For the Children

Rylan Borress (left) and Raya Israel complete a scavenger hunt at Alice and Olivia at the Lumberyard.

The Malibu Lumberyard was filled with fun and games Saturday for a community event on behalf of Advocates For Malibu Public Schools (AMPS).  

Roughly 50 children and their families took part in scavenger hunts, carnival games and even discounted shopping in an effort to raise awareness of AMPS’ goal of seeking a separation of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). 

“It will be extremely beneficial to the community to have our own local control — to have a school district that reflects our community and our values,” AMPS President Roui Israel said. “Right now we only represent 16 percent of the electorate when it comes to voting for the SMMUSD Board of Education.”

The only member from Malibu on that board, Craig Foster, helped start AMPS nearly six years ago in an effort to provide Malibu schools with self-determination. 

“Hopefully, the school board will vote this fall to move forward with separation and then after that it’s a question of moving through the bureaucratic process, but it couldn’t happen soon enough for me,” Foster told The Malibu Times.

That process could take some time. Once the Santa Monica-Malibu Board works out an agreement resolving tax, bond, transportation and facilities, it will then move on to the LA County Board of Education. The county board can then approve the petition for what’s known as “unification” — which is separation. Then it can pass to the state board of education. The state has a year to either toss it back or approve it. 

Malibu parent Seth Jacobson, an AMPS board member with two children still at Malibu High, said he’s hopeful for a positive result. 

“Our feeling is that with the negotiations and with the support of the school district … there hasn’t been a unification that’s ever been done in the state that’s been turned down when you have unity,” Jacobson said. “That’s why we’ve worked so hard to bring the school district in to what we’re doing. We could be in front of the city with an election as early as next year for a school board, approved separation and approve the bonding issues.”

Jacobson went on to explain why he supports AMPS.

“We want to create 21st century schools. We want to create a school district that is representative of the community as a whole, that supports our children to the fullest and to create a more collaborative environment,” Jacobson described. “Now we have a school district that’s 20 miles way. If a teacher wants to do professional development, they have to take the whole day off and go to Santa Monica and then we have a substitute in the classroom and that happens almost every day at every school. 

“If we had our own school district we could have teachers rotating in and out. We’d have greater accountability, greater site accountability and more autonomy. We’d have far greater choice in curriculum,” Jacobson continued. “We’d have a greater opportunity for children to learn in new, innovative ways and that’s what AMPS is all about — creating innovative school ideas and bringing them to Malibu.”

Later in the evening, a fundraiser was held to help pay for financial feasibility studies for unification. Nearly 100 people bought tickets to an evening party at the Malibu Lumberyard featuring a DJ, food and drinks.

“I’m really happy the event’s taking place. It’s great that the community is working together in this way to honor a great cause and have a fun party,” Foster said. “I’m excited that things are going so well with AMPS. I’m looking forward to a positive outcome from the negotiations. I hope AMPS is going to have good news to report to the community in the not-too-distant future.”

Playing live music earlier in the day at the community event was Leslie Bixler Blues Project.

“My husband, Bill Bixler, taught at Malibu Middle and High School for 19 years and experienced what is was like when it would interface with Santa Monica,” Leslie Bixler said. “I grew up here and had to be bused in, and there’s such a disconnect between the two areas geographically and other factors that just make it impossible for that district to look out for us properly. We often get the short end of that. 

“It’s a long time coming,” Bixler said, “But the PCB issue forced us to really look at who’s looking out for Malibu and Malibu High and the funds are governed by Santa Monica. This is an example of why it’s important.”