The Malibu City Council has decided to look into the feasibility of Malibu schools seceding from Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). According to current Samo Parent Teacher Association (PTA) President Debby Mulvaney, Malibu is looking to secede due partly to their lack of representation on the school board as well as the passing of the new centralized funding system.
“It’s a combination of frustration and some of the impetus to do it now is based on centralized fundraising,” Mulvaney said. “Then you also have the people who have wanted Malibu to be its own district all along, so you have this momentum building from the people who have wanted this to happened and those who have become frustrated.”
Former Samo PTA President, Elizabeth Stearns agrees with Mulvaney.
“I think [Malibu] has a real passion to see this through. They believe that they should be their own consolidated thing,” Stearns said. “They feel they shouldn’t have to abide by rules that, in their minds, don’t take into account the complexity of their own Malibu-based schools.”
According to Mulvaney, Malibu tried to submit a petition of seccession to the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization during the 2007-2008 school year. They had to obtain the signatures of 25 percent of all registered Malibu voters, but they were not able to get the required signatures.
Former SMMUSD PTA Council President Shari Davis said that Mayor Laura Rosenthal of Malibu honored Malibu’s wish to have a feasibility study on creating its own district at a board meeting. According to Davis one reason Rosenthal thinks seceding is important is the effect centralized fundraising could have on Malibu schools.
“Mayor Rosenthal spoke at the board meeting on Nov. 29 and she stated that Malibu would like to explore the feasibility of separating [from SMMUSD] because Malibu is feeling as though our communities are very different. Under the California Education Code a unified school district should be a district that includes communities that are very similar,” Davis said. “There have been a few events in the last few weeks that have made some people in Malibu feel like they would prefer to be an independent school district.”
Former Malibu PTA President Wendy Sidley feels that the physical distance between Santa Monica and Malibu hinders their ability to be well unified.
“I have worked with a lot of people in Santa Monica, our towns are far away from each other. It is hard for people in Santa Monica to get out to Malibu and vice-versa. Since the school district offices are in Santa Monica and most of the meetings are in Santa Monica, people in Santa Monica can get to meetings in five minutes while it can take people in Malibu 30 to 40 minutes,” Sidley said. “It makes it difficult for the people in Malibu to be involved in all that’s happening at the school district. There are constantly meetings and events and because of the distance it can become an ordeal especially for the people that live on the Western side of Malibu.”
Stearns believes that Malibu should not be forced to remain in SMMUSD.
“I think parents in Santa Monica can relate to parents in Malibu,” Stearns said. “There are different ways we want to handle things. If they really want to leave, and think that’s the best thing for their kids, well then I can’t say no to that,” Stearns said.