Get to Know CEO Laura Pitts

We asked our new CEO Laura Pitts to answer a few questions for you to get to know her better! Learn where she’s from, who inspired her path in leadership, and where you’re most likely to find her in Carlsbad.

Where are you from and how did you get to Carlsbad?

I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and attended the University of Michigan. After graduating, I moved to Chicago, where I lived for about 10 years. A career change brought me to California 12 years ago.

What’s an ideal weekend for you?

Waking up early with my family, grabbing a great cup of coffee, and heading out for an adventure to the beach or hiking in the mountains.

Who or what most influenced who you are today?

My field hockey coaches and teammates. I had great coaches both in high school and at college who taught me about work ethic, pushing limits, overcoming adversity, and how to be a good teammate. These lessons have guided me in both my personal and professional life.

What inspired your career path in education?

I have always loved working with kids and spent most of my summers in college babysitting and coaching youth field hockey. My first job out of college was working at a tutoring center. I absolutely loved seeing the pride in students’ faces when they were able to accomplish something new. I remember one student who came to us for help with reading. As his reading improved, he transformed into a confident, happy boy. When I moved to California, I had the opportunity to transition into higher education and witnessed the same type of transformation for adult students when they accomplished things they did not think were possible.

What are some of the things that make the Carlsbad educational system unique?

Carlsbad has endless opportunities for students. What I find so inspiring is the various types of experiences that students can have in Carlsbad. There is something for everyone here. Students can excel in science, music, performing arts, or athletics.

Outside of the office, where are we most likely to find you?

Running around after my two crazy boys. We are always out exploring new parks, playing at the beach, and trying new restaurants for our ‘pizza Friday’ family tradition.

Worried About COVID-19 Learning Loss?

Summer program helps kids get back on track

Carlsbad, California – Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s summer childcare program for TK- sixth grade students has a revamped curriculum and activity schedule to address concerns that students experienced academic and social-emotional learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

An $18,000 grant from the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation is funding additional curriculum development, student materials, and staff training specifically designed to help kids catch up over the summer.

Carlsbad Kids Care Summer Adventure

  • Available June 14 – Aug. 20
  • Jefferson Elementary School and Poinsettia Elementary School
  • Open for drop off and pick up 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • For students entering transitional kindergarten through sixth grade this fall
  • $199 per week (early bird sign up through May 31)
  • $225 per week if you sign up June 1 or later

“Kids Care has a critical role in stemming COVID learning loss and summer slide,” said Carlsbad Educational Foundation Chief Executive Officer Laura Pitts. “Summer Adventure expands how we deliver curriculum-focused activities throughout the school year to include activities that emphasize teamwork, communication, and collaboration with peers while engaging them in core subjects like math, reading, and writing.”

Carlsbad Kids Care Summer Adventure features thematic activities that engage students socially, creatively, and academically. Lessons are age appropriate and designed to incorporate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) and literacy curriculum with fun and interactive crafts, games, and outdoor recreation. Students enroll one week at a time and themes change every two weeks.

Kids Care is an affordable, licensed childcare provider for Carlsbad working families that operates every weekday during the school year for Carlsbad Unified School District families and every weekday in the summer for families with elementary-aged students (students outside Carlsbad Unified School District may enroll in the summer program). Summer Adventure is managed by Carlsbad Educational Foundation and all proceeds go back to Carlsbad Unified School District to fund enriching educational experiences.

New CEO to Lead Strategic Reorganization and Community Partnerships

Laura Pitts Demonstrated Leadership Style, Effectiveness as Interim CEO

Carlsbad, California – Following a nationwide search, Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s board of directors has selected a proven leader in the educational field to serve as its new chief executive officer. Laura Pitts joined the foundation in 2019 as director of operations and educational programs and for the past six months has served as interim CEO.

“Even in her short time as interim CEO, Laura demonstrated a natural ability to foster collaborative relationships and align the foundation’s resources with the most important needs of the Carlsbad Unified School District,” said Board Chair JR Phillips.

While serving as interim CEO, Pitts helped the board of directors complete a bold new strategic plan and restructured the organization to meet the emerging needs of the school district’s 11,000 students and their families.

“As a mother of two boys who will soon enter elementary school, I understand the importance of providing the very best educational experience possible through the public school system,” said Pitts. “Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s partnership with the Carlsbad Unified School District has an opportunity to become the national model for effective private investment in public education.”

Prior to joining Carlsbad Educational Foundation, Pitts served as campus president for Brightwood College (formerly Kaplan College). She earned an M.B.A. from Purdue University Global and a B.A. in organizational studies from the University of Michigan. During her time in college, Pitts was a student-athlete, helping her team win the Division 1 Field Hockey NCAA Championship.

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About Carlsbad Educational Foundation

Carlsbad Educational Foundation (CEF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in 1983, to raise private support for public education and contribute to the enrichment of nearly 11,000 students in the Carlsbad Unified School District. Since its inception, the foundation has contributed more than $10 million in funds to Carlsbad public schools, primarily for science, technology, and music – programs that would not be possible in California’s current school funding environment. 100% of donations go directly to support the Carlsbad Unified School District because CEF’s operating expenses are covered by student enrichment programs and Kids Care, a comprehensive before and after-school K-5 childcare program. 

Laura Pitts, Chief Executive Officer
Carlsbad Educational Foundation

Summer Adventure & COVID Learning Loss

Carlsbad Kids Care Summer Adventure has increased funds to enhance its full-day program with an elevated academic focus to address COVID learning loss. The Carlsbad Charitable Foundation’s $18,372 grant was awarded to help the cause.

Funds will be used on curriculum development, student materials, and staff training. Kids Care emphasizes art and science in its traditional programming. Math, reading, and writing will also be included and taught in a fun, active, and engaging way.

Learn more about the weekly themes, activities, and schedule by watching the video below and visiting www.CarlsbadEd.org/summer-adventure/ 

Art Supplies Fully-Funded for Students

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At the end of December, art teachers faced a hard reality.

The money needed to supply individual art packs to students had run out – and there were still six
months left in the school year!

For a student, like sophomore Catherine Laube (shown in video above), these supplies inspired her to learn and added a tactile way for her to engage in the virtual classroom.

It was vital to provide art packs for students in the new year.

Because of you, art packs are now fully funded for the remainder of the year.

You answered the call to help our teachers and students.

Whether you donated an art pack, to another program, or to the Carlsbad Unified School
District’s greatest need, your help made a difference in the life of one student and the work of our
every teacher in our district.

A special thank you to our community partner, Erickson-Hall Construction Co., for their
generous support to fund art packs.

Art created by students using art packs:

Leadership Transition at the Carlsbad Educational Foundation

Dear Friend of the Carlsbad Educational Foundation,

We are writing to share news of leadership transitions at the Carlsbad Educational Foundation.

After over ten years of highly productive service to CEF—first on the Board of Directors and then as CEO since 2015—Michelle Ginn has resigned her role at the foundation to pursue other opportunities. We are proud of all that we have accomplished for the benefit of our public-school students during Michelle’s tenure.

Under her leadership, the foundation achieved significant milestones, including an increase in program funding from $500K to more than $1.1 million annually to benefit Carlsbad Unified School District students. The foundation has invested in systems, infrastructure and business operations that have fueled significant increases in profitability and expanded corporate engagement. In addition, Michelle’s focus on strengthening collaborations with CUSD and in the community enabled CEF to introduce more impactful signature programs and raise the foundation’s visibility as a model for educational partnerships.

Over the past seven months during the COVID-19 global pandemic, CEF programs and business model have been faced with unprecedented challenges. During this time we secured additional funding through loans and grants that have kept the foundation on strong fiscal footing so that we can continue to serve Carlsbad students now and in the future.

Michelle notes that “All of these accomplishments provided the fiscal stability, vision, and connections to serve even more Carlsbad students across all grade levels and at all schools with an array of opportunities in music, STEM, and innovation. Sharing Mission Moments and visiting school sites to see CEF programs in action have been incredibly rewarding leadership experiences for me. The introduction of the CEF Student Leadership Council in 2016 has been the most rewarding experience of all. Working with and mentoring students directly and witnessing their personal growth as leaders has been amazing.”

During this leadership transition, Laura Pitts will be serving as Interim CEO. Thank you for your continued support of the foundation and our 11,000 students.

Sincerely,

Board of Directors

Carlsbad Educational Foundation

View the Letter to the Community Here>>

How to Help Local Schools During Covid-19

How to Help Local Schools During Covid-19

Our community of students, teachers and parents are facing unprecedent challenges due to the Covid-
19 pandemic, leading many Carlsbad residents to ask, “How can I help?”

The Carlsbad Educational Foundation has stepped up with its #MoveForwardTogether campaign to
provide childcare, special programs and other support for our local school district. But they need your help.

Established by a group of Carlsbad High School parents in 1983, the Carlsbad Educational Foundation
funds curriculum-based programs in music, STEAM, and educational innovation for every student in the
Carlsbad Unified School District.

The Foundation relies on your support to help students grow into passionate learners and reach their
fullest potential. This school year presents new challenges.

In response to the Covid-19 health and economic crisis, the Foundation is adapting its funding priorities
to include groceries for families facing financial hardship, individual school supplies for items that can no
longer be shared under current health guidelines, and child care to help parents get back to work.

Here are ways you can help:

1. Sign up for a one time or reoccurring donation at www.CarlsbadEd.org
2. Enroll your elementary-aged student in a Carlsbad Educational Foundation enrichment program
to learn STEAM concepts in a creative, fun way. Visit www.CarlsbadEd.org/Enrichment to
register.
3. Sign up your students for the Kids Care program held at every elementary school campus for
academic and social support. Enroll at www.CarlsbadEd.org/KidsCare

The Foundation’s tuition-based programs like Kids Care and enrichment classes help fund the
Foundation’s daily expenses, so every dollar you donate goes directly to science, technology, music
and other critical programs in our schools.

Join the Foundation’s #MoveForwardTogether campaign to support our local students during these
unprecedented times! Every dollar makes a difference.

This article was published in the November 2020 edition of Calavera Hills Living.

Adapting & Innovating to #MoveForwardTogether

School closures and the plan to begin our school year with distance learning impacts everyone in our community.

The new reality challenges us to rethink the way we live, work, play and learn as we adapt to evolving COVID-19 guidelines for our health and safety. These changes will have the most significant impact on our students, and we want to ensure they have a voice.

As a senior, it was a challenge to accept that the end-of-year events I had looked forward to since I was young didn’t happen, said Carlsbad High School 2020 alumna Catherine Allen.

Catherine is one of 11,000 public school students in Carlsbad whose life drastically changed with school closures and event cancellations. She is also a member of the Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s Student Leadership Council (SLC), a high school program focused on leadership development and student engagement in our community. The SLC is one of the programs that adapted to a virtual format during the state shutdown.

“Having a platform through the SLC to discuss obstacles like this pandemic helped me adapt with my peers, reminding me that I’m not facing this alone,” said Allen.

The Foundation provides programs like the SLC in alignment with the Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD). There is a program for every student, from Kindergarten through graduation, in relevant subject areas such as STEAM, Music, and Innovation.

The COVID-19 health and economic crisis presents a unique opportunity to support Carlsbad schools’ collective movement during this critical time.

Your support of the Foundation’s #MoveForwardTogether campaign will help adapt critical and relevant academic programs that inspire and bring hope to every Carlsbad public school student.

Learn more this September during the Foundation’s “Education is COVID-19 Urgent” panel webinar focusing on the pandemic’s social-emotional impact on students. Receive information about this event by visiting www.CarlsbadEd.org.

To support students in Carlsbad Unified School District during this most challenging time, donate at www.CarlsbadEd.org/donate.

This article appeared in the August 2020 Carlsbad Business Journal.

Educational nonprofit, corporations invest in Carlsbad through STEM

Thermo Fisher scientists volunteer at the first 8th grade DNA sequencing lab in 2017. Photo courtesy of CEF

From The Coast News | Catherine Allen

CARLSBAD — STEM proponents are reimagining programs that can withstand the pandemic and prepare Carlsbad students for expanding scientific fields.

As a biotech hub, Carlsbad is able to bring together the Carlsbad Educational Foundation (CEF) and local corporate donors to fund about 40 educational programs, with a growing focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

But with an indefinite shift to online learning, the hands-on experience typically vital to STEM must now be reworked to either a virtual or socially distant platform.

“It’s important now more than ever to support these programs,” said CEF’s CEO, Michelle Ginn. “The challenge we face is that we have more to do, there’s more of a need for us and yet we have fewer resources.”

Thermo Fisher scientists volunteer at the first 8th grade DNA sequencing lab in 2017. An annual program that typically takes place during spring, the lab is now one of the many STEM programs funded by the Carlsbad Educational Foundation that have been canceled due to COVID-19, causing the foundation to question how to maintain Carlsbad’s investment in STEM. Photo courtesy of CEF

Despite a fall in revenue, some key sponsors remain. Since 2014, Thermo Fisher has invested over $85,000 in FIRST Lego League robotics and elementary and middle school Science Days. Thermo Fisher’s support expanded in 2017 with an 8th-grade forensic lab program led by scientists that put their DNA sequencing curriculum into action.

Though in-person programs are halted, Thermo Fisher’s philanthropic support has continued throughout the pandemic.

“I’m really happy to see more students and young minds interested in STEM,” said Dr. Grace Zhang Li, a Thermo Fisher staff scientist. “There is always something exciting, something new– not only coronavirus. A challenge is a new opportunity for the people going into the field. What we’re experiencing right now just makes people feel like there’s more value in this work.”

Li estimates that we’ll see further growth in STEM industries over the next few years. Still, weak public school funding can leave students unprepared, which pushes CEF and companies like Thermo Fisher to engage students beyond the basic curriculum in hopes of filling those future jobs.

For instance, “STEAM” is rising in popularity, adding the arts as it applies to STEM. While CEF’s programs such as robotics employ an artistic focus with critical thinking and creativity, according to Li that vision actually aligns with the artistic design skills that are increasingly incorporated into Thermo Fisher’s product development team.

Despite an evolving platform for STEM programs, Ginn says these corporate partnerships highlight a common goal of expanding student experiences, bridging a gap between their curriculum and their community. It’s a long term investment, potentially paving the way for Carlsbad students to work for Carlsbad companies in the future.

“We have such an incredible community of STEM in San Diego, specifically Carlsbad,” Ginn said. “We know people that grow up here want to come back and work here, so by providing STEM education, we’re really hopeful that it comes full circle and that students can come back and contribute to our community here in Carlsbad.”

Our Commitment to You During School Closures from Covid-19

Hello to Our Carlsbad School Community,

It is hard to believe how different our lives look today compared to just one week ago. 

We recognize the disappointment and stress that looms large in our community. It’s not easy to talk to your high school senior about their missed commemorative moments. Or to console our community’s athletes, actors and scientists whose weekly routines have changed, and much
anticipated competitions or performances have been cancelled. We also understand you are trying to help your elementary school students comprehend where their teacher and classmates went –
while keeping them engaged in learning. 

We get it. We know the impact caused by the school closures and the state’s lockdown measures. As a team, we stand committed, and in alignment with the Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD), to provide the best education for your student.  

After considerable thought and research, we have finalized an action plan we hope preserves the mission of our Foundation and secures programs in Music, STEAM, and Innovation for when your student returns to class. We commit to: 

– Share resources and stories from our Foundation’s community to highlight the importance of
educational opportunity for every student, every day. 
– Develop adaptable plans for our 40+ programs to implement quickly once school resumes and
ensure our students get the innovative and enriching educational experience they deserve.  
– Virtually connect Kids Care staff to our families with resources to keep young students engaged
and prepare enrichment activities when school resumes to help bridge the transition back to full
time curriculum.
– Continue to offer our Summer programs as scheduled. Students will choose among 50+ summer
camps, attend our full-day Summer Adventure, or get ahead in school with Summer Academy
courses. 
– Maintain the essential operations of our Foundation remotely with our staff working limited
schedules. 

We at the Foundation feel grateful – and inspired – by the bright, creative minds of our District’s students. It’s a testament to how programs like elementary school music, BizTown, Science
Day, Finance Park and the Student Leadership Council inspire a passion for learning. It will certainly be one of these student’s minds that will solve challenges like the ones we’re currently addressing in our society.  

Your support will be even more important and vital to our schools once their doors reopen and our District gets back on its feet. As tax dollars are reallocated for recovery relief and economic stimulus
packages, our Foundation will be called upon to fill the gap where state dollars fall short. Should you be in the position, please consider making an investment in the Carlsbad Educational
Foundation today in order to ensure a strong recovery for our Carlsbad students, please click here

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing stories of what your support and partnership makes happen. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram via @CarlsbadEdFoundation or find us on LinkedIn

From the Carlsbad Educational Foundation family to yours, with gratitude and hope, 

JR Philips  Michelle Ginn

Great Schools are at the Foundation of Great Communities

The Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) is ranked the fourth best school district in San Diego County. The Niche ranking, factored from U.S. Department of Education data, includes state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, teacher quality, reviews from students and parents, and more.

Our schools are a key part of what makes Carlsbad a great place to live – but great schools don’t just happen.

California ranks 41st in the nation in per-student funding. In San Diego County, CUSD is the lowest-funded unified district and receives 22% less in per-student funds than neighboring San Diego Unified (recent statistics from Ed-Data show CUSD receives $10,393 per student, compared to $13,259 per student in San Diego Unified).

In order to provide an exceptional education, the Carlsbad Educational Foundation (CEF) partners with the dedicated leadership of CUSD to bridge the gap where state funding falls short.

Last year, CEF invested more than $1 million in music, science and innovational education programs for every student, grades K-12.

What would Carlsbad public schools look like without CEF?

CEF’s district partnership pays for 100% of 2nd-grade robotics, K-8 Science Days, 5th-grade BizTown, 12th-grade Finance Park, middle and high school science lab assistants, and the salaries for every elementary school music teacher.

CEF also supports 25+ other enriching programs that truly make a difference for Carlsbad students and prepare them for their future.

Many CEF programs are part of STEAM education, an innovative learning approach where Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics develop a student’s critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving in subject areas that are relevant to today’s tech-driven world.

CEF is the only organization in Carlsbad raising private support for these programs that benefit all 11,000 students in the CUSD. Every dollar CEF earns from donors, supporters, and fundraising events benefits Carlsbad public school students.

To support our students or learn more, visit www.CarlsbadEd.org/donate/

This article appeared in the August 2019 Carlsbad Business Journal.

Carlsbad Educational Foundation Ramping Up for Donor Drive

The Carlsbad Educational Foundation hosts its 10th annual Carols of Carlsbad on Dec. 1 and is currently in the midst of its annual Star membership drive, which runs through Dec. 31, to raise money to fund numerous programs for Carlsbad Unified School District students. Photo courtesy the Carlsbad Educational Foundation

From The Coast News | By Steve Puterski

CARLSBAD — As the holiday season comes into full swing, the Carlsbad Educational Foundation is putting on its annual showcases.

First is the 10th annual Carols of Carlsbad, where elementary through high school students will serenade attendees and visitors at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa plaza from 3 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 1, followed by a Christmas tree lighting and a skydiving Santa from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission is free and there will be a raffle and auction.

“It’s just a really cool way to see a good percentage of our music programs,” said Taylor Beveridge, director of development for Carlsbad Educational Foundation. “This is a big thank you to the community and a way to showcase our music programs in the schools.”

She said the foundation is also in the midst of its annual Fund Drive, which aims to recruit donors to gift $365 per year.

The Star memberships, she said, benefit foundation’s ability to cover all costs for music instruction, including teachers’ salaries, for all kindergarten and elementary students. In addition, the funds donated to Carlsbad Educational Foundation also benefit STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and educational innovation programming for Carlsbad Unified School District students.CARLSBAD — As the holiday season comes into full swing, the Carlsbad Educational Foundation is putting on its annual showcases.