Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 5:45 am | Overcast 62º


Goleta Education Foundation Proudly Looks Forward to Future

Confidently hitting its stride after reorganization, GEF eager to spread word of the success of its students, teachers and schools


[Noozhawk’s note: Last in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation. Click here for the first article, and click here for the second.]

Libby O’Black Gans likes to run. She’s active in the South Coast running community, and that made her a great candidate to join the Goleta Education Foundation’s Board of Directors seven years ago.

This might seem like an odd qualification for a foundation that seeks to ensure equity in educational resources across the nine schools in the Goleta Union School District, but that was before it underwent a radical transformation.

“Prior to the revitalization of the organization, we really were just a race committee,” Gans told Noozhawk.

At the time, the foundation primarily raised funds through a fun run and distributed the proceeds equally among the district schools to use for art, music and physical education.

But in 2014, the GEF put the race on hold to pursue two new objectives. It wanted to rebuild the board from one comprised primarily of school district staff members to one consisting of parents and community members. It also wanted to transform the organization into a foundation that secures funding for programs to ensure every student in the district has access to the necessary resources.

Both the GEF and the run emerged with a focus on engaging the entire Goleta community in supporting the Goleta Union School District.

The foundation has spent the last few years developing relationships with local businesses and organizations that have an interest in supporting education, and matching those funders to specific projects in the district.

“Right now it’s been very targeted asks to organizations, and the next step is a broader kind of campaign,” shared GUSD trustee Luz Reyes-Martín, pointing to the “donate” button on the foundation’s website.

The board is currently developing a program through which individual donors can contribute to funds earmarked for particular educational needs like technology or STEAM, to which individual teachers and their principals can apply for support on the classroom level.

That innovative approach is why the foundation is integral to the district’s effort to address the changing needs of the student population, says Dr. Liz Barnitz, director of instructional services at GUSD.

“Whatever we’re providing for the students is going to help them next year and into the future,” she said. “That whole forward-thinking lens is great. It’s incredible.”

Making this new funding model a success will require engaging the entire community.

“We are now an organization that raises funds and raises awareness for the district as a whole,” board president Lisa Murphy Rivas said.

The Goleta Education Foundation has developed a relationship with the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, and holds a raffle each year at the chamber’s Goleta’s Finest event. While the raffle does generate funds for the foundation, it is also an opportunity to engage the business community in a conversation about the local school district.

One goal of those conversations is to change the way people talk about Goleta schools.

“We’re talking to real estate agents about how they should be speaking about all of the schools in this area as very good schools,” Rivas explained.

“We’re reaching out to employers, helping them to be able to tell their future employees about the community and education here, the quality of life.”

The 2017 Lemon Run is scheduled for Sept. 10 at Goleta Beach Park, and marks the beginning of Lemon Locals Week, which leads up to the chamber’s annual Goleta Lemon Festival on Sept. 16-17. The race still includes a family-friendly 1k fun run, but it now draws more serious runners with its 5k and 10k races that are official Santa Barbara Athletic Association Grand Prix events.

“It has kind of a festival atmosphere,” Gans said. “It has lots of family-friendly activities, and it’s a really fun event.”

Although Gans’ children are no longer in elementary school, she remains committed to the Goleta Education Foundation.

“Education benefits all of us, not just parents who have kids in the schools these days,” she said. “Having a strong education system here in Goleta supports our businesses, it supports our families, it supports our entire community.”

Pointing to the Goleta Education Foundation’s new logo, she notes that its initials between lines representing a mountain ridge and ocean waves are symbolic of the foundation’s vision.

“Those lines are saying, ‘All of us in the Goleta Valley, all of us here are a part of this effort to support our schools,’” she said.

Click here for more information about the Goleta Education Foundation. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jessica Haro can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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