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

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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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Gala celebrates hope in the face of tragedy

Michel Shane (left), Laureen Sills (second from left) and three children take the stage to auction off an item during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursdsay, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Michel Shane (left), Laureen Sills (second from left) and three children take the stage to auction off an item during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursdsay, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Friends of the Shane family and other community members gathered at Casa Escobar in Malibu on Thursday, May 7, for the Stars and Sea Gala. 

The event was hosted by the Emily Shane Foundation and sought to raise money for the SEA (Successful Educational Achievement) program, which was started by the foundation and helps struggling children and teens perform better in school.

Emily Shane was a 13-year-old girl who died on April 3, 2010, when she was hit by a suicidal driver as she was crossing the street on Pacific Coast Highway. She struggled in school because of what was deemed a “processing issue,” said Ellen Shane, Emily’s mother. 

During the event, a video montage of Emily’s life was shown. It mostly consisted of photographs of the young girl when she was alive, and two short video clips of her dancing in a talent show and laughing with a friend.

Jonathan Banks, actor from the “Breaking Bad” television series, was Master of Ceremonies for the night. He said he knew Emily since she was 3, and was thankful to those who attended the gala. 

“There over 200 children being helped because you are here tonight,” Banks said while on stage. “It’s no small deal. It’s great.”

Banks said he was one of the kids who “fell between the cracks and needed help” with his education, and added that he was almost 20 when he graduated high school. He said what he remembered most about Emily was her life, putting emphasis on the word. 

“I’ve never seen a child more full of life,” Banks said.

Malibu resident Kevin Cozen bids on a silent auction item during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Malibu resident Kevin Cozen bids on a silent auction item during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Ellen Shane introduced several children who participate in the SEA program. The kids shared stories of their educational improvements as a result of the program. 

Durron Williams, 14, said SEA helped him with his confidence, and spoke in high regard of the mentors who help him and the other kids in the program. 

“The tutors, they don’t just teach you,” said Williams, who was the least shy child when he told his story. “They take their time, they help you learn and they help you realize the things that you can do.”

Kelsey Crispeno, a 20-year-old sophomore at Loyola Marymount University, is a mentor for the program. She said her experience there has been unique and rewarding. 

“It’s been really cool not only to watch my students grow and succeed in their own way, but for me to be able to witness that,” said Crispeno, who has been a mentor for about four months. “I feel like I’ve experienced growth in the way that I see the world in kind of a different way.”

Benjamin Seng paints on a canvas during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Benjamin Seng paints on a canvas during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Ellen Shane said she likes to use mentors who are either in college or recent graduates. However, she has struggled finding students in Malibu. 

“Here in Malibu, I have a really hard time, actually, sourcing enough mentors for the kids,” Ellen Shane said. “There’s always a much longer list of kids who need the help than mentors I can find.”

The gala featured live entertainment from singer-songwriter Taylor Phelan and comedian Mike Marino. Various items were sold in both silent and live auctions throughout the night. 

Some items being sold were paintings, photographs of celebrities, Los Angeles Dodgers tickets and more.

The Shane family established the foundation in 2012 in memory of Emily.

Ellen Shane said she suffers every day, but has learned to cope with the loss of her daughter through her work with the foundation.

“If I defined myself by my daughter’s loss, I would be sad all the time and I wouldn’t be able to cope or function,” Shane said. “But instead … I wanted to do something that would have been meaningful to her and also helping others. That alone lifts me and makes me feel better about the tragedy.”

Jonathan Banks (right) talks to Ellen and Michel Shane during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

Jonathan Banks (right) talks to Ellen and Michel Shane during the Stars and Sea Gala on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Casa Escobar in Malibu, Calif.

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