Our Story

In 1982, California’s school system experienced major budget deficits. Classes long considered foundational to K-12 education were being cut from classroom instruction.

In response, a group of local educators, business leaders, parents, and community activists gathered to devise their own funding solutions for Petaluma area schools. The outcome was the creation of the Petaluma Educational Foundation (PEF), a privately funded, non-profit organization committed to creating diverse, creative, and impactful education opportunities for our city’s youth.

Today, PEF supports more than 12,000 students annually across 35 TK-12 public, private, and charter schools. We are designated by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt, non-profit, charitable 501(c)(3) organization. Our tax ID is #94-2847212. Join us and become part of the PEF legacy, supporting the students of yesterday, today, and tomorrow to build a brighter future for generations to come.

FUND FUTURE IMPACT GRANTS Scholarship Program Create your Legacy

Our Vision

PEF’s vision is to create impactful educational opportunities for all students in our community.

Our Mission

PEF’s mission is to fund programs that promote critical thinking, creativity, student well-being, and lifelong learning. We work closely with the 35 public, private, and charter schools throughout our community to fund impact grants and award scholarships that align with PEF’s goals while taking into account each school’s and each student’s unique needs.

Our History


Petaluma Educational Foundation incorporated September 30, 1982.


PEF files first 990 Tax Return, Gross Receipts = $20,377; PEF Logo Contest winner announced: Jim Balshaw, Casa Grande High School.


First PEF Grants: $18,000 awarded in “mini-grants” – limit $500


PEF Mission expanded to include all public, private, and not-for-profit schools, adding St Vincent’s schools as campuses benefiting from the mission of PEF.


First PEF Scholarships were awarded in the amount of $12,350. This same year, Invest in Education was launched to raise funding for PEF Grants for schools.


The Henris Family endowment established


Alphabet Soup Benefit Thrift Stores opens as a joint venture with PEF and Petaluma Boys & Girls Club. In 2009 PEF assumes sole ownership of the retail thrift operation


Travelling Lantern Theater Co. begins partnership with PEF to bring live theater performances to local schools


MacIlvain Scholarship was established with a $1,000,000 gift from Petaluma High School teacher, Shirley MacIlvain


Arnold Scott's estate leaves $800,000 to PEF to establish scholarships for Casa Grande High & Petaluma High graduates


The BASH celebrates $1,000,000 given to schools through the annual PEF Impact Grant Program


The annual PEF Grant award is increased to up to $15,000 per grant


PEF launches T.E.C. Initiative to bring innovative technology resources into the classroom


Milestones of $2,000,000 awarded through PEF grants and $2,000,000 in scholarships reached


PEF launches an annual Partners in Education program, welcoming Clover Sonoma, Petaluma Market, and Wells Fargo as $30,000 sponsors who are celebrated all year long for their contribution to local education through PEF


The annual PEF Partners in Education program now includes the Petaluma Health Care District.


The PEF Board Member Bus Tour becomes an annual tradition to visit our grants in action and hear directly from educators and students about the impact of their PEF grant on their campus


When COVID impacted how students accessed education, PEF adapted to the challenge by shifting our grant funding for one year to provide Technology (access & devices) and Social-Emotional Learning resources for all our schools with grants up to $5,000


PEF returns to our $15,000 per grant award model, but to support the ongoing challenges of COVID, we offered two separate grant rounds during the academic year


Exchange Bank joins the annual $30,000 PEF Partners in Education program, supporting all area students and schools every day of the year


PEF turns 40! Petaluma Educational Foundation has been Putting Education First for four decades


Awarded $262,826 in PEF scholarships to the Class of 2022, our highest total in the 32 years since


PEF has awarded more than $8.9 million to our students and schools through the mission of PEF

Meet our annual Partners for Education

Logo for Petaluma Health Care District
Logo for Exchange Bank
Logo for Petaluma Market
Logo for Clover Sonoma

Our community partners place education at the top of their philanthropic passions. That’s why they work with PEF to ensure that their generous donations have the greatest impact on Petaluma’s schools and students. To learn more about how your organization can support local education initiatives and help fund our community’s future, please click the button below to contact us.

Become an Annual Partner for Education

Leadership Team

Maureen Highland
Executive Director
Katy Verke
Program Director
Sharon Kimball
Accounting Manager
Stacey Wenzel
Marketing & Event Coordinator
Colleen Reitzel
Alphabet Soup Store Manager


Craig Walker
Neal Reardon
Tim McGaughey
Rebecca Celli
Vice President
Joanie Benedetti Claussen
Vice President
Debra Dow
Past President

Board Members

Daniele Tarantino Bugbee
Chad Fillinger
Andrew Fishman
Karen Gettman
Teresa Hatcher
Melinda Hepp
Cristina Hess
Carol Isaak
Rebecca Kagin
Carol Ann Libarle
Melissa Morelli
Mark Niemann
Marilyn Quinlan
Rajina Ranadive, M.D.
Michael Regan
Kimberly Strickland
Breanne Sturdevant
Susan Takami
Hoby Wedler


Michael Casper
Principal / SVHS
Mike Gardner
Superintendent / Waugh
Cindy Friberg
Co-Superintendent / OAUSD
Michele Gochberg
Co-Superintendent / OAUSD
Matthew Harris
Superintendent / PCSD
Matthew Long
Executive Dean / Petaluma Campus, Santa Rosa Junior College

Get in Touch!