Letter addressed to the Santa Monica Daily Press

The other day, a friend mentioned that Keith Coleman, who unsuccessfully ran for SMMUSD School Board, is now sending his child to Brentwood, an exclusive private school. 

This is only news because Coleman was later appointed to the SMMUSD School Board over the candidate with the next-most votes. I thought that couldn’t be true. How could a board member, who is supposed to represent the citizens of Santa Monica and Malibu, not believe that SMMUSD schools are good enough for his child? How could a current board member take their child out of a SMMUSD school and put them in an exclusive private school?

I wrote to Coleman to ask if this was true. Before he responded, I happened to run into him in the neighborhood.

He told me that his wife wanted their child to go to Brentwood. 

I said that if he couldn’t convince his wife that SMMUSD schools are good enough for their child, how could he convince me as a Santa Monica resident and constituent that the schools are good enough for my child?

Maybe he could clarify to his constituents what Brentwood does better than SMMUSD. Are the classes smaller? Do they not focus on standardized testing like SMMUSD? Do they have sports teams in middle school? Do they have science textbooks in middle school?

Shouldn’t Coleman be advocating for all this at SMMUSD schools rather than giving up?

Without Coleman’s child, there is only one board member who has a child in the district.

How did we get here?

Keith Coleman was appointed to the school board on Jan. 15. He beat out 22 other applicants including Jason Feldman, who had the fourth-most votes in the election. Coleman had the fifth-most votes. Typically, one would think that since the residents of Santa Monica and Malibu had just voted, the school board would pick the next runner up. But they didn’t.

From the SMDP Jan. 16, 2021:

“I wholeheartedly believe that Keith Coleman is the best and right person to fill this position,” said Board President Jon Kean. “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.”

Did the board know that Coleman had already applied to Brentwood? Did they know that he had plans to take his child from Lincoln and move him to an exclusive private school that many residents of Santa Monica cannot afford?

No law says that one needs to have a child in SMMUSD to be on the school board. But it is mind-boggling to be appointed to the school board to be an advocate for students and then take your child out of public school.

While Coleman has worked to help students in the district, the optics here are terrible. He should resign and let someone who believes in the SMMUSD schools enough to keep their kid in our schools take his place.

Wendy Dembo

SMDP Editor’s Note: Keith Coleman released the following statement in response to the letter.

“The decision that my son would attend Brentwood School was a family decision. Some appear to have misconstrued this decision as an indication that I lack confidence in our public schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe our public schools do an excellent job in providing educational opportunities for our students and as a board member of SMMUSD, I am committed to working diligently to make our schools even better.”

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