Something you may not know about your occasionally cynical, slightly jaded, friendly neighborhood columnist is that I love the young people. Having done work with a local organization (which I’m sure would prefer to remain nameless) for the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to form friendships with families of all descriptions from all over town. From 5-year-old munchkins in kindergarten to 18-year-old seniors about to graduate from Samohi and go on to college, I’ve been about as happy and proud to watch these young people do their thing as any non-parent could be.
So it was tough for me to stay out of the debate over Measure A, the five-year, $198 per parcel tax increase to help the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District make up for its $12 million budget deficit. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion on whether or not the more than 10,000 students in the district deserve the money (they do), it’s that I don’t own property and I don’t have a child enrolled in school. So I didn’t think it was right for me to weigh in on the issue. Now that the measure has been defeated, I will say that I’m unbelievably disappointed in us as an electorate for literally nickel-and-diming our young people’s educations. But rather than focusing on the negative, I will accentuate the positive this week by introducing you to some of Santa Monica’s MVPs, our Most Valuable Parents.
If you’ve never heard of it, SMASH is the Santa Monica Alternative School House that shares a campus with John Muir Elementary. It’s a small, progressive, K-8 school open to all Santa Monica students no matter where they live. As a general rule, SMASH parents are pumped to participate in the goings-on at their kid’s school. So when this budget crisis hit they simply took it upon themselves to make last Saturday’s annual SuperSMASH fundraising carnival and silent auction bigger and better than ever.
Initially, I was surprised by some of the items available for bidding. I mean, there was an entire wall of Uglydolls (far and away the most popular item among the munchkins), two gorgeous fixie bikes, and a white electric guitar autographed by Justin Bieber. I was also surprised by the sheer amount of items available for bidding — until I learned that SMASH parents, MVPs that they are, went out and solicited more than 500 donations from local businesses. But I have to say that my most pleasant surprises came when I was informed about the new-this-year live auction and about the raffle.
Apparently, there were typically three kinds of items at the SMASH silent auction: kid-driven and kid-paid (like the Uglydoll), kid-driven and parent-paid (like the Bieber guitar), and parent-driven and parent-paid (like the artwork made by students, known as “Core Art”). The most valuable stuff is, of course, the Core Art. It is almost impossible to put a price on the painting, sculpture, and photography of SMASH’s young artists. Consequently, the frenzy of last-minute signatures on bidding sheets drove organizers to make a change and offer the Core Art via live auction. And it worked. For example, a gorgeous piece by two young artists went for $500 after a long bidding war between both sets of parents — a classic win/win.
I didn’t want to compete for any Core Art, but I made sure to contribute in other ways. I bought a bunch of $1 tickets; which I proceeded to turn into a plate of Dave’s famous ribs, some homemade lemonade, Diddy Riese snickerdoodles, a massage, a snow cone, and a few carnival games (I made sure to pick up some Alka-Seltzer on my way home).
I also invested in the experience of a lifetime for myself and for the student body at SMASH when I bought about a dozen tickets for the raffle. Among the items available were things like “Lunch and a movie with Coach Tony,” and “Pizza and a movie with Jayme and Janice.” The one I wanted was “Principal for a Day,” so I put all of my tickets in that jar, crossed my fingers, and waited for the results. I didn’t win (congratulations to fifth grader Devin Dempsey), so next year I’m going to try two dozen.
Can a person with the resources to own a home in this city honestly say they can’t afford another two hundred bucks in taxes when the (increasing) value of their property is directly related to the quality and funding level of our schools? And how could anyone look a school-age munchkin in the face and tell her that to keep her favorite teacher, the school nurse, her reading helper, the library staff, and the music teachers in her school, they can’t spare one thin dime over the next five years?
I promise you that the young people in China and India that our kids will be competing against in the new global economy we created for them aren’t being short-changed by the adults in their communities.
Kenny Mack is a multi-platform content provider with four-quadrant crossover appeal who will be spending money to support Roosevelt Elementary at the Summer Splash Carnival this Saturday. His past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.