ROOSEVELT ELEMENTARY — Sometimes, it’s nice not to be the trailblazer.

Members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District community will gather Saturday morning at Roosevelt Elementary School to hear another side of the districtwide fundraising debate — how other districts made it work.

Nine panelists from four school districts that switched from site-based fundraising to districtwide fundraising for school programs will be on hand to discuss the very different avenues each took to reach a common goal.

“This will be an opportunity for us to hear from people who have been through the transition themselves, and have been successfully fundraising with the same model for years,” said Rochelle Fanali, a member of the group of parents that brought the panel together.

Panelists include representatives from education foundations, parent teacher associations and school boards in Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, Beverly Hills and Irvine, many of which were used as examples in the fall by proponents seeking to implement districtwide fundraising in SMMUSD.

The switch to districtwide fundraising, approved by the Board of Education in November, took the power to raise money for staff salaries and programs out of the hands of parent groups in the name of equity.

The board did not define what the implementation of that policy would look like beyond the idea that every child in the district would have roughly the same educational opportunities no matter how much money their school-site parent groups could raise.

Those figures varied greatly between schools, with some bringing in under $100 in PTA funding and others topping $2,000.

Instead, board members left it to Superintendent Sandra Lyon and a group of 30 community members she selected to work out how, exactly, districtwide fundraising would look in SMMUSD.

Saturday’s panel will be one of the first opportunities for the entire membership of the Superintendent’s Advisory Group to ask questions of people who were involved in their districts’ transition.

“They all had struggles,” Lyon said. “What’s fascinating is that every one said people tried to tank it, circumvent it or said it can’t work here. Nothing I’ve heard from them is different than what we’ve heard here.”

The districtwide fundraising debate raged during the summer and fall of 2011. People against the measure felt that the policy would lead to a significant drop in fundraising because parents would feel less incentive to give if the money wasn’t going specifically to help their children.

Proponents pointed to places like Manhattan Beach, which saw fundraising jump from $404,314 to $1.9 million within the first year of the new policy.

That number is now $4.6 million, which funds 67 education positions in seven schools, with 84 percent of the revenue coming from parents.

That district and others mentioned as “success” stories don’t have nearly the diversity of SMMUSD, opponents countered.

While no district will match Santa Monica-Malibu exactly, decisionmakers will still be able to get some useful information out of other people’s experiences, Lyon said.

“How it came about in each place was different, as was the role different people play,” Lyon said. “The PTA role is critical, but there are differences in how they go about partnering together to do fundraising.”

The race is on for Lyon and her advisory committee if they want to meet the set goal of crafting a policy for board approval by June.

Coffee and registration for the forum will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Roosevelt, 801 Montana Ave. The panel discussion will run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., at which point the main group will break off into smaller discussion until 2 p.m.

The public is welcome to attend any and all sessions.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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