Keeping with their support for cleaving their district in two and giving Malibu more independence, the Santa Monica Malibu Unified school has agreed to create two separate fundraising vehicles for Santa Monica and Malibu.
Guided by representatives of the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF), PTA Council, Malibu PTAs, Malibu principals, several Board members and others, the proposed plan would ensure that money raised for Malibu goes to Malibu and money raised for Santa Monica goes to Santa Monica. The newly proposed fundraising structure is similar to the School Facility Improvement Districts for Malibu and Santa Monica.
A report from the district showed that for the past five years, 95% of money raised in the district has come from Santa Monica parents while only 5% of money raised has come from Malibu, a city with a much smaller population.
SMMEF and the district are hopeful that the change in fundraising structure will benefit both schools.
“The idea is we would still maintain programs and have two separate MOUs (memorandums of understanding; a document establishing goodwill between agreeing parties) that’s consistently the same,” Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said. “As we evaluate programs we support, usually there’s a mechanism that SAC (Superintendent’s Advisory Committee) evaluates the programs and makes adjustments to it. This means we’ll have two separate SACS as well. The goal is we will follow same district policy.”
In this separation, the district would receive money from Santa Monica and Malibu. If one district out-raised the other, that district would talk to SAC to discuss if that money would be put towards the following year’s programs, in an endowment, or be banked to fund “aspirational” programs.
Board member reaction was positive, with reservations of equity between the schools causing mild concern for board president Dr. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein.
“When I was elected to the board, I made a commitment to not harm district wide fundraising, and to ensure equity for all kids,” Jesswein said. “We want the school experience to be the same for all children. So, question — a vote in favor of this does not mean we’re allowing Malibu parents and interested persons to raise money for programs that this board wouldn’t necessarily have sanctioned. That this board will continue to identify the enrichment programs and additional programming that we would partner with a Malibu foundation, a Santa Monica foundation, there can’t be additions there. That’s important to me, I’m sure others on this board as well.”
Drati remarked the discussion of equity “took more oxygen than any other aspect” of the potential split, noting that both Santa Monica and Malibu understood that the board would adhere to policy and if there’s a program to be evaluated, SAC would evaluate and then the district would ultimately recommend a program.
“We’re all on same page,” Drati said.
The fundraising split was recommended to continue moving forward and a decision will be made for the separation next board meeting.