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|Candidate Profiles -- Chris Bley||
October 13, 2010 -- The Lookout Staff submitted questionnaires to the 23 candidates running for seats on the City Council and Board of Education. The candidates were given the same timeframe to answer the questions and were limited to 150 words per answer.
During the next several days, the Lookout News will publish the candidates’ answers verbatim. The profiles for the four-year City Council race will be published first, followed by the two-year City Council race and lastly the Board of Education race. They will appear in alphabetical order based on the candidates’ first names.
Name: Chris Bley
Why are you running for office and why should residents vote
After graduating from Colorado State University, I served two years in the Peace Corps, teaching English to middle-schoolers in Romania. For the past 10 years I have taught United States History and Government at a Los Angeles high school.
Why vote for me? I will continue studying the SMMUSD budget to identify cuts that won’t diminish the superior education our students receive. I will also listen and answer to parents, students, teachers, and the community. I will have at least two meetings a month with groups to discuss educational issues.
Do you have any children attending SMMUSD schools or who graduated
from SMMUSD schools? What has your specific involvement been with the
I ran for SMMUSD School Board in 2008, received 21,000 votes but lost by 870. I have lived in Santa Monica almost my whole life, so I know how much this community values its schools and what high standards we have for them. I have supported every parcel tax and bond measure as well as this summer’s Save Our Schools campaign.
How would you rate the current Board of Education? What particular
decisions stand out for you that made you form that opinion?
In a year when the board eliminated 58 teachers, reading specialists, librarians, counselors, and nurses, nobody asked why funds budgeted for administrative expenses increased by 4.5%.
This board doesn’t like to discuss difficult topics publicly. Last December Superintendent Cuneo cited a nonexistent board policy to shut down discussion of an issue community members had placed on the agenda. Except for Oscar de la Torre, the entire board—surely aware that California’s open meeting law allowed discussion—sat there agreeing with the superintendent.
Six of these board members approved a severance agreement that prohibited the departing financial officer from publicly discussing district finances.
What would you as a member of the Board of Education do to get
the District through these tough economic times?
SMMUSD LVUSD More spent by us
Coincidentally, $4.7 million would pay for about 58 teachers.
Two board members have now implied—but not shown—that these numbers aren’t comparable due to different accounting procedures. I don’t have access to that kind of budget detail, but accounting procedures are not going to explain away $4.7 million. Why would the Department of Education have the feature on its website if the comparisons were not meaningful?
How would you rate the current status of the District’s
special education department? Are there still improvements that must be
The more successful in-house programs we develop, such as the Pine Street preschool, the fewer parent/district disagreements there will be over outside services. It saves money too: Last year $140,000 was allocated for outside services for Pine Street students, and none of it had to be spent.
The Board of Education will be selecting a person to replace
Superintendent Tim Cuneo, who is retiring in June. What are the qualities
you want for a new superintendent?
I will also be looking for a superintendent who understands that he works for the board, not vice versa. I want someone who intends to become a part of the community—not just stop here for a few years. A candidate who already knows our district, more of a known quantity, would be attractive to me.
Most importantly, I want a superintendent who will insist on a student-focused budget, since students are the ones is a school district is meant to serve.
If elected, what are your ideas for closing the achievement gap
in the SMMUSD?
Intervention programs such as tutoring are crucial to this effort. Right now the district’s Equity Fund, created by requiring fund-raising groups to pay up to 15% of what they raise to the district, finances these programs. I support hiring a Director of Development to raise funds for intervention and other programs. Fairfax High School, which has 80% low-income students, has a Director of Development who has raised millions of dollars over the past few years. Then we could do away with the Equity Fund.
What is the greatest book ever written?
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