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Suz Howells has been named executive director of the Santa Cruz Education Foundation, which recently secured $85,000 in new grant funding. (Contributed)

SANTA CRUZ -- The Santa Cruz Education Foundation, a key fundraising organization for Santa Cruz public schools, recently won $85,000 in grants and hired its first executive director.

Suz Howells, a longtime volunteer who had served as the nonprofit's board president since 2009, was tapped as the leader. The organization, which has raised $1 million since 2007, raises money on behalf of several programs serving the 7,000 students of Santa Cruz City Schools.

"We listen to parents and we are parents. We look at what we are hearing and seeing and we drive our own vision," Howells said. "The big picture is we want great neighborhood schools and equity for all kids."

The foundation recently won a $75,000 grant from the Packard Foundation, which will fund the after-school arts academy, as well as an organizational effectiveness study. The grant represents the third round of funding for the arts program, which instructs students from Branciforte and Mission Hill Middle schools in dance, music, science and other topics.

The foundation also received a $10,000 grant recently from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation Youth Fund for the Achievement Via Individual Determination program. The program in the district's high schools and middle schools is focused on college preparedness.

Keith Hodges, assistant principal at Harbor High School, said a $5,000 grant from the foundation made the school's first summer algebra bridge program a success.


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For seven hours per day, five days per week for four weeks, the program instructed 63 students who were struggling with Algebra 1. Seventy-eight percent of them passed a final and earned 10 credits.

Without the Education Foundation's contribution to the $20,000 cost of the program, Hodges said, "We couldn't even have acted on that dream."

Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmbrownreports