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School News

School News
12:05 pm PST February 16, 2017

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District

Malibu student named U.S. Presidential Scholars Program candidate

Malibu’s Sam Burton, a senior at Malibu High School, is among the 2017 candidates for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, it was announced Feb. 3. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education website, the program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. 

“In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts,” the website notes. “In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields. Each year, up to 161 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.”

Earlier this year, Burton also learned that he received the highest possible ACT composite score of 36. Burton started Malibu High School’s robotics club, Malibu Robotics Team 224, as a junior.

Burton is the son of Malibu residents Jon and Helen Burton. 

District rolls out ‘smart snacks’ standards

SMMUSD has made some important changes to food services in conjunction with updated health standards published by the United States Department of Agriculture. The new standards focus on snack foods and beverages sold to children during the school day at school “snack bars.” The new standards mean that parents can count on their students making healthy choices for snacks and beverages purchased from the à la carte cart, school stores and vending machines. It also means that students may no longer see some of their favorite snack items such as some chips, beverages, corn nuts and other snacks that do not meet nutrient requirements due to calorie, sodium, fat and sugar limits.

Pizza slices, chicken sandwiches and burritos will no longer be available  à la carte in middle and high schools. These items will still be offered as part of the full lunch meal, and do meet specific lunch standards that include several items.

Over the past year, SMMUSD has made notable changes to the daily lunch offerings to include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. With the launch of the smart snacks program the district can ensure that students are offered tasty and nutritious foods during the school day, both in the cafeteria and at snack bars.

“The health and safety of our students is our top priority,” Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said. “Research shows that kids who have healthy eating patterns are more likely to perform better academically, and we can do our part to contribute to these lifelong habits.”

The food and nutrition services department continues to seek out and add new items to menus regularly, to ensure that students have access to healthy and nutritious foods that are tasty, too.

The standards are different for elementary, secondary and high school and can be found at

SMMEF announces March 11 concert lineup

Five-time Grammy winner Michael McDonald (formerly of the Doobie Brothers), special guest Amy Holland, and three-time Grammy winner “Weird Al” Yankovic will be joined by Richard Page (of Mr. Mister) as well as local favorites VENICE for the Greg Coote Concert For The Arts. 

The seasoned musicians will perform with student musicians from SMMUSD’s nationally recognized orchestras, choirs and horn sections on many of their hits.

Taking place on March 11, 2017 at Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall, the concert will raise funds for the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation. Proceeds will support arts programs at all SMMUSD schools next year.

Cynthia Fox of 100.3 The Sound will emcee the evening, which will also feature a live auction of signed instruments, experiences and more.

Tickets for the concert are available online at

This is the 12th production of the Ed Foundation’s popular concerts. This year, the concert has been renamed the Greg Coote Concert For The Arts, in memory of entertainment executive and SMMUSD 

parent Greg Coote. Coote, who passed away in 2014, led the Ed Foundation’s For The Arts endowment campaign to ensure the continuity of arts programming for students in the Santa Monica-Malibu public schools. 

Harding University

Malibu’s Walling named to dean’s list

Malibu native Spencer Walling, an electronic media production major at Harding University, is among more than 1,400 University students included on the dean’s list for grades achieved during the fall 2016 semester.

The dean’s list is published each semester by Dr. Marty Spears, University provost, honoring those who have achieved high scholarship. To be eligible, a student must be carrying 12 or more hours with a 3.65 or higher grade-point average and no incompletes.

Pepperdine University

Benton elected vice chairman of NAICU Board

Pepperdine University President Andrew K. Benton was elected to serve a one-year term as vice chairman of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Board of Directors. He is in line to assume the position of chairman in February 2018.

NAICU board members set the association’s agenda on federal higher education policy; actively encourage support of association priorities and initiatives; and oversee the organization’s financial administration. 

NAICU serves as the unified national voice of private nonprofit higher education. With more than 1,000 member institutions and associations nationwide, NAICU reflects the diversity of independent higher education in the United States. Since 1976, the association has represented private nonprofit colleges and universities on policy issues with the federal government, such as those affecting student aid, taxation, and government regulation. Our member institutions include major research universities, church-related colleges, historically black colleges, art and design colleges, traditional liberal arts and science institutions, women’s colleges, two-year colleges, and schools of law, medicine, engineering, business, and other professions.

School News is compiled by Editor Lauren Coughlin,