A county committee on Saturday refused a demand by Santa Monica to kill an independent school district in Malibu; later, officials from the two cities adopted a potential settlement.
At the September 18 meeting, the special committee of the LA County Office of Education voted, 8 to 2, to have its staff look further into the matter, after rejecting an effort by Santa’s lone committee member. Monica to kill the whole subject immediately. County staff will now consider finances, equity and whether to divide the common school district from the two remote towns.
But in a surprising wrinkle, after the vote, negotiators from both sides told KBUU News that the two sides were very close to the terms of a divorce on the terms proposed by the Santa Monica side three years ago. And SMMUSD school board president Jon Kean of Santa Monica told KBUU he was open to resuming talks.
The Saturday hearing was swift and complicated. Both sides denigrated the other; Malibu went first, with around 40 speakers each having one minute. Jo Drummond of Malibu said officials from Santa Monica displayed a “selfish and greedy attitude,” saying they “don’t care about the families in Malibu who are suffering in such an unfair, unfair and hostile school system.”
Malibu High student leader Monica Reynaldo said the differences between the two cities were “alarmingly apparent,” including educational opportunities not available to Malibu students.
Even Santa Monica City Council member Oscar de la Torre, a former school board member, spoke out in favor of Malibu’s separation.
“I can tell you that the problems facing the people of Malibu are real, ”said de la Torre. “The lack of representation, the lack of respect. You know, I’ve seen it with the fight against PCBs; I saw it with comments from members of the Santa Monica school board.
Then came the Santa Monica contingent, which portrayed Malibu as elitist, racist, and exclusionary. An elder from Samohi said she was “afraid of the consequences if the Malibu petition was successful, especially under-served students.”
SMMUSD board members have spoken out strongly against Malibu. Board member Jennifer Smith, nominated to represent both Santa Monica and Malibu, not only criticized Malibu, but also made a statement contradicted by the county.
“It has never occurred to me that a staff advising on matters of importance to education would have recommended that a petition that fails on eight of the nine criteria be elevated for further consideration. “said Smith.
The county’s study, however, did not pass judgment on whether Malibu’s petition met the nine conditions set out by state law. So far, the preliminary report has found a lack of information on eight of the nine criteria.
Committee member Susan Solomon said these facts need to be determined and Malibu deserves to have a decision based on whether or not these nine criteria are met.
“Even though they’re not substantially satisfied, from what you’ve written, it basically says they’re inconclusive because there isn’t enough information,” Solomon said.
This is precisely the argument that Malibu made and ultimately won.
The committee members’ discussion was cut short when a committee member, Barry Snell, made a sudden motion to throw everything out and kill the Malibu independence campaign on the spot. Snell said Malibu started this petition campaign in 2015 and should have made a deal with Santa Monica already.
Snell, as a board member for Santa Monica College, which chairs Malibu, is the only member of that county committee to be voted on by voters in Malibu.
His efforts to kill Reader Malibu would likely play well among Santa Monica voters, who far outnumber Malibu voters. And this digital difference is the very heart of the problem in Malibu.
“Based on the timeframe they had to negotiate this petition, there would have been more information against these nine criteria,” Snell said. “I would like to present a motion to reject the petition and ask individuals on both sides to come back to the table, negotiate this and give us a way so that we can finally see these two districts come up with plausible economic and fair solutions to the decisions.”
This motion failed, 8-2.
Malibu scored a victory on Saturday, said Karen Farrer, a member of the Malibu city council who has worked there for decades, but even if Malibu is successful in its independence campaign, it will take years for the State Department bureaucracy to recover. Education to deal with it. .
This means the two cities will have to live together, even though the only Malibu school board member Craig Foster has testified that it is a bitterly divided house.
“If two people go to divorce court and the court denies them a divorce, they don’t just go home and live happily ever after,” Foster said.
And both sides agreed that this indicates a big problem. Even if Malibu gets what he wants, it will take three to six years for the county bureaucrats and then the state education office to process the independence request.
Responding to a reporter’s remarks that the two sides have shown acrimony and meanness to each other, Kean agreed and added that Santa Monica and Malibu will have to work together in the meantime.
“There is vitriol on both sides and I appreciate you saying that, because it leads to what I realized, that we’ll never realize who did what first,” Kean said. “And if we go down that path, all we do is ignite and ignite and ignite, and it becomes this binary political lane that we’re stuck on now where do you agree with me or you’re an idiot. “
Malibu and Santa Monica could be very close to a deal.
Speaking to KBUU News after the meeting, the city’s deputy prosecutor Christine Wood said Santa Monica had negotiated in bad faith.
In that interview, Wood said that Malibu actually accepted Santa Monica’s offer in 2018. On Monday, following a broadcast of Wood’s statements to this effect, the attorney clarified: yes, Malibu accepted. the offer, subject to certain contingencies.
“Your original question was whether the door was still open for negotiation, and the city has always maintained that the door is open for negotiation, except the city asked for it and school services recommended that the parties negotiate through third party arbitration. Wood said on Monday: “It is important for the city that we do this because we have felt in the past that the district does not negotiate in good faith, and the city demands that the school district have something to do as well. at stake in the negotiations. “
On Sunday, Kean said he would travel to Malibu “today” to sign the 2018 deal. On Monday, he said that despite the city’s backtracking on Monday morning, Malibu and Santa Monica were very, very close. .
Of course, the devil is in the details, and some of those details are substantial, as the county pointed out on Saturday.
For example: County negotiators referred to the old BB and E measures bond issues from two decades ago. They paid to build a new campus at Santa Monica High School, but left Malibu High largely unfinished.
And if there was a split of the two neighborhoods, Santa Monica would own the luxury Samohi buildings, which were taken out with pledges backed by Malibu tax revenue. So who owns the debt?
By some estimates, $ 90 million in Malibu tax dollars was committed to repay the bonds, which mainly benefited the Santa Monica school campuses. MHS remained unfinished, with Malibu now in its own sub-district to impose itself to complete the job,
The county may need to find a way to divide that property and debt, officials said on Saturday. This was one of the many details that would have to be worked out, even if both sides agreed to the 2018 proposal.
Back in county divorce court, Saturday’s vote means another public hearing this fall, and then another study, this time into those financial details.
A version of this story was first broadcast by KBUU news.