A bitter, decades-long struggle by Fox Hills residents to send their children to Culver City schools cleared a major hurdle this week when the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted to allow the Culver City neighborhood to secede.
In a rare departure from its usual warlike defense of territory, the Los Angeles school board voted 4-3 to redraw the district’s boundary map to exclude Fox Hills, an area that sends about 235 students to Los Angeles public schools.
According to a staff report, losing Fox Hills would not significantly affect the Los Angeles district’s desegregation, because 78% of the Fox Hills students are from racial or ethnic minorities. The departure of the students would not cause a substantial cash drain for the Los Angeles district nor involve any transfer of district property.
“Generally, I think we should accommodate people in choosing the public school they want to attend,” Los Angeles board member Mark Slavkin said. “I believe strongly in expanding the choice of parents.”
Slavkin added a stipulation that Culver City must allow Fox Hills residents to attend Los Angeles schools if they wish.
Culver City parents, school board members and city officials broke out into applause after the decision was reached. Parent Janey Campbell, who spearheaded the movement, said she was surprised and happy that Los Angeles board members decided that a staff-recommended election was not necessary.
“I think that logic finally won out,” Campbell said.
Culver City annexed the Fox Hills area in the early 1960s when it was an undeveloped area, but the Culver City school district neglected to follow suit, leaving the area in the Los Angeles district.
“This was simply rectifying an oversight,” said Julie Lugo-Cerra, president of the Culver City school board.
Two bureaucratic hurdles, which appear to be formalities, remain to be cleared: The Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Committee on District Reorganization and the County Board of Supervisors must approve the transfer.
The committee on district reorganization must approve all transfers of territory in the county, committee secretary Marc Forgy said. If the lengthy public hearing and review process goes smoothly and the supervisors approve, the transfer can take effect July 1, 1994.
The timing would be perfect. Culver City already plans to open El Marino Elementary School near the Fox Hills area in September, 1994, to ease overcrowding, Lugo-Cerra said.
Chances are that the case will sail through both the Board of Supervisors and the County Office of Education committee because it has won board approval from both districts. Out of about a dozen mutually approved transfers submitted over the past six years, only one, which did not involve Los Angeles schools, failed to win approval from the committee, Forgy said.
The committee reviews each case carefully, addressing nine areas of concern, including segregation and financial impact, many of which have already been examined by the Los Angeles school district staff, Forgy said.
“In essence, what we’re doing is making sure this is in the best overall interests of the kids,” Forgy said.
Slavkin said that although his experience with the committee is limited, he is confident that the transfer will win approval.
“In light of the fact that the issues are very straightforward, and the two school boards are concurrent . . . I can’t imagine why there’d be a problem.”
Historically, communities have been unsuccessful at seceding from the mammoth Los Angeles school district. Forgy said he can recall only one instance, when undeveloped territory was given to the Las Virgines Unified School District in the late 1980s.
Other battles, including a recent attempt by a community on the Palos Verdes Peninsula to join the Palos Verdes school district, and a previous attempt by Fox Hills residents to join Culver City schools, were thwarted by educational bureaucracies at the county or state level or invalidated in the courts.
The Los Angeles board’s 4-3 vote Monday showed disagreement over whether to hold an election, not whether Fox Hills should be a part of Culver City schools, Slavkin said.
Even Slavkin, whose district includes the Westchester schools that would be affected most--Cowan Avenue Elementary, Orville Wright Junior High and Westchester High--originally leaned toward an election to be sure of the will of the public.
But with time and publicity, the only opposition that came forward was Fox Hills parents who wanted to continue sending their children to Los Angeles schools.
School District Secession The Los Angeles school board has approved a proposal that would allow the Fox Hills section of Culver City to secede from the Los Angeles Unified School District and join the Culver City school district.