The Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s HOPE Awards ceremony and fundraiser at the Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church paid tribute to Santa Barbara Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Emilio Handall and the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara for their dedication to public education.
The Santa Barbara Education Foundation, founded in 1985, aims to promote the private support of public education to enhance student achievement and provide a quality education for every student in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Since 1998, the foundation’s HOPE Awards (Honoring Outstanding Public Education) annually pay tribute to unique organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to public education in Santa Barbara County.
“The Santa Barbara Education Foundation is the best partner that any school district could have, and we are very fortunate that they have partnered with us,” school district Superintendent David Cash. “The biggest impact that they have is their direct support for children in classrooms.”
This year’s event, with title sponsor Montecito Bank & Trust, attracted more than 200 guests made up of educators, students, family members and civic leaders from the community.
“This is SBEF’s signature event, and we want to bring people together from all over the community to recognize our educational champions like Assistant Superintendent Emilio Handall, as well as the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara,” said Salvador Guerena, SBEF board president. “They each have a stellar record in advancing academic achievement and are making our schools the pride of our community.”
A spectacular church patio overlooking the breathtaking Goleta foothills provided the ideal setup for people to congregate and connect with conversation, bid on dozens of silent auction items, and enjoy the wide selection of appetizers, wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages on hand.
The atmosphere was cozy and bright inside the church hall, where mistress of ceremonies Beth Farnworth KEYT morning anchor, invited everyone to enjoy the buffet. After diners were seated, Farnsworth introduced the lineup of notable guest speakers for the evening, including Guerena, Cash and Janet Garufis, CEO/president of Montecito Bank & Trust.
Each speaker expressed their immense gratitude for the respective honorees, Handall and the Women’s Fund, sharing insight on the award recipients with the crowd.
“Emilio Handall has devoted his life-empowering students, teachers and families in the community,” Cash said.
As the principal of McKinley Elementary School from 2008 to 2011, his leadership empowered staff members and encouraged students to rise to a higher academic level where 98 percent of the students enrolled at the school were Hispanic, raised in working class families and English language learners.
Despite the socio-economic challenges, Handall focused on implementing cultural understanding, parental involvement, community outreach and education programs to help foster the unique needs of the students.
Under his guidance, the school successfully exited from Program Improvement, a federal program designed for under-performing schools sanctioned by the No Child Left Behind Act, designed to raise student proficiency levels in mathematics, reading and language arts on standardized state tests given annually to all students at schools receiving Title 1 funds.
Title 1 funded schools with at-risk student populations are classified for Program Improvement after missing adequate yearly progress goals for two consecutive years.
McKinley became the second school in the district, following Isla Vista Elementary, to close the achievement gap and emerge from Program Improvement, raising overall Academic Performance Index (API) test scores by 115 points, and is now at an impressive 774.
“Last year we began a science and stem initiative partnership with the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley,” Handall said. “We started branching out because we saw that getting out of Program Improvement was not the ceiling but the floor. It did not mean we were there. This is very personal to me. Every child at the school and in our school district needs an advocate and I see myself as that advocate.”
The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, established in 2003, is a volunteer organization that has grown to an impressive 600 individual and group members who combine charitable donations to fund education programs promoting public school excellence within Santa Barbara County. Some of the supported programs included The Parent Project, CORE at Santa Barbara Junior High School, the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, Future Leaders of America and the Carpinteria Children’s Project at Main.
The organization has awarded $3.6 million in grants to 47 local nonprofit agencies benefiting thousands of women, children and families in the region with all grants more than $20,000, and more than 50 percent have been $75,000 or more. In 2011, the Women’s Fund raised donations and awarded $520,000 in grants to local nonprofits and local educational programs.
Court Appointed Special Advocates was allotted a $60,000 grant for a case supervisor to work with trained volunteers for foster children, and the historic St. Cecilia Society, the oldest charitable organization in Santa Barbara, received $50,000 in funding to meet the critical dental needs of the low-income, uninsured residents of South Santa Barbara County.
A $50,000 gift went to Palabra, which offers community-based prevention programs for at-risk Latino youths, and the Friends of the Santa Barbara Public Library received $65,000 for the purchase of literacy computer learning stations for youths implemented in all south Santa Barbara public libraries.
“I believe that the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and the Women’s Fund have much in common,” said Carol Palladini, co-founder and chair of the Women’s Fund who accepted the HOPE Award on behalf of the organization. “We share a strong commitment to quality education for young people that includes everything from readiness to learning enrichment in the arts and sciences. One of the things our Women’s fund members love is that we get to fund those who are actually doing the hands-on work of creating positive change and we have the flexibility to change our focus annually to offer grants wherever the urgency is needed.”
The Santa Barbara Education Foundation graciously thanks the sponsors of the 2012 HOPE Awards:
» Title sponsor: Montecito Bank & Trust