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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 6:21 am | Fair 41º


HOPE Award Honoree Ed Heron Recognized as Longtime Champion of Public Education

Santa Barbara Education Foundation celebrates former Santa Barbara Unified School District trustee, Computers for Families advocate


The Santa Barbara Education Foundation honored former Santa Barbara Unified School District board member Ed Heron with a HOPE Award for his long stewardship of public education. Throughout his career, the retired real estate executive dedicated himself to building partnerships between schools, businesses and the community.

More than 200 guests kicked off the reception Thursday at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, sampling wine from local restaurants and breweries and food tastings prepared by caterers and culinary students from Dos Pueblos, San Marcos and Santa Barbara high schools.

The festivities included a performance by La Cumbre Junior High School’s drumline and opening remarks from SBEF board president Terri Allison.

Allison described the Léni Fé Bland Performing Arts Education Fund, a new theater program dedicated to supporting and encouraging student participation with local performing arts.

All eyes then turned to SBUSD board president Kate Parker, who presented the award to Heron.

“He was — and is — the embodiment of kindness, caring and respect,” she said. “Ed had a huge positive impact on our cultural proficiency work in the district, special education, the arts, facilities, finances and technology — the list goes on.”

Heron served on the school board from 2008 to 2016. During his two terms, Parker said, he was a valuable role model.

“He taught me to have an open heart and open ears,” she said. “He was an amazing role model for pausing and hearing all sides of an issue, and approaching each vote with an open mind.”

The SBEF recognized Heron for his work toward eliminating the achievement gap by elevating the quality of education for all students — especially English learners and those with special needs — with fiscally sustainable long-range planning.

“He was a school board member who was extraordinary and worked hard with integrity,”​ SBEF executive director Margie Yahyavi told Noozhawk. “He dove into the position and took it seriously. It was an easy decision for us to honor him because he has given so much to our community.”

Additional visions championed by Heron were creating an environment of trust, civility, respect and dignity; ensuring school sites were safe; effective financial management; and building partnerships.

“Education has been a lifetime endeavor,” Heron said. “I ran for the school board for the simple reason that I knew I could make a difference in the quality of education for all children, our most important assets.”

He said he launched his campaign after reading local news stories about the lack of candidates.

“Because of those articles — some in Noozhawk — they edged me into thinking about it,” Heron said. “If nobody was going to do it, then I was. I jumped in and am happy I did.”

For the first year, he said, he scoured news articles to find “everything good” about the district’s 19 schools. He then reported the positive happenings within the district at every board meeting.

“I was always talking about what was good, not the negative,” said Heron, who opted not to seek a third term last year.

In addition to his official duties as a trustee, he attended as many school events as he could fit into his schedule, and he met with stakeholder groups throughout the district.

He also spent four years as chairman of the committee overseeing a $77.2 million bond measure to help upgrade the Santa Barbara City College campus.

For Heron, working to improve and prioritize teaching technologies was a top priority.

His involvement with Santa Barbara Partners in Education spans 20 years, and he also served as the organization’s president in 2008.

Under Heron’s leadership as chairman of Partners’ signature Computers for Families program, more than 11,000 computers were provided free of charge to students and their families who didn’t have access to technology at home.

“Ed was a tireless advocate for the program, always asking questions and seeking the better solutions to solve the problems our local families face in accessing and using technology,” Partners in Education executive director Chelsea Duffy said.

“On top of being smart and thoughtful in everything he did, Ed is just a genuinely wonderful person. He deserves whatever honor is bestowed upon him. Santa Barbara is a better place because of his efforts.”

Duffy said she learned a great deal from Heron, citing the importance of continually asking questions and ensuring that services stay relevant and meaningful — especially with technology advancing so quickly.

Heron said his parents helped fuel his interest in education. Both were actively engaged in their three children’s paths to college graduation.

At the ceremony, the 78-year-old grandfather was surrounded by family, among them his wife, Mary, and his son, John, who had returned to Santa Barbara from Connecticut for the occasion.

“I have been lucky to have a good family,” Heron said. “It’s a special evening.”

Guests shared laughs when Heron recalled family memories about waiting for the official school board election results in 2008. His grandson, Sammy, had written him a note that said, “Even if you lose, I will still love you grandpa.”

Heron, who moved with his family to Santa Barbara from Michigan in 1948, is an alumnus of Peabody, La Cumbre Junior High and Santa Barbara High.

His family still has close connections with the school district, with two grandchildren in the AAPLE Academy (Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment) at San Marcos High, where they also are members of the surf club and water polo and volleyball teams.

Heron has held a real estate license in Santa Barbara for the past 50 years. He began his career in 1965 with Heron Realty, a business his parents started.

In 1973 and 1981, he was honored as the Santa Barbara Realtor of the Year, and he earned the California Association of Realtors’ highest honor, California’s Distinguished Realtor Award, in 1992.

Along with honoring Heron’s influence in the community, the SBEF’s achievements were highlighted at the gala event.

Guests learned about the Academy for Success, which offers personal, individualized attention to at-risk students who have been identified as having the potential to improve, based on counselor and teacher referrals.

Another program featured was the SBEF’s Get Ahead Summer School, which provides for-credit courses for high school students.

The SBEF advocates community investment in public education for the 16,000 students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. It raises money for programs the foundation runs itself, as well as for services run by private entities and run by the district.

“Santa Barbara understands the investment in education,” Yahyavi said. “We have a generous community that gives so that we can have programs.”

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

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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