Craig Foster, who for the past eight years has served as Malibu’s only representative on the seven-member Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, announced on Friday, Aug. 5, that he would not be seeking a third term in November.
In a letter announcing his decision, Foster wrote that his daughter, who attended Malibu schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, was beginning her sophomore year of college this fall.
“Now I am no longer tied to the schools except as a board member,” Foster wrote. “I am no longer the new set of eyes I was eight years ago. It is time for me to step aside to allow for stronger connections, newer energy, and new vision to invigorate the board once again.”
Foster represented the interests of Malibu on the Board during the battle over the District’s handling of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found on the Malibu High School campus and the ongoing effort by Malibu to break off into its own independent school district.
“There is no way the School District can understand the situation on the ground, at the level it needs to, without a Malibu board representative,” Foster said in a phone interview following his announcement Friday.
“There’s lots of things they could do to try to make up the gap, but none of them are the same thing as having someone who is from Malibu — who lives in that community, who knows that community, who is a part of it every day.”
Foster cited the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which burned hundreds of homes in Malibu and damaged school property, as an example where having Malibu representation on the Board was helpful, as teachers, parents and administrators grappled with the reality on the ground in Malibu.
To that end, Foster also said he was supporting another Malibu resident whom he hoped would succeed him on the board: longtime Malibu Schools Leadership Council member and former Webster Elementary PTA president Stacy Rouse.
“I thank you all again for the love and support this community has lavished on me during these past eight years of service,” Foster wrote. “And I am thrilled to know that Stacy has stepped forward in this moment. I am one billion percent behind her. I hope and trust all of Malibu and Santa Monica will be as well.”
When asked about any future involvement in the SMMUSD or Malibu schools, Foster said he “hadn’t thought that far ahead.” As for the potential for a new, independent Malibu school district, Foster said he would “remain fully committed to a independent Malibu school district and will do everything in my power to help that become a reality and to help it succeed when it becomes a reality” — but stopped short of saying whether or not he would be willing to run for a seat on its board of education, should an independent Malibu district come to be.
Prior to his surprise announcement, Foster had pulled nomination paperwork to launch a reelection campaign. By Friday, there remained three incumbents still in the running for four seats on the November ballot. Two incumbents, Laurie Lieberman and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, had already returned nomination paperwork; the third, Keith Coleman, who was appointed to his current term in early 2021, pulled papers but had not yet submitted signatures as of Friday midday.
Lieberman, Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Coleman, Rouse and Foster were among nine candidates who initially pulled papers for the school board election. The other potential nominees as of Friday were Angela DiGaetano, Alicia Mignano, Kevin Shenkman and Miles Warner.
The deadline for nomination paperwork to be submitted is Aug. 12; should an incumbent fail to file (as will be the case if Foster does not submit signatures), that deadline is extended through Aug. 17.