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Santa Monica School District Welcomes 13 New Administrators

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By Lookout Staff

September 2, 2014 – The Santa Monica-Malibu School District will start the new school year with 13 new faces at its campuses and headquarters, officials said.

The new administrators will join the ranks as principals, assistant principals and directors in Elementary, Middle and High schools throughout the large district.

"Each of them brings years of valuable expertise and unique facet of talents and backgrounds to our District," said Superintendent Sandra Lyon. "We wish each of them success in the school year."

At the district level, eight-year SMMUSD veteran Tara Brown has been appointed as the new Director of Student Services.

Brown previously served as principal of Franklin Elementary School since 2006. During her tenure, Franklin earned two California Distinguished School awards.

Nine of the 13 new administrators will be working in Santa Monica schools.

Hector Medrano has been appointed house principal of Santa Monica High School. He previously served as assistant principal at an intermediate and high school, as well as activities director, within Santa Ana Unified.

He has also taught social studies, served as college counselor, coached boys' soccer, and is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Deanne Sinfield has been appointed principal of Franklin Elementary School after serving as assistant principal since 2006. She has also worked as a school psychologist within the District and at LAUSD, and has extensive experience in special education.

“Sinfield values and maintains strong relationships with the Franklin community of parents, students and staff,” officials said in their announcement.

In addition to a new principal, Franklin Elementary will also get a new assistant principal with Dr. Ashley Benjamin.

She comes to SMMUSD from LAUSD, where she had been serving as associate principal/categorical programs advisor at Emerson Middle School.

Her credentials also include working as a testing coordinator, K-5 intervention coordinator, Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) coordinator and teacher of second, fourth and sixth grade.

Lila Daruty was named Grant Elementary’s assistant principal in addition to her post as Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) coordinator.

As BTSA coordinator, Daruty has trained and supported new teachers through professional development and teacher assessment, according to school officials.

She has also served as a teaching mentor at McKinley Elementary School and has taught at McKinley and Will Rogers Learning Community.

In addition to Daruty, Grant Elementary will add Wendy Wax Gellis as interim principal. A long-time employee of the district, Gellis previously served as assistant principal at Malibu High, as well as house principal and student support advisor at Santa Monica High. She also served as principal at McKinley Elementary School.

Dr. Susan Yakich comes on board as the new principal of McKinley Elementary School. (“Santa Monica’s McKinley Elementary Welcomes New Principal,” May 20, 2014)

Dr. Yusuf Allahjah will be the new assistant principal of John Adams Middle School after teaching  social studies at LA Public Schools. He received the Outstanding Teaching of World History by the California Council for Social Studies.

In addition, Allahjah serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California in the Master of Arts teaching program.

Elizabeth Cochran makes the move to principal of Will Rogers Learning Community after serving as assistant principal there and at Grant Elementary School for the past year.

She has also served as SMMUSD's literacy coordinator for four years.

Lynda Holeva will be the new assistant principal at Will Rogers Learning Community/BTSA coordinator for the current school year.

She has served as assistant principal, summer enrichment academy principal, BTSA coordinator, GATE coordinator and elementary school teacher all within the Encinitas Union School District.

Three new administrators have been tapped to head Malibu schools.

Mark Demick was appointed as principal of Point Dume Marine Science School. Previously, he has served as principal of Chinook Middle School in Washington state, and has many years of experience as principal throughout the state.

Demick has won numerous awards during his tenure in Washington, including Principal of the Year by various state organizations.

Chris Regan joins the Malibu Middle School team as assistant principal after moving from John Adams Middle School, where he served as assistant principal for four years.

Prior to joining SMMUSD, Regan served as assistant principal at the high school level, as a Spanish teacher and Dean of Students.

David Jackson will serve as interim principal at Malibu High School for the 2014-15 school year.

Retired in 2007 after serving as principal at Calabasas High, Jackson continued to consult with Las Virgenes School District as a coach for administrators and has worked in the private sector.

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