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Tickets now on sale for South Whidbey Schools Foundation gala

If you want to go to bat for local schools, here’s a chance to step up to the plate and take a big swing.

The annual fundraising gala of the South Whidbey Schools Foundation will be next month. Donations go to help fill the district’s budget shortfall caused by the lingering sour economy and declining enrollment.

“For people who say they support education, this is an opportunity to be involved,” said Lisa Bjork, foundation president. “Especially during this time when people are a little discouraged about the lack of funding for schools.”

The nonprofit South Whidbey Schools Foundation was formed in 1994 to help fill gaps in the South End public school programs, and through the years has distributed more than $100,000 to district schools.

The foundation provides grants each year for individual school projects not covered by school-district funds. In the past, the foundation has funded the high school’s competitive solar-car program, and classroom equipment for shop, science, arts and music projects.

It also serves as a pass-through agency for people in the community donating money to keep programs going, such as the school jazz bands.

This past year the foundation distributed about $23,000 in chunks of about $1,000 or less, Bjork said.

She said the annual gala is the principle fundraiser for the foundation’s programs.

The event will be Saturday, May 21, at Useless Bay Golf & Country Club. An open bar social begins at 5, with dinner at 6:30 p.m.

The gala, chaired by foundation board member Charlene Arnold, will feature two auctions. The first is a silent auction of works of art produced by South Whidbey students and other local artists. The second will be a teacher-student “support the dreams” auction, hosted by Michael McInerney.

Music will be provided by DB Jazz, featuring Don Wodjenski on saxophone, Bob Wagner on piano, Dale Stirling on bass and Dan Germano on drums.

Bjork said the event also will salute the work of the district’s outstanding teachers.

Special guest speaker will be Dr. Joey Shapiro Key, a 1997 graduate of South Whidbey High School who works in the space industry. She’s the daughter of Debora and Steve Shapiro of Langley.

Key received a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Montana and is an education specialist with a focus on children for the Montana Space Grant Consortium after working at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

She will speak about “How to Become an Astronaut: It Starts with Math and Science,” sharing strategies for making those subjects engaging to students.

“She’s yet another outstanding alumnus of South Whidbey schools, and her experiences and successes remind us how important it is that our schools continue to provide outstanding educational experiences,” Bjork said.

Besides raising money to fund innovative teacher projects throughout the year, the gala also traditionally features inspirational stories about the accomplishments of teachers and students alike.

Tickets are $70 per person, with business sponsorships available at different levels.

Tickets are available at SWSF, PO Box 24, Freeland, 98249 or by visiting the www.southwhidbeyschoolsfoundation.org. For more information, e-mail Charlene Arnold at carnold@whidbey.com.

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