Solana Beach School board member, Casa De Amistad nominated for awards

Casa De Amistad provides educational mentoring and tutoring services to underserved children and teens in preschool through 12th grade.
Casa De Amistad provides educational mentoring and tutoring services to underserved children and teens in preschool through 12th grade.
(Kristina Houck)

In recognition of their work in the school district, the Solana Beach School Board recently nominated Dr. Debra Schade and Casa De Amistad for San Diego County School Boards Association’s “Honoring Our Own” Awards.

Acknowledging her vision and leadership in the development of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs throughout the district, the school board nominated Schade as “School Board Member of the Year.”

Dr. Debra Schade
Dr. Debra Schade

With a belief that students should learn coding and technical education in software language before they leave elementary school, Schade has researched and supported computer-programming opportunities for all Solana Beach School District students.

The district launched coding courses for sixth graders as part of a pilot program in 2013. At Schade’s request, representatives from the district attended the first California STEM Symposium that same year, and that’s when the group agreed to move forward with a new STEM vision.

Following the symposium, the district created its Envision Team, consisting of teachers, principals, parents and administrators. Schade, who was elected to the board in 2002, participated at every meeting, championing innovative curriculum.

“We all know that the program is a culmination of so many people’s efforts,” board president Vicki King said during the Jan. 14 board meeting. “We thank everybody for the work that they’ve done, but, in particular, we, as a board, get to nominate one of our own for this exciting award.”

Since then, the district expanded its STEM program to include arts and research.

In just three years, the district redesigned STREAM Discovery Labs at every school. Today, fulltime Teachers on Special Assignment, or TOSAs, develop and deliver curriculum that is coordinated with classroom teachers and grade levels at every site.

“Dr. Schade’s drive and passion for students inspires each one of us on the Solana Beach School Board,” the board said in its nomination letter. “As School Board Member of the Year for San Diego County her vision and passion for STEM can be shared with others and ripple across the region.”

The school board also nominated Casa de Amistad as “Community Partner of the Year.”

The Solana Beach-based nonprofit organization provides educational mentoring and tutoring services to underserved children and teens in preschool through 12th grade.

Casa de Amistad offers its after-school program on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year. In August, the organization offers a summer enrichment program for kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

“Casa de Amistad has made a positive impact in student achievement and learning by increasing homework completion and classroom participation, as well as improved grades,” the board said in its nomination letter. “Many of Casa de Amistad 12th grade students have applied to and have been accepted at a number of California’s top universities and the numbers continue to rise. Volunteers with STEM-based backgrounds help to reinforce the value of science and mathematics and encourage students to consider a career in STEM fields.”

Casa de Amistad currently serves 204 students from Solana Beach School District, Del Mar Union School District, Encinitas Union School District, Cardiff School District, Carlsbad Unified School District and San Dieguito Union High School District. More than 180 individuals volunteer weekly as tutors and mentors.

“Thank you, truly, from the bottom of hearts,” said board member Julie Union. “We just really appreciate what you do to help our children.”

In partnership with the Association of California School Administers, the San Diego County School Boards Association honors outstanding school board members, administrators, staff, college professors and community members for their dedication to public education every year. Last year, Stephanie Kowack was selected as the county’s “Parent Volunteer of the Year” for her work with Solana Beach School District, San Dieguito Union High School District and the greater community.

The 2016 “Honoring Our Own” Awards dinner is March 18 at the Sheraton San Diego Resort and Marina on Harbor Island.