SMMUSD HDQTRS — Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District officials and Malibu-area parents are working together to strengthen bonds of communication between the two groups, which have found themselves at odds in recent years.

Superintendent Tim Cuneo and three school board members met with Malibu parents last Wednesday to talk about how to improve the relationship between the district and the Malibu pathway, Cuneo said.

Many of the problems stem from the geographic separation, Cuneo said, which prevents parents and officials from interacting often.

“Right now, the group is physically separated, so there’s less of a chance of us running into each other,” he said. “It’s helpful to have a formal kind of relationship to share ideas and get to know each other better.”

The discussions have highlighted a series of issues, including a disparity in class offerings at the high school and a lack of representation. No school board members hail from Malibu.

“I would like to have a formal Malibu member,” said Seth Jacobson, a father of three children who all attend Malibu schools.

However, school board members have been making an effort of late to reach out and address Malibu issues, Jacobson said.

Although she would love to have a Malibu-based board member, parent Wendy Sidley said it was enough for the board members to show that they represent all students in the district, not just Santa Monicans.

“For the first time in the nine years that I have been involved in PTA in the Malibu schools, board members have reached out and asked if they could come to a PTA meeting, and others have asked if they could come out to Malibu and meet with parents,” Sidley said.

School board members Ben Allen and Nimish Patel plan on attending a PTA meeting held at Malibu High School on March 17.

“I think there was a desire to feel the school board was engaged,” Allen said. “We can never do too much to reach out.”

Plans are already in the works to solve some of the issues raised during the meeting last week.

Some Measure BB funds set aside for technology upgrades will be used to improve distance learning equipment so that classes offered exclusively at Malibu High School or Samohi can be broadcast to classrooms at the other campus.

That will allow the schools to share classes, Cuneo said.

“Advanced placement teachers said that they like the idea, and are willing to explore it,” Cuneo said.

The same technology can be used to broadcast Board of Education meetings so that Malibu parents do not have to drive out to board meetings in Santa Monica.

Only four or five meetings a year are held in Malibu, Cuneo said.

“It makes it more difficult for Malibu people to participate in District Advisory Councils,” he said.

The current board bylaws do not permit designating certain seats to be filled with people from Malibu, and parents don’t really need it, Sidley said.

“Of course the residents of Malibu would love to have a Malibu representative on the Board of Education, but we have not always had candidates from Malibu and when we have we have not always been successful in electing them,” she said.

Former teacher and Malibu resident Patrick Cady ran in the most recent school board election but didn’t aggressively solicit campaign contributions and finished sixth with 11.49 percent of the vote. Four seats were up for grabs in the November contest.

Malibu has not had a representative on the board since 2008, when board member Kathy Wisnicki decided not to run for a second term.

ashley@smdp.com

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