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Malibu Group Negotiating Split from Santa Monica Public Schools Short on Cash

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 9, 2016 -- The Malibu group negotiating a split from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is short on cash and asking the community -- one of California’s richest -- to donate as soon as possible.

Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) is asking for help raising the estimated $200,000 needed for the Malibu Unification Negotiation Committee (MUNC) to pay two independent consultants to determine the financial and legal details of the separation.

Roui Israel, president of AMPS, said that negotiations had just turned a corner and new studies with precise findings on financial and legal issues needed to be done on behalf of the three members representing Malibu.

“Last night, the members of the MUNC decided that they have gathered enough facts at this point to begin negotiating the actual terms of separating the SMMUSD into two districts,” Israel said on the group's website. “The two teams are now working collaboratively towards this effort.”

She said the group has hired School Services of California, Inc. and the Procopio Law Firm to do the work.

“This is a critical moment in our separation efforts,” Israel wrote. “We are closer than ever before to reaching agreements with the Santa Monica-Malibu School District and Santa Monica leaders on how to create two independent school districts to serve the students in each community.

"These funds are essential to take us over the finish line and will provide the roadmap for a separation that could happen as early as 2017-18,” she said. “AMPS is encouraging every community member to give what they can."

The organization is currently one-third of the way to its fundraising goal, Israel said. It is holding fundraisers August 27 at Malibu Lumber Yard. The first event offers games, entertainment and shopping from noon to 3 p.m. It is followed by a cocktail party and dancing from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Tickets are $75 each, with ticket proceeds going to AMPS. A percentage of earnings from sales also goes to the group.

Since reaching a turning point after years of debate, the SMMUSD’s school board late last year agreed to start talks with representatives of Malibu about forming of a new district ("Santa Monica School Board Members Support Malibu Split, Questions Remain," December 2, 2015).

A longstanding issue, district separation came to a head in 2004 when the School District revised its gift policy to restrict parents from donating to specific schools ("Malibu Starts Ball Rolling on Secession," November 29, 2011).

Last September, the Malibu City Council passed a resolution favoring separation and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) announced in November it had collected signatures of support from more than 25 percent of voters in Malibu and the surrounding area.

A six-member committee -- evenly split between Malibu and SMMUSD representatives -- has been meeting routinely since March to negotiate the issue and is set to do so until the end of summer.

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