Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most common questions people have about the DMSEF, STEAM+ and our fundraising efforts. If you don’t see your question, please contact us at 858-523-6007, [email protected], or contact your school’s DMSEF representative.

What is DMSEF?

The Del Mar Schools Education Foundation (DMSEF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose sole purpose is to raise money to pay for the STEAM+ (STEAM plus) specialists’ salaries for the eight elementary schools in the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD).

STEAM+ learning provides focused, hands-on instruction by credentialed specialists who are a vital part of an integrated approach to learning in the areas of:

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Art
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physical Education

How much money should I contribute?

We suggest a tax-deductible contribution of $800 per student. We ask each family to consider the value of the STEAM+ approach within the scope of our children’s education and give as much as they can, whether that’s $800, or more or less. A contribution of $800 over the course of the school year is less per month than most families spend on a weekly pizza night and helps to ensure our children get the best STEAM+ education.

Our goal is for 100% family participation and $800 per child. However, we urge all families to give what they can—contributions at all levels are appreciated, and your contribution is tax-deductible.

How do I make a contribution?

You can contribute to DMSEF online or by mail. You can choose to make the suggested contribution of $800 per child in one payment or monthly payments throughout the year, for as little as $67 per month.

Where do DMSEF funds go?

All contributions given to DMSEF are restricted monies and can only be used by DMUSD to fund STEAM+ specialists’ salaries. Only 7% of contributions will be used for operating expenses, far lower than the 25% national average expenses for non-profit organizations (source: Charity Navigator). The DMSEF board is committed to keeping expenses low. That means 93% of contributions go directly to funding the STEAM+ learning in the DMUSD.

Does DMUSD contribute to the cost of the STEAM+ specialists’ salaries?

Yes, DMUSD covers a limited amount of contractual planning time for grade-level classroom teachers when students attend specialized STEAM+ classes. This planning time allows grad-level teams an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue about student needs, analysis of student work, and planning of future lessons and units of study.

DMUSD financially supports roughly 60% of STEAM+ specialists with the remaining 40% funded by DMSEF through its parent and corporate contributions.

How are the funds raised by DMSEF distributed?

The funds raised by DMSEF are combined and given to DMUSD for disbursement to the school sites for the STEAM+ specialists’ salaries. The total number of STEAM+ specialists that can be funded is calculated and divided between the eight schools based on enrollment. With sufficient funds, the STEAM+ learning can be funded at all eight schools; however, limited funds means fewer positions can be funded, and school principals must then make painful decisions about which programs need to be cut at their schools.

I already give to the PTA. Do I need to give to DMSEF too?

Yes, parent support (through contributions and volunteering) is critical to both organizations. All contributions given to the DMSEF are restricted monies and can only be used by DMUSD to fund STEAM+ specialists’ salaries. Donations to the PTA support projects, events, and expenses specific to each school.

In short, DMSEF funds the salaries of STEAM+ specialists (i.e., “staff”) and the PTA funds “stuff” the school needs.

Who runs DMSEF?

DMSEF is governed by a Board of Directors made up of school representatives (parent volunteers from each of the eight elementary schools in DMUSD). The board is responsible for all DMSEF business, including marketing/communications, finance/budgets, and administration.

School representatives are nominated by members of the DMSEF Board of Directors to serve two-year terms. The board meets at regularly scheduled, monthly meetings. Meetings are open to all members of the community and are generally held on the second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at Ocean Air School. As meeting times and places are subject to change, please contact the office to verify time and location of future meetings.

Will the School Board control DMSEF funds raised?

Contributions to DMSEF go directly to funding the salaries of STEAM+ specialists and are completely separate from the district’s allocation of other funds. These funds cannot be reallocated or used for any other purpose.

What are the benefits of a district-wide fundraising model?

DMSEF uses a district-wide model to fund the salaries for our STEAM+ subject specialists because we believe in a quality education for all our community’s children. The DMUSD Board of Trustees supports  DMSEF and this model.

Using a district-wide model has many benefits:

  • The district-wide initiative is intended to give DMUSD a more consistent revenue stream to cover STEAM+ specialist salaries now and in the future.
  • It provides more equality among the schools, which is key since most children in the district’s eight schools pool into the same three middle schools and then into the same two high schools.
  • It consolidates fundraising at the district level and a community-based fundraising effort.
  • It allows us to build synergy among our fundraising efforts and target larger corporate donors.
  • District wide fundraising allows for equitable disbursement while ensuring flexibility among the schools, so that individual sites can maintain programs that are unique to their site.


What is STEAM+?

STEAM+ education is an approach to learning that removes the traditional barriers separating disciplines and integrates them into real-world, rigorous, relevant learning experiences for students. STEAM+ teaching doesn’t incorporate all disciplines in every lesson, and it’s not always problem- or project-based. But all STEAM+ learning has one thing in common, it provides students the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned or are in the process of learning.

Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics are essential components of STEAM+ learning, along with a focus on Physical Fitness (P.E.) and other educational enhancements that put the essential “+” into STEAM+. The STEAM+ educational approach provides hands-on instruction by credentialed specialists for the eight elementary schools in the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD). Each letter in STEAM+ doesn’t represent a specialist. It is about integrated learning.

What do the STEAM+ specialists do?

STEAM+ specialists are both subject-matter experts and trained, credentialed educators accountable for covering the state-mandated standards for their subjects. STEAM+ specialists work together with classroom teachers to enhance the core curriculum, thereby supporting our schools’ mission to educate the “whole” child by providing students with opportunities for hands-on activities, problem-solving, teamwork, and exposure to the fine arts beyond what is possible in the general education classroom.

In addition, many of the STEAM+ specialists provide our children with extracurricular opportunities, such as lunch-time clubs (e.g., Zoology, Garden, Green, Engineering, Band, Strings, Chorus, Digital Video, Art, Math, etc.) and organize special events (musical performances, art shows, science fairs and competitions, problem solving competitions, photography shows, sport competitions, etc.)

What is the difference between Enrichment and STEAM+?

Enrichment provides optional classes offered as part of the DMUSD After-School Program. Parents can pay an additional fee for each class they are interested in having their child attend. Learn more at

STEAM+ classes are taught by credentialed specialists and provided during the regular school day in all eight schools. Every student, including your child, receives STEAM+ instruction (K-6 grade); no child is excluded from these programs. However, without the funding to pay for STEAM+ specialists, this extraordinary learning opportunity will be stunted..

Why do some schools have different STEAM+ classes?

Each school (via its principal) has the ability to customize its STEAM+ curriculum to include other specialties, such as Spanish, Band, Choir, Drama, Problem Solvers, Math, etc.

How can I find out what my child does in STEAM+?

Each school has a unique program and its own process for sharing what your child learns in STEAM+ and their accomplishments. These methods include newsletters, shows, art displays in school offices, school website highlights, etc. We encourage you to talk to your school’s STEAM+ specialists or DMSEF rep to learn more about the specific programs in your child’s school. Please also see your school’s website for more information and check out the STEAM+ specialist profiles for your school.

Can parents help decide what programs are offered through STEAM+? Can we get different programs in the schools, like Robotics?

District staff and principals regularly seek input regarding learning opportunities available at each school site. Over the years, different options have been available in addition to the core specialty content areas of art, music, science, PE, and technology. In some cases, the availability of highly qualified instructional staff has impacted the offerings of core specialty content areas. Due to funding and the allocation of content specialists (specialists being assigned to more than one site, therefore creating a full-time position), focusing on the identified core content specialty areas helps to ensure highly qualified specialists are available and interested in working in DMUSD because we are able to offer full-time employment. As is often the case, programs such as robotics are above and beyond what is expected of content-area specialists and heavily reliant on volunteers to support the program.

Will there be specialists for Engineering? Or will students be pulled out for Engineering? Or how is Engineering going to be covered?

While the E in STEAM+ does stand for engineering, each letter in STEAM+ doesn’t represent a specialist. It is about integrated learning. Current funding supports five core specialty content areas: art, music, science, PE, and technology. In most of these specialty content areas, students learn overlapping concepts inclusive of mathematics and engineering. Technology experiences frequently overlap with mathematics and engineering principles. Music, mathematics, and technology intersect as students learn about music and create original compositions. Science Standards are inclusive of engineering and mathematics concepts and standards. Art, technology, and engineering are the foundation for taking an idea from concept to design.

If DMSEF raises enough money, will we continue to have the same STEAM+ specialists as this year?

DMSEF funds supplement the DMUSD budget to secure STEAM+ positions at all eight schools. STEAM+ specialists are employees of the DMUSD; therefore, assignment of STEAM+ specialists to a school is managed by the rules and regulations of the DMUSD and not something on which the DMSEF has any input.

Is my contribution tax-deductible?

Yes. DMSEF is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and your contribution is tax-deductible. Please consult your tax advisor for more information. Our tax identification number is 33-0925945.


FAQs: updated 3/16/2017