Mark West students carry on without beloved teacher
The annual fundraising festival for Mark West’s arts program will go on as planned this year, despite the loss of the district’s beloved music teacher, Sue Hufford. Students from the music program will perform throughout Fall Arts Festival Sept. 27, supported by Kara Shelton, who was hired to fill Hufford’s vacant teaching position.
Hufford and her mother-in-law were killed in March in traffic accident on Highway 12 near the intersection of Farmers Lane. Hufford was the Mark West Union School District’s only full-time music teacher, rotating between four campuses. She also filled in Wednesdays at Anderson Valley Elementary School in Healdsburg.
The Fall Festival is produced by the Mark West Education Foundation and is its biggest fundraising event of the year. Proceeds have been used to fund the district’s arts education program since its budget was cut several years ago.
Last year the Foundation raised $13,000 and this year hopes to raise $15,000-$20,000. That money helps fund Zumba, the early-elementary dance program; art docents for all grades and the music teacher’s salary. The schools’ PTAs help pay for the art kits used by volunteer art docents.
When it came to the festival, Hufford “was everything and everywhere,” said Mark West School District Superintendent Ron Calloway. “She sat in with the Foundation and helped organize things. Dynamic, energetic and thoroughly invested doesn’t even touch it. I can’t believe how organized she was and how much she did behind the scenes.”
Hufford taught Calloway’s own children and had given them private music lessons. Losing her “was devastating on both a personal and professional level,” he said. “She brought so much passion and energy to all the students she touched.”
The new music teacher, Kara Shelton, just received her credentials from University of San Francisco. In fifth grade, she played violin in her school’s music program and still plays with the Sonoma County Philharmonic. This year she will teach students in Mark West and Alexander Valley Union School Districts.
“I am very excited to be doing the festival,” Shelton said.
This year’s festival will include a new art show, thanks to the efforts of Phil Minton, a parent and Foundation board member. He said it only made sense to add art to a fundraiser for the district’s arts programs. He hopes that adding an art show will bring in more attendees, support local artists and raise more money at the festival.
“We’ve been getting just the parents of the kids in the music program, and they are already putting money out to keep their kids in the program,” he said. “We would like it to be an event that the community looks forward to every year.”
“We like to think of it as a community event, and that’s just as important (as raising the money),” Calloway said.
Students will perform 11 a.m.-3 p.m., alternating sets with a local band. The student performances will range from choral to brass band and guitar and violin ensembles. The festival also will include raffles, dancing, prizes and a silent auction.
Exhibiting artists may display their work for a $50 fee and will keep all proceeds from their sales. Minton said artists may sign up through Aug. 31, and can find more info and registration mataerials at mwef.org.
Mark West’s third annual Fall Arts Festival runs 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at Cardinal Newman High School, 50 Ursuline Road. Admission is $10, free for children. For more information, visit mwef.org.