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Garden Gala brings Ocean Knoll community together to support school programs

Ocean Knoll teacher and event co-chair Christine Usher and Corrie Ordille.
Ocean Knoll teacher and event co-chair Christine Usher and Corrie Ordille.
(Courtesy)

After two long years apart, the Ocean Knoll Elementary School community came together for the recent Garden Gala.

About 250 parents and teachers attended the event, held for the first time at the Encinitas Union School District Farm Lab, raising over $30,000 to support the school’s enrichment programs such as Spanish, yoga, farm and nutrition. The nutrition program incorporates a children’s farm on campus complete with chickens where students care for the animals, collect eggs and harvest vegetables.

Without parent support, these extra experiences for children wouldn’t be possible.

Ocean Knoll students in a yoga enrichment class.
(Courtney Buffett)

Third grade parent Fiona Black-Shannon and kindergarten teacher Christine Usher, who is also a parent of two children at Ocean Knoll, teamed up as co-chairs for the event. They really focused on community this year with no assigned seating, communal tables and lots of lawn games to encourage everyone to talk to people they didn’t know: “We really wanted to build those relationships as well as raise money for the school,” Black-Shannon said.

Usher said those connections are something that has really been missed when everyone had to keep their distance.

“The big thing I’ve really been noticing as a teacher with the COVID pandemic is there’s a huge disconnect between families and being involved in their child’s education and what’s going on at school,” Usher said. “As a teacher, I love fostering that parent-teacher relationship.”

The event raised money through ticket sales, student portraits by a professional photographer, silent and live auctions with donations from local businesses and a wine pool. In the garden, guests also enjoyed live music by Too Rude for Sunday featuring James Staton on lead vocals, a teacher on special assignment in the school district.

Event co-chair Fiona Black-Shannon and her step-daughter Molly.
(Courtesy)

The gala was a reminder of what a special place Ocean Knoll is—one of only six International Baccalaureate schools in San Diego County. With IB, Ocean Knoll focuses on the whole child through an intercultural lens, teaching children to be global citizens and lifelong learners through inquiry-based instruction so that by the time they leave Ocean Knoll as sixth graders, they are ready to go out into the world make a difference, Usher said.

“Thank you families for supporting Ocean Knoll during our Garden Gala,” said Principal Claudia Bugarin of the contributions that will allow the school to continue its enrichment opportunities. “We heard from families and staff that this event is reflective of the type of family that is created when we join the Ocean Knoll community. We look forward to coming together again and continuing this special tradition.”

Ocean Knoll students in the garden.
(Courtney Buffett)


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