Tag Archives: schools

Wish Upon a Montecito Star: MUS Fundraiser Gets Help from a Legend

Saturday, May 22 will be a very exciting evening for Montecito Union kids, parents, and the greater community, as Montecito Union School hosts a virtual gala featuring professionally produced musical performances from MUS students. Dubbed “Montecito Star,” the event is in lieu of the Montecito Union School Foundation’s annual gala, which raises money for various causes on campus. This year’s proceeds are earmarked for the school’s Nature Lab, located on the 2.3-acre parcel of land located adjacent to the campus on San Ysidro Road. 

Foundation president Tara Fergusson tells us that earlier this year, the Foundation board was brainstorming ideas for a virtual, COVID-friendly event in lieu of an in-person gala. (Luckily, last year’s event was held just days before the pandemic shut down the majority of the country, at Montecito Club, and brought in much-needed funding that was utilized later in the year when kids returned to campus following months of virtual instruction.)

“We thought a virtual concert would be a good option and sent out an email to all the parents asking if anyone had connections to the music industry,” she said. “Within minutes, Simon Fuller reached out to us, offering to help produce a musical showcase of sorts,” Fergusson said. 

Fuller, an MUS parent, is the creator of the “Idol” franchise of television shows, which includes the wildly popular American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. He is also a well-known, international artist manager and television producer, and was recently recognized by Billboard magazine as the most successful British music manager of all time. Fuller and his family moved to Montecito last year, and he says he is pleased to help MUS as much as he can.

“It’s a wonderful school, and whatever we can do to help, we will,” he said, adding that his oldest daughter, an MUS student, is participating in the singing showcase; his younger twin girls will be in kindergarten next year. 

Earlier this month, a call for submissions was put out to the MUS student body, and it was expected that two dozen or so kids might participate. “We asked them to send in videos of themselves singing, and were thrilled that we received over 90 submissions,” said superintendent Dr. Anthony Ranii. Ten singers were chosen for solo performances, as well as six featured instrumentalists; an additional 80 kids are participating in the chorus.

This week, Fuller’s professional production team is on campus to record footage, coach the soloists with their chosen song, record the songs in a mobile recording studio, and film music videos for each of the performers, who will also be styled by Fuller’s team.

“Each of the performances will be shot in a different area of the campus, in a celebration of the amazing, gracious school we have here,” said Fuller, who says he’s a massive advocate for the arts in school. “That’s really where my heart is coming from in doing this.”

The Nature Lab has been utilized as the site of outdoor learning during the pandemic; the MUS Foundation has big plans to make the property a major focal point of the school and its STEAM curriculum

Fergusson is co-chairing the event with the Foundation’s fundraising and events chair Cathy Bunnin, and with the technological help of Ben Hyatt. The event will be pre-recorded but streamed online on May 22; tickets are $50 per person, with the option of purchasing a delivered meal for four from DUO Catering for $150 additional. The event will feature opportunities for naming rights at several locations at the Nature Lab, including the MUS prep kitchen, the A-frame low lying tree house, the tool shed, art shed, and others. Participants can also donate for the opportunity to win a campout or picnic at the Nature Lab.

“It’s all for a really fantastic cause. The Nature Lab is going to be transformative for our school,” Dr. Ranii said. 

When fully realized, the Nature Lab will invite learners to imagine, build, and get messy in nature as they care for the planet and one another. The experiential outdoor ecosystem that is currently in progress includes a model of self-sustaining agriculture including gardens, produce, composting, and livestock and other animals; nature-inspired making and tinkering, such as pottery, collage, wood and metalworking, weaving and textiles, painting, dye, and mixed media projects using the natural materials found onsite; a riparian zone created by a water feature; a natural playground made from the logs of massive eucalyptus; and much more. 

The Nature Lab is already being used in its current form, allowing for large-scale engineering, small-scale agriculture, and plenty of opportunities for student activism.

“If we realize the full potential of Nature Lab, we will have created a lasting resource and a living experiential outdoor facility that will help to nurture, excite, and inspire generations of Mustangs,” Fergusson said. 

An old house on the property has already been demolished, a footbridge was constructed linking “MUS proper” to the Nature Lab, a low treehouse has been fully constructed and is already been well-utilized by students, and the Nature Lab is already home to a few animals, including three chickens and one sulcata tortoise. Students are helping to design animal enclosures that better meet the needs of these animals, are more permanent, and better designed.

 In addition, a large-scale solar structure has been designed which will generate 100% of the electricity needs for the entire campus as well as provide shade for students using the northern section of the property. This structure will begin construction next month and should be completed by August. In addition, a full infrastructure plan has been designed (water, electricity, sewer, and gas) and this should also be completed by August.

By September, with the help of student designers and parent volunteers, the school hopes to create gardens, a farm stand, an outdoor kitchen, and more. The hope is that the virtual gala will bring in much-needed funds to accomplish this mission. 

“I’m incredibly grateful for the MUS Foundation for putting this on,” Dr. Ranii said. “And grateful to Simon and his team for stepping forward to support the school and bring the community together. The skill and talent of our kids has been remarkable, and it’s going to be a great show.” 

The event is May 22 at 6:30 pm. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit www.musfoundation.com/gala

SB Education Foundation

Santa Barbara Education Foundation Executive Director Margie Yahyavi was reluctant to have her office visible during our Zoom call last week, even going so far as to employ a virtual background of a rustic cabin complete with a woodburning stove in place of her actual surroundings. 

“Oh my God, this office is insane,” Yahyavi said. “Instruments galore, wine, jackets, and silent auction donations. It’s kind of embarrassing now that I look at it.” 

All true. 

But what that clutter represents is what SBEF is all about: action over administration, getting things done toward the mission of “providing and supporting programs that enrich the academic, artistic, and personal development of all students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.” Even if it means a bit of disarray in their downtown HQ from time to time. 

Especially during the pandemic when their one-room “office suite” has turned into temporary storage for donated items and much more, as a growing list of needs for students, such as internet access – which we wrote about in our Giving List book that came out last fall – food and other various requests that came in as COVID caused continued havoc. 

Late this winter, that meant finding jackets to keep underprivileged students warm as the new safety protocols for resuming in-person learning required open doors and/or windows, which created cold and drafty classroom environments. Handling that problem on the quick is exemplary of one of the ways that SBEC works. 

“The kids were actually shivering in their classrooms,” Yahyavi said. “The principals asked us if we could get the jackets for these students who didn’t have warm enough clothes. There was really a sense of urgency, because it was cold out and they needed them right away. We were thinking, how are we going to deal with this when there’s such a big need and so many kids? What we landed on was to go school by school and have the principals let us know how many jackets that they needed, the sizes and all.” 

Then SBEF jumped into action, with development and marketing-communications director Melissa Davenport posting on social media, issuing press releases, getting coverage on KEYT and sending out email requests to secure donations of funds to cover the kids who were cold. Harding came first, then Adams and Cleveland, as the nonprofit methodically undertook what Yahyavi called an overwhelming kind of task but one that was urgent. 

“We did a really good job,” she said. “I have to pat ourselves on the back because it all happened pretty quickly, barely more than a month and kaboom, we’ve done every school except one, even the preschools. But we still need some larger sizes, so we’re about 10 grand away from being done.”

Doing a good job isn’t at all surprising. A sampling of SBEF’s signature programs include its wildly successful Keep The Beat program that has raised funds to support music education in local schools since 2003 resulting in all 5,000-plus elementary school students being able to learn to play an instrument during their school day. (It’s leftovers from the latest instrument drive in February that take up quite a bit of space in Yahyavi’s office.) Other popular programs include summertime Band Camp, Drumline Camp, String Camp and, in the non-musical department, summer STEAM Camp for junior high students and annual teacher grants that support the purchase of project-based supplies and tools as well as encourage the development of creative and innovative teaching in the school district. SBEF also contributes to a number of academic – which makes up more than half of the nonprofit’s budget – as well as behavioral, emotional, parent, and peer support programs that are essential to learning and frequently designed to address disparity and inequities in the district. 

Now, as to the boxes of wine and other assorted items jamming up Yahyavi’s workspace? Well, that’s where administration actually comes in. 

The Santa Barbara Education Foundation will host its Hope Awards on Thursday, April 29, and the bottles of vino and other gifts are prizes featured in the virtual events that include a mystery wine pull and a silent auction as well as performances by the Dos Pueblos High School Jazz Band. The online gathering will also honor Craig Price and Nick Rail for their longtime support of local SBUSD students. 

Price is well known for his work in providing counsel in education law and has served on SBEF’s Board of Directors for nine years, including two as president where he played an instrumental role in growing the organization. Rail, the founder of the Summer Band Camp, is also the founder of Nick Rail Music, a network of stores serving as the premier school music dealer for Southern California. The company has been a long-time partner with SBEF to provide new instruments valued in excess of $100,000 to Santa Barbara public school music programs. 

With the awards and the entertainment, the Hope Awards’ return promises to be a celebration for the community, but more importantly the event’s goal is to raise critical funds for the Santa Barbara Education Foundation to continue making a positive impact on public school student outcomes. That means money for the programs, but also to run the organization. Paying the rent and utilities. Furnishing the office. Renumerating the employees, of which, amazingly, there are only four, just one full-time. 

“We’ve been operating on a shoestring budget forever,” Yahyavi said. “When people find out that there’s so few of us doing what we do, they’re pretty amazed, especially when you look at collegiate staff development departments which are huge.”

It’s not glamorous, but it’s necessary. 

Successful fundraising might even allow for continued expansion, which the ED would welcome enthusiastically, pointing out the difference that SBEF’s new Major Gifts Officer Eryn Shugart has made in less than a year. 

“She just proves to me that the more people that we could hire, the more effective we could be,” Yahyavi said.

But that does take more revenue in the form of donations, but even when it’s used for administrative costs, the impact is enormous, said Davenport. 

“Supporting our organization directly goes into the impact that we can make with students today, and that tremendously affects their future,” she said. “It truly changes kids’ lives.” 

So tune into the Hope Awards next Thursday afternoon at 4 pm for a quick visit with SBIFF. (RSVP at https://sbefoundation.org/hope-awards.) Admission is free. Donations are voluntary. And you won’t have to view Yahyavi’s office. We promise. 

For more information about Santa Barbara Education Foundation, visit sbefoundation.org.

Montecito Union School’s Nature Lab Offers Limitless Potential

At the southern end of Montecito Union School lies a 2.5-acre property with nearly limitless potential. After a school-wide visioning process that involved every student, we have named this space and decided upon a bold vision for its use.

When fully realized, the Nature Lab will invite learners to imagine, build, and get messy in nature as they care for the planet and one another. We will do this by creating an experiential outdoor ecosystem that combines:

– Biodynamic/Regenerative Agriculture

– Nature-Inspired Making and Arts Collaboratory

– Environment as Agent of Challenge and Wonder…

– …providing endless possibilities to grow within a unique and ever-evolving natural setting.

Biodynamic/Regenerative Agriculture

When students cross over the Joffrey Bridge into Nature lab, they will be entering a space of wonderment and awe. Students will create a model of self-sustaining agriculture including gardens, produce, composting, and livestock and other animals.  As they harvest, they will decide what to use, what to donate, and what to sell as they engage in both business development and service learning.

Nature-Inspired Making and Arts Collaboratory

At Nature Lab, students will be active creators. This includes nature-inspired making and tinkering such as pottery, collage, wood and metalworking, weaving and textiles, painting, dye, and mixed media projects using the natural materials that abound. While our large solar array will generate 100% of the electricity needs for the whole campus, it will also provide a shaded gathering place for the community or a natural performance and gallery place. The addition of an outdoor kitchen will produce many opportunities for gatherings and for using the produce and crops grown on site.

Environment as Agent of Challenge and Wonder

Students will be able to investigate the riparian zone created by our water feature, the natural playground made from the logs of massive eucalyptus, and engage in student-led inquiries and purposeful play in our low treehouse. Student agency and the pursuit of passions will help us to launch inspired thinkers who will positively impact the world.

The Nature Lab is already being used in its current form, allowing for large-scale engineering, small-scale agriculture, and plenty of opportunities for student activism. If we realize the full potential of Nature Lab, we will have created a lasting resource and a living experiential outdoor facility that will help to nurture, excite, and inspire generations of Mustangs!

Progress Report

Much has already been accomplished at the Nature Lab. First, the house that was on the property was demolished. Though the house was beautiful, it was not up to code for use by public school students, so it needed to be removed.  The removal of this house also made for much more usable space at the Nature Lab.

To provide an entrance befitting the Nature Lab, the Joffrey Footbridge was constructed, linking “MUS proper” to the Nature Lab. This picturesque footbridge meets the functional need to safely get to the property, and also creates a distinct feel for the user that they are entering a place of wonderment and beauty.

The low tree house has also been fully constructed and is already been well-utilized by students. It has served as the site of science experiments, reading circles, impromptu dramatic play, has been converted into a colonial schoolhouse by 5th graders, and has provided a teaching spot for classes utilizing Nature Lab.

Our Nature Lab is already home to a few animals, including three chickens and one sulcata tortoise. The animal enclosures are simple and safe at the moment, but students are already helping us to design animal enclosures that better meet the needs of these animals, are more permanent, and better designed.

A large-scale solar structure has been designed which will generate 100% of the electricity needs for the entire campus as well as provide shade for students using the northern section of the property. This structure will begin construction June of 2021 and should be completed by August of 2021. In addition, a full infrastructure plan has been designed (water, electricity, sewer, and gas) and this should also be completed by August 2021.

That means that by September 2021 we will be ready to really develop this property! 

With the help of student designers and parent volunteers, we hope to create gardens, a farm stand, an outdoor kitchen, and more. We’ll also work to professionally design a water feature which will be a centerpiece of the property and attract birds and other animals while providing an excellent opportunity for students to become scientists as they explore the natural world.

Virtual Event: Santa Barbara Unified School District State of Our Schools with Hilda Maldonado

WHO: SBUSD Superintendent Hilda Maldonado will share the status of the district’s schools. 

WHAT: Santa Barbara Unified School District State of Our Schools is hosted by the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and sponsored by Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, LogMeIn, UCLA Health, DA Davidson, KBZ Architects, Hohbach-Lewin, Oniracom, and Lazy Acres. 

The virtual event features a presentation followed by a Q & A session. This will be an opportunity for the community to learn about the current State of our Schools during this challenging school year.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 30, at 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Via Zoom

RSVP: Reservations can be made at www.sbefoundation.org/state-of-our-schools-tickets

This event is free. Reservations are required. 

Contact:
Margie Yahyavi
info@santabarbaraeducation.org
805-284-9125

ABOUT SANTA BARBARA EDUCATION FOUNDATION

Since 1985, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation has worked with community partners to strengthen the educational experience of all students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Throughout the years, SBEF has raised funds to help promote art and music education, provide technology, and create quality facilities. For more information, visit www.santabarbaraeducation.org.

Latest on School Reopening

In addition to the majority of the business sector permitted to reopen indoors with modifications earlier this week, most county public schools – bolstered by happy and tired parents and caregivers – reopened in early March. Montecito public schools, Montecito Union School and Cold Spring School, have been open for in-person learning since late September, after applying for and receiving a waiver from the County’s Health Officer. Both schools have since conducted the majority of in-person learning outside, modifying both campuses to accommodate outdoor, socially distanced curriculum. Both school superintendents report that there has been no COVID-19 transmission at either school, and all staff and teachers have tested negative. The majority of teachers at the two schools have had the first round of the COVID-19 vaccination. 

One805 helped local schools prepare for the reopening: Harding Elementary School principal Veronica Binkley and One805 CFO John Thyne during a mask distribution in February

Crane Country Day School has also been open since October, and Kristen Peralta, Assistant Director of Admission tells us vaccines arrived last week for Crane employees. “There was an immense sense of peace that they were one step closer to safety and would soon be relieved of the burden that had been upon them since beginning On-Campus learning last October.”

By the end of the week over 90% of Crane’s employees had received at least their first dose of the vaccine. “For a school that has been providing full-day, on-campus learning five days a week since October, as well as an online learning option, this is a significant step in the right direction,” Peralta said, crediting Crane’s Health Administrator, Nurse Savannah Aijian,for helping coordinate the effort. “Sharing vaccine information and availability became a group effort as chains of emails were sent among Crane employees, including 5 am messages to let others know that appointments were available,” Peralta said. “Teachers rallied to cover their colleagues’ duty stations so that they could get to their vaccine appointments. The glimpse of hope and sense of gratitude sparked camaraderie, and the vaccinations marked a milestone in the academic year and in the school’s history.”

In the five months that the majority of the Crane community has been on campus, students, parents, teachers, and staff have become accustomed to the safety measures implemented this year, including handwashing stations, a daily health questionnaire, a full-time school nurse, plexiglass at every desk, coyote badges around campus marking a six-foot distance, and 23 unique outdoor learning spaces. Experiential learning areas in the various quads and plazas around campus have allowed teachers and students to spread out, enjoy fresh air, and look at their education outside of the four walls of the classroom. “Teachers have been grateful to be offering their students an exceptional education whether they are on campus or at home. The school is grateful that its decisions and the precautions of Crane families have together successfully allowed for a 0% transmission rate of COVID-19 on campus. Finally, the entire community can now be grateful that the widespread vaccination adds another thick layer of protection to our schools,” Peralta said. 

Crane will continue to offer a slightly modified two-prong approach with the vast majority of families choosing on-campus learning, while a smaller set of families in third through eighth grades continue to rely upon Crane’s online learning option. “I am hopeful that if we continue to wear masks, and we continue to socially distance, we will be able to slowly return to a more normal school environment,” said Head of School Joel Weiss.

The nonprofit also donated disaster kits in Lompoc: pictured here are Mason Schmidt, Lompoc Police Chief Joseph Mariani, Angela Schmidt, and Captain Kevin Martin

Last month, in order to help prepare local school campuses in Santa Barbara for the reopening, One805, a local nonprofit, donated 1,000 masks and 50 disaster kits to Harding Elementary School. “The new double masking recommendations from the CDC combined with the community beginning to open up has increased a need for masks,” said Angela Schmidt, One805 Executive Director. “Never has it been more important to work together as one county to abide by all safety recommendations.” 

One805 was formed to create a way for all members of our community to support First Responders and contribute to the public safety needs of Santa Barbara County; the organization was formed following the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow in January 2018. “We are the only organization that supports multiple First Responder agencies. The One805 Advisory Council, which helps direct donations to where they are most needed, is comprised of the department heads of 11 separate First Responder agencies from Carpinteria to Santa Maria and throughout the county,” explains John Thyne, a founding board member. The group also recently delivered 300 disaster kits to the Lompoc Police Department; each hand-packed kit contained two masks, soap, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues, and a note of encouragement.

“It’s remarkable to witness the impact One805 has had on the overall safety of our community” says Schmidt. “We established an emergency Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/One805sb to consolidate messages from multiple agencies during emergencies and we work on public safety initiatives county-wide.” 

One805’s slogan is Prepare, Equip, Support, and they do all three. To learn more visit www.one805.org.