SM Board Members Attack District Voting As Malibu Politics, Drati Given New 3-Year Contract (DEC 16)

Written by on January 3, 2022

Supporters of splitting the Santa Monica dominated school board into seven voting districts have run into opposition from the Santa Monica board majority. 

And the school board enters the new year trying to fend off the petition for district voting, filed by Malibu attorney Kevin Schenkman and other school activists.

This latest petition adds heat to the battle between Santa Monica’s school board and the tax colony in Malibu, where the city is campaigning for an independent Malibu school district.  LA County’s Office of Education is considering Malibu’s request for an independent school district.

The petition for voting0-by-district was filed last month ,… technically a mistake …. as the law does not take effect until the first of the year.  The backers say they will refile it.

Kevin Schenkman told the board last month … district voting would improve the democratic process. 


“By having districts neighborhood districts it allows people to compete not only with money but it allows people to compete with shoe leather and volunteer power. And I think by having seven neighborhood districts it would allow people to get together with their neighbors and have an effective campaign to choose their representatives without having to raise a lot of money from special interests.”

But at the last school board meeting … before the Christmas break … the Santa Monica board’s attorney … David Soldani … attacked Malibu again

‘He said the petition to create voting districts was a political attack.


“It’s important to note that some of the same special interests and individuals behind the one-sided unification proposal that would strip funding from santa monica students … and some of the same special interest individuals behind the recent attempt to recall certain board members … are also behind this petition. It is simply the latest avenue of attack against the school district from familiar sources.”

The petition is from Malibu residents Jennifer DeNicola and Kevin Schenkman.  

Both have filed lawsuits against the district … both have won those lawsuits. 

Longtime board member Laurie Liebrman says … consider the source… this is politics.


“This is not only a distraction from our important work … it’s an irresponsible attempt to destroy our school district for no legitimate reason. This cynical petition has nothing to do with student learning and instruction… with addressing the needs of the students or the policy issues that we confront day in and day out as a district and as a school board. It’s a naked attempt at a  power grab by a coalition of naysaying individuals who want to undermine our high-performing district… Instead of continuing to steadily improve it.”

Malibu’s lone representative on the school board … Craig Foster … rejected the Santa Monica board members arguments.

He said the proposal to split the voters into seven districts was not an issue that was going to distract from teaching kids.


“the kids are fine, whether this petition goes through or doesn’t go through is not maturely going to change the lives of kids. This is about the adults. This is about the vested political interests. This is about the people whose egos are involved… Myself included… This is about us seven people.”

The petition is supposed to be refiled with the county again this month.


Ben Drati has been given a three year contract extension by the Santa Monica-Malibu school board.

Base salary … 265 thousand dollars per year.

Two raises of at least three percent.

And the new school board president has rotated in … and perhaps the biggest opponent of a Malibu school district is the new Santa Monica school board president.

Maria Leon Vasquez was selected to preside at meetings for the next term.

Leon Vasquez has been a reliable and strong voice against allowing Malibu to split out of the district ..,. unless an enormous annual cash transfer is sent from Malibu to Santa Monica.

Leon Vasquez has been on the school for 22 years … and this will be her third stint as president of the board.

All this happened at the school board meeting December 16th.

Editor’s note: reporting on this was delayed due to the Winter Holiday.

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