Santa Monica Lookout
B e s t   l o c a l   s o u r c e   f o r   n e w s   a n d   i n f o r m a t i o n

Lawsuit Pauses Santa Monica Malibu School District Split Talks
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310)828-7525 -

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

April 18, 2016 -- In the wake of a lawsuit that could impact how the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District elects board members, three members of a special committee negotiating the terms for split of the SMMUSD into two districts are asking that the process be put off until they get direction from the School Board.

The three Santa Monica representatives on the Malibu Unification Committee, Tom Larmore, Paul Silvern and Debbie Mulvaney, sent a letter to the district last week saying they would not attend the committee's first meeting Thursday in light of the pending legal action ("Santa Monica Facing Lawsuit Over At-Large Council Elections," April 13, 2016).

Long discussed, the split of the SMMUSD received a major boost in December, when the five Santa Monica residents on the district's Board of Education came out publicly in support of a separate Malibu school district ("Santa Monica School Board Members Support Malibu Split, Questions Remain," December 2, 2015).

In January, the school board approved the six-member unification committee. Its Malibu representatives are Malibu Mayor Laura Rosenthal, Kevin Shenkman and Manel Sweetmore.

Shenkman is an attorney representing residents of Santa Monica's largely Latino Pico Neighborhood in their lawsuit seeking to replace the City's at-large elections for City Council with district elections.

The Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA); Maria Loya, a Latina activist and Pico Neighborhood resident, and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on April 13.

In announcing the lawsuit, Roui Israel, president of AMPS, said the City's at-large election system “prevents not only the City but also the Santa Monica-Malibu School District from adopting district-based elections.”

“We want the school board to be empowered to voluntarily adopt fair elections and set an example for the students,” Israel said.

In the letter to the school district last week, Lamore said the lawsuit, and Shenkman's and AMPS' involvement in the legal action, caught the Santa Monica representatives on the unification committee by surprise.

“The lawsuit was filed by AMPS and Mr. Shenkman completely without warning,” Larmore wrote.

He said the pending legal action threatened to undermine “the collaborative nature of our discussions.”

“In the spirit of collaboration, we should have been informed that this action was forthcoming," he wrote. "We are concerned that the inclusion of issues related to the district and the participation of AMPS have no purpose other than to attempt to influence our negotiations.

“We view this as a serious matter and believe that no further meetings should be held until we have an opportunity to report to the board to receive direction from them.”

District Superintendent Sandra Lyon shared the committee members' concerns, said Gail Pinsker, district spokesperson.

School board members are scheduled to hear a report by the committee's three Santa Monica representatives and discuss the future of the unification committee a their next regular meeting on May 5, Pinsker said.

Back to Lookout News copyrightCopyright 1999-2016 All Rights Reserved. EMAIL Disclosures