After Wednesday night’s Virtual Community Awareness Night, more than 80 community members are now even better prepared to make their voices heard in the fight for Malibu to form its own independent school district. The official strategy meeting, headed by city attorneys, consultants and officials, was held just days before Malibu is scheduled for its first public hearing on the matter with LA County—Saturday, April 17. This is a big day for Malibu, after waiting more than a decade to get to this point.
Deputy City Attorney Christine Wood had some straight talk for residents concerning whatever public comments they may be planning to make before the LA County Office of Education’s Committee on School District Organization.
“I’d like to impress on each of you that this is really about the stories you have to tell—it’s not about whining or property values,” she said. “It’s about knowing your children aren’t getting the same quality education as students in Santa Monica, insofar as classes, facilities, etc. And that you’re not being heard by your administration when it comes to wildfires, PCBs and other issues. This is a community-led movement, and this situation has been endured for generations.”
As far as the how-to of making public comments to LA County, in addition to tuning in and speaking at the Saturday hearing, community members may submit written or video comments in advance of the meeting, no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, April 16, to Heredia_Anna@lacoe.edu.
A few procedures: Any comments submitted directly to the City of Malibu will be bundled and given to the county as a public document. It’s OK to submit comments directly to the county even if your comments and stories were already submitted to the city. It’s also OK to make verbal comments at the hearing on Saturday even if written/video comments have already been submitted, and the comments don’t have to be the same.
Mayor Mikke Pierson confirmed that the virtual county meeting on Saturday doesn’t begin until 9:30 a.m., but that Santa Monica is telling its people to be online at 9 a.m., and he intends to sign on at 8:30 a.m. to make sure he has a spot. He urged everyone to “log on early” and emphasized that in-person public comments were more powerful than written or video communications.
“Please, let’s not miss this huge opportunity that we’ve worked so long to get,” City Council Member (and longtime separation advocate) Karen Farrer added.
As of now, the county plans to allow one hour of live comments from Malibu and one hour of live comments from Santa Monica. Each speaker will have just 90 seconds to talk. That works out to 40 speakers per side. It’s possible the county may decide to extend the total time.
Residents with no children in the school district are still encouraged to comment.
“You can say you support the idea of local control, and speak to the idea of community identity,” Wood explained. “It’s a real California principle—the idea of local control in education. Embrace that idea.”
Parents whose children have already graduated from the district are also urged to make comments.
“All experiences with this district are relevant,” Wood continued.
All the experts and officials at Wednesday’s awareness night acknowledged that finances are the biggest sticking point in school district separation, and that the finance issues won’t get resolved on Saturday.
Malibu is following the criteria set forth in the California Department of Education manual on school district reorganization. As part of that, they must ensure district separation doesn’t cost the state any money, even though it means that Malibu will need to supplement Santa Monica property taxes for a time.
In a discussion on finances, various officials questioned how Santa Monica was coming up with its numbers on cost projections, per pupil spending and other points of interest. Their figures are wildly inconsistent with Malibu’s calculations, and the district’s explanations have not been thorough.
“I see differences of a thousand percent on some things,” Council Member Bruce Silverstein said. “But I think the point of Saturday is to [let the county] understand the significance and intensity of the community in wanting to get this [school district separation] resolved.”
“We just want to see the county pass this matter through to the next step in this long process,” said consultant Terri Ryland.
Attending the meeting
The meeting will take place virtually via Zoom; although it set to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 17, the city suggests tuning in earlier, as early as 8:30 or 9, to ensure your admittance.
Join the meeting via Zoom: https://lacoe-edu.zoom.us/j/81101324358?pwd=TXdtc3VrYmVBNzNOMlFTaVVmSFBjUT09
Submit your experience
In addition to making live public comment at the meeting (which is encouraged), you may also submit your personal experience directly to LACOE by sending an email no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, April 16, to Heredia_Anna@lacoe.edu.
You can also fill out the city’s form to have your comments submitted in a package prepared by the city. Click here to see that form.