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Steel honored for dedication

A phone campaign to raise funds for SchoolPower turned into a way to honor one of the district’s most prolific fundraisers.

Parent volunteers and district officials paid tribute to Bill Steel in honor of his tenth and final year chairing the SchoolPower Community Campaign while he was busy calling parents.

“I think it’s time for some new blood,” said Steel, a corporate attorney with his own firm in Irvine.

Steel said he has been trying to figure out an exit strategy for some time.

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“You hate to create something and then just leave it behind,” he said.

His liberation came in the form of parent Carol Normandin, who will succeed him as committee chairwoman.

“She’s going to be better than I was,” Steel said. “She was a godsend. Just exactly who I’ve been looking for, for the past four years. She made it really easy for me.”

Since the first call was made, the foundation has raised more than $3 million for the district.

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SchoolPower is a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise money to enrich the education of all children in the Laguna Beach Unified School District.

Funds raised by the organization are given to teachers in the form of grants for supplies, field trips, athletic programs and specific projects like science kits or supplemental reading materials.

The calls were made Oct. 16 and 17 from the Prudential office on Oak and Glenneyre.

Normandin invited guests to surprise Steel both evenings.

On Tuesday’s call night, Superintendent Robert Fraisse and Assistant Superintendent Nancy Hubbell came by to honor Steel, referring to him as a “hometown hero.”

On Wednesday’s call night, Joanne Culverhouse, principal of Thurston Middle School, stopped by to praise Steel’s dedication and accomplishments, and to explain how fortunate Laguna Beach schools are to have Community Campaign funding. Fraisse, Hubbell and Culverhouse each presented Steel with personal donations in support of SchoolPower.

During SchoolPower’s Community Campaign, parent volunteers attempt to call every family in the district in order to maintain SchoolPower’s funding to all four Laguna Beach schools.

SchoolPower provides about $250 in funding per district child for reading, writing, the arts, science, fitness, Spanish, technology and programs that emphasize the whole child.

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In its final weeks, the Community Campaign needs to raise approximately $160,000 in order to reach its goal of $500,000.

The first campaign 10 years ago raised about $30,000.

Under Steel’s leadership, the Community Campaign has broken its own records every year.

Citing this year’s theme, “every child benefits, every donation counts,” Normandin urged all families to give what they could.

“After 10 years and the millions of dollars he’s raised for our schools, we owe it to Bill and our kids to make this another record year for SchoolPower.”

Steel and his wife have four children; the youngest two are in high school.

By his count, his children will have spent 52 student years in the district by the time the youngest graduates.

“It’s a great school district, and we have, I think, the finest teachers in the county,” Steel said. “It’s been really fun to raise money for this district and the families in this district.”

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Steel also serves as the president of the board of directors at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, which boasts a close relationship with the district. He has been on the board for about 20 years.

“It’s a real family legacy I have down there,” Steel said.

Steel’s uncle built the Ocean Institute’s tall ship, the Pilgrim, which hosts student sleepovers every year.

Students from second grade to middle school visit the institute for various projects, Steel said.

Steel said he will wrap up his chairmanship at the institute within the next two years.

Following that, he will enjoy a respite from evening meetings and fundraising sessions.

“I hope to spend more nights at home with my wife and kids,” Steel said.

Community Campaign donations may be made at www.lbschoolpower.org or at the SchoolPower office, (949) 494-6811.



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