The Oracle Schools Foundation Gala 2016 held on November 5 at SaddleBrooke’s HOA 1, The Vistas, was a huge success raising almost $19,000 for the Foundation and the students it serves. Close to 160 people and businesses supported this year’s Read to Succeed event which began with a great performance by Mt. Vista Elementary School orchestra, led by music teacher Kaitlyn Miller.
Christine Marsh, Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, was the keynote speaker. She acknowledged that as an eleventh and twelfth grade advanced placement English Language Arts teacher at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, she is very privileged. She doesn’t have to contend with many of the resource deficiencies and teaching challenges that many other Arizona teachers do. She talked about how children from higher socio-economic status families will have heard as many as 30 million more words by the time they enter kindergarten as those from poorer families. This dearth of language experience puts our youngest learners at a severe disadvantage before they even start school. She lauded those in attendance at the Gala for their contributions to help bridge the gap to give District students a fighting chance to achieve their dreams.
Alan Levenson, the Foundation’s vice-president, then spoke about the Champion Program which is designed to provide sustainable support to achieve the Foundation’s vision: “To be a beacon of excellence in public education.” With almost 200 Champions for 2017, the program is off to a great start. He asked the attendees to engage their friends and neighbors because, “If we are to continue to have great impact, we must have great support.”
Dianne Ashby, a Doctorate-level Champion of the Foundation, likewise encouraged attendees to consider sponsoring a preschool scholarship for the 2017-18 school year. Studies have shown that preschool is critical and can provide a payback as high as $7 for every $1 spent, especially for children from lower socio-economic families. Arizona only funds half-day Kindergarten and provides no funding for preschool. In that 62 percent of the District’s students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, some families’ budgets just don’t have room for the $1,500 tuition the District must charge. The Foundation awarded 16 such scholarships for this school year and hopes to encourage even more students to the District’s Kindergarten Prep preschool next year.
The liveliest portion of the event was the auction led by Tim Koch. He had some wonderful auction items to work with such as a gorgeous handmade quilt and a one-week stay in a house in Pinetop. Tim’s animated, engaging style made for great fun and produced almost $5,500 in profit for the Foundation. The generosity of auction bidders, combined with those who sponsored, bought tickets or donated, was absolutely incredible and a real testament to the commitment the communities of the District have to providing a quality education to our children. For more information, please go to www.OracleSchoolsFoundation.com.