The Santa Barbara Education Foundation honored Annette Cordero and Jon Clark on Saturday night at the 2014 Hope Awards gala.

SBEF welcomed keynote speaker Rob Reich from Stanford University, who spoke eloquently about the role of philanthropy in public education.

The event at the Carrillo Recreation Center Ballroom in Santa Barbara began with cocktails and a silent auction, with starting bids ranging from $10 to $480. Items included tutoring sessions, one-night hotel stays, theater tickets and jewelry.

Overall, the event moved along flawlessly. From 6 to 7 p.m., attendees sipped cocktails and mingled as the silent auction took place.

Students from San Marcos High School assisted with the event, passing out appetizers, clearing plates and serving food.

Shortly after 7 p.m., Dave Cash, master of ceremonies and superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, welcomed everyone, and invited 2014 Teen Star Mary-Grace Langhorne up on stage to sing a rendition of Etta James’ “At Last.”

The seventh-grader’s deep and soulful voice quickly captured everyone’s attention.

Then Alex Sheldon, principal of SBEF’s Summer Achievement Program, spoke about the benefits of summer school.

Student Ricardo Leão spoke about his summer school experience, during which the aspiring doctor was asked to point out the parts on a human brain.

Jeffry Walker, executive director of the Incredible Children’s Art Network (iCAN), lectured on the importance of art in education, and showed a brief video that demonstrated the interaction between a student and an iCAN teacher.

Cash supported that notion, saying, “Art is just as important as physics.”

Attendees were then encouraged to indulge in the buffet-style dinner before enjoying the rest of the program.

SBEF President Craig Price welcomed everyone once again and introduced keynote speaker Reich.

His speech was thought-provoking and clearly well researched; however, he admittedly was an odd choice for the privately run education foundation.

Reich argued that private donations exacerbate inequality among California’s public school because affluent school districts are better fundraisers than less affluent school districts.

“Wealthy towns raise more money for their public schools than do poor towns,” he said.

Many attendees seemed puzzled by the speech, considering the nature of the affair, but Reich quickly turned the speech around. 

“You can imagine my surprise when I was invited by a school foundation, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, to give a talk at its annual award ceremony,” he joked. “Your organizers were aware of [my views] when they invited me.”

Reich went on to show his admiration for SBEF’s work, especially when compared to similar school foundations.

SBEF is “already engaged in equity enhancing work,” he said. “[SBEF] directs some of its money to the most disadvantaged students [and] … works as a political mobilizer.”

The event wrapped up with the awards.

Cordero, a former board member for the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Trustees and an SBCC faculty member, graciously accepted the award, thanking her family and co-workers.

Clark, president of the James S. Bower Foundation, thanked the Bower Foundation team and SBEF, and introduced new ideas to better the future of education in Santa Barbara. 

Noozhawk intern Allyson Werner can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.