Incumbents Maria Leon-Vazquez
and Dr. José Escarce;
longtime education activist Dr. Kathy Wisnicki

September 29, 2004 SANTA MONICA – Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) announces its endorsements for the SMMUSD Board of Education (BOE) after concluding a month-long evaluation process.

While CEPS has determined that all four candidates running for the three open School Board seats this year are excellent, Community for Excellent Public Schools endorses incumbents Maria Leon-Vazquez and Dr. José Escarce along with longtime education activist Dr. Kathy Wisnicki.

CEPS believes the current BOE is making significant progress during financially difficult times. This is evidenced by increasing test scores particularly for English language learners and students on the bottom end of the achievement gap. Samohi, which the Board has provided with strong leadership, additional student counselors and an ambitious multi-year redesign, increased its API score by 25 points last year and, on the High School Exit Exam, outperformed state and Los Angeles County students for all subgroups. CEPS strongly supports this progress and applauds the efforts of both Board President Dr. José Escarce and immediate past Board President Maria Leon-Vazquez in shepherding and overseeing these efforts.

Dr. Escarce holds a PhD in Health Sciences as well as being an MD. He is a professor at UCLA School of Medicine and a Senior Researcher in the Rand Health Program. Dr. Escarce brings his superior research and analytical skills to the Board along with his passion for public education. We are extraordinarily lucky to have a candidate with his qualifications and overview and are grateful for his service to our students.

The Board is also committed to implementing a Strategic Plan for Special Education, which was drafted last year by a committee of staff and parents. Leon-Vazquez is the Board Liaison to the Special Ed District Advisory Committee, and we feel she has served well in this capacity. Her continued involvement as a Board member is important for improving Special Ed in our District. She is also closely involved with many civic and community groups and has an understanding of our community and history that provides the Board with valuable insights.

In addition to CEPS’ endorsement of incumbents Dr. Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez, Community for Excellent Public Schools is also proud to endorse Dr. Kathy Wisnicki for School Board. Wisnicki has a PhD from UCLA in Educational Research and Applied Statistics, and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship to study at-risk children. She has also been a dedicated, thoughtful, courageous and effective supporter of all our public schools. She co-chaired both Measure EE and Measure S, she is a former PTA President, serves on the PTA Council, is a member of the District's Financial Oversight Committee, and has been a political force in Malibu, helping to found a Teen Center, working to elect a youth-friendly Malibu City Council, and successfully lobbying for increased City of Malibu funding for our public schools. We believe she is an outstanding candidate for School Board, that all of her talents and experience and knowledge will serve all of our students well.

Community for Excellent Public Schools’ endorsements followed a three-step evaluation process. Candidates were asked to answer a comprehensive list of questions that were developed to touch upon a broad spectrum of educational concerns specific to SMMUSD. The full list of questions as well as each candidate’s complete answers are available to the public at http://www.excellentpublicschools.org/school_board.html. Candidates were then invited to answer questions from the public at the CEPS Candidates Forum, which took place at Franklin Elementary School on September 20th. Finally, candidates’ backgrounds, qualifications and track-records were analyzed in respect to the challenges facing the Board of Education. Endorsements were made based on a compilation of all three criteria.

Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) is dedicated to the preservation and betterment of public schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. In order to achieve this goal, we resolve:
  1. To promote a shared community vision for excellence in our public schools that includes early childhood and post-secondary education;

  2. To evaluate and pursue a range of short and long term funding measures through state, city and school district policies and elections;

  3. To identify and support issues that will support education and public schools, including early childhood education, after-school programs, and post-secondary public education;
  4. To increase public awareness of the value and uniqueness of our public schools;

  5. To promote accountability for high quality public education by public institutions and public officials.

CEPS plans to announce the outcome of its assessments of Santa Monica City Council candidates in the next few days.

Please contact CEPS co-Chairs, Shari Davis at 310.395.4483 or Louise Jaffe at 310/450-2487 with questions, or access www.excellentpublicschools.org.

Committee for Excellent Public School Homepage                  CEPS Pledge