Craig Foster, Karen Farrer, Seth Jacobson Candidate Statement


CEPS Candidate Interview Questions – SCHOOL BOARD – 2012

Criad Foster, Karen Farrer and Seth Jacobson are running as a slate from Malibu for seats on the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education.

What is your record or your personal accomplishments over the last four years in promoting these ideals of shared community vision and collaboration?

We start from a simpler goal than CEPS. We stand for one thing: each and every student’s educational success. Each of us has dedicated a major portion of the last four years (and many previous, in the case of Seth and, especially Karen) to that goal. Craig is a M.A.E. holding certified teacher who has spent a day or more per week in the classroom working directly on student success and educational innovations. Both Seth and Karen (again, especially Karen) have worked tirelessly on local and districtwide committees to support student success in various ways. As leaders of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS), we are working towards the ultimate expression of our goal and the CEPS goal. A successful separation of the districts will bring $4mm of incremental revenue to the district while at the same time dramatically increasing organization coherence and the ability of each district to hold a truly “shared vision for excellence in our public schools.”


In what additional ways do you think that the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu can work with SMMUSD to support educational opportunities?  How would you work with the cities to advance these initiatives?

The two cities should be more demanding of our district(s). The public schools are in place to serve the needs of the residents of both cities (and unincorporated areas). It is time the cities held the school district to a higher standard of excellence. By allowing bloated bureaucracy and unfocused leadership, the cities fail to serve their residents. By demanding primary and unwavering focus on each and every student’s educational success, the cities would ensure that public education meets the needs of each child, each family, and all residents. The cities should be demanding that each child, whatever background or level of resources, is served by the schools paid for with our taxes and, in no small measure, by direct contributions by those cities. The cities, in particular, should demand success in closing the achievement gap and carefully monitor the rate of exodus of residents to private schools. A rapidly closing achievement gap and a net inflow of students from private schools should both be considered bare minimum indicators of the educational health of the district. To the extent those are achieved, it makes every logical sense that the cities and their citizens continue to or expand their financial support of that public educational excellence.


What educational program or issue would you like to focus on in the next term?  What steps would you take?

Class size is the dominant crisis in the district today. The most recent class size increases certainly “jumped the shark” if it had not been jumped already. There are many remedies. Supporting political efforts to increase the importance placed on public education by our elected officials is in some ways the most basic and is certainly necessary and laudable. However, unfortunately, we are most likely on our own for a while in terms of fiscal resources. A few critical initiatives need implementation. First, the bloated administrative bureaucracy of the district should be address. Our district administrative costs are more than double showplace districts in the state, like Oak Park USD. Second, allowing and encouraging Malibu to achieve educational independence has the dual benefits of adding $4mm to the collective revenues and increasing the ability of each district to achieve an independent community vision for excellence in their public schools. Third, there is an overwhelming need to embrace educational best practices as they are currently being identified across the nation. In many cases, technology or progressive teaching methodologies mitigate or even cancel the educational costs of teacher shortages.


What is your position on districtwide fundraising?  Now that the board has put the policy in place, has your position changed and how would you advance that position?

Districtwide fundraising was always a great idea irresponsibly executed. There is no question that working together, we can achieve a much higher level of private, business, and corporate support for public education. Likewise, of course, we would support each and every child in the district equally with those funds. However, the school board, as it often does, forgot that the support of their stakeholders is an essential ingredient in success – especially in a voluntary fundraising campaign. It remains to be seen if the implementation can overcome the unfortunate start but a number of very capable, caring people from around the district are working hard on exactly that. Every effort should be made to aid and ensure their success.


What is your position on SMMUSD’s bond measure on November’s ballot?  If you support the measure would you carry that support on your campaign literature?

We are in discussions on that subject with the bond leadership at this time.


What is your position on Prop 30 and Prop 38?  If the measures both fail, what do you foresee doing, as a School Board member?  What options do you foresee?  What might you propose?

For the sake of our schools, we certainly hope and expect one or both to pass. Even our own educational leaders are divided on which they favor, which is very much too bad. If they fail, we do not believe that all recourse to Sacramento is exhausted. It is the state political leadership who will need to be held accountable for the consequences of failure. Our first effort would be to work with other groups to remind that leadership of their primary responsibility to the children of this state. Failing that, we would look to the same choices mentioned above to cushion the blow – increasing bureaucracy efficiency, separating the districts, and local fundraising activities (including a parcel tax with accompanying public outreach).


Do you feel you can fairly and adequately represent the needs and interests of students in both Malibu and Santa Monica?  What have you done to date to work with families and students in both cities?

Being the super minority in this district, we are acutely sensitive to the needs of neglected groups of whatever size or nature. We will lead the school board exactly as our mission statement suggests. We stand for one simple thing: each and every student’s educational success. “Each and every child” means just that.


What would be/have been your priorities if you win/as a current School Board member?  Why are you running (again)?  How do you think you have had or would have an impact on the BOE?

Our priority will be each and every student’s educational success. We will achieve that by making student achievement the primary goal of the Superintendent and hold her accountable for that achievement, reducing class size, closing the achievement gap between different demographic groups, initiating a school by school review and hold principals responsible for learning outcomes, working with the Teachers’ Union to review current practices and rigorously implement current best practices and proven educational innovations and we will pay for these initiatives by reducing the administrative bureaucracy and creating an independent Malibu School District.


What is your position on “unification” of the district?  Since the exploration of “unification” and the process that follow could take years, what ideas do you have for improving the working relationships between the Malibu and SM parts of the District in the meantime, and possibly permanently?

We strongly favor “unification” for all the reasons mentioned above. Most importantly, we are two separate and very different communities by both commonsensical and legal definitions. It will be vanishingly hard for both communities to be truly happy and mutually engaged in the long run. The differences are too big and the power is too lopsided. Better is a choice that increases revenues for both districts and creates two school districts each built around a single contiguous, shared community. We believe the school board needs to embrace separation and accelerate that process. Implementing various districtwide measures while simultaneously exploring separation exceeds the most people’s tolerance for cognitive dissonance. In every regard, there is sufficient indication of viability to begin aggressive mutual discussion and pursuit of separation. That is what should be done. That is also the best way to ensure maximum cooperation and mutual support in the event of a failure to separate for whatever reason. A good faith best effort to separate is the right choice right now. In the event of a failure to separate, the district will need to release its current emphasis on centralized command and control. That is an outmoded, obsolete, bankrupt choice regardless but especially problematic given the nature of this district. More power needs to be given to the various constituencies and decision-making needs to become more consensual and, if you will, parliamentary.