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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Unification Proponents Increase Public Involvement in Drive for Local School District

• Advocates for Malibu Public Schools Uses Diverse Array of Formats As the Group’s Outreach and Fundraising Efforts Intensify
 
BY KRISTINA KELL

The group Advocates for Malibu Public Schools is picking up the pace in its movement toward a separate Malibu Unified School District. 
In an intense effort at community mobilization and outreach in May alone, AMPS had scheduled no less that eight public meeting in and around Malibu to update the public on their recent progress toward gaining independence for Malibu public schools. 
AMPS outreach includes not only public meetings but a powerful and concentrated information campaign guided by heavy hitters, including educational specialists, attorneys, marketing strategists, business professionals, web designers, professional fundraisers, lobbyists and Malibu City Council liaisons.
Last week in one such meeting at Malibu City Hall, to a standing-room-only crowd of over 100 parents, teachers and Malibu community members, AMPS unveiled the findings of an independently commissioned feasibility analysis, which determined whether Malibu met the nine required criteria to separate from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. 
The independent feasibility analysis, prepared by WestEd, a research, development, and service agency chosen under the combined direction and authorization of the Santa Monica School Board and Superintendent Sandra Lyon, found that Malibu met the nine criteria required for the separation process.
The independent analysis further found that separation would mean Santa Monica Schools stands to gain $1.9 million in added funds if separation occurred, funds that would otherwise be allocated to Malibu. A copy of WestEd’s feasibility analysis is available at www.ampsmalibu.org/faqs.
AMPS president Craig Foster and members of the AMPS board have been working collaboratively to build the separation plan with Lyon, her chief financial officer, three members of the Santa Monica School Board, city council members from the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu, and senior representatives of the teachers union and the classified employees union in an attempt to bring together these key “stakeholders” to support the separation process. 
AMPS maintains that prior attempts at separation failed mainly because all stakeholders were not brought into mutual agreement. The AMPS board recognizes that agreements between these key stakeholders is imperative in the process and is highly committed to crafting an agreement which will address and satisfy all of these concerned stakeholders. 
AMPS maintains that these agreements could be crafted as soon as fall 2013. 
AMPS further maintains that the three big issues facing separation (1) division and payment of the bonds, (2) the parcel taxes, and (3) union contracts and seniority, can be effectively and satisfactorily negotiated, or kept in place, so that both Santa Monica and Malibu educational communities are unaltered and retain all the benefits and fiscal responsibilities that are currently in place, without added expense, reduction in student benefits, union benefits, or tenure, to any citizens in either district.
The next step for Malibu would be submission of an application in cooperation with all stakeholders to the Los Angeles County Commission on School District Reorganization, and then formal application to the California Board of Education, followed by public vote. 
AMPS has crafted a timeline and thinks separation of the districts could go to a public vote as soon as May 2015. 
AMPS continues to present evidence to the public whereby an independently controlled Malibu school district would not cost Malibu taxpayers added expense and separation would yield a Malibu School District an added $2.6 million.
At the City Hall meeting, Foster outlined some of the difficulties that Malibu has faced in the local control of local schools: Malibu only has 11,000 registered voters compared to Santa Monica’s 60,000; Malibu has only won two seats on the school board of the slots on the ballot in the last 22 elections; trustee voting (school board members elected from predetermined districts) could not be implemented without Santa Monica City approval; and the school board has denied even a nonvoting advisory position on the board for the Malibu community.
AMPS, supported by the WestEd independent analysis, asserts that Malibu and Santa Monica are stronger as separate districts, both financially and in their ability to concentrate and address their specific community concerns without distraction from outside interests.

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