Schools Foundation Allots $2 Million to Fund Teaching, Enrichment

The San Marino Schools Foundation Board of Trustees last week allocated more than $2 million to fund teaching positions and other enrichment services for the San Marino Unified School District, making good on its annual commitment and adding more for good measure.
“These funds directly support teacher positions, helping to reduce classroom sizes so that students receive individualized attention from teachers,” said John Simpson, SMSF president. “In addition, we awarded funding for enrichment services that would have been vacated without the generous support of families and the general community.”
The funding this year reflects the first wave of SMSF’s grant-style donations, with the board meeting last Wednesday to make the decisions based on what SMUSD officials asked for. As in prior years, a flat $2 million of this year’s funding will pay for 21 teachers districtwide next school year.
“That’s a large number of teachers,” said James Lau, interim executive director of SMSF. “I think that’s one of the things that stands out, how much they contribute, especially the people involved in the foundation. These are parents and they volunteer their time and their money. The community does the same. If it wasn’t for their generosity, the district would have to figure out how to support 21 teachers. Just think about how much more crowded the classrooms would be without these teachers.”
This year’s funding also included $97,000 to fund the proposed SMUSD Student Wellness Initiative, which aims to bring greater mental health services to students and educate them from an early age on how to manage the various stressors in life. The $97,000 will take care of virtually all one-time costs to establish the Titan Student Center at San Marino High School.
Another $19,450 will go toward Huntington Middle School’s Mindfulness Program, which is aligned thematically with the Student Wellness Initiative, and a separate $10,000 will cover a variety of other wellness-related needs at all four schools.
“Obviously our academic performance is extraordinary, but we haven’t paid that same attention to the well-being of the kids and the pressures they face,” Simpson said. “As we look forward, we really want to provide the parents and donors an inspirational outlet for their dollars.”
Lau said he felt the mental health wellness proposals really resonated with members of SMSF and that they recognized that social and emotional wellbeing was an important component of education.
“Especially for such a high performing school, there are stresses associated with that,” he said. “Hopefully by addressing that early on, they’ll have a solid foundation as they grow up to become adults. The board members are parents and they understand the amount of work their children receive and how it affects them.”
The First Lego League Program at both elementary schools will receive an $8,415 donation and the Caltech Cooperative program that allows SMHS students to take STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) research courses at Caltech will receive $7,000 for transportation costs.
“We’re lucky to have Caltech in our backyard, to have those resources to pair them up with the professors there,” Lau said.
SMSF Trustee Jennifer Chuang chaired the process to transition SMSF to a grant-based funding model.
“Over two years ago, we started discussing a grant-making process to give voice to parents in supporting program priorities important to them and their children,” she said in the news release. “After numerous discussions with trustees about a grant-making structure, we instituted the process this year.
“The outcome of the funding priorities has been gratifying,” Chuang added. “As parent-volunteers, we participate in SMSF to proactively develop solutions that support our children’s education. We thank the hundreds of families who donated to SMSF. Their support made this funding possible.”
Simpson said the continued fundraising efforts by SMSF are reflective of the reason so many families movie to San Marino: the schools.
“You have kind of that shared commitment that produces great experiences,” he said.

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