After a lengthy approval process, the Santa Monica and Malibu communities have agreed to create separate School Facilities Improvement Districts and are now looking for community support to vote for general obligation bonds on the November ballot in an effort to improve schools throughout each community’s respective districts.

The bonds would provide each community with money to improve their schools, Malibu approving $195 million and Santa Monica approving $485 million.

Carey Upton, Chief Operations Officer for the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, led a presentation demonstrating what bonds have done for the communities in the past and what they can do in the future, which can be accomplished with general obligation bonds.

Upton explained the benefits past measures BB (2006) and ES (2012) have had on the district, a combined $651 million that went “directly into improving school facilities and learning in the district.”

These measures helped address a litany of issues throughout the district: improving libraries and classrooms, building new science labs and offices, and aiding modernization efforts, improving buildings that “hadn’t been touched in decades”, bolstering buildings’ seismic effectiveness and replacing windows at schools, some of which were nearly 60 years old.

While the past measures helped to improve the district, Upton said there’s more work to be done, such as: remaking Samohi, reorganizing Malibu High and Malibu Middle School, replacing 40-year-old portable classrooms, updating HVAC at schools, improving sustainability, and improving security throughout the district.

“Kids are using desks that their parents used … and security is becoming more vital and important. Time, attention, and funds need to go to all of this,” Upton commented.

Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati spoke after Upton, applauding the board for directing him to create a feasibility committee in regards to the bonds and SFIDs.

Drati said the committee, comprised of Santa Monica and Malibu community members, met with numerous stakeholder groups to “talk facts of the bond.” The community outreach of sorts led Drati and the committee to talk with city councils from both cities, PTA groups, the League of Women Voters, and the police union. Drati says he and the committee plan to talk to more groups in the coming months.

Drati said a lot of work went into getting public approval for the bonds, handing off the presentation to Jared Boigan, a staff member of TBWB, “a strategy and communications consulting firm specializing in public finance ballot measures supporting programs, services and facilities.”

Boigan shared the results of a survey performed by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, which was sent online and via direct mail (over 50,000 sent). Boigan said the survey received a “tremendous response”, getting back over 600 responses via direct mail alone.

While the communities are looking to split their school districts, they do share many common concerns.

According to the survey, the top three causes Santa Monicans want bond money to go towards is removing hazardous materials from schools (PCBs), improving fire safety and security systems, and improving classrooms to improve STEM. Malibu’s concerns were the same, albeit a different order; PCB removal, STEM, then improving fire safety and security.

Boigan noted that of those surveyed, 70% of Santa Monicans approve of the bonds while 61% of Malibu residents approve.

There were no public comments in regards to the presentation, but the school board was overwhelmingly positive in their praise.

“The amount of work behind this is exemplary,” Boardmember Laurie Lieberman said. “Kudos to Dr.Drati for working with the community and seeing the incredible fortune we have with the community we live in. This is the most solid planning we’ve had in support of a bond measure.”

The vote to put bond measures on the November ballot was passed unanimously.

 

Angel@smdp.com