The Beverly Hills Unified School Board voted 4-1 at its Oct. 19 meeting to use a state grant to hire a part-time parent liaison to work with families and the district to address problems around bullying.
During the meeting, the board and Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy also acknowledged the profound effect that the Hamas-Israel war is having on students and doubled down on the district’s commitment to provide a supportive environment for all students.
The new parent liaison role was a recommendation of BHUSD’s Behavior and Accountability Advisory Panel, which was established at the behest of Bregy to address the uptick in student behavioral issues following the pandemic.
Elham “Ellie” Samadi, a BHUSD parent and member of the panel, was selected to fill the position.
Samadi will be responsible for establishing a therapy referral system for families, providing parent seminars on bullying, forming a task force to assist families with bullying issues, and providing emergency Marriage and Family Therapy services.
She will be paid at a rate of $120 per hour for up to 20 hours per week in a total amount not to exceed $77,000. One-time funding from the state’s Learning Recovery Emergency Block Grant will be used to support the position.
The new position was supported by all board members, with the exception of Board President Noah Margo who voted against the contract.
“I think this one-time money would be better suited to help students who have had learning loss issues,” he said. “I think learning loss should be the priority for those funds since we have an incredible support system for social-emotional wellness already in place.
While the state grant is intended to support learning recovery, it can also be applied to social-emotional support programs.
Bregy, for his part, said that the parent liaison position will fill a gap in needs by going into the community and taking a close look at factors fueling bullying behavior.
“Oftentimes what we have found is that if there is an issue with the student and there’s some bullying that’s happening, there is
actually something going on in the home,” he said. “This position can take the time to kind of take a deeper dive into that.”
While the parent liaison will help address bullying districtwide, it will focus in particular on Beverly Vista Middle School and Beverly Hills High School, Bregy said.
The other board members agreed that the position is important and are excited to see Samadi fill it.
“I think it’s wonderful when there are parents in our district who come forward with interest to serve and they’re willing to get into the so-called trenches to help, because they are passionate about a particular problem,” said Board Vice President Amanda Stern. “I feel that Miss Samadi will be super helpful and I’m very grateful for her commitment and happy to support this appointment.”
After the Board voted to approve the parent liaison position, Bregy turned his attention to a pressing need for student social-emotional support: the ongoing war in Israel.
Bregy spoke about some of the criticism that he faced following the brief statement he released when the conflict broke out and how he strove to address concerns by issuing a more thorough message condemning the atrocities committed by Hamas and doubling down on the district’s support for all students.
This support includes mental wellness centers, counselors, administrators meeting with student groups to discuss more ways to support students and a moment of silence at Beverly Hills High School for lives lost.
“Thank you for the grace,” he said. “As many people as were happy with the communications, some were not; and I get that, and I understand that, and I appreciate living in a community that’s willing to give me the feedback to do better.”
Board members thanked Bregy for acknowledging what a difficult time this is for the community, for listening to feedback and offering support for families.
“I think we’re all traumatized. I know I am. I have my own immediate family stuck in Israel and it’s been absolutely heartbreaking,” said Stern.
“Thank you for allowing me to always give you my honest feedback,” she added. “We are sharing and I see that you’re really processing it all.”