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Scott Steepleton, Editor
2:06 pm PDT April 16, 2021

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect comments from Malibu Mayor Mikke Pierson.

Behind closed doors on Friday, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education rejected a counteroffer on separation from the city of Malibu that asked for both sides to let the county and an outside consultant determine the financial terms of the breakup.

The 5-2 vote, with Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Malibu’s lone board representative Craig Foster dissenting, comes the day before the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Committee on School District Organization hold a preliminary hearing on the city’s proposal to form a Malibu school district untethered to another city.

Upon notice of the vote, Malibu Mayor Mikke Pierson expressed disappointment that the board would reject the "reasonable settlement offer."

"The city has repeatedly made it clear that we do not want to see any student harmed by the long-overdue separation of this discontinuous school district yet SM-MUSD continues to be unreasonable while our Malibu students continue to be harmed,” Pierson said. “I look forward to going before the LACOE County Committee of School District Separation tomorrow and explaining to them why it’s time for Malibu to have its own school district and encourage all Malibu residents to do the same.”

According to the district statement about the vote, “The school board is not comfortable agreeing to be bound by future recommendations — sight unseen — particularly since the district has its own financial plan that will accomplish what both sides have publicly stated they want: an equitable separation,” according to a district statement.

“The city would already have to abide by the county's recommendations or risk denial of its petition.”

District officials say they will continue “to advocate for denial of the petition before the committee while also promoting what it believes to be a fair and equitable proposal for separation.”

“To do otherwise would be an abdication of our responsibility to act in the best interests of our students,” board President Jon Kean said. “We continue to support the concept of unification, as long as it is equitable for both territories, but we will not relinquish our authority to ensure a fair outcome in the process.”

Kean said the district desires to “work cooperatively” with the city and re-extends “an invitation to the city to return to the negotiating table with the district.”