SMMUSD’s Ben Allen Elected Chair Of School District Organization Committee

Friday, 10 Jan 2014, 9:33:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

SMMUSD board member Ben Allen.
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SMMUSD board member Ben Allen.

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.

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