Del Mar Schools Education Foundation funding model to remain district-wide to avoid disparities between schools

By Karen Billing

The Del Mar Schools Education Foundation (DMSEF) will not be changing its district-wide fundraising to a site-specific model. The DMSEF board was slated to vote on the model at its Oct. 8 meeting, but due to new information from the district the board did not take the matter to a vote.

DMSEF President Ty Humes said he has had the opportunity to meet with Del Mar Union School District Superintendent Holly McClurg and the board trustees numerous times, but it was recently communicated that neither the district nor the board could support changing to a site-specific or hybrid, model.

“The district and the trustees can’t support any model that allows for disparity between one school versus another,” Humes said. “We won’t be moving forward on the new funding model.”

Humes said that, as a board, the DMSEF has done its “exhaustive” due diligence on the proposed changes to the model, including parent surveys and gathering feedback at all of the school sites.

Ashley Falls representative Drew Isaacman said that the foundation recently learned that the Common Core curriculum has greatly affected students’ ability to be pulled out for Extended Studies Curriculum classes of science, technology, music, art and PE.

“We’ve basically maxed out on ESC time,” Isaacman said. “The teachers need more time in the classroom because there’s more to cover. But that doesn’t mean we’ve maxed out the ability to fund additional ESC teachers.”

Isaccman said it was “disheartening” to hear that there will be no increase in ESC pull-out time, but the foundation will still support the district and work to provide the best quality education for kids.

As a result of there not being increased ESC time, the DMSEF may look at changing its restrictions on how the district can use its contributions, to allow them to use ESC funds in a different way, such as for equipment or extra teachers in the classroom.

“We will look at how best to enhance educational opportunities for the district across all eight schools,” Humes said. “The district is working with us, they appreciate us. We’re the best district in the state and we have the best foundation. We got the input, we’ll get it right and we’ll move forward.”

The funding model discussion started about two years ago as parents wondered if the foundation was being limited by the district-wide model and that certain campuses were short on ESC time despite equal or greater foundation contributions.

In a proposed hybrid fundraising structure, schools’ contributions would still be put into the district-wide pot, but once they have raised enough to cover their school’s share of ESC funding, donations above that level would go back to their home school. It was a way to get more money in the pool by incentivizing parent giving.

In recent years, the foundation battled rumors that there is a wide disparity between what schools fund and what they get back.

Since the foundation started 13 years ago it has operated under different models such as site specific, district wide and a hybrid of the two. In 2004-05 the foundation went site specific and until it changed to district-wide four years later, it averaged $600,000 worth of fundraising. At that time, the district did make a bigger contribution to ESC teacher salaries and other sources could be tapped for salary monies, such as the school lunch program revenues.

The 2008-09 year was a hybrid year in which the DMSEF switched to district-wide model at the end of the school year so schools were given a “last chance” to raise site specific fund, resulting in an $1.4 million outpouring.

The foundation has been able to equal that $1.4 million amount from 2009 on, according to Isaacman.

At the foundation’s meeting, Del Mar Hills representative Estela de Llanos said she was frustrated with the district’s position regarding site-specific fundraising.

“It pre-supposes that whatever we would do would be disproportionate,” de Llanos said, noting that might not be the case.

The board also expressed concerns that the foundation could be impacted negatively by the decision. Kevin Campbell, Del Mar Heights rep, said that DMSEF may face some challenges in raising money moving forward if it appears that ESC time is maxed out.

Isaacman agreed, that they need to “crystal clear” where the funds are going to be used and why they need more money.

“We still want to get to $2 million,” Brenda Bilstad, the Torrey Hills representative said. “We can do really cool things for all of our kids.”

Also at the Oct. 8 meeting, the foundation added two new board members: Andy Zack from Sage Canyon and Ray Drasnin from Ashley Falls. Currently all schools have two representatives on the board except for Del Mar Hills.

For more information on the foundation, visit dmsef.com.

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