Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board Member Ben Allen was elected Tuesday as the chair of the Los Angeles Committee on School District Organization (LACSDO).
Allen was recommended for the role by a selection subcommittee and unanimously voted in by members of the LACSDO. His term is for one year.
LACSDO oversees jurisdictional boundaries of school districts and trustee voting districts. Also, the committee could unify or de-unify school districts as well as create new ones. For example, if the suggestion of splitting SMMUSD into separate school districts for Santa Monica and Malibu residents ever comes to pass, the issue would be presented in front of LACSDO during the public process.
The committee also grapples with possible California Voting Rights Act challenges any school district might face.
“I’m learning a tremendous amount about the processes that would govern any potential split between Santa Monica and Malibu in our district, and as you might expect, it’s complicated,” Allen told The Mirror.
Speaking of a possible split of SMMUSD, education research firm WestEd issued a report late last year stating “a viable pathway exists for pursuing (a separate Malibu school district) while protecting the financial interests of the existing and proposed districts and employee groups.”
One of those groups who seek to split the SMMUSD and create an independent school district in the coastal suburb northwest of Santa Monica is Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, or AMPS.
It was AMPS who funded the WestEd study.
Specifically, the creation of the Golden Valley School District in Central California’s Madera County in 1997 serves as a precedent for those campaigning for a Malibu School District.
Madera County also has a committee on school district organization and oversaw the creation of the Golden Valley School District.
As LACSDO chair, Allen said he is responsible for putting together meeting agendas. He must also chair each of the committee’s meetings during his tenure.
LACSDO is an independent committee made up of 11 members from across the county. The committee is broken up into five districts correlating with a County Supervisor. For example, District 3 includes Santa Monica and its borders overlap with County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s territory.
Each district has two representatives; the eleventh member is at-large. Allen, the sole member from SMMUSD, sits on the committee as one of two representatives for District 3.
The other third district representative, A.J. Willmer, hails from Beverly Hills.
Also on the committee are: John Nunez and Frank Ogaz for District 1; Maria Calix and Joan Jakubowki for District 2; Frank Bostrom and Owen H. Griffith for District 4; and Joel Peterson and Suzan T. Solomon for District 5. Ted Edminston is the at-large member.
The committee meets once a month at the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey. Meetings are at 9:30 am on the first Wednesday of each month.
A lecturer in law at UCLA School of Law, Allen was the top vote getter in the SMMUSD race in 2008 and served as the school board’s president. A graduate of Harvard University in 2000 with a Masters degree from Cambridge University in 2001 and a law degree from Berkeley’s Boalt Hall in 2004, Allen also serves as Of Counsel for the law firm Richardson & Patel.