I was disappointed to read School Board Member Craig Foster’s published letter in early April regarding SMMUSD’s response to the devastating Woolsey Fire. Foster’s letter stated that the district did nothing to help the Malibu community during and after the Woolsey fire.

This is not true and Foster knows it. It’s disappointing to see my former board colleague be so disingenuous.

These statements are contrary to his public praise of the district and the community of Santa Monica at the end of the board meeting of December 13, 2018. Craig made a particular point to thank the district for all its support and help. He stated, “I really really appreciate the unbelievable consideration that all of you had during this period for what was going on in Malibu.

The offers of personal support, community support, from this community, from you guys in particular, from staff…..this district, I think, has walked back from the fires as well or better than anybody could have hoped for. I am really happy with the deliberation and the consultation and the thoughtful steps to slowly but surely reopen the schools….”

Immediately upon notification of the fire, the district immediately mobilized its Emergency Operations Center to focus on all the needs of our families, staff and facilities, as had been practiced for just such an emergency. Foster participated in some of the EOC meetings and learned firsthand of the support and response of every district department.

The district was in direct contact with the agencies responsible for the overall emergency response, waiting for permission to visit our school sites to assess for any building, property and smoke damage. Immediately following the assessment, the district hired an industrial hygienist

team and specialized cleaning companies to conduct extensive top to bottom cleaning to ensure safety upon return to campuses for our staff and students. No expense was spared.

Santa Monica PTA leadership and other community groups rallied around Malibu, enveloping our Malibu families and staff with love, support, donations of food, clothing and places to stay.

A Thanksgiving week “Friendsgiving” dinner was provided for hundreds of Malibu families and Malibu staff at Samohi, organized by PTA, teachers and district staff. Truck loads of clothing were offered to families and staff in need. The remaining donations were trucked to the Malibu Boys & Girls Club for further distribution. Thousands of dollars in donations were collected in support of the Malibu community and Santa Monica was happy to help.

When Malibu schools were cleaned and reopened, district staff provided additional counseling, technology, and supplies to students who lost property in the fire. As Mr. Foster said, the district and community were considerate and thoughtful and there for Malibu.

It is unfortunate that in its drive to push the unification effort, some residents of Malibu are willing to be untruthful about actual events and to paint the Superintendent, School Board, district staff and Santa Monica residents as uncaring. Nothing could be further from the truth and Board Member Foster knows it.

Ralph Mechur, former member SMMUSD Board of Education; Santa Monica resident; parent of Samohi alumni