Letter: We Need Answers

Letter to the Editor

This letter, shared on Dec. 10, is addressed to Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati.

Dear Ben,

1) Please send an official SMMUSD correction and retraction to all false statements in your Dec. 3 communication.

It has come to my attention that there were blatant inaccuracies (I hope these were a “mistake” and not intentional) in your SMMUSD communication to all parents on Dec. 3.

Let me just focus on this statement:

“This involves going to federal court this month and asking for an extension to court ordered remediation of PCBs due Dec. 31, 2019 outlined in America Unites vs SMMUSD. This decision was discussed and agreed to by FDAC-M, teachers, and staff.”

FDAC-M did not know about your plan to file a motion for a five year extension. This is false. A retraction and correction is needed.

Also, teachers did not know about your plan to file a motion for a five-year extension as you communicated on Dec. 3. This is false. A retraction and correction is needed.

You were told by the FDAC-M committee and teachers last week that they were never informed of your plan to file a motion (during the Woolsey Fire, while most of Malibu was under mandatory evacuation) for a five-year extension, leaving children, teachers and staff in toxic, PCB-contaminated classrooms for an additional five years. 

My 17-year-old daughter is incredulous. She said, “Mom, this has been going on since I was in sixth grade! I am now in 11th grade!” They know there is a problem—they have known it for a long time. Why don’t they just fix the problem and ensure our school is safe from PCBs? Why are they wasting time and money on communications and lawyers’ fees and not fixing the problem? Why don’t they care about our health and safety?

And you didn’t tell the voters of Malibu that you were going to use Measure M as an excuse to go to the judge to seek a five-year extension on the court order to either remediate all PCBs or stop using the buildings. You have 13 months to comply and make a plan to move everyone to safe, toxic-free portables! 

I believe there were other inaccuracies as well… For example, your email to parents said it would cost $10M but in your declaration to the judge, you told him $4-5 million… First, keep your story straight. Second, why not divert those inaccurate millions of dollars to setting up portables at an alternate, safe, toxin-free location in Malibu that so many other parents have asked you to do?

One other note. You, the district and your lawyers did not “have to” file a motion during the Woolsey Fire and evacuation, as you stated. You could have waited. That was unconscionable and it seems strategically intentional in terms of timing, so as not to give the community adequate time to respond. This is nothing short of cruel to do this at a time when our city was burning, and people were evacuated… I know at least 50 declarations were provided opposing the five-year extension. If your timing had been different, there would have been many, many more…

I am asking you to immediately send a retraction to these false and inaccurate statements on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018.

2) Please respond to my unanswered questions sent in my emails from last week. 

3) Through the Freedom of Information Act, I am formally requesting all test results for MHS prior to the opening of school.

• Are you testing all known PCB-contaminated buildings and classrooms? It has come to my attention that new testing found many more building materials on campus that are contaminated with PCBs. Please make sure any new PCB findings (contaminated classes, floors, vents, etc.) are transparently and proactively communicated to parents in an SMMUSD communication! There should be signs up all over school warning people of where PCBs are so that they know and can alert the district if any of the material is disrupted or damaged. 

• Are you testing the air to 15 ng as agreed to with America Unites? My understanding is the district only tested to 28 ng at Juan Cabrillo (JC). Did you agree to do this or not? You can’t have it both ways. You told teachers and FDAC that you agreed to this and are doing it all, or you are not doing it, which means you should not be telling anyone you are. Clearly you did not in this case.

I have known for some time that BMP cleaning is not being done. I have seen photos that illustrate this and have read teachers’ declarations. Now, on top of this, we have the Woolsey Fire contaminants. Are you testing for any and all potential fire related contaminants as well? I hope you intend to be 100 percent transparent and provide, in an SMMUSD email, to parents a list of every single classroom that you tested (and the level of PCB contamination) and the results of your other tests (as well as the methods of testing) since there are known concerns with recent testing at JC.

4) Approximately 200 homes burned in the Woolsey Fire in the vicinity of MHS and JC. All of these homes will require hazmat clean-up of toxic materials that will inevitably become airborne. Then there will be construction for years, which will stir up dirt with potential fire-related toxins. This will go on for many months and years. How frequently do you plan to test the schools? How can you be sure on any given day this toxic removal of burned down homes and subsequent construction in the open air campus of MHS will be safe?

I implore you again to recognize this toxic state of emergency at MHS and think outside of the box. Come up with an alternate, safe location and get portables for children, teachers and staff. Ben, this is an emergency. Please start treating it like one.

Beth Lucas