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La Patera School parent volunteer Iuliana Earl, center, with husband Gordon and their children, from left, Iulia, 11, Michael, 7, Nicholas, 7, and baby Sarah, born Aug. 1. (Iuliana Earl courtesy photo)

[Editor’s Note: Students aren’t the only ones returning to school this fall. Hundreds of parents are reorganizing their crammed schedules to stay involved in their children’s classrooms and with their sports teams and social events. In an effort to recognize this dedication, Noozhawk has begun a weekly series of parent profiles — if they can spare a second to speak with us. If you know a parent who deserves a moment in the spotlight for his or her behind-the-scenes efforts, send a nomination to]

Although she has three children at La Patera School in Goleta, Iuliana Earl always seems to be the one there who is raising her hand.

Retiring from her hospitality routine on the PTA two years ago, Earl serves on the GATE Advisory Committee, the Site Advisory Committee and is a La Patera representative on the District Advisory Council.
Earl, who also volunteers on school trips, in the classroom and on the soccer field, says she stays involved because “there’s just the need. There’s always plenty to do.”

A recent surprise has put a slight hiccup in Earl’s normal time commitment to the school. She gave birth to a baby girl, Sarah, on Aug. 1, who joined her twin second-grade brothers and sixth-grade sister.

“(Sarah’s) pretty portable. I just take her around with me,” said Earl, who was off to deliver Costco pizzas to her oldest daughter’s sixth-grade class that afternoon.

The committees Earl invests in are decision-making bodies focused on school development, which is ideal considering she says she likes to “understand how it all works.”

The District Advisory Council is a parent-run organization with representatives from each of the nine Goleta Union School District sites. The committee, along with district Superintendent Kathleen Boomer, meets once a month at a host school to highlight programs happening at that particular site. 

The GATE Advisory Committee also meets monthly and is made up of parent, teacher, school board and administrative representation and run by Assistant Superintendent Dan Cooperman. 

“I wouldn’t say we make Earth-shattering decisions,” Earl said of the committee. “It’s everybody’s ideas, so they can speak up about what is effective and not effective in the GATE program.”

The committee recently sent a grant proposal to Sacramento for increased funding within the GATE program.

The Site Advisory Committee is specific to La Patera, focusing on development needs such as a recently approved shade structure.

“It’s basically voting on discretionary spending, like last year we were deciding which of our 10 school aides we could keep,” Earl said. “It sounds all pompous, but it’s not really that fancy.”

In 1994, La Patera School became the first public elementary school to create an endowment. The Holderman Endowment set its initial fundraising goal at $400,000 and met it within 10 years. The annual dividend helps support extracurricular programs.

“Even though we have pretty large base of students whose families are not well-to-do, shall we say, there’s funding there for programs like computers, art and music, whereas other schools have to rely strictly on the fundraising,” Earl said.

The wide range of economic backgrounds at La Patera is part of the school’s draw, she says.

“It’s a really good sampling of the world at large, you know? You have some schools that are microcosms and everybody is pretty much the same,” she said. “Frankly, I think it’s valuable to have an accurate perspective of the world.”

All three of her older children play soccer, which has become another involvement for Earl. Not only does she watch their practices and games, but she also brings their siblings to practice.

“It’s showing interest in my kids, and if you show interest in your siblings’ activities, it’s kind of like we do this as a family,” said Earl, adding, “plus, you can do your homework there.”

Volunteering with school field trips and committees also has given the busy mom, nicknamed “Miss Chatty” by her children, a chance to socialize with other parents.

“We’ll chat before or after, just the social interaction,” Earl said. “It doesn’t have to be going out for coffee every day, although that would be nice.”

With everything she does in her children’s lives and classrooms, Earl says they usually take it for granted. Unless, of course, she isn’t there and “they’re like, ‘Where were ya?’”

“I’m like a comfortable shoe, and that’s fine,” she said. “I like to be reliable. It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah. Mom will be there.’”

Earl is planning to jump back into her full routine of meetings and volunteer hours in November. 

MVP: Iuliana Earl

School: La Patera School; 391 students; public, kindergarten through sixth grade, Goleta Union School District; first California public elementary school to have an endowment

Location: 555 La Patera Lane, Goleta

Noozhawk intern Mollie Helmuth can be reached at