County officials have advanced a petition to create a standalone Malibu school district with the goal of making a final decision in about six months. 

At a virtual meeting on Sept. 19, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization agreed with a recent staff report that said more time was needed to evaluate Malibu’s proposal to split the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District and the Committee approved the decision on an 8-2 vote. 

The Saturday meeting followed the release of a preliminary report that said the proposal submitted by the City of Malibu as written today, failed to meet eight of nine conditions. Proposals should meet standards for enrollment, community identity, division of property, racial equity, cost to the State, educational outcomes, infrastructure costs, property values and ongoing fiscal health.

The report states several of the failures are due to a lack of available information, not an inherent weakness of the proposal and the Committee said it expected the final report to be definitive in its analysis. 

Committee chair Cherise Moore said a vote to approve or deny the proposal will occur in March of 2022 once staff has had an opportunity to answer all the unknown questions. 

“The expectation is that at that time, there will be no ‘mays’, there will be no possibilities, there will be no need for further information,” she said. “We need everything done at that time.”

The Committee could have rejected the proposal on Saturday and two committee members opposed the additional study time. They voted instead to terminate the Malibu proposal immediately. 

Commissioners Barry Snell and Susan Solomon said they doubted additional time would provide the information needed to reverse the preliminary results. 

Snell said both parties had ample time to provide robust information prior to the preliminary report and he said the formal proposal should be rejected in favor of a negotiated settlement. 

“I’d like to make a motion to deny the petition and ask the individuals on both sides to go back to the table to negotiate this and give us a pathway to be able to ultimately see these two districts to come up with a plausible, economical, and ethical decision,” he said. 

The Commission rejected Snell’s arguments.

Commissioner Donald LaPlante said rejecting the proposal was foolish as it could be reactivated with a simple community vote. 

“Turning down the city of Malibu petition and ending this preliminary part of the process will simply force the proponents into a 10% citizens petition which I have no doubt would happen,” he said. “I believe all the parties would be better served by taking this petition through the process to a conclusion, and will be more advantageous all than to merely force a restart of the process and be back to this exact same place six nine or 12 months from now.”

Commissioner Charles Davis made the motion to approve the recommendation and begin the study session saying County staff were not given enough information and a majority of the Commissioners agreed with his proposal. 

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...