Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Start Campaign to Woo Working Parents

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Times Staff Writer

Banking on the desire of many parents to be close to their children during the work day, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has launched a campaign to recruit 150 new students whose parents work in the district but live elsewhere.

School officials began circulating posters and meeting with business leaders and parents of eligible students this week to extol the virtues of the district, including excellent child care, experienced teachers and solid academic programs, Supt. Eugene Tucker said. The offer is open to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The recruiting program, he said, will make it easier for parents who work in the district to transfer their children to Santa Monica-Malibu schools in September. Tucker said his district is making sure that the new policy doesn’t alarm other school districts that might view the loss of students as a loss of revenue.


“We are not just going out to raid other districts to get their kids,” he said. “We are selective, we are only using the criteria of working in the community” and the need for child care.

Shortage of Funds

School officials said the new open-door policy will not only benefit working parents but also the district, which has been suffering from a shortage of funds and a declining student population in recent years.

Student enrollment in the district has dropped from a high of 14,000 in 1977 to about 9,500 this year, and the decline is expected to continue. If recruited, the 150 students would bring in roughly $420,000 in state funds for the 1987-88 school year.

Rita Esquivel, assistant to the superintendent and the official in charge of the recruiting effort, said many of the businesses she has contacted viewed the program as a “fringe benefit,” particularly those employers who have found it difficult to attract employees because of the high cost of housing in Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center, which is one of the largest employers in the city, said it intends to put announcements about the program in the pay envelopes of its 1,200 employees, she said.

Leonard LaBella, president of the medical center, said the plan would “improve our recruiting and retention of employees.”


Employee Benefits

“People will endure long commutes to work if they have an opportunity to send their children to an excellent school system,” he said. “We are very pleased that this is being allowed and we will use this information when we recruit workers.”

Tucker said another benefit for employees is that they will not have to miss a whole day of work if a problem develops at a neighborhood school. “They can take care of the problem and go back to work the same day because the school is nearby,” he said.

Parents wishing to enroll their children in the Santa Monica-Malibu district must first seek approval for the transfer from their home school districts.

Most school districts allow students to transfer if the reason is child care. The Santa Monica-Malibu district already has about 200 students from outside the district on special child-care permits. The Los Angeles Unified School District gives such permits to 2,000 students to attend school elsewhere.

Similar Plan Rejected

Tucker said the new students would be “treated in every regard like residents of the district. Nobody should know the difference.”

Ironically, the district turned down a proposal last year to admit up to 1,000 students from overcrowded schools in Los Angeles after Santa Monica-Malibu parents complained that the new students would not have roots in the community.


Santa Monica-Malibu school board member Della Barrett, who opposed that plan, said she is “more comfortable with a program admitting students whose parents work in the district because there is a greater commitment to the community”

Parents who are interested in the program can call (213) 393-2785, Ext. 244. In addition to getting approval from home school districts, parents must provide verification of employment to the Santa Monica-Malibu district before their children are allowed to transfer.

Registration will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 26, 27 and 28 at district headquarters, 1723 4th St.