The 60-day “Save Our Schools” campaign has ended with more than $1.5 million raised in support of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District schools, campaign organizers announced.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation’s concluded its fundraising campaign to restore public education funding lost due to state budget cuts with a “Save Our Schools Grand Finale Celebration” in Santa Monica Aug. 15. It was the fundraising deadline for money to be used toward the upcoming school year, which begins Sept. 7.

Hundreds of people attended the grand finale event, including state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Tim Cuneo, and members of the Board of Education. In addition, the local band, Father Knows Best, provided musical entertainment along with student musicians from Santa Monica High School and Malibu High School.

“The success of Save Our Schools breaks a number of records for the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation,” said Linda Greenberg Gross, executive director of the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation. “Not only is this the largest dollar amount that we have raised in such a tight time-frame, but this campaign has seen more volunteer and community participation than any previous campaign in our history.”

Gross announced that the $1.517 million raised will be immediately available to the school district for the 2010-11 school year. Contributions were earmarked for one of three “buckets,” with $655,000 donated to relieve elementary class sizes, $332,000 for secondary class sizes and counselors, and $397,000 for music and library programs.

Save Our Schools also received a large number of undesignated contributions, providing funds which can be put to use where the Board of Education determines they will make the greatest impact, according to the campaign.

Campaign supporters say the funds raised could help restore up to 18 positions and make a significant impact for all students by lowering class sizes and restoring programs for next school year.

The Board of Education members were scheduled to determine which positions and programs will be restored at its meeting Wednesday, Aug. 18.

The Save Our Schools core volunteer committee numbered more than 100, with participation from across the district. Total volunteers numbered more than 1,000. Donations were received from more than 2,000 contributors, including businesses, foundations, community members and parents.

“Our community has demonstrated time after time that it cares about maintaining the quality of our local public schools. This summer it has rallied to do just that,” said Shari Davis, president of Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTAs. “This energy and commitment is one of so many reasons that I’m proud to be a member of this wonderful community.”

Gross said the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation plans to begin working next month to develop a strategic, sustainable fundraising plan for SMMUSD schools.

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