16TH STREET — The Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation is hoping to raise its profile within the community by making a bigger presence on social media platforms bolstered by work from student volunteers.

The committee aims to get at least one student from each school to act as a go-between for the school and the foundation to be the eyes and ears on the ground for what’s working and what students want and turning that into content that can be posted online, said Karen Jashinsky, a volunteer with the foundation and founder of local business 02 MAX Fitness, which caters to kids.

By including student work in an ambitious social media outreach push, the Education Foundation hopes to give parents a direct view into where their money goes and at the same time increase the exposure of the foundation.

“We want to update the image,” Jashinsky said. “There are so many progressive things being done here that so many other committees don’t do. The foundation has been around, but people don’t recognize that or the impact the funding has on programs that have been happening at the schools.”

The foundation hopes that by putting the information out online, students will talk about it and bring it back to parents who may not have delved into social media, said Linda Gross, executive director of the Education Foundation.

“Kids use social media more, but parents are there, too,” Gross said. “We’re trying to catch everyone.”

The Education Foundation became the focal point of community debate in recent months when the Board of Education launched an investigation into the idea of taking responsibility for school fundraising out of the hands of site-based parent groups and putting it in the purview of the foundation.

While parents argued over the relative benefits and costs of the districtwide fundraising model during the last months of the year, student opinion went largely unheard at public meetings. This group aims to encourage input and, if possible, participation, Jashinsky said.

“They have more of a vested interest,” she said.

Although the role of the student liaison hasn’t been entirely fleshed out, the committee organizers envision them using the skills they learn from programs on campus to create materials that the foundation can use as “marketing” on social networks to let parents know in real terms where their money is going.

“We’re not at school, so we don’t see all of the things that money is used for on a regular basis,” Jashinsky said.

The photography, videography, acting or other media would be used in the second piece of Jashinsky’s campaign, to raise the profile of the Education Foundation and its work.

The foundation has been a force in Santa Monica since 1982, a reaction to the precipitous decline in funding for schools after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978.

In that time, it has raised funds for programs to benefit all schools in the district, but its activities went largely unnoticed.

That turned into a talking point for parents against districtwide fundraising, who said in public testimony that the foundation was not ready for such a high profile — and high dollar — role.

The foundation generally brings in around $400,000 per year for the district, not counting the $1.6 million raised during the Save our Schools campaign in 2010.

Even that pales in comparison to the multi-million dollars that the parent groups and booster clubs bring in to benefit the education, sports, music and theater programs at the various schools.

Parents were also concerned that if they could no longer give directly to their school, they wouldn’t see their money working for their children.

Through the new campaign, that story would get out, Jashinsky hopes.

In the meantime, the transition to districtwide fundraising will be a high priority for the school district. Superintendent Sandra Lyon has promised to put together an advisory committee to help form the policy by the end of January 2012, with full implementation for elementary schools by 2013.

The foundation is not just waiting for the 2013-14 school year to arrive, Gross said. It will move forward with its “dollar-a-day” campaign at the end of January, which will ask parents to give $365 per child in the school.

“We’re giving parents the chance to contribute to a fund that we’re going to need for the beginning of the 2013-14 school year,” Gross said.


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