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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

November 4, 2016 -- As expected, the board of education voted Thursday to appoint Dr. Ben Drati from Santa Barbara as the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified District’s (SMMUSD) next superintendent.

Drati will begin work on January 1. The SMMUSD has been without a superintendent since Sandra Lyon stepped down in July to head a school district in Palm Springs ("Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Superintendent to Leave Post," May 3, 2016).
Dr. Ben Drati

"My first task is to go out and meet people at our schools and in the community," Drati said. "I am committed to keeping the interest of children as my highest priority.

"I will work collaboratively with the board, teachers, classified staff and parents, and commit to serving as a worthy ambassador of SMMUSD to the world."

Drati has been the assistant superintendent of secondary education in the Santa Barbara Unified School District since 2012.

Prior to that, he was the principal of Clovis West High School in the Fresno area. He came to the school in 2002, serving in other positions before being promoted to principal in 2007.

Other jobs have included chemistry teacher and high school football coach.

A statement issued by district officials after his appointment described Drati as a "strong, confident and collaborative leader who is deeply committed to improving the lives of all students."

He is a native of Uganda, fleeing from the war-torn country as the age of 10 with his family in the late 1970s.

He attended Los Angeles High School and earned a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and a doctorate in education from Fresno State. Drati also played football at the school

"We are thrilled with Dr. Drati’s appointment and look forward to working with him," said board of education president Laurie Lieberman in a statement issued after the meeting.

She added, "We are confident that his leadership skills, passion and energy will guide our students, parents, staff and community toward a successful future."

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