The Palos Verdes Peninsula school board has agreed to discuss a proposal to form a separate school system on the east side of the district, but trustees gave no indication of how they would vote on the plan, offered by parents in the Miraleste area.
Representatives of the East Peninsula Education Council told the board Monday night that the newly formed group is prepared to start circulating petitions to secede from the four-city school district, but first wanted to give the trustees an opportunity to cooperate in setting up the new system.
The issue was put on the board's agenda for a regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in the Valmonte district headquarters.
The east-side group began organizing the secession effort after the board voted on Nov. 2 to close Miraleste High School, the smallest of the district's three high schools, to cut expenses and bring facilities into line with declining enrollment.
Parents group member Nancy Boltan, referring to past statements by school officials that low enrollments on east-side campuses are a drain on the hard-pressed district's finances, said the secession therefore should not hurt schools on the west side that have higher enrollments.
"Our goal is not to inflict harm," she said. ". . .We urge you to let us go."
Richard E. Lyon, chairman of the new group's legal committee, said that if a board majority approves the secession petition, the new district on the sparsely populated east side can be set up in as little time as a year. With no district opposition, approval by county officials and the state Board of Education is considered likely.
That approach, he added, would reduce uncertainty for Miraleste students, who are now scheduled to be reassigned next year to schools in the central and western parts of the Peninsula, and for everyone else involved.
It would also "end the divisiveness between the east and west" sides of the Peninsula, Lyon said, referring to years of often-bitter dispute over which schools should close to help solve the district's financial problems.
However, Lyon said, if the board refuses to "help us get this ball rolling" by approving the Miraleste petition, the result will be costly litigation for the district.
The parents group has vowed to take the district to court if it closes Miraleste High before the secession process can run its course. The group has reported raising more than $50,000 to cover legal expenses of a secession effort.
If the district does not consent to the secession, the group will have to obtain signatures of 25% of the registered voters in the proposed new district, as well as the approval of county and state officials.
At the board meeting Monday night, Trustee Jack Bagdasar suggested that the board also place consideration of a parcel tax vote on the Dec. 7 agenda. But other trustees rejected the idea, saying the community and the district aren't ready to take on another controversial issue.
Voters last March narrowly rejected a school tax proposal that would have raised an estimated $2.2 million annually for five years.