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From the Editor: Public schools are a community asset

Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
11:38 am PST February 12, 2014

While I was covering a Sharks game this week, it was an off-the-cuff comment from a Malibu parent that got me thinking about this week’s editorial topic; “It takes an army to support a public school.”

I’m well aware that the Santa Monica-Malibu School District is a point of contention for parents of school-age children in this community, and rightfully so: The decline of public education standards, whether that be from overcrowded classes, antiquated materials, budget cuts or any number of other issues, is frustrating.

That’s why this parent’s comment struck me as so timely and essential to understanding the education dilemma in Malibu, especially as some are blaming the recent failure of the Santa Monica Malibu Education Foundation’s $4 million fundraising goal on a lack of Malibu donations.

I’ve come across people in Malibu on all sides of this issue — those that are avid supporters of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, an organization which is garnering support to establish an independent Malibu school district; those that side staunchly with the current district and hope to bolster support for its longevity; and those that sit squarely in the middle, wanting things to change in the future, but also knowing that students still need support in this moment, despite the system they fall under. 

I grew up with a hodge-podge educational background. I attended public school until second grade, then spent two years attending the very small private school that my family owned in Redondo Beach. I spent my middle and high school years in the Redondo Beach public school system and then attended a private school for college. 

The experiences were different, to be sure. But I can honestly say that they were equally as beneficial in shaping who I am as a person today, intellectually and socially. 

In private school, I was memorizing algebraic formulas and performing Shakespearean plays by the third grade.

In public school, I learned how to find my own niche and pave a path that would help me stand out, despite the sea of students I was swimming in. 

Public school stressed the importance of diversity, acceptance, humility and empathy.

Private school stressed individuality and an indulgence in art, music and literature. 

I realize that I was lucky enough to live in an area and, therefore, attend a school that has minimal issues when compared to the vast majority of public schools in the Los Angeles area. And I believe that is also the umbrella Malibu public schools fall under. 

Of course, all parents dream of an educational environment where their children are safe, nurtured and highly educated, and many will say that is not the current situation. But in order for Malibu schools to stay afloat and eventually flourish, they need long-term solutions as well as immediate assistance. That’s why when I hear about matching campaigns like the one the Daikeler family has set up through the Shark Fund, my faith in the public school system is restored. Schools are made great by the people and families who attend them, not simply because of the structure they exist within.