School district officials are floating the idea of a creating a Malibu-only committee to decide how bond money, if approved by voters in November, would be spent in the community's schools.
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Sandra Lyon wrote in an information item dated Sept. 20 that the committee’s job would be to “provide input and help set direction” on how the Malibu slice of Measure ES funding would be allocated to school sites. Lyon said the committee would be comprised of school and district staffers, parents, neighbors, city officials and other community groups.
Twenty percent of Measure ES funds will go to Malibu, a figure based on the percentage of Malibu students districtwide. The amount rounds out to about $77 million for facilities and technology improvements.
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Malibu residents have been vocal in expressing frustration with the school district, saying the city has been sidelined in decision-making. Craig Foster, president of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools and a candidate for the school board, known formally as the Board of Education, said the committee proposal represents good intentions.
He said it’s too early to tell, however, whether the proposal goes far enough to sway attitudes.
"I’m happy they're acknowledging the problems Malibu has had in being heard or having its needs responded to by the district. I don't know enough to know whether this is a substantial step in changing that," Foster said.
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For the past few months, Foster and other Malibu leaders have urged the district to create a joint powers authority—a legal agreement between two or more jurisdictions working together. In this case, the body would include Malibu representatives and members of the Board of Education.
One such agreement exists between the city of Malibu and Santa Monica Community College. The Malibu Public Facilities Authority, created through a joint powers agreement, includes two city councilmembers and two members of the college’s Board of Trustees. The entity makes decisions about the construction of an the college's planned satellite campus in the Malibu Civic Center area.
During the last bond measure allocation process, the system of site committees worked well when it came to identifying the needs of the individual Malibu schools, said Laura Rosenthal, a member of the Malibu City Council and a former mayor.
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But this time around, the city wants its say to be legally binding—either a joint powers authority or a similar structure, Rosenthal said.
"We just don’t want it to be advisory, because we have found that not to be effective," Rosenthal said.
The Malibu committee proposal is slated for discussion on Thursday at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education meeting. The meeting is at 5:30 p.m. at Malibu City Hall.