Supporters and financial donors of the Los Alamitos Education Foundation (LAEF) jammed into the ballroom of the Grand Hotel Friday for a royal affair that saw the ceremonial crowning of King Dave Locke and Queen Erin Kominsky as donors who were eager to pitch in to support local schools.
With mental health now a growing dilemma across America, the problem has become even more acute in schools, said Carrie Logue, the Executive Director of LAEF. With the community’s help, she said, safe spaces, called WellSpaces, have been built at each of the Los Al Unified District’s nine schools.
Now, said Logue, “what we want to do, besides providing tangible items and supplies to those spaces, we want to expand counseling groups, provide more individual counselors and interns.”
LAEF, the educational partner of the Los Alamitos Unified School District, said they are working with the district to maximize donated funds to bring more staffing, more support to schools, especially increasing after-school support.
“And I’m proud to mention that we’re piloting a new partnership with Casa Youth Shelter and their counseling staff to provide free after-school counseling,” Logue told the capacity ballroom crowd.
Thus far, LAEF has donated approximately $500,000 to the district’s nine schools to facilitate safe WellSpaces for students.
In order to facilitate the nonprofit’s donation to local schools, supporters from the area gather to crown a ceremonial King and Queen, generally community members who have a history of outstanding service to the district.
This year’s LAEF Queen is retired principal Erin Kominsky.
In June 2022, Mrs. Erin Kominsky retired as Principal of Oak Middle School after 38 years of service to the District. Prior to Oak, she served as Principal of Weaver Elementary School for 19 years, which included the reopening of the school in 1996.
She introduced many best practices, curriculum, and strategies that led to Weaver being rated as the #1 school in Orange County time and time again. The Weaver team was instrumental in bringing many new educational and instructional exercises that eventually became signature practices throughout the Los Alamitos Unified School District. Kominsky was named Administrator of the Year in 2004, Woman of the Year for the California Legislature in 2005, and a National Distinguished Principal for the State of California in 2012. Weaver received California Distinguished School, National Blue Ribbon, and Golden Bell awards.
“LAEF has been the pioneer of innovation long before my memories of what they did for us as site principals and communities,” said Kominsky, noting that Logue and the organization have helped accelerate the pace of STEM and STEAM adoption through the district.
“Teaching kids to learn mandarin, learning to dance, doing martial arts and robotics and all of those things that no one ever really thought about doing,” is what LAEF has meant over the years, said Kominsky, and more critically, “they (LAEF) provided a space for students that was safe and close.”
“LAEF,” said Kominsky, “is something that my heart has always been into.”
She gave a special thanks to Logue, while she also thanked retired Supt. Sherry Kropp and current Supt. Andrew Pulver. “Thanks for putting up with my wild ideas that we always did.”
“To my school team who is here tonight, I love you dearly,” said Kominsky. who also thanked her former assistant principals, her family, her mom and said that “my heart will always be in Los Al and my heart will always be with LAEF.”
As with Kominsky, LAEF presented a short video of King Dave Locke before he was crowned as King for 2023.
According to LAEF, Locke has been a dedicated parent leader in Los Alamitos Unified since 2008. Dave began volunteering to support Los Al kids when his children were attending Hopkinson Elementary School. He served as the Hopkinson PTA treasurer in 2011 and 2012, then as president in 2013 and 2014. He went on to serve as the McAuliffe PTA secretary and the LAHS Baseball Booster Club treasurer for 2018-19. He also has served on the St. Hedwig Baseball Board and was the All-Star Commissioner as well as a coach.
In addition, Locke supported efforts to pass the recent school bond Measure G campaign by taking on the role of Campaign Co-Chair. This successful campaign provided funding for the newly opened STEM Building at LAHS and is funding the second gym, which is currently in development. He was named Los Alamitos Unified’s Hero of the Heart in 2019.
Locke began supporting LAEF in 2016 as a Campaign Manager for a friend’s King of Hearts campaign. He coordinated and supported many fundraising efforts and began donating his professional photography skills, which he has offered time and time again. In addition, Dave has donated auction packages that provide private flights and hotel stays. His efforts have raised tens of thousands of dollars for LAEF and Los Al kids. Dave and his wife,
Michelle, are founding members of the Los Al Leadership Circle, LAEF’s major donor group. They even opened their home to host the LAEF donor appreciation event in the Spring of 2021.
“A lot of you probably know that I’m a photographer and I really prefer to be on the other end of the camera right now,” said Locke, “so this is definitely not in my comfort zone.”
“I just want to say I consider myself lucky to work with so many of the volunteers,” he said, “and we’ve met so many wonderful families of teachers and admins along the way.”
“It’s really been an amazing honor to get to know everybody in this community and become part of the community. Michelle and I moved here in 2008. So it kind of feels like
it’s been a lifetime at this point. Both of our kids have now gone through the last hour from start to finish and gone off to college,” said Locke
“When I look around here, I see I see many people in this room who I know have put in hundreds of hours of volunteer time,” he said. “I just want to say thank you to all the people that didn’t necessarily get up on stage. There have been so many amazing volunteers that we’ve had along the way.”
“That’s probably why Los Al (Unified) is so great,” said Locke, “because there are so many families willing to step forward and put in time.”
Locke also thanked his wife Michelle for “bringing home the bacon” by working hard so he could be more involved with the school system. “It enabled me to be a stay-at-home dad and to have a lot of time to volunteer,” he said.
He thanked LAEF and everyone in the room “for putting together this amazing fundraiser and put all of this money towards mental health. We are truly fortunate to be a part of this district.”
Pulver, who hosted several segments of the evening’s fundraising event, said “I’m just fortunate to be a part of a community who continually rallies behind its youth to improve the lives and outcomes for all of us. I just want to thank all of you on behalf of all our students, our families for the work that you do to support our students is second to none.”
LAEF is expected to announce results and more details of the LAEF Royal Gala in the coming weeks.