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|Malibu Parents Submit Charter School Petition to SMMUSD|
By Lookout Staff
September 21, 2010 -- Parents from Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School (PDMSS) in Malibu submitted a formal petition to the school district on Monday to make PDMSS a charter school. The Board of Education has 60 days to make a decision. Extensions are possible.
With the charter designation, a five- to seven-member PDMSS Board consisting of parents and at-large community members would be in charge of school finances, curriculum and most other features currently run by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). The SMMUSD would only remain in a monitoring role.
A PDMSS charter school would have to abide by state education standards, including testing. It would receive direct funding from Sacramento based on daily attendance, so the SMMUSD would no longer acquire money based on PDMSS attendance. All money raised through the PTA and other methods would stay at the school. The school would be audited twice per year.
The PDMSS parents are seeking the charter status because they fear the school’s dwindling population means the SMMUSD will close the school. Also, they want local control during the difficult economic period.
“PDMSS has performed well under the guise of the District and became a California
Distinguished School in June of this year,” the petition states. “Unfortunately, due to the State budget crisis, the District has been forced to make cuts in vital programs … Our school has a history of closure. In similar difficult economic times, facing declining
enrollment and severe budget cuts, the District was forced to close PDMSS in 1980.”
The petition includes more than 100 pages of financial analysis and details of the proposed curriculum as well as other information about how the charter school would operate.
No SMMUSD official has taken a public position on this issue. Superintendent Tim Cuneo said in April that he thought it was unusual PDMSS parents were making the request because nearly all the charter applications he was familiar with were from low-achieving schools. At a Board of Education meeting last month, officials from the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) made a presentation about charter schools. Board member Oscar de la Torre offered the closest thing to an endorsement that PDMSS parents have received so far.
“I support self-determination and making sure that the parents and the community have local control of the schools, and I understand they know what's best for their children,” he said. “On principal, I feel very good about that.”
If the board rejects the petition, the parents could appeal to LACOE. A rejection there could be appealed to the State Board of Education. If the approval comes from LACOE or the State, those entities, rather than the SMMUSD, would be in charge of monitoring.
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