HomeSchools & YouthSchools Foundation is the “Heartbeat of the District”

Schools Foundation is the “Heartbeat of the District”

San Marino High School Principal Dr. Issaic Gates at the Caltech STEM rollout last year.

The impact of the San Marino Schools Foundation can be measured by the quality of education and way of life in the city.

“We are the conduit with the community and the school district,” said Schools Foundation President Chris Maling. “Our role is to raise funds during the annual campaign for the school district to bridge the gap on funding from what the state gives us to what we need in order to be equal with other school districts in the state.”

The district receives $2,500 less per student in public funding than the state wide average. Without the assistance of the Foundation, the district would not be able to retain as many teachers and would have to increase class size.

Art Student

“Teachers are the main source of where the funds go but, each year, we have specific programs that can change based on the needs,” he said. “Since we’re a 501c3 nonprofit organization, we are custodians of the endowment which people donate towards and set up special scholarships for programs and for academic awards.”

This past May, the Foundation provided $2.14 million to fund teacher positions and enrichment programs to the San Marino Unified School District, broken down as:

* $2.0 million for 21 full-time teachers, including four at Carver & Valentine Elementary Schools, five at Huntington Middle School, and eight at San Marino High School

• $97,000 for the Wellness Initiative Proposal, aimed at addressing social and emotional needs of students

• $19,450 for the Mindfulness programs at Huntington Middle School

• $10,000 for additional wellness programs at all school sites

• $8,415 for the First Lego League program and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for Carver & Valentine schools

• $7,000 for CalTech Cooperative for high school students to visit CalTech as part of a new STEM research course

“It is an organization that ensures that we have the premium education in the area,” said Police Chief John Incontro. “As a parent of two children in the schools, and, as chief, I want to make sure the schools are safe and the students are well cared for.”

Students participate in a Mindfulness exercise, one of the programs that is underwritten by the San Marino Schools Foundation. The Foundation seeks to raise $2.75 million in 2018-19.

Since being founded in 1980, the SMSF has since provided over $48 million that has directly benefited students in San Marino.

“It provides so many academic programs, including the arts, which is one of the most important parts of the Foundation,” said Incontro. “Speaking with other (police) chiefs that have school districts without arts programs, I am extremely pleased that all of the students have that opportunity here.”

James Lau, executive director of the SMSF, said the goal of the organization is to help parents realize their kids’ full potential.

“We are planning future initiatives with Cal Tech, in biotech, and other programs that will continue to expand what we are trying to do for the students,” Lau said.

Maling added that any individual, family, or business can contribute for specific projects such as the Barth Athletics Complex at the Huntington Middle School or towards a football or robotics program.

“Our role is the facilitator of raising money for the kids, for the schools, and being the custodians of that by making sure that the money is invested well, conservatively, and with full accountability,” said Maling. “We give them assurance that the money will be invested properly and executed on their plan because there are a lot of people who want to set up scholarships, how it is to be allocated, the money amount, and when it is supposed to be done.”

San Marino’s schools are known for its excellent education and the success of its students in college. The high quality of education has helped shape San Marino’s civic reputation and strong real estate market.

“The direct byproduct of all this is the kids benefit, but also the community benefits because there is a direct correlation in property value, whether it is residential or commercial because of the school district,” said Maling. “In essence, anybody who owns property in San Marino directly benefits by the quality of the education and the quality of the school district. The Foundation as a whole is really the heartbeat of the school district of San Marino. We are in the background as a stable support for the district.”

“We have people that care and have a vested interest in the children because it’s really about the children at the end of the day and the quality of the education not just maintaining status quo but challenging and developing new programs to keep San Marino as the number one school district in the state,” said Maling.

It is important, said Incontro, that the people of San Marino contribute, support, and are involved with the Foundation.

“It’s a great organization and its purpose is exceptional,” he said. “It is something that every family who has a student in the school district should participate in and support.” Maling said “the importance of the community to support the district through the Foundation cannot be emphasized more. I want people to feel that they are part of this challenge that we face in supporting the kids and the school district.”

For more information, visit or contact James Lau, executive director, at 626-299-7014.


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