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Scott Steepleton, Editor
6:11 pm PDT May 23, 2021

An update on Malibu’s push to separate from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will be presented to the Malibu City Council on Monday.

The last big move in the process was a 5-2 vote by the district Board of Education to reject a counteroffer from Malibu officials asking both sides to let the county and an outside consultant determine the financial terms of a breakup. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Malibu’s lone representative Craig Foster cast the dissenting votes.

That was April 16. Then Mayor Mikke Pierson expressed disappointment, calling Malibu’s proposal a "reasonable settlement offer."

The following day, the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Committee on School District Organization held a preliminary hearing via Zoom on the city’s proposal.

SMMUSD officials have said 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.

During the rare Saturday committee hearing, parents, teachers and city leaders past and present defended their position, decried fiscal mismanagement in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified District and wondered how officials who wouldn’t even open campus bathrooms during the Woolsey Fire can believably argue they have Malibu’s interests at heart.

But district representatives kicked off their presentation arguing the impropriety of a pro-separation petition brought forward by the city.

Manel Sweetmore, who served on a committee that came up with a separation plan equitable to both sides only to have it rebuffed by the board, called the district’s position disingenuous.

“Today (the district) opened the session trying to say that the petition was not legitimate because it was brought by the city,” Sweetmore said. “They know full well (the city) had the required number of petitions from residents.”

Among the opponents is the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association.

“I think we need to separate the two issues of secession and fairness and equity in money,” said Sarah Braff, union president. “I don't think that anyone’s fighting the concept of separation. But the (Education Code) says it will be an equitable division and that it would not promote racial or ethnic discriminagtion or segregation.”

“We disagree as to how this proposal will create a large imbalance, which creates additional favor for our more privileged students,” Braff said.

Monday's meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be streamed live here.