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
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
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
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
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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