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SWHS grad is featured speaker at foundation gala

A 1988 graduate of South Whidbey High School who went on to make her mark in education will be the featured speaker at this weekend’s annual South Whidbey Schools Foundation gala fundraiser.

Shannon Harvey, an award-winning elementary school principal in Renton, said her South Whidbey education gave her a leg up on coping and thriving in the world.

“I was prepared socially, emotionally and academically to go to college and into the workforce,” she said Monday.

The dinner, entertainment and auction will begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 22 at Useless Bay Golf & Country Club. Tickets are $75 per person.

Harvey, the daughter of Stanford and Sumiko Sumida of Freeland, moved to South Whidbey in 1981. She was a 2009 recipient, the only one in the state, of a $25,000 award from the national Milken Family Foundation for her work in education.

Only 80 Milken awards in education and medicine are given annually.

She received the award in part for raising the reading level of her students at Cascade Elementary School more than 33 percent.

Harvey attended Western Washington University and Seattle University, and received a doctorate’s degree from Seattle Pacific University.

She has spent 17 years with the Renton School District.

At the dinner on Saturday, Harvey will discuss “School Reform: The Glass is Half Full,” especially as it pertains to the recent financial difficulties of the South Whidbey School District and its future.

“We can focus on the problems in the educational system and the lack of funding,” she added, “but it’s schools and districts that believe in the possibility of a better future, and keep a positive focus on student learning, that will be successful in educating our youth.”

Entertainment for Saturday’s event will be by members of the award-winning high school and middle school jazz bands.

There will be an auction at the beginning of the evening, featuring auctioneer Heath Gunn, during which guests can pledge donations to specific categories of school projects. Following that will be a silent auction of artwork by teachers and students.

The South Whidbey Schools Foundation was formed in 1994 to help fill gaps in the South End public school programs.

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

It also serves as a pass-through agency for people in the community who donate 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.

“The school district has been hit with a double whammy,” foundation president Lisa Bjork of Greenbank, said recently. “It’s important to support programs for teachers and kids.”

Foundation fundraising chairwoman Charlene Arnold of Freeland hopes potential donors during the current sour economy can separate the contentious issues facing the school board with the goals of the foundation.

“We’re hoping they will come with an open heart, an open mind and an open pocketbook,” Arnold said.

For information, visit www.southwhidbeyschoolsfoundation, or e-mail Nancy Ruff at ruff@whidbey.com.

Community Events, April 2014

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