SchoolPower Spreads Love and Money



SchoolPower supporters, from left, Robin Rounaghi, Marcus Skenderian, Gary Jenkins, and Bill O’Hare, deliver grants, surrounded by teacher recipients.

SchoolPower’s outgoing president Robin Rounaghi was recognized for her service last Tuesday by Laguna’s school board and administrators.

 “I call her the closer,” said Supt. Sherine Smith, indicating Rounaghi’s ability to bring in sizeable donations, including a recent $135,000 gift, the largest in the organization’s history. Such donations allowed SchoolPower to distribute $78,690 in teacher grants later in the evening.

School board president Theresa O’Hare described Rounaghi as the embodiment of her family’s favorite quote by Winston Churchill: “You make a living by what you get; and you make a life by what you give.”

Her husband, Bill O’Hare, former president of SchoolPower’s endowment fund, agreed that Rounaghi’s leadership team, who delivered funding for math software programs, technology and foreign language grants, also understood the value of investing in the endowment as a source of future funds.

School board member Jan Vickers noted Rounahgi’s remarkable success at fundraising during a recession.

Dr. Gary Jenkins, current president of the SchoolPower Endowment Fund and husband of school board member Betsy Jenkins, also sang her praises.

Rounaghi said she was humbled by such effusive praise and insisted that her successes resulted from a team effort. “I feel that we have started to take SchoolPower to the next level in what we can do for Laguna Beach schools,” she said.

In a seamless segue, SchoolPower leaders then announced grants to 21 teachers or administrators who had requested funds to enhance their curriculum or introduce innovations. This amount is in addition to SchoolPower’s ongoing donation of $50,000 a year for 10 years for a foreign language grant.

Grants awarded to El Morro Elementary included $6,000 to Kim Adams for laptops for the RTI program to give students more time for online evaluation; $650 to Heather Besecker for Scrabble School, to develop phonemic awareness for reading; $9,999 to the fourth grade team of teachers for six to seven laptops and a cart to allow more students to access software programs simultaneously; $2,500 to principal Chris Duddy for the Scholastic Reading Counts program that encourages reading and accumulating reading points toward prizes, including “Dunking Duddy” in a tank; and $825 to Shannon Grasso for iPods for an additional literacy center to improve fluency.

Funds allocated to educators at Top of the World included $8,000 to Linda Barker for an program using the iPod Touch; $8,000 to Rosie Haynes for laptops for fifth graders; $1,200 to Mary Minerman for a third grade field trip to the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach; and $2,500 to Kimberly Mattson and the first grade team to improve differentiating the curriculum based on student needs.

Thurston Middle School’s grants included $500 to French and language arts teacher Randi Beckley to put in shelves and bookcases; $5,000 to science teacher Richard Selin for his outdoor science camps; $3,300 to Andy Crisp to expand the multi-media program with a high quality camera that also shoots video; $7,800 to seventh grade science teacher Linda Hill-Lindsay to establish a lab network that permits equipment to share information; $650 to science teacher Ina Woo to purchase the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” DVDs; and $2,400 to science and math teacher Kara Smith for the final “Spark” program, which provides hand-held measurement tools that download their data directly to computers.

At Laguna Beach High School, SchoolPower gave grants that included $9,300 to principal Don Austin to cover the costs of a college readiness program; $997 to social studies teacher Jennifer Lundblad for an interactive curriculum called “Government Alive”; $1,000 to Steve Sogo for his advanced chemical research class; and  $4,000 to math teacher Kim Wahlstrom for graphing calculators for her Algebra 1 and 2 classes.

Additional grants were given to special education director Irene White in the amount of $500 for parent welcome packages and to Debbie Naude in the amount of $3,500 to support the Coffee Break program, which promotes parent education.

“The innovation and enthusiasm of our teachers and district leaders is really inspiring,” said Jenkins, commenting on the line up of programs planned by teachers.

Topping off SchoolPower’s generosity, Rounaghi formally presented a check of $125,000, the second installment of the group’s annual district donation towards discretionary funds that underwrite music, technology, zero period at Thurston, visual and performing arts at the high school and class size reduction.

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