I just received this letter from the Friends of the Wagner Ranch Nature Area. The Friends and the school children of the Orinda School District have a problem … and you can help. Please do. Thanks for caring. /Gary
Dear Supporters of the Nature Area Environmental Education Program:
These are desperate times, and the Friends of the Wagner Ranch Nature Area requests your help in educating the community about the importance of retaining this superb environmental education program. The informational press release below is provided by the Board of the Friends for your use in alerting neighbors and fellow Orindans. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.
Save Environmental Education in the Wagner Ranch Nature Area—Press Release
To the dismay of a large crowd of parents, teachers, taxpayers and children, the Orinda Union School District (OUSD) Board voted February 9th to cut the teachers of the environmental education programs in the Wagner Ranch Nature Area. Dozens of speakers testified to the quality and cost effectiveness of this superb, interdisciplinary outdoor experience. For 30 years every Orinda elementary school child, grades 3-5, has enjoyed 1-2 days per year exploring science and living history at Animal Camp, Indian Camp, Rancho Days, Pioneer Camp, and First Thanksgiving.
The Friends of Wagner Ranch Nature Area (The Friends) is a non-profit that has worked in partnership with OUSD since 2005, supporting environmental science and living history in the Nature Area. The Friends offers to assist OUSD by raising funds and in-kind donations to ensure that Orinda doesn’t lose one of its finest and long-cherished educational programs.
In the past several years, OUSD has provided $200,000 to improve safety in the Nature Area and wheel chair access to the dining facilities. This was carried out with help from The Friends, which contributed $150,000 of funds, materials and in-kind labor provided by the Orinda Rotary, Orinda Garden Club, Orinda Historical Society, Boy Scouts, and dozens of citizens.
Added to this substantial support from The Friends and its constituents, District Naturalist, Toris Jaeger, (Board Member of The Friends) has volunteered more than 500 hours annually ($24,600/year) to guide, and supervise middle and high school students conducting science projects, and boys and girls scouting groups carrying out community service projects.
Toris has secured more than $60,500 of environmental education grants to serve OUSD students. It is a sad day when one of the wealthiest districts in the nation votes to cut outdoor education for its children. One child at the OUSD Board meeting begged the District, with tears in his eyes, not to cut his favorite teacher and favorite place to learn. The Nature Area Program costs the District $68,000/year, funds provided by the Education Foundation of Orinda.
The Friends has pledged to raise funds and in-kind support to retain the Nature Area program:
** The Friends will continue to maintain trails and vegetation to meet Fire Marshall Standards for fire safety (estimated annual in-kind support of $2,000).
** The Friends will continue maintaining and upgrading facilities with in-kind services and resources ($10,000/year).
** The Friends will contribute $10,000 to the Education Foundation of Orinda to support the District Naturalist salary if the program is retained.
** The Friend’s Education Committee will continue to write grants to support environmental education.
Please help The Friends save our District Naturalist by voicing your opinion and sending a copy to Steve Gentry, FWRNA Board President, P.O. Box 821 Orinda, CA 94563
** E-mail Orinda Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Joe Jaconette at firstname.lastname@example.org
** Write OUSD School Board, 8 Altarinda Road, Orinda CA 94563
Riki Sorenson, President at email@example.com
Pamela West at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat Rudebusch at email@example.com
Matt Moran at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Bontemps at email@example.com
** Write Educational Foundation of Orinda, 21 ‘C’ Orinda Way, #123, Orinda, CA 94563 or E-mail EFO firstname.lastname@example.org
Write local newspapers and spread the word to others.