With California schools lagging behind national averages, the Santa Barbara County community needs to further its support of public education, former SBCC president Peter MacDougall said Friday to about 450 attendees of the annual Partners in Education breakfast at Earl Warren Showgrounds.

People involved in education, business, nonprofit organizations and government have long partnered with the Santa Barbara County Education Office, which administers Partners in Education and its programs, to provide support of all forms.

Besides financial support, businesses can help by offering internships, job shadows and tours to local students, and Partners in Education coordinated with about 1,000 volunteers last year.

In that period, volunteers gave more than 10,000 hours of their time — the most valuable investment, said Michelle Magnusson, volunteer coordinator with the county education office.

With crowded classrooms and dwindling resources, teachers can’t meet all of the needs of every student, regardless of how hard they try,” Magnusson said.

“As a teacher, I know I failed,” she said.

Now, she sends people into classrooms who would have helped her when she was a teacher, as she matches volunteers with individual requests.

Mentors, tutors, guest speakers and more have been involved in local classrooms for years, thanks to Partners in Education.

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Goleta Mayor Eric Onnen, left, Santa Barbara Education Foundation board president Mark Ingalls, Noozhawk publisher and Partners in Education board member Bill Macfadyen and Montecito Bank & Trust vice president Dan Oriskovich at Friday’s breakfast. (Randy Weiss photo)

Ben Romo, executive director of Partners in Education, said the community at large needs to unite to address larger issues, using “human capital” to pick up the slack left by federal and state budgeting issues.

MacDougall thanked participants on Friday not only for what they’ve done, but for what they will need to do.

The “historic undermining” of public education may be felt for generations to come, he said, adding that there may not be a clear solution, but the answer is in collaboration by all facets of the community.

In addition to the volunteer program, Partners in Education has programs for career education, student internships, technology innovation and Computers for Families, which aims to provide computers to all fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders in the county.

By helping bridge the digital divide, low-income students can compete with their more affluent peers, said George Wolverton, board president of Partners in Education and publisher of the Pacific Coast Business Times.

Click here for more information about Partners in Education.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.