A new year and renewed purpose: Sonoma Valley Education Foundation
This week, nearly 4,500 students poured back into their classrooms, finished with winter break and ready to begin the second half of their school year. Some will be preparing for high school graduation, and it is a privilege to watch a student arrive at the culmination of their senior year ready to grab hold of their future. This year’s seniors began their kindergarten year in the fall of 1999. The world has changed, and many of our own lives have changed dramatically, in that time span. But the cycle of the school year, and the process of teaching our children, carries on consistently through all the ups and downs, the funding highs and lows, and the various phases and trends in education.
How SVEF helps:
The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation is here to help make the process of educating a child as successful and dynamic as possible. Our mission is simple. We are dedicated to excellence in pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade education. We leverage financial capital and community resources to make sure every student graduates from our schools ready for college, career, and civic responsibility.
But we also hope for something more. We hope our teachers feel that spark of enthusiasm as they arrive at their classroom each day. We hope we are helping to create a generation of students who love to learn. And we hope that the team of administrators, who bear the weight of running a school district the size of a small town, feel strengthened by the support our community provides to youth and our schools every day.
SVEF was founded in 1993 by a group of concerned parents and community leaders who looked at the way the state was continually cutting funding for education and decided that local support and community investment in our schools would be essential. Since that time, SVEF has invested nearly $4 million into local classrooms. That money comes largely from local donors, local businesses, and generous local organizations. We currently fund programs in science, art, school gardens and teacher support.
A focus on raising student achievement:
We focus on raising student achievement and enhancing teacher performance through programs such as the Exploratorium Science Program, which trains teachers in a unique curriculum that integrates science and English language development. One immediate result is a lot more classroom time dedicated toward science.
Enhancing art and critical thinking skills is the unique approach used in the Visual Thinking Strategies Program, which is now going strong district-wide. Likewise, the school gardens offer a multi-layered opportunity for students to learn both academic and life skills.
And The Teacher Support Network at Sonoma Valley High School is benefiting all involved – teachers, students, and the community members who generously donate their time each week. In the coming months, TSN volunteers will be highly visible, helping students with the final drafts of their Senior Project essays, and then later coming out in full force to take part in the Senior Boards.
Community is Key:
Strong programs, proven track records and measurable results are all key ingredients, but there is another factor essential for a successful school system – the dedication of the community.
It starts with the parents who set the tone about learning and school at home, guiding homework and activities, while helping at school in a way that can, at times, seem like a part-time job. Years ago, parents only showed up at school if a student got into trouble. Today, parents are important, vital participants, volunteering in classes, orchestrating school events, and helping raise crucial funding.
The broader community is essential too, bringing additional volunteer time, important funding, and often expertise and guidance for strategic growth and planning by the school district at large. Chances are, if you are reading the Our Schools page, you are already on the large team of community members who stand by the schools, show up, take part, and engage.
So it is all of us, together, who are about to begin a new semester. Like our students, we are expecting to face challenges, including of course budget decisions that will have a broad impact. But as this senior class prepares for their last lap, we will continue our work right along side them. The schools are a reflection of our community. It’s impossible to imagine a great town without great schools, or great schools without the partnership of a great town.
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Laura Zimmerman is the executive director of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.