Maureen Highland, executive director of Petaluma’s educational foundation, wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award
Professional background: Marketing
Education: University of San Francisco / Bachelor of Arts, Communication Arts
Number of staff: 3 at PEF, 9 at Alphabet Soup Benefit Thrift Stores
Describe your organization: In 1982, a group of teachers, business leaders and community activists in Petaluma convened to develop funding solutions for area schools in response to major budget deficits throughout the California school system.
The outcome was the creation of the Petaluma Educational Foundation (PEF), a privately funded, nonprofit organization whose primary goal is to raise money in the community to benefit education. Since the foundation was founded, PEF has awarded $7,580,695 in financial support to schools and students through our programs.
PEF receives no public funding. The foundation raises funds from individuals, corporations and foundations. In addition, PEF manages Alphabet Soup Thrift Stores with two locations in downtown Petaluma. All proceeds from Alphabet Soup benefit the mission of PEF.
Since 1983, PEF has granted more than $3,766,185 to teachers and administrators to fund projects not covered in the school budget. The purpose of our grant program is to reward innovative academic programs and foster excellence in education for all Petaluma area students.
In addition to our grant program, PEF is honored to manage 74 scholarship funds for donors who provide the foundation with clear criteria for selecting recipients. In 2020, we awarded $238,075 to seniors graduating from all seven Petaluma high schools, bringing the total to $3,814,510 awarded since 1990. PEF manages over $5,052,594 (as of December 2019) in invested and endowed funds with clear directions as to how the funds will benefit the schools in Petaluma.
We also manage component funds for school-related organizations and clubs. With funding for our schools uncertain, the role PEF plays is more important than ever. Opportunities exist for all levels of support.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I have worked to be instrumental in increasing the impact of PEF’s role in building partnerships with individuals, local businesses and stewarding growth opportunities for the foundation’s endowments, scholarships and grant programs.
I consistently aim to demonstrate professionalism and a cooperative attitude securing PEF’s longevity as a front-runner of educational advocacy in the community and a strong partner for local organizations wishing to enhance the positive impact on all 12,000 students annually enrolled in our 38 local schools.
I was born in San Francisco and raised in Marin County. I moved to Petaluma with my husband, Steve, in 1993, and we have three adult children (25), (22) and (19), plus a son-in-law and two young grandchildren.
My experience volunteering for various organizations, participating as an active board member for nonprofits, and professional business experience all prepared me for my current role at PEF.
Graduating in 1991 from University of San Francisco, I spent my career prior to joining PEF in 2011 strategically implementing and exceeding marketing and business goals for clients as a marketing consultant and earlier in management roles at prominent Bay Area organizations such as PIER 39 Ltd., CBRE/Vintage Oaks at Novato and Basin Street Properties.
What is your role in the organization?
How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We all have had our daily lives impacted by COVID-19. Here in Sonoma County, the effects of the pandemic are adding to an already struggling region still recovering from the devasting fires and other natural disasters.
As with any occurrence of this magnitude, it impacts individuals, segments of the community, and professional industries in different ways. We are chartering new territory as an educational community.
For the teachers the concern over connecting with their students and engaging them to provide effective learning content and strategies requires an entirely new set of tools in the distance learning format.
For the students, all are seeing the world around them change at an unprecedented speed. Where they previously found stability (home, school, family and friends) they now are isolated and the uncertainty of when this will end is amplified as they look to those they count on to be the “calm in the storm” can no longer shield children from their concerns surrounding safety and health, financial losses, unemployment, along with secure housing.
Some segments of our community are experiencing the impacts of COVID on a more urgent level. PEF supports all 12,000 TK-12th grade students attending our 38 Petaluma area schools. Many students we serve in the Petaluma area are faced with obstacles far beyond what we can imagine as a result of all these compounding challenges.