Professor Tahvildaran-Jesswein prepares to take seat on school board

Political Science professor Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein is a man with little free time on hand while stage managing for Global Motion at the Broad Stage. This holds especially true now that Tahvildaran-Jesswein was voted as a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board member after the November local elections. The night of the election, he stood fourth place in the polls, just qualifying him for a seat on the school board which had four open seats. It wasn't until all the votes were counted that Tahvildaran-Jesswein was revealed to be a first runner-up.

An already full-time political science professor, Tahvildaran-Jesswein is an engaged member of the community, serving as SMC's Academic Senate President, Vice-President of education for the district-wide Parent Teacher Association, and Associate Director of SMC's Public Policy Institute, to name a few.

Being a newly appointed member of the board of education, Tahvildaran-Jesswein has an ambitious agenda regarding the progressive and hopeful future of Santa Monica and Malibu K-12 public school students.

As Tahvildaran-Jesswein campaigned for securing his position on the board, he remained "confident knowing [he] works hard and has a long history of teaching and being a part of the community." He added that, despite these accomplishments, being a political science teacher has taught him to not be overconfident in political elections.

The extensive positions Tahvildaran-Jesswein holds regarding education gives him a deep understanding of dynamics within the public school system and a well prepared knowledge of the direction necessary for improvement. Being a parent and a professor, Tahvildaran-Jesswein says he has knowledgeable insight from both perspectives as well as a "direct connection" from high school to SMC.

One issue among many that Tahvildaran-Jesswein intends to address is the achievement gap among students. Due to this gap, he feels that the seniors from Santa Monica High School will attend SMC next year won't be prepared with all the fundamentals of learning. Tahvildaran-Jesswein explained that this problem needs to be met with solutions beginning with students in kindergarten and continue throughout their entire primary education.

One component of this issue is the lack of importance of education and excitement regarding school that's instilled in students. "I want students to understand why education is so important," said Tahvildaran-Jesswein. Working with parents and teachers, he explained, is the most effective way of making these things happen. He believes that learning should be thought of as fun, rather than a dreaded chore, and a collaborative effort to diminish the negative stigma associated with school will diminish the achievement gap.

Tahvildaran-Jesswein is also focused on the necessity of fundraising. According to Tahvildaran-Jesswein, the school district needs to raise 4 million dollars, not including state funding, in order to keep the same schooling programs. "We've all rolled up our sleeves preparing to make it happen", he said. Policy makers and the board is working hard to meet that goal, he said, however adding that, "it's difficult to raise that much." Without necessary funding, Tahvildaran-Jesswein said schools would have to make unwanted budget cuts.

"I'm proud of becoming a board member because it's walking the walk, now I have a role in instituting changes people want to see," he said.