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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

AMPS Outlines Mission to Create Separate Malibu Unified School District


• Group Plans to Meet Every Third Wednesday of the Month at City Hall to Report on Progress

BY KRISTINA KELL

The group AMPS, Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, met with members of the public at its regularly scheduled meeting (the third Wednesday of every month, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Malibu City Hall), to discuss its plans regarding separating the Malibu area from the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District.
AMPS board members outlined their mission for the upcoming months, which include detailed plans to compile and distribute information addressing the concerns and benefits of any separation—information that the community would need in evaluating an upcoming decision to create a Malibu Unified School District. 
Currently the AMPS board of directors includes Craig Foster, president; Seth Jacobson, vice president; Melanie Goudzwaard, treasurer; and board members Patricia Manney, Karen Farrer, Laureen Sills; as well as two city council liaison, Laura Rosenthal and Lou LaMonte.
AMPS board members discussed their plans to print, distribute and make available to the Malibu community, informational material including financial information, information on the district formation process, effects of a separation on the Malibu community and how Malibu could envision the new district to function successfully and efficiently. 
Dialogue during the meeting included talks to cultivate a comprehensive AMPS membership, increasing inclusive community representation and commencing with an official and organized fundraising campaign.
AMPS board members assert they are dedicated to transparency in this process and discussed providing public access to all information concerning the AMPS mission, financial statements and fund expenditures—wanting to set a precedent for a financially transparent MUSD  at this early stage. 
Plans to poll the Malibu public, including the unincorporated areas of Malibu, which would be included in an MUSD, are underway and AMPS members state they are eager to hear more from the community. 
AMPS representatives and representatives from SMMUSD have scheduled sit-down talks to begin mid-June, to discuss among other things, the hiring of a seasoned independent and objective evaluator/consultant to work with both parties on the separation of the districts, including all aspects of the negotiations and financial details concerning the separation. 
Preliminary financial reports supplied by the SMMUSD have indicated that separating the districts is financially viable.  According to the SMMUSD financial report, separation would mean Santa Monica schools could reap an additional $600,000 toward its budget deficit, while Malibu, if current parcel taxes remain in place, would have an approximate $650,000 school-budget surplus.
Members of the Malibu community have expressed interest in ascertaining how the overall quality of education and special education would be tackled in an independent Malibu school district,  AMPS expects to address these and other issues in the upcoming months, including the MUSD school board election process, the bond measure, existing parcel taxes, the location of an administrative office, environmental and financial impacts, if any, on the citizens of Malibu. 
Many complicated questions regarding the separation have yet to be publically addressed, and AMPS members have positioned themselves as a community representative body and Malibu’s go-to information source for separation negotiations.  
However, AMPS claims that the entirety of current financial data relied upon in any separation negotiations will be watertight data supplied by proficient experts hired by both the communities of Malibu and Santa Monica.
AMPS further asserted, that it will proceed with a movement to separate districts only as long as it is financially practical for both communities and the quality of education and special education is maintained or exceeds current standards.

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