The Profiler: Alameda Education Foundation's Judy Blank

The Profiler: Alameda Education Foundation's Judy Blank

Michele Ellson
Judy Blank

Photo courtesy of the Alameda Education Foundation.

Judy Blank and Anna Elefant were looking for a new way to help Alameda’s schools after a stint as co-chairs of the then-new Bay Farm Elementary School’s PTA. Elefant was elected to the school board, while Blank, who was a dental hygienist by trade, joined a group seeking to revive a decade-old foundation that funded enrichment classes at local schools. Blank is leaving the Alameda Education Foundation after more than two decades of service that included seven years as board president and two as executive director, leaving a legacy that includes a supply store for teachers, charters’ inclusion in the foundation’s middle school sports program – and Alameda’s very own Monopoly game.

How did you get your start with the Alameda Education Foundation?
When my son was in school at Bay Farm, Anna Elefant and I were co-chairs of the PTA. After we got done with that stint, we started talking about where we would go next. The Foundation for Educational Excellence at that time was being – people were becoming more active in it. It had apparently been dormant for a while. So I decided to get involved. And there was a small group of people who wanted to begin the enrichment program that had been one of the focuses of the foundation initially. I kind of stepped in and got involved in that.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?
I think the galas were the ones that I really feel good about. It was like turning Alameda into something that it didn’t have by bringing the symphony to town, and having Frederica von Stade bring all of her opera friends. It turned Kofman into this great concert hall. We put together a choir with eight kids from every school in elementary. And then we’d have kids from the middle and high schools who played with the symphony. It was a really wonderful community event and I just loved it. It touched a lot of people in a lot of ways.

What was the toughest moment you faced on the board?
What has been and continues to be a challenge is having the community embrace the foundation as a source to enhance all of our schools. Getting people to contribute to it, to help raise the money for enrichment of our students. The middle school sports (program) has been a great thing, since we don’t have middle school sports anymore. But getting individual contributions to help keep that going is not happening as much as we would like. We’ve been getting a lot more grants recently, which has been wonderful. But I think the embracement of the community for this org has been challenging. (Board president) Bill (Sonneman) and (community outreach director) Vicki (Sedlack) have done a great job.

You ended up being named the foundation’s executive director at one point.
It was the galas. And then we decided to do a concert series afterwards. It was taking so much time that they decided to pay me for that. And it wasn’t a lot, but they decided to pay me.

You’re being credited with bringing the foundation’s services to charter schools. How did that come about?
I was a charter school parent. I was one of the pioneer parents for (Alameda Community Learning Center). They’re all students of Alameda. I would always say, ‘What about including them?’ They did (add ACLC), and there were four teams, and it was more competitive.

How did the Game of Alameda come about?
I think we wanted to do a fundraiser. So one of the fundraisers we did was, you can make a game of your city. So we did the Game of Alameda. You sell a spot to businesses, so businesses would get a spot on the board. You got the city seal on the box of the game. We had a wonderful parent who did the design for the box. So it was a good community project.

In addition to AEF, what are some of your other volunteer gigs?
I was on the Community Learning Centers board for three years. I’m also on the Young Audiences of Northern California. It’s an arts resource for schools. We have a roster of artists in the four disciplines, and schools can hire these artists.

Even though you’re retiring, I hear you have some new projects planned.
I had set up, with Emil Miland, the Tommy and Emil Q. Miland Scholarship Fund that Emil set up in honor of his father. His father was former superintendent of music for the school district many years ago. The fund needs replenishing. So Emil and I are talking about putting together a concert, probably in February, with the Oakland Youth Orchestra. He’s doing a couple of concerts with them and we thought we’d add one in Alameda. I’ll still help out AEF wherever I can. Also, Young Audiences of Northern California has a program called Access for All. We go into Title I schools, and we have funding that pays 85 percent of what the cost would be to have an artist in their schools. I’m going to help with that.

Where would you like to see the foundation go from here?
I would like for it to find a means of supporting the arts again, to find somebody who’s willing to do something to raise money to support our schools in the arts areas. I would really like the community to rally around it a little bit more, and help it be what it can do to help all of our schools.


Submitted by Peggy Scheile (not verified) on Wed, Dec 11, 2013

Can you please tell me how I can purchase an Alameda game?
I sure hope there's one still available. It would mean a great deal to me. Thanks, Peggy 940 808 -0676 (Texas)