Elementary School Decisions Delayed Following Complaints from Point Dume Parents


Before last week’s Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education meeting on March 21, the adoption of a new elementary school name, mascot and colors were put on the agenda. The new name would apply to the school where current Juan Cabrillo Elementary and Point Dume Marine Science School (PDMSS) children will attend—on the campus of the current Point Dume school.

Then, the day before the meeting, a districtwide email said the item would be postponed to a later meeting. The decision likely stems from a group of parents at the current PDMSS who were upset at the possible change.

“There wasn’t very much transparency from the school district,” PDMSS parent Kathleen Kinney said in a phone interview with The Malibu Times.

The decision to change the Pt. Dume school name stems from a May 2018 decision to have PDMSS and Juan Cabrillo merge into one school at the former’s site by the 2019-20 school year. 

At the time, Pt. Dume Parent Teacher Association President Gabi Frank asked what the school board planned to do with the school’s marine science program. PDMSS parent Strider Wasilewski expressed concern about the school district changing the name, and possibly tossing out the program.

In a phone call, SMMUSD Board Member Craig Foster said this was not the case and emphasized the marine science program would remain in place, and would most likely be expanded in the future.

On the school board’s March 21 agenda, the district listed the new school’s name as Malibu Ocean Elementary School, with a narwhal as a mascot and green and blue as its colors. 

“It’s a ‘Simpsons’ reference,” Kinney said of the school’s abbreviation, MOES. “This is Point Dume.”

Of the mascot, which according to those interviewed for this article was chosen by students, parent Arpie Petkus said, “But the whole narwhal thing is crazy town. It sounds silly.” 

A narwhal, known as the unicorn of the sea, is typically found in Arctic regions. As one parent pointed out, narwhals are not found in local water. The animal was also the focus of a viral song about a decade ago. 

Multiple parents suggested keeping the Point Dume school name and taking on the dolphin in Juan Cabrillo’s logo as the mascot to “merge” the schools. They worry the current proposed changes will cause the district to spend unnecessary money.

Petkus explained, “The other thing that has been seemingly an issue with a lot of people [is], how much is all this costing? How much are you spending?”

“And then, how much is it going to cost to rework the name, the logo, the signs, brochures, the website … It’s not like a private organization. It should be available for us to know,” the parent later added.

“Point Dume just went through some really horrific times [due to the Woolsey Fire],” Kinney said. “Why are we changing it? Why don’t we just embrace history?”

The name change, Foster explained, is to make it clear this will be a new school, “not people from Cabrillo joining Point Dume.”

“The communication could have been much better,” he acknowledged, but remained confident the issue will be worked out.

The school district does plan on securing more input from locals. In an email to The Malibu Times, SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker said, “We are planning further conversations, but the details have not been finalized at this time.”

Editor’s note: The Malibu Times received numerous emails and phone calls from Point Dume Marine Science School parents regarding the new school’s name. We would love to hear from more Juan Cabrillo parents; if you are a Juan Cabrillo parent and would like to share your opinion, please email editorial@malibutimes.com.