New education foundation launches to support local schools

Looking to reinforce our community’s support of local schools, a group of parents and business leaders have embarked on a new mission to support all of the schools in Westchester and Playa del Rey.

This week, the group formally announced the formation of the LAX Coastal Education Foundation (LAXCEF), a nonprofit serving all schools in the area, including public, private, parochial, charter and magnet schools.

“LAXCEF will focus on three primary areas: direct school engagement; community and government collaboration; and local business and stakeholder outreach,” said foundation board President Matthew Swanlund, who has lived in Westchester since 2006 and has two children at WISH Charter School. “We are excited about the opportunity to pick up the baton from the Westchester Playa Education Foundation and continue their good work in providing support to all of our community’s schools.”

LAXCEF is a relaunch of the Westchester Playa Education Foundation (WPEF), a nonprofit formed in 2004 to support traditional public schools in Westchester and Playa del Rey. With WPEF lying dormant in recent years, the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce saw an opportunity to revive and rebrand the organization to serve all local K-12 area schools regardless of their classification. While the bulk of the schools in the foundation’s coverage area are in Westchester and Playa del Rey, Venice High School and schools in Del Rey will also be served. The chamber has long supported local education by hosting the annual Teacher Eddy Awards, partnering with the local Rotary clubs on the Teacher Mini Grant Program and establishing an Education Committee that meets monthly to discuss educational issues, so the opportunity to help reinvigorate a local education foundation sounded like a winning proposal.

“As a graduate of our local Westchester schools, and as a mom of a Westchester student, I am thrilled to be a part of this new education foundation,” said chamber President/CEO Christina Davis. “There are so many opportunities to bring stakeholders together to support education that are currently being missed, so I think the ed foundation will be invaluable in building bridges and supporting all of our local schools.”

LAXCEF will engage with PTA liaisons and school administrators to direct funds, supplies and services to individual schools. The foundation will also collaborate with community groups and government representatives to provide programs and resources to schools. Outreach will be a main pillar of LAXCEF, and the foundation plans to be a major source of collecting and sharing data and information with the community.

Swanlund said he hopes that the foundation will be able to make a real difference in not only the educational opportunities provided to students in the classroom, but also in educating the public about the many successes our schools are achieving and helping parents navigate the plethora of school choices in Westchester/Playa.

“Often times there is a perception problem with local schools, and we’d like to be at the forefront of providing information to parents and the community about the great programs, unique offerings and passionate administrators at all of our local schools,” said Swanlund. “We’d like to be able to give residents a more complete picture of our schools than just test scores.”

A major component of the outreach will also see LAXCEF reaching out to local real estate agents, often the first people to meet with new homebuyers, to make sure they have accurate and complete information about local schools to share with prospective residents.

“It is no secret that good schools are an important component of a high-quality community, and we believe it is critical to share with everyone the many successes happening every day in our local classrooms,” echoes foundation board member Andrew Chereck. “A big part of the foundation’s efforts will be communicating the amazing things our schools are doing and working with local businesses to develop partnerships, secure donations and enhance the relationship between our schools and our local businesses.”

According to Swanlund, the foundation, with the help of community partners, wants to be the link that brings parents, teachers and the community together to help enhance the education climate in the community. After all, a recent National Education Association study showed that students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer and enroll in higher level programs when all of these groups work together to support learning.

“We want to have an invested community of schools, students, parents, stakeholders and businesses,” said Swanlund. “If we can be even a small component of helping our students achieve academic success, then we’ll be improving our community in a significant and substantial way.”

Ready to hit the ground running, the LAX Coastal Education Foundation is already planning its first big public event.

On Saturday, March 10, LAXCEF will hold the inaugural Run for Education on the Loyola Marymount University campus, featuring a 5K run and a post-race festival. The event will be an opportunity for schools and the public to form teams to raise money to support our schools in a fun, festive atmosphere. The foundation stepped up to plan this event after the popular Race for Success announced it was going on hiatus for 2018.

With ambitious goals for programming, outreach and grants, the foundation is already working to cultivate like-minded donors and supporters to help fulfill its mission. The group expects to announce a large donation in the coming weeks.

“Oftentimes, the onus for providing a well-rounded educational experience for every student falls directly on the shoulders of the school administrators, teachers, faculty and staff,” said Swanlund. “However, we know that the funding of our schools–both public and private–is often woefully inadequate and that’s where we hope to step in and fill the gap.”

As LAXCEF continues to take shape, it is seeking additional community partnerships and donations.

For more information, please visit laxcoastaledfoundation.com.

Posted October 2017. Photo by Mike Harriel/Mike Harriel Photography.