pandemic back to in-person has been very difficult for our students, especially for middle and high school students,” Mignano said. “And also the rise, unfortunately, in drug use.”
As a former PTA board member, she said she sees efforts to educate parents as a valuable way to address these issues by providing them with the knowledge, tools and resources to help support their children.
Despite the challenges and hard work ahead, Mignano and Stacey are proud of SMMUSD’s accomplishments.
For Mignano, who was born in Mexico and attended a public school in south-central Los Angeles as an English learner (ELL) before moving to Portland to attend high school, the support of ELL students in the district is very close to her.
“I think we have made a lot of progress for our English learners and I have been a part of that work and I am very proud to have taken the time to work with Maria. [Leon-Vazquez] and etc. [Jaqueline] Mora, with our public relations and our parents, to protect our children.”
Her son is a student at the Edison Language Academy and she said that a bilingual education is incredibly valuable and she is happy to see it around.
“At the time I went to school here in California, it was in the English-only days, people thought that by focusing only on English, students would learn better, and studies have shown that this is not the case. that when we strengthen native language support, when we have other support for our students, it makes a big difference.”
Rose, who has experience in conflict resolution and is the only board member from Malibu, constantly thinks about splitting up SMMUSD and creating an independent Malibu school district, a process known as “unification.”
Shortly before her election, the City of Malibu and SMMUSD agreed on a “conceptual framework” for what such a process would look like, with a potential time frame for the formation of a new district as early as July 2024. Meanwhile, Rose hopes to strengthen the bond and understanding between the two cities.
“I think the unique role I play is building a bridge, I really have relationships in both communities,” she said. “Sometimes we don’t always realize how much cross-linking we have, so we really bring that out and give communities a more granular view and knowledge of each other.”
Both board members expressed deep appreciation for the role of public education in society.
“Public education is necessary for the development of critical thinking and is part of democracy,” Mignano said. “It can be a really important tool for changing lives and improving lives.”
“Whether you have children or not, school age or not, whether you participate in it or not, the public school is for the public, so everyone is interested in it, and whether you realize it or no, it affects you. ”
Message New Board of Education members reflect on their first 100 days, first published in the Santa Monica Daily Press.