SMMUSD staff tackles disparity issues in all district schools

The beginnings of a multi-year plan addressing the disparity in educational achievement among African American, Latino, white and Asian K-12 students was proposed to members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education on Thursday, May 21.

Terry Deloria, assistant superintendent of educational services for SMMUSD, gave a presentation using statistical data of educational performance between those ethnic groups at all SMMUSD schools.

Issues raised during the presentation were those of college preparedness, enrollment in advanced placement classes, grade point average, dropout rates and others.

The average GPA of African American and Latino students were 2.5 and 2.6, respectively, compared to 3.2 for white students and 3.2 for Asian students, according to Deloria’s data. The data also showed African American and Latino students enroll much less in Advanced Placement (AP) classes than their white counterparts.

At Malibu High School, 91 percent of students are white, while only 10 percent are Latino and two percent are African American, according to the school’s demographics.

Deloria said the board’s hurdle is trying to keep up with small changes and take them to a system-wide level.

“Probably more difficult is changing adults’ mindsets [and] getting everybody thinking in the same direction that we’re the ones responsible for student learning and if a student doesn’t learn, it’s on us,” Deloria said. “That’s difficult work to do and it takes time.”

Deloria’s presentation outlined what the schools in the district were already doing to help solve the achievement gap, and also gave suggestions to the board as to what can be done moving forward.

The data did not only show disparities in education. Deloria’s research found that Latino and African American students were not meeting fitness standards when compared to white students.

Several attendees spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, many to give their approval of the program. However, some community members were not satisfied with the plan brought forth by SMMUSD staff.

Tynesha Williams, mother of a student attending Santa Monica High School, focused more on the what the data presented suggested about a student’s psychological well-being.

“I feel like this program is putting a label on my kid that is not helping his self-esteem,” Williams said. “It’s telling him that he is different, that he is incapable of achieving like the other kids, and he needs to be pulled out for several hours a day … and be separated from the other students.”

Joan Krenik, member of the Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council, was complimentary of SMMUSD staff and showed faith in their research.

“I believe [the SMMUSD staff] are best positioned to evaluate the options that will complement the existing programs and recommend next steps,” Krenik said. “I urge you to follow their guidance.”

Board member Craig Foster, a Malibu resident, sympathized with the members of the community who were displeased with the data presented by SMMUSD staff, and said the achievement gap was not going to be fixed overnight.

“I’m extraordinary happy with the intervention that we’re putting in place,” Foster said. “We really are doing great things. This is not moving the desk chairs around. This is making substantive changes to the way our children are going to learn.”

At the beginning of the meeting, several retirees who worked with the district were honored by the board. Highlights from their careers were read and those who were in attendance received rounds of applause from the audience.

Several former employees of Malibu schools were honored, including track coach John Cary, former assistant principle Wendy Wax Gellis, library assistant Denise Peak, founding member of the Shark Fund Maureen Bradford, and others.

The next SMMUSD board meeting will be held at 4 p.m Wednesday, May 27, in the district office.

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MHS’s Pietrzyk, Blackwood gain medals in league races

Malibu High School senior Caroline  advanced to the CIF Southern Section Track Masters meet and earned her third Division IV championship on Saturday, May 23.

Pietrzyk ran the 3,200-meter race in tandem with athletes from Division I high schools and finished third overall in the heat. Her time of 10 minutes, 35.30 seconds was over three ticks faster than her performance in last year’s CIF-SS finals.

“I love being in these kinds of races where there’s a whole bunch of people there pushing you and everybody’s in the stands cheering for you,” Pietryzk said. “It’s just amazing. I love it.”

Sophomore Abby Blackwood also competed in the 3,200-meter race. She finished sixth among Division IV athletes, earning her a medal.

Blackwood said three days before the finals that her goal was just to run a good race. She ended up exceeding her expectations, but was disappointed in her performance because she got tired after starting the race too fast.

“Overall, I has happy that I medaled, but I was just kind of frustrated because I should’ve been smarter about my race,” Blackwood said.

In the home stretch of her last lap, Blackwood turned on the jets and passed a runner 10 yards in front, securing the medal and her place in the division.

Pietryzk was proud of her running mate, and said Blackwood’s year reminders her of her own freshman year where she finished seventh in the same event.

“For her to get a medal, it’s amazing,” Pietrzyk said of Blackwood. “She should be so proud of herself. It’s so cool to have a teammate here to race with.”

Junior Madeline Ward competed in the 300-meter hurdles, finishing with a time of 50.81 seconds. She finished second to last in her heat and was upset after the race.

“I think I got a little discouraged at the end because I went over the first couple of hurdles bad,” Ward said. “There was a strong headwind and my blocks weren’t quite right. So I just had a bad start and I think it got to me a little more than it should have.”

Ward battled calf and back injuries throughout the season, but achieved personal records toward the end of the year to qualify for the CIF-SS finals.

“She worked hard all year and came on at the end of the track season to really just get here,” sprint coach Ray Humphrey said of Ward.

Devin Sarantinos competed in pole vault early in the meet, but was unable to clear the initial height.

The Masters meet will be on Friday, May 29, at Cerritos College. Humphrey said for Pietrzyk to do well, all she has to do is run her race.

“I don’t think there’s anything more Caroline’s going to do expect for do what she does — keeps training hard and being the girl she is,” Humphrey said.

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MHS relay swimmers take talent to CIF

From left: JC Heckman, Logan Hotchkiss, Thelan McKinna-Worrell and Alec Wilimovsky . The four senior swimmers broke two CIF records in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle relay on Wednesday, May 13.

From left: JC Heckman, Logan Hotchkiss, Thelan McKinna-Worrell and Alec Wilimovsky . The four senior swimmers broke two CIF records in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle relay on Wednesday, May 13.

It was only a matter of time.

As four Malibu High School senior swimmers were gearing up for the CIF-Southern Section prelims, their 200- and 400-meter freestyle relay times were inching ever closer to record-breaking status with each passing meet.

Alec Wilimovsky, Logan Hotchkiss, JC Heckman and Thelen McKinna-Worrell finally broke through in both events on May 13, catapulting the team into the finals the following week where they won second place in Division IV.

McKinna-Worrell anchors the team, which made him the last to touch the pad in both races.

“It felt like I was the one beating the record,” McKinna-Worrell said.

The Sharks recorded a time of 1 minute, 26.30 seconds in the 200-meter race, beating the previous time of 1:28.70, set in 2013 by Temescal Canyon High School. In the 400-meter event, MHS finished with a time of 3:11.67, overtaking the previous record of 3:14.14 set in 2006 by Oaks Christian High School.

The Sharks also won their third straight Frontier League title this year.

Wilimovsky and Hotchkiss have been teammates for their entire high school careers. Heckman and McKinna-Worrell, however, transferred to MHS for their senior year.

The foursome formed a quick bond that extends outside of the pool. Wilimovsky said all of them hang out frequently.

“It just helps with the team dynamic,” Wilimovsky said. “None of us are strangers and we all know if anyone’s having a good day or a bad day. It just helps immensely.”

In addition to swimming, Wilimovsky also ran cross country for MHS and is a triathlete. Coach Mike Mulligan said Wilimovsky’s determination and work ethic are what make him a great athlete.

“He’s like a bulldog,” Mulligan said. “He just gets it in his mind what he wants to accomplish and he goes after it.”

Mulligan considers Hotchkiss the most all-around swimmer on the team and the best to ever come through the high school, and has enjoyed coaching both Wilimovsky and Hotchkiss over the years.

“It’s been a pleasure just to watch them grow and set goals and be able to accomplish them,” Mulligan said. “They have tremendous determination, tremendous self-discipline to get in the water every day for four years.”

Not every boy on the team has roots in swimming. McKinna-Worrell was on track to be a professional surfer but decided to quit. When his mom told him he had to join a sport, he chose swimming because he already felt comfortable in the water and thought he would be good at it.

“It turned out I was a lot better than I thought,” McKinna-Worrell said.

From left: Thelan McKinna-Worrell, Alec Wilimovsky, Logan Hotchkiss and JC Heckman. The four senior swimmers broke two CIF records in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle relay on Wednesday, May 13.

From left: Thelan McKinna-Worrell, Alec Wilimovsky, Logan Hotchkiss and JC Heckman. The four senior swimmers broke two CIF records in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle relay on Wednesday, May 13.

Heckman was another newcomer to the team this year, although he was on the swim team at his previous high school. While he admits to not getting much practice time with Wilimovsky and Hotchkiss during the year, Heckman said that when it came time for competition, the four were always on the same page.

“Whenever we were at the meets, it felt like we were swimming together for our whole lives,” Heckman said.
Heckman credits the entire team and coaching staff for making him feel comfortable as soon as he arrived at MHS.

“I felt part of the family within the first week or two that I came here,” Heckman said.

Mulligan was disappointed the team came in second at the CIF-SS Finals because he wanted to see the seniors go out on top.
“It would’ve been great for Alec and Logan and all the kids who competed in CIF for them to win a team title,” Mulligan said. “That would’ve been very, very cool.”

The future of the swim team at MHS after this year is a question mark. With seven seniors on the team graduating, Mulligan said some underclassmen are going to have to step up in order to keep the winning tradition of the high school alive.

Mulligan said sophomores Everest Brady and Ben Tran could be the future of Malibu swimming.

“Those two guys, they looked up to the seniors and they really learned a lot of what it takes to be a fast, strong swimmer,” Mulligan said. “They’re just emulating those seniors’ work ethic. Hopefully that will carry through to next year and the underclassmen will look up to those two kids.”

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CCW welcomes young competitors to Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser

Shai Walters, 4, gets his face painted on Sunday, May 17, 2015 during the Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser hosted by Children's Creative Workshop at Point Dume Marine Elementary School in Malibu, Calif.

Shai Walters, 4, gets his face painted on Sunday, May 17, 2015 during the Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser hosted by Children’s Creative Workshop at Point Dume Marine Elementary School in Malibu, Calif.

Young children played carnival games, ate cotton candy and participated in a miniature athletic competition at the Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser hosted by Children’s Creative Workshop at Point Dume Marine Science School on May 17.

The kids enjoyed several booths in which they received face painting and temporary tattoos. Other booths gave children the opportunity to create spin art.

Children 3, 4 and 5 years old competed in a triathlon in three separate heats. The participants sat in a kiddy pool and pretended to swim, then rode tricycles on the pavement, then ran a short distance. When they finished, each child received a medal.

The event was a fundraiser for the Creative Workshop, which is a nonprofit preschool that encourages children to be creative with art, music, math and reading. Several items, such as clothes, toys, wine, hotel stays and more, were being auctioned off throughout the event.

A group of boys wait for the triathlon to start on Sunday, May 17, 2015 during the Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser hosted by Children's Creative Workshop at Point Dume Marine Elementary School in Malibu, Calif.

A group of boys wait for the triathlon to start on Sunday, May 17, 2015 during the Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser hosted by Children’s Creative Workshop at Point Dume Marine Elementary School in Malibu, Calif.

Heath Gasser, 7, shows a bean bag at cans on Sunday, May 17, 2015 during the Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser hosted by Children's Creative Workshop at Point Dume Marine Elementary School in Malibu, Calif.

Heath Gasser, 7, shows a bean bag at cans on Sunday, May 17, 2015 during the Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser hosted by Children’s Creative Workshop at Point Dume Marine Elementary School in Malibu, Calif.

Theresa Webb (left) helps Benny Webb, 3, along during the tricycle portion of the Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser hosted by Children's Creative Workshop on Sunday, May 17, 2015 at Point Dume Marine Elementary School in Malibu, Calif.

Theresa Webb (left) helps Benny Webb, 3, along during the tricycle portion of the Spring Fair and Triathlon fundraiser hosted by Children’s Creative Workshop on Sunday, May 17, 2015 at Point Dume Marine Elementary School in Malibu, Calif.

Ruby Ribnick (right), 3, gets her face painted by Camille Eastin on Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ruby Ribnick (right), 3, gets her face painted by Camille Eastin on Sunday, May 17, 2015

Permalink: http://www.malibusurfsidenews.com/ccw-welcomes-young-competitors-spring-fair-and-triathlon-fundraiser

Twelve years in the making — a graduation story

When I first started school at CSUN, I was 17 years old, hellbent on being a rock star and could barely grow a mustache. Now, at the age of 29, I’m graduating with a bachelor’s in journalism.

That seems like a long time, but not everyone’s journey is the garden-variety, four-to-six-year college plan.

Sometimes there are bumps along the way. Sometimes you make the wrong choices and have to spend years getting your life back on track.

Sometimes you have to get kicked out of your house at 20 and spend a year living on couches and in an apartment that you are eventually forced to leave (yes, this happened to me).

Sometimes you have to work the most nonsense jobs just so you have money to eat and pay expenses (some examples: tax preparation assistant, sign-flipping-on-the-street-corner guy, concessions at a movie theater, Blockbuster).

And sometimes, you get a nipple ring (actually, I kind of miss it sometimes).

The journey was full of ups, downs and all-arounds. I entered CSUN as a math major because I didn’t understand what the requirements were for the classical music program.

I figured it would be better to major in something rather than nothing, and since I really did like math, that seemed like the obvious choice. However, after getting a “C” in calculus, I quickly looked elsewhere for career choices.

I wanted to switch my major to creative writing, but never formally did so. My girlfriend at the time was a singer, and I played guitar. We both wanted to be professional musicians.

A mutual friend who worked at Hot Topic told us about a school called Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, and we ended up dropping out of CSUN and attended MI instead.

Although the aforementioned girl ruined the next few years of my life by physically and emotionally abusing me, I mustered the wherewithal to finish MI and graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Music Performance in 2008. Translation: a piece of paper about as useful as poop-flavored lollipop.

The next four years went something like this: work, open mic performances, looking for band members, finding band members, a month or two of band practices and shows, band members quitting on me, searching for new band members, repeat all of the above.

I was trying pretty hard and getting absolutely nowhere. I thought I was talented and with the right people around me, we would make great music and live an exciting life as touring musicians.

What I didn’t know was this: I actually wasn’t any good, and I didn’t work nearly as hard as I should have. I spent so much money and time going after something for which I wasn’t suited. But it took a particular journalism class to get to realize that.

In 2012, I was attending Santa Monica College and I had joined their student newspaper, The Corsair. I already took an introductory journalism class online the previous summer, and I liked it enough to see what the student publication was like.

But I only wanted to write about basketball. But I had two months until the season started, and I was expected to produce articles right away.

So I chose an opinion story because I figured that would be a good way to ease myself into journalistic writing. What can be so hard about writing I think?

It turned out that not only was it harder than I thought, but my article turned out be lower than garbage. It was just terrible. But that didn’t stop me.

Over the next few months, I was writing about things I had no idea about, but I was enjoying myself and working harder than I had ever worked before. I found myself spending more of my time writing, researching and interviewing, and less time playing, rehearsing and songwriting.

I ended up quitting the two bands I was in at the time. Needless to say, it was very difficult to make the choice to leave something I was working toward since I was 15. But it was the best decision of my life.

I almost didn’t come back to CSUN. When the time came to move on from SMC, I felt I could benefit from a new school, a new area and a new start.

It was between Cal State Long Beach and CSUN — I don’t have to say where I chose.

Just in these past two years, I’ve grown immensely. I somehow started caring about my grades, which I never did when I was younger (I failed strength training because I was too lazy to go class). I also became much more sociable and joined a ballroom dancing club (I previously couldn’t dance to save my life).

So no matter what your journey to graduation is like, make sure you do it to the best of your ability, and stick with it. That’s the only way you can walk on that stage, turn your tassel from one side to the other, and be truly proud to call yourself a college gradate.

I know I am.

Permalink: http://sundial.csun.edu/2015/05/twelve-years-in-the-making-a-graduation-story/

Residents tour Malibu homes for a cause

Signs like this one guided participants of the Malibu Cook's tour to each Malibu Methodist Nursery School volunteer, where they gave information on various sections of each house.

Signs like this one guided participants of the Malibu Cook’s tour to each Malibu Methodist Nursery School volunteer, where they gave information on various sections of each house.

Imagine being picked up by a vehicle and driven through the hills of Malibu. The vehicle drops you off in front of a large house, you’re welcomed by a volunteer and you stroll inside.

You’re guided through sections of the house and given tidbits of inside information — how the house was built, where pieces of art came from, etc. — as the panoramic ocean views, open floor plans and apartment-sized bedrooms leave you speechless. At the end of the tour, you’re treated to food from a local eatery.

Now imagine doing that four times, through four different houses.

Luxurious Malibu houses were open to 300 people for the 29th annual Malibu Cook’s Tour on Saturday, May 9.

Participants received small, yellow “passports” that were stamped at each location of the tour. The booklets contained information on each house and the food that would be served when they arrived.

Pravina Somani, owner of one of the homes, said it was overwhelming having strangers walk through her house, but she did not seem to mind.

“I didn’t expect so many people, but it’s wonderful,” Somani said. “I love it.”

This bar was made in the style of one found at TGI Fridays, the restaurant where the owners of the Bluff Top house first met.

This bar was made in the style of one found at TGI Fridays, the restaurant where the owners of the Bluff Top house first met.

This was the first time Somani has shown the inside of her home to the public, she said. For the past three years, she has shown the outside as a part of the Malibu Garden Tour.

Malibu Methodist Nursery School organized the event. Parents of children who attend the school and other volunteers from the community helped guide tour-goers, gave facts and told stories about various sections of each house.

Participants received different versions of the itinerary and had to drive themselves to one of the homes. Several shuttles picked up and dropped off people at the three other locations.

Yvonne Bosch, one of the volunteers, said the tour is the main event that helps fund equipment for the school, as well as other projects and scholarships.

“It’s all volunteer work, so 100 percent [of the proceeds] go [to the nursery school],” Bosch said. “It’s really, really good.”

The majority of the tour’s participants were women. Bosch said the reason could be the event usually occurs close to Mother’s Day.

Three participants stand under a gazebo in the backyard of the Baker home during the Malibu Cook's tour on Saturday, May 9, 2015.

Three participants stand under a gazebo in the backyard of the Baker home during the Malibu Cook’s tour on Saturday, May 9, 2015.

Bosch said parents affiliated with the nursery school were asked to think of homeowners they knew who might be willing to open their houses for the event.

“The homeowners are oftentimes related somehow to the school because they sent their children to the school before, and now they’re grandparents or they are aunties of the child who goes there,” Bosch said. 

The tour is limited to 300 people to put less stress on the homeowners, Bosch said. The limit also adds to the novelty of the experience, she said.

“It’s kind of an exclusive club to get a ticket,” Bosch said.

Bonnie Kliger, who lives in Woodland Hills, has been taking in the tour for the past 12 years, and attended Saturday’s event with her husband.

“The idea of peeking into the private lives of Malibu homes [is what interests me],” Kliger said.

Suzanne Faulkner (right) and Milton Brodleit, residents of Encino, get information from Susan Downey during the Malibu Cook's tour on Saturday, May 9, 2015.

Suzanne Faulkner (right) and Milton Brodleit, residents of Encino, get information from Susan Downey during the Malibu Cook’s tour on Saturday, May 9, 2015.

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Stellar defense grants Sharks four more wins

Senior pitcher Andre Simoneau throws a pitch during the game against the Bishop Diego Cardinals on Friday, May 8, 2015 at Malibu High School in Malibu, Calif.

Senior pitcher Andre Simoneau throws a pitch during the game against the Bishop Diego Cardinals on Friday, May 8, 2015 at Malibu High School in Malibu, Calif.

Senior left-handed pitcher Andre Simonaeu threw a shutout game for the Malibu High School baseball team, leading them to a 2-0 victory over the Bishop Diego Cardinals on Friday, May 8. 

Simoneau threw all seven innings for the Sharks, showing all of his best stuff and recording out after out. 

“I was able to spot fastballs on the outside corner, which is what I was mainly going with,” Simoneau said. “And then the changeups kept them from knowing exactly what was coming. So just that juxtaposition of pitches.” 

Malibu has prevailed in four of its last six games. The victory puts the team at 11-12 overall this season, according to MaxPreps. 

Shortstop Dylan Ross said the team’s play has improved because it’s gotten back to basics. 

“We have just started playing more fundamental on defense,” Ross said. “Our pitchers have definitely walked less hitters. We’ve definitely beared down on fundamentals.”

Hunter McMillin slides to home base during the game against the Bishop Diego Cardinals on Friday, May 8, 2015 at Malibu High School in Malibu, Calif.

Hunter McMillin slides to home base during the game against the Bishop Diego Cardinals on Friday, May 8, 2015 at Malibu High School in Malibu, Calif.

Friday’s game saw a lot of good pitching from Simoneau and terrific fielding when any Bishop Diego player managed to make contact with a pitch. The Sharks finally showed some of the “routine defense” coach Ari Jacobs has been clamoring for all season. 

“You play routine defense, you got a chance,” Jacobs said. “You don’t play routine defense, you give teams four of five outs in an inning, they’re going to score a lot of runs.” 

One example of Malibu’s stellar defense was in the top of the third inning when Bishop Diego hit a shot past the Malibu first baseman. Ross slid to the floor, made the catch, gathered himself and threw a bouncer to first, which earned the Sharks a third out.

The Sharks got going offensively in the second inning with a base hit from Hunter McMillin. Then catcher Rocky Morris spliced a double down the third-base line, advancing McMillin to third. 

A sacrifice fly drove in McMillin, who slid and extended his hand for a score. 

In the bottom of the third, Ezra Allen used another sacrifice fly to drive in Dylan Ross, giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead they would not relinquish. 

Malibu’s last two regular-season games are against the Carpinteria Warriors, the last being on Friday, May 15 at home. The Sharks and the Warriors have identical records in the Tri-Valley league at 4-6. 

Ross said the Sharks have to play good baseball in order the beat the Warriors. 

“They’re a very fundamental team,” Ross said. “Usually it’s a low-scoring game whenever we play them, so we really have to kind of bear down and throw strikes.” 

Ezra Allen prepares to swing at a pitch during the game against the Bishop Diego Cardinals on Friday, May 8, 2015 at Malibu High School in Malibu, Calif.

Ezra Allen prepares to swing at a pitch during the game against the Bishop Diego Cardinals on Friday, May 8, 2015 at Malibu High School in Malibu, Calif.

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