Call it a dream made reality: Malibu schools will finally have their own fundraising organization, just in time for the 2019-20 school year.

The nonprofit Malibu LEAD—which stands for “Leading Educational Advancement & Development”—will take over for The Shark Fund, which previously raised money for Malibu Middle and High schools, and the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF). 

“It’s come out of conversations with all of the organizations that currently fundraise for Malibu public schools, which is predominantly the PTAs [parent-teacher associations] at all the schools and The Shark Fund,” Craig Foster, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education member, explained in a phone call with The Malibu Times.

According to the nonprofit’s website, the group is “made up of individuals who care about our schools and volunteer their time to enhance the educational experience of every student in Malibu.”

Foster confirmed Gardia Fox, former Shark Fund chairwoman, would be heading Malibu LEAD.

The decision to decentralize funding between Santa Monica and Malibu was made at a June 28, 2018, SMMUSD Board of Education meeting. Previous to the meeting, as reported by The Malibu Times, Malibu’s participation in the districtwide fundraising, headed by SMMEF, had been low.

In 2016, Malibu accounted for five percent of funds raised by SMMEF. The city’s donors raised the same amount from January through May in 2018.

The initiative to separate fundraising came at an opportune time for the school district, which was looking to pass two separate bonds, one in Malibu and one in Santa Monica, for the first time in November 2018.

After the board unanimously voted to decentralize funding, the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation became the Santa Monica Education Foundation. 

Malibu City Council Member—and former Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) president—Karen Farrer had strong words about the group at the last City Council meeting on Sept. 9.

“And to be perfectly clear with everybody listening in the room, what used to be called the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation has been changed,” she said. “It’s now called the Santa Monica Education Foundation. They have formally dropped Malibu out of their organization. There is no longer any funds and there’s no longer any consideration for Malibu.

“So it seems like it’s OK to take, but not give if you’re Santa Monica, and I officially go on the record saying that.”

Malibu LEAD, as confirmed by Farrer, will be fundraising for all “Malibu public school campuses,” which includes Webster Elementary School, Malibu Elementary School, Malibu Middle School and Malibu High School. 

It will not, however, replace The Shark Fund and elementary school PTAs. These individual organizations will come under the umbrella of Malibu LEAD, as described by Foster, and will “continue to be the primary relationship with their donors.”

Like the website itself, the organization is still under construction and will be for the next few weeks. A contest is being held to create Malibu LEAD’s logo. A poster denoting contest details described it as a fundraising entity “representing local control and educational excellence.”

People of all ages are invited to submit a logo for consideration to The words "Leading Educational Advancement and Development" must be included in the design. In an email to The Malibu Times, chairperson Fox said the logo review period after the deadline, Sept. 20, would last "2-3 weeks."

For more information, visit

Editor's note: This article has been updated given that the contest deadline was extended to Sept. 20, shared in an email from Malibu LEAD chairperson Gardia Fox.

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