Foundation gives school district $6 million endowment

By Linda Lou
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

August 11, 2007

SAN MARCOS – Ecstatic San Marcos school officials announced yesterday that the district has received a $6 million gift that will help students pay for tuition and books at Cal State San Marcos. Superintendent Kevin Holt’s announcement at the district’s “welcome back” meeting yesterday surprised all but a few of the approximately 1,600 employees in attendance at Mission Hills High School. The $6 million endowment is from the Leichtag Family Foundation. The Rancho Santa Fe-based organization is a founding contributor of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and has supported Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego, the University of California San Diego and Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas.

After the announcement, district employees clapped and gave a standing ovation. “I don’t know if you’ve heard that, but it’s for $6 million!” Holt said. The crowd burst into applause again. The endowment will be used for the program Partners Advancing College Education Promise, or PACE Promise. It guarantees high school students, beginning with the Class of 2009 graduates, admission to the university if they satisfy academic requirements. Only students who have started out in the district as freshmen are eligible. The program, a collaboration with California State University San Marcos, was called Partnership for Success by the district’s former superintendent, Ed Brand. That has been trademarked, Holt said, so the district has renamed it.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pledged $1.5 million in his proposed 2007-08 budget to begin a similar pilot program for three school districts and CSU campuses to increase the number of students going to college. Limiting the program to those who enter the district as freshmen is necessary, Holt said, because he expects it will draw more students to San Marcos schools. “Everyone’s dying to get into our schools,” he said. “That’s the best problem we could have. Philanthropists Toni and Lee Leichtag, who own M.D. Pharmaceutical Inc., created the foundation that made the gift. James Farley, an attorney for the couple, said they asked him to find a local program that benefits education in a meaningful way to honor the memory of their daughter, a former kindergarten teacher. Joli Ann Leichtag died of cancer last month at age 60. The district’s new elementary school, bordered by Oleander, Mimosa and Poinsettia avenues, will be named after her when it opens next year. Farley said he works in the same suite of offices as San Elijo Hills resident Randy Walton, a lawyer and a parent in the San Marcos Unified School District, and their conversations led to the endowment.

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