Tuesday, October 16 , 2018, 8:19 am | Fair 53º


Noozhawk Talks: Mark Ingalls Grows into a Champion of Education

Santa Barbara Education Foundation president proves it's never too late to get serious about school

Mark Ingalls is nothing if not enthusiastic — whether he’s embracing his lifelong love of the ocean through surfing and paddle boarding or demonstrating his more recent passion for education by serving as board president of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation. He sat down with Leslie Dinaberg at Camino Real Marketplace, where he is general manager, to talk about life, work, and how a guy who was “a horrible student” became a staunch advocate for education.

Leslie Dinaberg: Have you been with the Camino Real Marketplace since the beginning?

Mark Ingalls: I have. I was with my parents’ business; my dad has a plumbing company (Ingalls Plumbing & Heating) in Santa Barbara. I worked there on and off through school and probably for 16 years in the family business. It wasn’t until I had kids that I realized I needed to do something else. I traded my partners for parents and I don’t regret that.

That was almost 15 years ago when I came to work with Mark Linehan to build the shopping center. I was one of two construction managers.

LD: Then you eventually became the property manager?

MI: I didn’t have any formal training other than I knew the property really well; it has kind of been my graduate school — my postgraduate school. But it’s wonderful. And I love coming to work out here because I see people all the time.

LD: Camino Real Marketplace at lunch is like Town Square.

MI: I will walk from here (Starbucks) to Costco to talk to a tenant and I’ll wave 10 times to friends on the way over there.

LD: Before this center was built my sister bought a condo out here and I remember thinking why is she buying that? That’s like the end of the earth. It’s funny how Goleta has expanded the boundaries.

MI: When we were growing up, the only reason you would come out here this far was if you were going to Disco when it was Disco or the airport or the university.

LD: I can remember.

MI: As many reservations as people had about the center and the impact it might have, I think we certainly have been conscious of making sure that it felt like it was local. Having local owners I think is a big difference in how the shopping center fits in the community.

LD: Why don’t we talk about the Santa Barbara Education Foundation? You’re the president. What does the group do?

MI: The Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s role is changing. We’re basically here to serve the Santa Barbara School District with whatever its needs may be. Those needs have changed over the years, from classroom scholarships to teachers to football equipment, maps in classrooms — just an array of things.

A few years ago, funding was being cut for enrichment programs so we got involved with keeping music in classrooms, and formed a committee called Keep the Beat.

LD: That was a committee of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation?

MI: Yes, but it became a larger and larger commitment for the foundation, to the extent that we were a little concerned we would get labeled that our entire focus was that. But it was a big commitment that we were continuing to make. We’ve been able to reach some goals and find some other ways of helping to fund and keep those programs in the classroom.

We’re broadening our vision and advocating for the benefits of public education, and for a healthy school district and what the residual byproducts of a healthy school district are. We’re shifting our focus a little bit. We’re not taking our eye off music because it’s important and we continue to support that.

The ed foundation took on the commitment of campaigning for Measures H and I, which required a two-thirds majority vote and passed with overwhelming support. The foundation was committed to that campaign, and defined it as an investment in education returns the highest multiplier effect for your tax dollars. We said that by supporting education or supplementing with additional support on the private side, a healthy school district means a healthy community.

LD: Does the foundation have another focus?

MI: Right now it’s keeping opportunities in classrooms and keeping the districts’ — faced with the budget cuts they’ve had — attention on enrichment programs, because those are the things that tend to get cut.

We know we can’t augment the budget cuts; we’re not capable of doing that. But what we can be effective at doing is raising the overall awareness of the value of a healthy district.

You know, we talk about what a sustainable community is and what it’s really about — children are the fuel for the healthy future of a community ... if they are going to ensure that they are good citizens, that they are well-educated, well-informed, and have the tools to make the tough decisions that are going to be before them. What better investment can you make, in my opinion, than in education? It just seems to me to be a no-brainer.

Maybe I’m biased because I’m a parent, but I was a horrible student. I barely got through school. I was lucky to get out of high school and I didn’t go to college. I went to SBCC but I didn’t go on to graduate from a university.

I look back now as a parent, as a taxpayer, as just a citizen, and I think we have got to be doing as much as we can to ensure that future generations have everything they need to be successful and ensure that we’re going to be able to make it when we turn over things to them.

LD: The aging population is a huge responsibility.

MI: Yeah, it’s huge. We’re going to leave these kids with decisions that are going to be unprecedented ... I want to make sure they’re prepared to do that and it’s kind of funny that I’m with the education foundation. I mean, if anybody ever looked at my school transcripts they’d say, “What in the heck are you doing on the education foundation?”

LD: Sometimes it does take an adult perspective to see the value of what you were given.

MI: Yes, and that’s really my reason for doing this.

LD: That’s a great thing to spend your time on. Do your kids understand it?

MI: They do because I try to remind them. I’ve got a bunch of mantras that I say to them all the time and one is “Make a difference today.” Don’t waste the opportunity that a day is going to provide to you to make a difference in the world. ... It can be a small thing but as long as it contributes and you are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

LD: I like that.

MI: I am always blown away when I go to the open house and you hear about what the teachers are going to do this year or this semester, and the passion they have and commitment toward our kids. How could you possibly buy a better education than what we’re getting and what we have in our public schools? I just don’t know that you could buy it at a private school and get more. I’m always blown away at the quality and commitment level of the teachers.

LD: We’ve had really good experiences with all of our teachers.

MI: And that’s encouraging; I hang on to that when I see these cuts. What we really have to make sure we don’t cut into the passion people have. Sports and education are the two great equalizers. It doesn’t matter what your last name is or how much your family has in its bank account, when you’re sitting in that classroom and that math teacher is doing the lesson you’re there receiving the information and you take that information and it’s yours. You keep it. Nobody makes you give it back.

LD: What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering or working?

MI: Any water sport. Just add water. I’ve been an avid surfer and paddler. My latest passion is stand-up paddle surfing so I’ve got my son real involved in that. It’s great; we’re both doing that whenever we can.

LD: What are your favorite places in town?

MI: The beach. We’re really fortunate to have the beaches and the access to the beaches that we do.

LD: If you could be invisible anywhere, where would you go and what would you do?

MI: I’ve never thought of being invisible because I’m a people person. I always appreciate when you approach someone with a smile, you usually get a smile back. If I were invisible, maybe I wouldn’t have that. I would miss that brief reaction.

Vital Stats: Mark Ingalls

Born: Nov. 30, 1960 in Santa Barbara

Family: Wife Sunny and children Elle, 15, and Tucker, 13

Civic Involvement: Board president, Santa Barbara Education Foundation; board member, Girsh Park and Goleta Partnership for Preparedness, advisory board member and former board member of Friendship Paddle

Professional Accomplishments: Property general manager of Camino Real Marketplace and construction manager for Wynmark Development Co.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: “I’m one of those guys who has about six books in progress. I’m reading SuperFreakonomics right now. I just picked up True Compass, the memoir of Ted Kennedy. My favorite book would probably have to be Tuesdays with Morrie.”

Little-Known Fact: “How about snails can sleep for three years and porcupines float? My daughter says I have a wealth of useless information.”

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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