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Michelle and Mario Pintor are familiar faces at Brandon School, heading up events not only to benefit students but also the Goleta community. (Mollie Helmuth / Noozhawk photo)

Featuring this week’s parent without his or her counterpart would have been like the 1992 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team without Larry Bird or Magic Johnson: incomplete. Michelle and Mario Pintor have emerged as the Brandon School dream team during the past four years, heading up events not only benefiting students but also the Goleta community.

“We work as a team,” said Michelle, who is serving as PTA president this year after her husband’s two-year term.

The two are familiar faces around campus. In fact, Mario is known by students as “Ice Cream Guy” after years of selling ice cream on Friday afternoons. Last year’s proceeds totaled $2,500, all of which went to providing scholarships to the annual Catalina Island trip or supporting the end-of-year barbecue.

Now retired after more than 25 years with UPS, Mario also has become the go-to handyman on campus.

“I’ll help the teachers if they need something fixed or built. I’ll make an easel, a cabinet, a vegetable trellis for the garden, help pour cement,” Mario said. “Whatever they ask me to do, I gladly do it.”

He also was recruited four years ago to control traffic flow in the mornings and greet parents, which he continues to do. Mario, who speaks Spanish fluently, says he takes advantage of the opportunity to offer Spanish-speaking parents ways to get involved in the school.

While Mario is more hands-on, Michelle keeps busy behind the scenes. She is the Brandon School representative on the District Advisory Council and the Site Advisory Council, all while presiding over the PTA and taking on fundraising events.

“This is my first year on the DAC, and I love it. It’s nice to see what the other schools offer and even where they are,” said Michelle, who then laid out her crammed schedule for the following day. “So tomorrow we have a district advisory meeting in the morning at Isla Vista, then the farmer’s market, then the site council meeting is right after, and tomorrow night is also our PTA meeting. I probably won’t get home until 8.”

The Brandon School farmer’s market is a new weekly tradition, inspired by Hollister School’s market and Michelle’s initiative. Local families donate and deliver produce that is then sold to benefit specialists and programs not supported by the district.

“On the 25th of September, we sent out a letter asking for donations,” Michelle said. “We got a ton of food. Trader Joe’s gives us their old flowers they are going to throw away, I made apple cider pops and those sold, we pop popcorn; it also helps our community financially because groceries have gone up.”

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Michelle Pintor and Ian Grover hand out frozen treats during the Brandon School farmer’s market. (Mollie Helmuth / Noozhawk photo)

The event is open to the public and has recently expanded to include classroom participation. Brandon third-graders have started a booth selling potted seedling plants. The students have their own cash box and are learning math skills by counting change for customers. Michelle says she has hopes for more classes to participate soon.

The farmer’s market is another way the Pintors have gotten the Hispanic community involved within the school, which is huge considering Brandon School’s student body is about 50 percent Hispanic.

“There is one family I have to mention — the Higuera family — they live on a ranch up north, and they brought in 10 cases of produce last week,” Michelle said. “They are a huge part of it.”

The Pintors’ social life is often intertwined with Brandon School events, mainly because they have become very close with several of the parents.

“In June we had a Fiesta party fundraiser at our house. It was the party of the year!” Michelle said. “It was in the backyard, after school was already out and people paid $100 per couple. I think we had 50 people in the backyard with flamenco dancers, homemade food and a professional bartender.”

This year, the parents are organizing a casino night at the Rancho Embarcadero Clubhouse, not to fundraise but just to socialize and have a good time.

“There are great parents at Brandon,” Michelle said. “It can be fun. It doesn’t have to be work.”

Their daughter, Olivia, is in fourth grade at Brandon, and Mario says she is very aware of her parents’ dedication to the school.

“The kids look to her and say, ‘Olivia, is your dad going to sell ice cream today?’ or ‘I saw your dad in the parking lot today.’ I don’t know if she likes it or not, but we are always there,” Mario said.

That sums it up nicely. The Pintors are always there. In the classroom, Michelle is starting a weekly volunteer shift, and Mario chaperones on almost every field trip. They help set up and break down the Spring Sings, and Mario joins another dad each year to man the annual PTA barbecues. Michelle’s fundraising influence and Mario’s handiwork are not only evident but enthusiastic.

“They know we will gladly help them if they ask for anything,” Mario said. “I just tell them, my cell phone is always on.”

MVPs: Michelle and Mario Pintor

School: Brandon School; 424 students; opened in 1969, closed in 1982 and reopened as a full school in 1996

Location: 195 Brandon Drive, Goleta

Noozhawk intern Mollie Helmuth can be reached at