School district supporters gamble for a good cause

VISTA — The Vista Unified School District, with help from the Vista Education Foundation, took the first steps to get funding to help buy laptops for students in their district with a fundraiser on April 25 at Vista Ford.
A buffet, silent auction and variety of casino card games rounded out the event. Professional dealers were brought in to oversee the games, though a few of Vista’s Princesses and Teen Princessses were also dealing.
“The whole gambling idea was to get people to have fun, but not actually spending real money,” Matt Doyle, an administrator with the Vista Unified School District said. He said that people purchased tickets for chips in order to play.
Entertainment was constant throughout the event, with bands from Vista high schools and Rancho Buena Vista’s Ballet Folklorico group. The latter group performed in traditional dress and presented folk dances from three different regions of Mexico, accompanied with music.
As for the venue, John Herrera explained the relationship between the school district and the dealership. “Vista Ford has consistently been a support to us for the last four or five years,” he said. “They provided the facilities and utilities for this fundraiser tonight. Without it, we were having trouble putting on the show at all.”
And the show itself was centered around what Vista Superintendent Joyce Bales called “Vista Gets Connected” or “Laptops for Kids.”
“All the school districts in the state have been impacted by the budget cuts,” Bales said. “So we started with a pilot that we funded at a high poverty, high minority school in our district.”
Steve Green is the coordinator of research and investment for the district. He ran down the hard numbers he had from the pilot program. “Right now, we have 21 students in the program with over 150 hours of time logged,” Green said. “Many of the students are completing the first couple of units and moving on. The average correct of answers we’re seeing is about 93 to 94 percent. We’re seeing a high correlation of proficiency to computer use.
“If the students complete the course and turn out to be proficient according to state testing, they win the laptop — it’s theirs. It’s to motivate their learning of English. We picked students who were level two or three out of five, the ‘they’re getting there’ sort of level and we decided to help them. We third-grade students, since we saw the most benefit from starting at that age.”
“It’s an ongoing goal,” Garry Garretson, president of Vista Education Foundation added. “We want to continue to raise funds and give laptops to the kids, not just let them use them … We’d love to get the point where we give every student a laptop.”

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