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City Implores County Committee to Deny Malibu Split
By Jorge Casuso
September 15, 2021 -- The City of Santa Monica on Tuesday sent a letter to County education officials echoing the School District's opposition to Malibu's separation efforts.
The letter to the County Committee on School District Organization "implore(s)" it to deny the City of Malibu’s petition to separate from the District when it meets on Saturday.
The current petition, wrote Mayor Sue Himmelrich and Mayor Pro Tem Kristin McCowan, "will never be able to achieve the fairness that the City of Santa Monica and (the School District) desire."
The letter notes that Malibu's petition fails to substantially meet eight of the nine conditions required under State law ("Proposed Malibu Split Fails to Meet County Conditions, Report Finds," September 7, 2021).
"We find it difficult to understand that despite the obvious failings of the Malibu Petition, County Committee staff has recommended to nevertheless move the Malibu Petition into a regular review process," the letter said.
"It seems to us that continuing down a path of additional hearings and process for a petition that is so far removed from viability would require the Committee and the parties to commit to an effort that cannot succeed without extensive investment of additional resources, time, and energy, all of which are in dangerously low supply.
"It is for these reasons we implore the County Committee to exercise its discretion to deny the Malibu Petition," Himmelrich and McCowan wrote.
The letter noted that the City doesn't oppose allowing Malibu to separate from the District, a position both the Council and School Board have voted to support as long as the terms don't harm Santa Monica students.
Denying Malibu's petition "would NOT preclude the communities from working together to create an independent Malibu School District in a way that is fair and just to students in Santa Monica schools, and that provides a robust and equal educational opportunity for both Malibu and Santa Monica students.
"We remain committed to assisting our communities with arriving at such a result," the letter said.
The letter was sent hours before the Council voted to adopt a resolution "supporting the denial" of Malibu’s petition, which was submitted to the County on October 12, 2020.
The timing prompted Councilmembers Oscar de la Torre and Phil Brock to abstain from the 5 to 0 vote.
"We should be very careful," de la Torre said. "I don't know why we couldn't wait."
Councilmember Gleam Davis noted that the letter had to be sent to the Committee by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Interim City Attorney George Cardona said that sending the letter before the Council approved the resolution did not violate the California open meetings act.
The letter, Cardona said, concerned "an action already taken" by the Council in the past.
The Committee hearing will be held Saturday at 9 a.m. The agenda and participation details for the virtual meeting are available here.
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