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Scott Steepleton, Editor
10:55 am PDT April 15, 2021

Backers of a stand-alone school district in Malibu will have to wait until Friday to find out whether the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District agrees to what is best described as the city’s offer in compromise.

On Wednesday, the Malibu City Council approved a deal that puts the apparent lone sticking point — money — in the hands of the county committee that oversees school district organization and its consultant. It was a bold move, focusing attention not on the need for a Malibu Unified School District — the assumption being even officials in Santa Monica agree — but on what each side will cede to make it happen.

Later that day, the seven-member Board of Education called for a special meeting to be held Friday. While the specific offer is not mentioned in the meeting notice, the board is to “discuss Malibu unification.”

If that meeting goes as Malibu hopes, the two sides would appear via Zoom for a preliminary hearing on the matter Saturday before the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Committee on School District Organization as a unified front with the only question essentially being how to separate the assets.

In typical separations, including when unincorporated areas want to leave county governance and form a city of their own, lengthy, sometimes nasty financial negotiations ensue, with so-called “poison pills” dropped along the way.

Here, however, Malibu wants to rise above negotiations and leave the financials up to the county committee and its consultant, School Services of California Inc.

The committee is an independent body of two school board members from each of the five supervisor districts and one at-large member. They are elected by Los Angeles County school and community college district board members to study and make recommendations and decisions on such matters as:

  • Transferring territory between/among school districts;

  • Unifying or deunifying a school district;

  • Forming new districts.

Saturday’s committee meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. and the process is set as follows:

  • After the call to order, flag salute and introductions, Octavio Castelo, secretary to the committee, will provide an explanation of the proposal and process followed by an explanation of public hearing guidelines;

  • Testimony starts with the city of Malibu, followed by Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District officials;

  • Public comment, starting with proponents of Malibu unification.

At this point, there will be a break.

After the break, members of the public opposed to the proposal will have their say.

Finally, the committee will have an opportunity to ask questions.

No decision on whether the proposal should move forward is expected on Saturday. The agenda states the committee will hear brief summarizing statements from the city and the district at a meeting in June.

If the committee approves the proposal a host of things would still need to happen before Malibu gets its own school district, including a local election and action by the State Board of Education.