Schools Ramp Up Fundraising Efforts, Citing ‘Funding Crisis’

The Shark Fund

Malibu schools’ fundraising efforts are going through another major shift this year, with the announcement this week of the dissolving of Malibu LEAD (Leading Educational Advancement and Development), which was formed in 2019 to create one unified fundraising arm for all Malibu public schools. 

Previous to Malibu LEAD, money raised by school parents in Malibu was sent back to the district in Santa Monica to be redistributed among district schools in both cities, despite complaints among Malibu parents. That led to the formation of a unified fundraising apparatus in Malibu; last year, Malibu LEAD took over The Shark Fund, which previously raised money for Malibu Middle and High Schools, and the Malibu aspects of the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation.

Malibu LEAD has now been “disbanded,” according to an email from Malibu High School Principal Patrick Miller and Malibu Middle School Principal Melisa Andino.

According to information from Malibu’s elementary schools, funding is sorely needed. Information from the Webster and Malibu elementary PTAs stated “the elementary schools are short $274,171 for the 2020-21 school year. The amount raised by July 31 will determine the additional staff and programs that can be afforded at each school.” 

According to Miller and Andino, secondary schools were also facing a “funding crisis.” 

Secondary students’ needs will be provided by The Shark Fund, the well-known organization that has provided funds for students and teachers since 2003, while PTAs at Malibu’s two elementary schools (Webster Elementary and Malibu Elementary) will fund programs such as music, visual arts and performing arts, athletic booster clubs, after school tutoring, field trips, guest speakers, and more—those not funded by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), but rather by parents and community donors.

Funds will be used toward creating an “enriched and fulfilling” education that prepares students for success after high “school,” the email said. That means, for Malibu High and Middle schools, anything the district does not pay for directly will be paid for exclusively by donations from The Shark Fund, according to Andino and Miller’s email. The same is true for Malibu students in grades TK-5, who will depend on donations paid to their schools’ PTAs.

“It’s complicated to put together a single fundraising unit for four schools,” Craig Foster, SMMUSD Board of Education member, explained in a phone call with The Malibu Times. Foster acknowledged that “between the Woolsey Fire and then the coronavirus,” the “complexity” of merging the four schools’ fundraising efforts “just wasn’t working.”

“This spring, the conclusion was reached that we needed to go our separate ways that the elementary schools would work together and that the secondary school, middle and high school would work together,” Foster described.

Foster said if parents have students in middle and high school, they would only need to write one check to account for both to minimize any confusion.

“So Malibu has, now, two separate fundraising groups; one raises for elementary, one raises for middle and high school,” Foster said. “But the good news is there’s only one ask at each level. If you’re a middle or high school parent … you’re only asked to write one check and it supports your children in middle and high school. It’s pretty clean and clear and it hasn’t been clear for eight years, so it’s a huge step in the right direction.”

Foster said the decision over what education will look like in Malibu for the fall semester of 2020 is still in progress with the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

“It could be anywhere from all back in school, which isn’t very likely, to not at all in school, which is hopefully not very likely,” Foster said. “It’ll probably be some hybrid where some kids are back some of the time and alternating social distancing.”

While laptops are provided by the district, Foster said funds raised will provide distance learning such as college and career counseling, tutoring programs, drugs and alcohol awareness, and more.

“There’s a lot of things that are going to support the kids, even if we do distance learning. But the current plan is that the kids will be on campus. They just won’t be on campus 100 percent of the time,” Foster said. “So, these funds are there to support everything from our teachers to be able to provide supplies to their students.

“Malibu High gives an incredibly high level of quality public education for free; it’s very successful with the surrounding private schools,” Foster said. “All that we ask that, if you can, support it with up to a few thousand dollars worth of contribution to make sure all the kids have access to all of that they need for that high quality education.” 

For more information, visit or contact to donate to Malibu secondary school students; donations toward Malibu elementary school students may be made to either or