Several Malibu parents requested the School Board to reconsider their October 18 decision to increase the allocation of Measure “BB” funds to Santa Monica High School.
Malibu parent Colleen Baum told the Board on November 15 that the Board’s approval of the increase was based upon the recommendation of the District’s Measure BB Advisory Committee. In her view, the way the recommendation was brought forward to the Board violated the Brown Act because it was brought forward at the “11th hour.” The Brown Act controls the way public meetings are run and how the public is informed about what will be discussed at such meetings.
Baum also stated that two members of the Measure BB Committee, Chris Harding and Judith Meister, were biased towards the Samohi campus and therefore should not be serving on the committee because they have a conflict of interest. Judith Meister is the co-chair of the Coalition For An Excellent Samohi Campus, and Harding’s wife Lori Lieberman, is the other co-chair. Representatives from the newly formed Coalition spoke in support of the committee’s recommendation at the October 18 Board meeting.
Lastly, Baum claimed that Malibu High School was the victim of a “bait and switch,” by calling the Draft Facilities Master Plan which was approved by the Board the “bait” because it contained the facilities improvements that were needed. According to Baum, the “switch” was the approval of the committee’s recommendation that allocated $57 million to Samohi rather than the $38.4 million that had been recommended by the District’s staff.
Malibu Councilmember Andy Stern also expressed discontent with the decision. “Malibu is not getting its fair share of the BB money,” said Stern. “Fourteen million dollars that was scheduled for Malibu High was ripped away.” He then cautioned the Board that if a change in the decision isn’t made, and if the District asks the City of Malibu for more money, “I won’t give you a nickel more because you’ve breached the trust.” He also implied that support to renew the District’s parcel taxes by Malibu voters on the February 2008 ballot had been jeopardized by the decision.
The voters from the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu approved the $268 million Bond Measure BB last November to fund the projects proposed in the District’s 20-year Facilities Master Plan.
Board member Jose Escarce responded, “The decision made on October 18 was not the end. There are still funds that are not allocated.” He explained that his vote reflected the District’s enrollment projections. Other Board members cited health and safety concerns for their support of the increase.
Board President Kathy Wisnicki, the only Board member from Malibu, called for the Brown Act violations and conflict of interest complaints to be investigated by District staff. She also stressed her support for the Malibu parents’ concerns: “This is the first time I felt like the lone Malibu Board member” since serving on the Board. “I feel trust has been destroyed…and the Board still” doesn’t get why the Malibu parents are upset.