The SMMUSD Board has appointed Keith Coleman to fill Santa Monica City Council Member Oscar de la Torre’s vacant seat.
Coleman, a Santa Monica resident, has experience as an education innovator, policy adviser, angel investor and mental fitness coach. He has one son currently enrolled in Lincoln Middle School and an older son who attended Roosevelt Elementary School and Santa Monica High School.
Of the 22 qualified candidates who gave speeches, board members nominated Keith Coleman, Nicole Faries and Seth Jacobson (the only Malibu resident) for a vote. Four of the six members—Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Laurie Lieberman, Maria Leon-Vazquez and Board President Jon Kean—voted for Coleman, giving him a clear majority.
“I wholeheartedly believe that Keith Coleman is the best and right person to fill this position,” Kean said. “Keith has a very compelling connection to special education in his family. I believe he will be a strong voice not only for social justice, but for all families who feel that their child has not been heard or seen.”
Coleman was the second runner up for a school board seat in the November election.
One of Coleman’s top priorities will be helping advance a comprehensive rollout of social justice standards for the district.
“Millions came out into the street to recognize that systemic racism runs through all of our institutions that deny equal opportunity, and none of those institutions is as important as public education,” Coleman said, referring to this summer’s Black Lives Matter protest movement.
Coleman has experience driving access to higher education, STEM programs, humanities learning and entrepreneurship opportunities for Black, Latino, immigrant and female students through his leadership work with the Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs of Southern California, White House Young America Series and Tesla Foundation.
“I hope to continue to support the powerful practices and innovations that the district has put forward with project based learning, dynamic compelling facilities, improvement projects to help students move forward in the 21st century and the continued act of work with the Noguera report to move that playbook into practical operational fashion,” said Coleman, while sharing his goals as a prospective board member.
The Noguera report was published in 2016 and revealed that Black and Latino students have historically performed at much lower levels than White and Asian American students in the district.
Coleman also has a background in mental health awareness and strives to create safe and supportive learning environments where students are empowered to work to the best of their abilities.
Coleman has been involved in the SMMUSD community for many years and currently serves as the Co-chair of the Intercultural Equity + Excellence District Advisory Committee and the Parent Connection Group.
He has also been committed to public education through an appointment as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar with mediaX at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.
SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati swore in Coleman following his appointment by board members. Coleman will serve the remainder of de la Torre’s term until the November 2022 election when he will be eligible to run for a full term.
De la Torre, who initially argued he should retain his seat on the board, did not reply to a request for comment by the time The Malibu Times went to print on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Following Coleman’s appointment, there is a 30-day window during which voters may petition for a special election, should they oppose the appointment.
A version of this story first appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press. It was edited to appear in The Malibu Times.