First Time Principal Takes the Helm at Webster Elementary School

Lila Daruty 

Though leading Webster Elementary School is Lila Daruty’s first assignment as principal of a school, she is no stranger to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

In a phone interview with The Malibu Times this week, she listed positions including teaching at Will Rogers Elementary and McKinley Elementary schools in Santa Monica, and serving as a full-time instructional coach. Most recently, she was the Grant Elementary School assistant principal and the SMMUSD coordinator of beginning teacher induction in “half-time” capacities, rounding out more than 15 years with the school district.

In her position as coordinator of beginning teacher induction, she helped recommend teachers with preliminary credentials for additional California-required credentialing.

Through that position, Daruty said, she worked with Malibu teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

“I have extensive knowledge [of] and I worked with and coached at least two teachers,” she said of the Webster educators.

She also helped coordinate teachers’ national board certification, several of which were or are at Webster as well. 

And now, she said, she is excited to take on the role of principal.

“In terms of my career, I’ve wanted to become a principal, so it feels so fortunate and grateful that I was selected for this gem of a school,” Daruty explained. “The parents [and] teachers have been very welcoming.” 

On Monday, July 29, she was invited to attend a meet-and-greet by the school’s parent-teacher association. The informal meeting was attended by current and prospective parents, something she said impressed her.

“I did recognize that there is a desire for really supporting students to be very well rounded in the arts and in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] and in music,” she described, but said the desire was one shared by many in the school district.

On reflecting about her newness to the role, Daruty was optimistic: “I would say that what I may lack—which I’m not saying I do—as an actual site principal, I think I make up in terms of the variety of positions I’ve held within the school district.” 

Additionally, she met with former Webster principal—now Malibu High School principal—Patrick Miller to get the lay of the land.

“As a cohort of principals, we will be meeting regularly to make sure we’re sort of aligning,” she explained, adding that while each school is unique, the group aims to align on core principles. Daruty also met with Chris Hertz, the principal of the new and only other local SMMUSD elementary school—Malibu Elementary School, which combines Juan Cabrillo Elementary School and Point Dume Marine Science School at the latter’s site.

In the 2019-20 school year, she said she is not focused on creating change, which has been something of a recurring theme in Malibu with the ongoing pathway plan to reconfigure the local schools.

Instead, she will be conducting a needs assessment throughout the year at Webster, which she called a “very well-established, high-performing school.” This includes meeting with teachers individually and inviting parents to come and get to know her. 

From parents and teachers, she is interested in knowing: “What does support look like from a principal, given where you sit as a stakeholder?” 

“I would say I am someone who’s a lifelong learner,” Daruty said. “However, this year is really going to be about being present and absorbing what makes this community so amazing already.”