Report: Separate Malibu school district feasible

Ashley Archibald

JANUARY 18, 2013 7:32 PM


MALIBU — A study commissioned by parents shows that a Malibu-only school district could meet most of the legal requirements for leaving the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, but many questions remain regarding how the process can move forward.

According to the study, a Malibu Unified School District would have the population and funds necessary to split off, but it would need to prove that it could meet the needs of special and alternative education students and that the majority of Malibu residents were in favor of leaving.

Other issues that would need to be addressed include splitting property between the two new districts and securing special legislation to preserve the Measure R parcel tax, which the report refers to as “crucial to deem the reorganization viable.” Measure R was approved by 73 percent of the voters in 2008 and generated roughly $10.6 million in 2011-12.

Craig Foster, president of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, which commissioned the study, said that although many questions had yet to be answered, the report showed that the district was capable of meeting the nine criteria prescribed under the Education Code.
“There are no difficult solutions here. We’re committed to making it work,” Foster said.

Members of the Malibu community have been pushing to break away from the existing district for many years, citing a sense that the two communities are too different and geographically separate to work as a single entity.

They have long been upset with the lack of Malibu representation on the board. The last representative from Malibu, Kathy Wisnicki, left the board in 2008.

A slate of three Malibu candidates, including Foster, failed to beat out the three Santa Monica incumbents in the most recent election.

The report was paid for by Malibu parents and created with the cooperation of SMMUSD officials, who promised to work with them to explore the possible split in 2012.

It addresses nine criteria laid out by the Education Code that the Los Angeles County Office of Education will have to consider if a petition to break up the district garners enough signatures from Malibu voters.

That body will make a recommendation which then gets forwarded to the state Department of Education, which can either act on the matter or shelve it perpetually.

To read more, go here.

Happy New Year!

AMPS_Logo_WEB_RGB_080112_v0F 192x192Hi Everybody!

Lots to report in 2013! We’ve gotten the independent study of the feasibility of separating from SMMUSD finalized. We’ve had our second meeting with the SMMUSD Unification Committee. We’re restructuring AMPS & AMPS Foundation, including and new website and considerably improved information access and outreach.

Information on all this is coming very soon. In the mean time, we had discussed having a general meeting on Jan 23rd. We have decided to postpone that meeting for a few weeks.

Very best wishes, thanks for your support, and happy new year!!!


AMPS General Meeting – Wednesday, December 5th, 7:00 pm, Community Room, Malibu City Hall

Next Wednesday, Dec 5th, at 7 pm in the Community Room in the Malibu Civic Center, Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) will be holding its monthly general meeting.

Among other things on the agenda will be:

  • The election results
  • The Measure ES Super Site Committee
  • Districtwide Fundraising
  • Malibu representation
  • Separation
  • Our outreach and communication strategy
  • And our new fundraising plan!

Please note, this is an evening meeting.

See you there!

AMPS “Bring a Friend Night” Meeting: Oct 18th, 7 pm!

This Thursday, Oct 18th, at 7 pm in the Community Room in the Malibu Civic Center, Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) will be holding its monthly general meeting. Among other things on the agenda will be presentations on the state of the separation initiative and our new and evolving communication/outreach strategy.

“Bring a Friend Night” is a great chance to introduce people who may not have attended an AMPS meeting before to our organization and our activities. Please reach out in your community and bring at least one new person if you can. Of course, all community members both new and old are invited to attend, solo or in groups of any size. :)

Please note, this is an evening meeting.

See you there!

Malibu Pushes for Equal Voice in Allocation of Measure ES Funding

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board members maintain that Malibu’s voice has been represented on bond measure projects at Malibu schools.

By Jessica E. Davis

Malibu activists and leaders pressed the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education for a formal agreement to ensure an equal voice on the spending of 20 percent of a $385 million bond measure that will go before voters in November.

SMMUSD board members did not take action following a two-hour discussion Thursday around the possibility of forming a Malibu Measure ES Input Committee, pushing the discussion to November to allow for more time to gather input and resolve differences with the Malibu community.

Measure ES is aimed at providing a portion of $1 billion needed for improvements and technology upgrades at Malibu and Santa Monica schools.

For the past few months, Malibu leaders and activists have urged the district to create a joint powers authority—a legal agreement between two or more jurisdictions working together. In this case, the body would include Malibu representatives and members of the Board of Education.

Malibu-only Committee Could Make Critical Bond Funding Decisions

During Thursday’s meeting at Malibu City Hall, several people, including Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal, pressed the need for a joint powers authority, or something close to it, to ensure Malibu has an equal role in deciding how the funds are spent.

“What we need is a legal entity so Malibu gets to make the decisions that are binding for how their money is spent,” Rosenthal said.

She pointed to an existing agreement between the city of Malibu and Santa Monica Community College. The Malibu Public Facilities Authority, created through a joint powers agreement, includes two city councilmembers and two members of the college’s Board of Trustees. The entity makes decisions about the construction of the college’s planned satellite campus in the Malibu Civic Center area.

Craig Foster, who is a Malibu candidate for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and president of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, said he believes having a formal agreement would help build consensus within the community around projects.

“I think it would make a dramatic difference in how smoothly it moves in our community,” Foster said.

To read more, go here.

SMMUSD School Board Candidates to Meet in Malibu for Forum

The six candidates will share their opinions about the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District at Pepperdine University in a forum using questions from the community.

By Jessica E. Davis

The 2012 Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education campaign will kick into high gear with a forum later this month.

The forum, featuring all six candidates, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Fireside Room of Pepperdine University. The event is sponsored by Malibu Patch and Malibu Rotary, which regularly meets at Pepperdine on Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m.

To read more, go here.

AMPS Board Endorses Proposition 38

The Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) board endorses the “Our Children, Our Future: Local Schools and Early Education Investment Act.”

From the “Yes on 38” website:

Proposition 38 is the only education initiative on the ballot because it guarantees that new education dollars go straight to every local school, and can be used to restore cuts to improve student learning.

Instead of investing in our schools, political leaders from both parties have been cutting. Since 2008, they’ve cut school budgets by $20 billion. Over 40,000 educators have been laid off, and California now has the largest class sizes in the nation.

Because of this, Proposition 38 was created and is endorsed by the California State PTA, school districts, education advocates, and the Advancement Project, with funding from civil rights attorney Molly Munger.

We believe our children deserve better.

Prop 38 raises $10 billion a year for schools, puts it into a secure trust fund that Sacramento politicians can’t touch, and distributes the money evenly on a per-child basis to every public school.

Click here to learn more about how Proposition 38 works.

We invite Californians from all parts of the state, of all backgrounds and political affiliations, to join this campaign to finally make a real, transformative investment in the education of our children. If we can count you in, click here.

School Board Candidates Meet in First Debate

By Jessica E. Davis

All six candidates discussed a variety of issues impacting the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, including the district’s financing, the possibility of creating two districts and Malibu representation.

Envisioning a possible future in which both Proposition 30 and 38 did not pass, all six candidates agreed that increasing revenues and cutting costs was the clear path ahead for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

The candidates—incumbents Ben Allen, Jose Escarce and Maria Leon Vazquez and Malibu challengers Craig Foster, Karen Farrer and Seth Jacobson—met for the first debate of the election Wednesday at Malibu City Hall. The forum was sponsored by the Santa Monica League of Women’s Voters and the Santa Monica Malibu PTA Council in partnership with the City of Malibu.


In another round of questions, the moderator asked candidates about their position on the possible separation of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

Leon-Vazquez was the lone voice of opposition to unification, the term used by education officials for the process to separate school districts.

“There really hasn’t been any factual arguments made within Malibu that we have been unfair and the children of Malibu have not fared well,” Leon-Vazquez said, spurring some comments of outrage from the Malibu audience.

Foster, Farrer and Jacobson all supported unification, citing analysis from the district and an independent consultant.

“Anybody who doesn’t think we are entirely different communities who need to be left to local control hasn’t been paying attention,” Foster said.

Farrer lambasted Santa Monica board members, except for Allen, for not coming out to Malibu on a regular basis.

“The present staff and board of education does not have the time and the interest to come out here,” Farrer said.

Allen, who said he wants to make sure all parties are on board for the complicated process, said he thinks the proposal makes sense, especially since Malibu has matured as a community and a city.

“We’re moving very close to where it makes sense for us to separate,” Allen said.

Escarce also said he is willing to support unification if the facts show it is viable for both communities.

“This is a complicated process and unfortunately, for better or worse, it is a highly political process at the county and state level,” Escarce said.

To read more (including comments on Malibu representation on the school board), go here.

Reminder: School Board Candidates Forum, Malibu City Hall, Tonight!!!

Today Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, at 6:30 pm at Malibu City Hall in the City Council Chambers, the League of Women Voters of Santa Monica, SMMUSD PTA Council, and the City of Malibu are co-sponsoring aSchool Board Candidates Forum.

All six school board candidates will be present for this nonpartisan, educational, interactive candidates forum. It will be moderated by a member of the League and will feature a panel of representatives from the two co-sponsoring organizations. Candidates will respond to a series of questions posed by the moderators, submitted by email, from the press, and from the audience.

As you know, AMPS leaders Karen Farrer, Craig Foster, and Seth Jacobson are running for school board and will be facing the three incumbents in this forum. It should be illuminating and entertaining!

Please join us!!! Your support and participation are essential!



New blood needed on school board

Three seats on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education are open. Incumbents Ben Allen, Jose Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez are hoping to be re-elected. Voters have a real chance to turn the district around this year

The SMMUSD is poorly and inefficiently managed. Most of our kids do get a good education, but not a great one. Social justice agendas, power politics, lack of imagination and cronyism have resulted in public schools that lag far behind their maximum potential and what our community deserves.

Our schools are always in crisis. There’s never enough money. And, because overall standardized test scores have risen statewide as well as locally, district improvements just “keep up with the Jones” and aren’t pulling ahead.

What’s missing and desperately needed is meaningful engagement in raising achievement: clear district-wide plans and goals, concise core methodologies for achieving them, alignment of resources to support planning and goals and methodologies to measure success.

I spent hours talking with Craig Foster and Karen Farrer from Malibu. I found them to be refreshingly honest, enthusiastic and highly qualified for seats on the school board.

Foster has children in the district, a master’s degree in education and works part-time as a substitute teacher at Malibu’s Webster Elementary School. He’s also a member of the district’s Financial Oversight Committee (FOC). Farrer has been a volunteer with the SMMUSD for 21 years and a Santa Monica/Malibu PTA Council board member for the past nine years. Her three children are SMMUSD products.

To read more, go here.