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Santa Monica-Malibu School District Fundraising Still Short of Goal

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

May 7, 2015 -- Despite a big turnout for its premiere event at the Santa Monica Pier late last month, a foundation trying to raise $4 million for everything from literacy coaches to math, science and art classes for the Santa Monica- Malibu Unified District is still perilously short of reaching its goal.

More than 1,500 supporters attended the 2nd-annual Pier Party on April 26, a major fundraiser for the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF). 

About $125,000 was raised, bringing the amount the foundation has cobbled together to $2,235,167 – still far short of the $4 million goal, Ann Conkle, a spokesperson for the Foundation,  said this week.

The group has until June 30, the end of the district’s fiscal year, to reach its goal.

Organizers are pleased with the amount raised and in particular with the high attendance at the event, but they are still waiting for parents to step forward, Conkle said.

“SMMEF will be fundraising up until the June 30 deadline,” said Linda Greenberg, executive director of the foundation.

 The foundation’s board and its staff are continuing to solicit major gifts and annual gifts, she said. The Pier Party’s proceeds came from ticket sales, an online auction and corporate donors.

“We have two private donor events this month and will also be sending out a spring mailing, encouraging everyone to consider donating these last two months of the campaign,” she said.

The foundation steps in to provide services that might go unfunded by the state, which has cut financial assistance to many districts in recent years, along with other services.

SMMEF funds pay for instructional assistants, literacy coaches, elementary arts education, and some secondary school faculty members, teacher training and discretionary grants for enrichment programs throughout the district’s schools, Foundation officials said.

It also affords every student from transitional kindergarten through 5th grade 30 weeks of comprehensive visual and/or performing arts education – making SMMUSD one of the few districts in California with such a program, officials said.

In addition, it is also responsible for funding science, technology, engineering and math enrichment programs, Greenberg said.

Officials say they don’t know what, if anything, will be cut if the foundation falls short of its fundraising goal. A special committee comprised of school leaders and others would make that determination, Greenberg said.

But she says the cuts would likely impact arts and enrichment programs for science, technology, engineering and math.

Greenberg said the foundation would do what it could, no matter what happens.

“Regardless of the funding decisions made by the Board of Education, we are committed to providing as much funding as possible for outstanding programs for all SMMUSD students,” she said in a statement.

“We are thankful for and encouraged by the tremendous success of our Pier Party event and look forward to continued community support as we finish the campaign.”

This year’s party attracted about 200 more guests than last year’s event. Visitors paid anywhere from $25 for regular admittance and $125 for V.I.P tickets.

This year’s guests included State Sen. Ben Allen, Superintendent Sandra Lyon, Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown, Mayor Pro Tempore Tony Vazquez, City Council members Ted Winterer and SMMUSD Board members Laurie Lieberman, Craig Foster, Maria Leon-Vazquez and Ralph Mechur.

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