SMMUSD Board Hears Malibu and SM Parents And Teachers Berate Drati As New Supt Is Selected

Written by on April 3, 2023

The Santa Monica-Malibu school district is seeking a new superintendent … and deep divisions between the school board … its teachers and parents are appearing.

Last week .. the school board met to take in community comments on what parents … teachers and voters want to see in a new superintendent … to replace 

Malibu parent Wade major testified that the board’s apparent desire to continue threw policies of the departed superintendent … Ben Drati … will be a disaster  in hiring a new superintendent.

Major said Drati was concentrating in the wrong places …. Things like equity … social justice … and project-based learning getting too much attention.


“I cannot imagine any self-respecting chief executive of quality not being insulted by that intimation …. especially in light of Dr. Drati reputation which … if we are honest … has been a disaster.

“To this day Dr. Drati is universally loathed in Malibu for his handling of the Woolsey Fire and open expression of disdain to our community.

“Many of us have heard first-hand from district staff how his management style … rewarding loyalty and punishing disloyalty … fostered a culture of fear and intimidation.

“If we are just looking at the numbers .. that too represents a legacy of failure.”

Criticism of Drati .. and of perceived efforts to hire someone to continue Drati’s style … was withering from teachers last week.

More than 180 teachers signed a letter to the board … complaining that they are not being consulted … even on the issue of what qualities the new superintendent should possess. 

Teacher Stephanie Matheson said new superintendent needs listen to students parents and teachers.


“Another criteria has developed that the teachers would like to see in our new superintendent. “And that is one of to pause … to take stock of what has happened to our district.

“To listen to teachers and parents declassified staff. 

“And take the bold steps to repair, heal and rebuild our district.”

A frequent district critic … Angela De Gaitano of Santa Monica … piled on the Drati pyre.


“We have come off a disastrous situation with Dr. Drati and I think that is imperative that the board listens not only to voices that agree with them but also with those who don’t.

“We had a lack of respect and dignity in terms of the relationship between the administration and the public, and you can see that by our declining rates of enrollment.”

But one parent dissented.

JoAnne Berlin said Drati’s initiatives were important … and came from his bosses on the school board.


“Having known Dr. Drati personally and worked with him, any description of him that was given today was just totally inaccurate as I’m concerned. 

“And I was actually pleased to see that the description for the new DS (District Superintendent) was carried forward, the gains that we have made in the priorities that were set with Dr. Ben Drati.”

Berlin said Drati was successful in implementing policies set by the school board… 

But that is exactly what infuriated Malibu parents… When Dr. Drati actively campaigned against Malibu in the separation effort.

Drati is gone… And the school board is on record as favoring and working towards his separate Malibu school district

The new school board wades into the hiring process for a new superintendent with those waters swirling around… And the early signs were that the school board was blissfully unaware of how important the district separation was to Malibu parents in terms of hiring a new school superintendent.

A list of priorities for parents to consider in a poll on the issue did not even include the Malibu school district separation as an item.

The board… in the last two weeks… added the Malibu school divorce to the list of items that the new superintendent should be able to advance.

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