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Published on June 2nd, 2017 | by Katie Osaki

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Students speak out on sustainability at SMMUSD Board Meeting

On Monday May 18, people from across the city gathered at the Santa Monica Malibu School District (SMMUSD) office to push for more sustainable practices in our school district.

In 2012, the Board of Education agreed to, and voted for, a sustainability committee that would advise the Board on any future plans. However, five years since, there is still no committee in sight.

In the utmost importance, more than 70 adults, students, environment fanatics and non-profit organization leaders banded together in an effort to bring sustainability onto the table and push for the promises made in the past. Of the speakers, many of teacher Benjamin Kay’s students were encouraged to take civic initiative by presenting their sustainability projects and concerns to the Board.

“I saw this [meeting as an] opportunity to have kids show up, share their sustainability projects and it would be received as a topic that many of us care about and the board would act, that’s what I was hoping,” Kay said.

After much push from Kay and Team Marine member Amanda Samimi (’17), Kay met with Superintendent Ben Drati, who had previously told him and Samimi that sustainability would not be a discussion item, despite their requests. At their meeting, Drati and the Board finally acknowledged their requests and put sustainability on the schedule. In a press release on May 17, Drati said the following:

“SMMUSD staff is committed to incorporating sustainability initiatives into our facilities projects, integrating sustainable practices throughout our district and infusing sustainability into all aspects of the educational culture, including curriculum. Our past, present and future efforts will benefit our current students and staff and generations to come.”

While this hesitation was a setback for Kay and his Team Marine members, they were able to get sustainability on the schedule and proceed with expressing their concerns.

“I expected the board to become inspired by scores of students passionately wanting a systematic change in the district and galvanize into action,” Samimi said. “However, a lot of the comments from the board members after the public comments were along the lines of ‘there’s only so much we can handle’ and ‘we will get to it eventually’ which is not what we wanted to hear. However they did say that they want to move forward instantly on some fronts, such as the drinking fountain quality issue at Malibu High School.”

In the duration of the meeting, Board members sat listening to speeches from students ranging from concerns about EXPO marker exposure to lack of solar panels at our school.

“What I hope for our district is simple. I want to have green ribbon schools throughout the entire district. Schools where you need only walk 10 feet to see sustainable practices in play,” Ira Zimmerman (’20) said.

Through student participation throughout the district, their hopes for the Board are high, however they have yet to commit to any action plan, but have said that they will move forward in terms of sustainability.

“If sustainability in schools is going to work, there needs to be changes on the part of the students, faculty and administration,” Samimi said. “Luckily those who have teachers like Mr. Kay understand the importance of making green decisions, but in a lot of cases so many students go through their entire school careers and even their lives unaware of the environmental consequences facing us in the future.”

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