(LVUSD) community members gathered Thursday evening for the inaugural event of the newly formed T.H.E. Foundation for Las Virgenes Schools.
Following the success of the recent , a small group of concerned parents took it upon themselves to form Together Helping Education, a recently incorporated foundation that will be ’s partner in addressing the budget crisis and other issues besieging the public education system.
Approximately 90 people attended the event at board member Marc Hernandez’ home in Calabasas. “We wanted to create a foundation that will provide ongoing and not just one-time support to the school district,” said Hernandez who has three children at Round Meadow Elementary School.
, president of T.H.E. Foundation, welcomed friends and supporters at a cocktail reception before her short presentation. Among those in attendance was Raychel Harrison, a Calabasas entrepreneur. “We’re not officially part of LVUSD yet, but I wanted to see what this was all about and find out how we can help,” said Harrison, whose daughter will start kindergarten in the fall.
Other founding board members were also present, including Mark Hathaway, second VP of fundraising, who has two children at Chaparral Elementary School. Hathaway compared the current public school system to an HMO. “We need to start changing mindsets and get people used to the idea that sometimes they may have to pay a deductible,” said Hathaway, referring to the SOS campaign in which an $800 donation per LVUSD family was suggested.
For a school district with over 11,000 students, Hathaway thought the participation “could be better.”
During her speech, Friedlander brought up several salient points, including California’s ranking in 47th place per pupil expenditures, and the various implications in education of the governor’s 2011-2012 budget proposal. “We can’t have the school district operating on crisis mode all the time,” she said, providing background on T.H.E. and pointing out that “the underlying tension is not good for the community.”
According to Friedlander, communities similar to Las Virgenes have educational foundations, and one blueprint that T.H.E. is following is that of Santa Monica-Malibu. “We are not reinventing the wheel here,” she said.
Guest speaker Linda Gross, executive director of the Santa Monica-Malibu Educational Foundation, said her community has coordinated its own SOS campaigns. “One of the keys to a foundation’s success is community partnerships,” said Gross, whose involvement in the almost 30-year-old foundation began in 1992.
T.H.E. Foundation has already found a community partner in Ensele Art Gallery. Located in the Calabasas Commons, the recently opened art gallery that supports California artists, will be hosting an art contest this summer to benefit the foundation.
“We want to inspire with a positive graffiti theme,” said Barbara Hollander, art director of the gallery and mom of a ninth-grader at Calabasas High School.
Open to 13 to 18-year-olds, using any medium, the winner will get the opportunity to exhibit his or her work in the gallery for a month following the July 29 event, said to Hollander.
Good deeds, whether large or small, can make a difference, and young and old alike can help, said Hernandez. To illustrate, he shared a story. He came home one night and found out that his eight-year-old daughter and her friend sold lemonade that day.
The “lemonade stand project” netted $11. “She wants to donate it to the foundation,” said Hernandez, holding up the envelope containing the cash.
Friedlander concluded the evening by stating: “A community issue requires a community solution.”