Mallory Price with father Craig Price
In a screenshot, Mallory Price, a literacy coach at Adams Elementary School, speaks about her father, Craig Price, before presenting him with the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s HOPE Award on Thursday.

Two local champions of public education were honored Thursday at the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s HOPE Awards for their philanthropic efforts and longtime support of students.

Craig Price, an attorney who spent nine years on the SBEF Board of Directors, and Nick Rail, founder of Nick Rail Music who has supported music education in area schools for the past 30 years, were recognized at the annual event.

During his nine-year tenure on the foundation board, Price provided leadership that helped transform the organization into its current form. He served as board president for two years.

His vision elevated the SBEF from a small group of fundraisers mostly focused on music and expanded the organization to include a wide range of programs serving students in the 19 schools making up the Santa Barbara Unified School District, according to the organization. 

Price is known for providing counsel in education law as an attorney for Griffith & Thornburgh.

“I’m very proud to accept this award,” Price said. “It is particularly important and special to have my daughter be the one to present the award.” 

Price’s daughter, Mallory Price, a literacy coach at Adams Elementary School in Santa Barbara, presented the award to her father. 

“Craig Price is not an educator in the traditional sense, but he is in his own unconventional way,” she said. “He’s responsible for teaching me some of the most important things that I’ve learned in my life, and I might add some of the less important things, too — like the capital of Delaware, and some of Yogi Berra’s famous quotes.”

Craig Price said he started doing school work in his law practice a little more than 20 years ago.

“I can assure you that if I had not serendipitously shifted my practice from what I was doing before as a trial lawyer into working with school districts, school boards, school administrators, I would have been retired long ago,” he said. “Working for and with these tremendously committed people who were looking after the welfare of the children in and around this community was much more rewarding than anything else that I had done in my career, up until that point.”

Nick Rail

Nick Rail, founder of Nick Rail Music, accepts the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s HOPE Award on Thursday.

Rail established Nick Rail Music in Santa Barbara, and it includes a network of stores serving as the premier school music dealer for Southern California. He is known within SBEF as the founder of the Summer Band Camp, which provides an affordable summer music experience for young learners.

Rail started his Summer Band Camp in 1989 to allow students an opportunity to study music with low-cost registration and high-quality instruction, according to SBEF.

In 2017, Rail asked the SBEF if it would like to take over the camp. He still remains involved in the program.

“They’ve done a simply astounding job,” Rail said.

As a longtime partner with SBEF, Nick Rail Music has provided new instruments valued in excess of $100,000 to public school music programs in Santa Barbara, the organization said in a statement. 

“I want to say how deeply thankful I am for my 30-plus year relationship with the Santa Barbara Education Foundation,” Rail said during his acceptance speech.

Rail told attendees, “Our future is only as good as the education we give our students, both in the classroom and in the arts. My undying gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given to open doors for others has been my blessing in life. I am honored to receive this award. As a treasured moment, I will value this always.”

Jeff Peterson, a retired Goleta Valley Junior High School music teacher, presented the award to Rail. The two met in 1988.

“Nick is kind and generous and much more,” Peterson said. “Nick started and ran a summer music camp for 30 years that never broke even to ensure that students from our area would have affordable year-round music opportunities. Nick would reach out to music teachers to purchase high-end instruments for them, that families and schools couldn’t afford such as bassoons, tubas, marimbas, marching equipment and more.” 

Price and Rail were acknowledged by friends as well as former and current colleagues before the awards were given out. A brief video showed several speakers who offered kind words and spoke of notable accomplishments about each award recipient. 

The Adams Elementary School library was the backdrop for the awards ceremony, which was broadcast live because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These are real books behind me,” said Geoff Green, CEO of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation who served as emcee and welcomed the online viewers. 

The mood during the ceremony was festive, with attendees chatting live through the online chat function that appeared on the website.

“We’re here today to celebrate the good works of two fine gentlemen who have each made contributions to public education in their own way over many years,” SBEF Executive Director Margie Yahyavi said. “I’m delighted to be able to honor each of them today.”

The 60-minute online gathering ended with a pre-recorded performance by the Dos Pueblos High School Jazz Band.

The SBEF hosted the HOPE Awards to shine a light on individuals and programs making strides for students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, according to the organization. Also spotlighted at the event was the SBEF’s efforts in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its campaigns launched to help support students. 

The program also raised funding for the SBEF to continue its mission of providing and supporting programs that positively impact students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. The virtual event raised more than $51,500 for SBEF. The organization surpassed its $50,000 fundraising goal.

SBEF is hosting other fundraising efforts until Friday evening. Bidding for a silent auction will close at 5 p.m. Friday. Silent auction items include wines, paintings, gift cards, staycations in the local area, getaways and more. Click here for more information

People can buy a “mystery wine” for $25. The SBEF’s “wine pull” will be available for purchase until 5 p.m. Friday. Click here for more information.

Major event sponsors included Griffith & Thornburgh and Mechanics Bank

Click here for more information about the Santa Barbara Education Foundation.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.