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Valley Forum: Sonoma Valley Ed Foundation looks to the future

Sonoma Valley’s public schools are clearly in a period of transformation and change, and we at the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation will do all that we can to make sure this leads to positive next steps for our students and our school families.

We applaud the selection of Dr. Charles (Chuck) Young, as the Interim Superintendent, following the unexpected resignation of longtime SVUSD leader Louann Carlomagno. Chuck’s determination to address the turmoil with the School Board is a welcome message for all involved.

We are only weeks away from the start of the new school year, and it is a good time for all of us to remember the importance of our local public school where nearly 4,100 children attend class every day. Since June’s graduation ceremonies, a lot has happened, including the leadership changes, school district budget cuts and facilities master plan discussions.

Although there is an understandable concern about these events, we must keep our focus on improving the quality of our schools. In that regard, we want to help clarify for you the role of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, and to encourage you to join us as we continue to help meet the critical educational needs of our Valley.

We feel confident about the programs SVEF funds. The Foundation exists solely to support the needs of our public school students. We take our fiduciary responsibility to our donors seriously. We are vigilant in our budgeting and program review process, and we seek to assess and evaluate the outcomes of all our programs continually.

We play a simple but important role in the lives of students by funding specific, innovative academic and enrichment programs that help students thrive throughout their school years. Our mission has not changed.

For example, we continue to place a strong emphasis on literacy, especially for our youngest learners. We are proud to share that more than 320 students in grades K-3 recently completed the intensive Summer Literacy Academy to enhance reading and writing skills. Funding for the Academy comes solely from generous community donations to the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.

We also stand firmly by our commitment to provide preschool for all Sonoma kids. Significant evidence indicates that birth to third grade is the crucial period to create a foundation for good health, well-being, and for being able to achieve academic success. One hundred percent of our preschoolers are arriving at kindergarten with high marks on the kinder readiness exam.

Additionally, our Valley Vibes youth orchestra continues to be an impressive after-school program with close to 100 kids attending throughout the Valley. We have launched Middle School Writing Centers at both middle schools with plans to enhance the centers to serve all 900-plus students this fall. More than 100 incoming freshman just completed the Bridge to Algebra program this summer, and we continue to make great strides with both the Engineering, Design, and Technology Academy and the Sustainable Agriculture Academy at Sonoma Valley High School. One hundred percent of our academy students are going on to college or a career technical trade.

These opportunities exist and continue to thrive because of you, our community members. State or federal dollars do not fund most of these programs, and without your ongoing support, they would not continue. This reason alone is why we believe that now more than ever is the time to support our schools.

Despite the recent news, our district has strong leadership in place and at each school site. The critical infrastructure is there. Even with the challenges of upcoming budget cuts, the district is positioned to build on the progress made in the last several years.

Our focus is on the future, by enriching the educational experience of all our students from early childhood literacy to college and career readiness.

Together, we will engage our students for a brighter tomorrow, and what better way to start than by joining us for the most important annual gathering for our schools, the Red & White Ball on Saturday, Aug. 26. Tickets are available now at svgreatschools.org. Funds raised at this event go directly toward the key academic programs I have referenced in this letter. Let’s make this year the biggest party ever for our kids!

In the words of Chuck Young, “Remember, our students are the future of our community, state, and nation; and great communities are communities with great schools.”

Debra Garber is the executive director of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.