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Healdsburg Education Foundation: Securing the future of our schools

Saturday, August 17th, 2013 | Posted by
Healdsburg Junior High School Library Technician Lauren Parnes, left, works with students from left clockwise, Juliette Tocco, Cholena Ross, Monse Acevedo and Jordyn Guerra with new computers purchased by the Healdsburg Education Foundation. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Healdsburg Junior High School Library Technician Lauren Parnes, left, works with students from left clockwise, Juliette Tocco, Cholena Ross, Monse Acevedo and Jordyn Guerra with new computers purchased by the Healdsburg Education Foundation. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Coming off a record year of raising $540,000 for school enrichment, the Healdsburg Education Foundation has raised the bar this year, seeking $5 million for an open-ended endowment campaign to protect the services the Foundation provides. John and Kim Lloyd, owners of Big John’s Market, have kicked off the campaign with a $300,000 seed money donation.

The Foundation brought laptop carts to the classroom and library, ensures that both high school and junior high libraries are open during the school day, provides accelerated English language instruction, offers a Career Preparation and Leadership Academy, organizes a six-week internship program for high school juniors and pays for enrichment courses in art, computers, garden/nutrition, fitness, Lego-Robotics, drama and science for kindergarten through fifth grade.

The organization was founded in 1985, in the wake of reduced funding after California’s Proposition 13. “The community saw the needs of the schools exceed what the taxpayers were providing,” Swan said, “so people came together to create the Healdsburg Education Foundation.”

Healdsburg Education Foundation  Executive Director Pamela Swan.  (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Healdsburg Education Foundation Executive Director Pamela Swan. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Swan’s position is funded by a grant from community donors Tony Crabb and Barbara Grasseschi.  The school district provides her office space in the administration building.

To raise the $5 million endowment, Swan said, “We’ll approach major donors, foundations, service organizations and the business community to help us reach our goal.”

Over the course of nearly three decades, the Foundation has raised $4 million for Healdsburg schools by forming partnerships with service organizations, parents and business donors.

“We’ve been able to maintain vital services, such as the librarians and media technology specialists,” said Swan. “We’ve spurred innovation through the use of technology and the laptop program.”

Swan also hopes to open the high school library once a week to introduce parents and other interested people to the core content and the teaching staff, and to provide access to technology and the school’s information collections.

The laptop program enables junior high and high school students to use computers in the classrooms, as well as in the library. Not all students have access to computers at home. Sixty percent of the Healdsburg Unified School District’s students are considered economically disadvantaged.

The internship program will be expanded from 130 students to all 150 students in the junior class during the 2013-2014 school year.

Swan reiterated the Foundation’s enrichment classes in science, drama, garden and nutrition all come with hands-on experience.

“It’s great to see kids find things they are passionate about,” Swan said. “We want all our students to be college and career ready, to identify their leadership strengths.”

The four-week accelerated English for English language learners class was offered to 300 students last spring, most of them from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“With our accelerated English learning, our graduation rates have increased and we are equalizing the education gap,” Swan said.

Each year in January, the Foundation sets its program goals and funding needs for the following school year. Officials look for key programs and explore them in light of the district’s goals.

“We always stop to ask ourselves, what do we want to retain, what’s working,” Swan said. “We ask, ‘In light of the budget requested, what can we afford to do and what will the community support?’

“It takes an entire community to make schools great. We are the bridge to make that happen.”

  • Scott Winter

    I hope the state legislature takes note of these things and realizes that not only will communities refuse to let their kids fall behind, but when local businesses and individuals find themselves compelled to pitch-in where funding has been cut, it spells danger for the representatives who vote to cut funding of enrichment programs (the real color and life of education, no doubt). This is wonderful and it’s the kind of thing that makes a huge impact far beyond just local schools. It seems as though a sleeping giant is awakening.

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