Malibu and Santa Monica officials are set to appear in front of LACOE’s Committee on School District Organization during a hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, April 17, but both sides are gearing up to discuss the matter among themselves and local residents ahead of the upcoming public hearing.

SMMUSD’s Board of Education is set to meet this Thursday at 4 p.m. via Zoom for a closed session meeting that will allow board members and staff to discuss Malibu unification.

“It would be inappropriate for me to speak to closed session items prior to any discussion,” Superintendent Ben Drati said this week. “but I will say that it is important for the full board to meet with all appropriate counsel to discuss the latest issues regarding unification.”

Drati added that he feels he has made his personal opinion very clear.

“Which is that the petition filed by the City of Malibu is inequitable and would lead to significant harm for students in the district,” Drati said, echoing the remarks he made during a recent rally where members of the SMMUSD community had a chance to share their feelings on the split between Malibu and Santa Monica schools.

During the rally, Drati said he had hoped to resolve the unification issue after reopening schools but the district has been forced to adapt to Malibu’s timetable after the City of Malibu reinstated an official request with county regulators.

“I was disappointed by it. I thought we’d address the school closures, then we’d have time to talk about unification,” Drati said last week. “But they went forward and said, ‘Nope, we want to reinstate the petition that was originally put forward,’ and then that necessitated a response from us. And that’s what you’re seeing.”

Much of the conflict over splitting the district has stemmed from revenues. Malibu as a community would bring in more money than Santa Monica and the two sides have been at odds as to a fair distribution of income. Proposals have ranged from 10 to 50 years worth of subsidies based on varying levels of service or per-student funding.

Drati said he wants to be a superintendent who gives the people what they want but he also feels all students should be provided the opportunity for success and the current petition does not allow for that.

A recent letter to Santa Monica City Council from Malibu officials disputes this notion though. Instead, the letter states, each of the two independent school districts will remain one of the five top school districts in Los Angeles County as it relates to per pupil revenue.

Even with the correspondence between the two sides, there have been no signs the cities will come to terms any time; however, they both agree that community involvement is important.

brennon@smdp.com