Letter: Donation Dilemmas

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Letter to the Editor

I read with some dismay that SMMUSD board member Maria Leon-Vasquez (with the apparent concurrence of Ralph Mechur and Laurie Lieberman) attribute the Education Foundation’s donation gap to Malibu residents wanting to break away from SMMUSD. Their lack of introspection is amazing.

The Board knew it was a risky proposition when it undertook centralized funding. The minutes of the Dec. 13, 2011 board meeting alerts the board, “Some of the schools who have centralized fundraising were in financial trouble. Carlsbad Unified School District expected to run out of reserves at the end of the year.” Some may recall numerous letters to local papers warning that centralized fundraising would result in lower donations and lower attendance. Of course, in November 2012, Linda Gross reportedly said Sandra Lyon has “ … got a plan she’s excited about, one that makes the best impact on students and that she thinks will excite and engage the community.” Well how did that work out?    

Of course, this begs the question … why are donations down? Maybe they should consider Malibu parents are voting with their pocketbooks (since they don’t have much of a chance in the voting booths). Why contribute to a district that spends millions of dollars on attorneys and consultants? Why support a district that has been so dismissive of 20 percent of an already small population of students who raised science-based, legitimate questions concerning the safety of the school buildings? Why trust a district that has shown utter disregard for the environmental concerns of the neighbors surrounding its schools? There were alternatives to unilateralism. Had the SMMUSD been more creative, had the SMMUSD treated Malibu parents as partners … it’s hard to imagine that between Santa Monica and Malibu the goal of parity among schools could not be accomplished.

Unfortunately, SMMUSD’s “Putin-esque” stance has soured many in Malibu on contributing to the SMMUSD. Sadly—and this is really sad—the combination of bad decision making by Ms. Lyon and the Board has harmed a great bunch of public schools. It’s time for the Board to hit the reset button and engage in a real partnership with Malibu.

Cynthia Kesselman