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Kiddo! Co-founder Trisha Garlock Announces Retirement, Leaving Behind a 31-Year Legacy

The foundation, which supports the Mill Valley School District, has launched a search for a new executive director. Garlock will remain on board until then, and plans to welcome an energetic new leader.

When Trisha Garlock co-founded Kiddo! in response to school budget cuts in the early 1980’s, she figured “the state of California would realize the errors of its way,” and her goal was to go out of business in five years.

“Our idea was to be a finger in the dyke,” Garlock said.

Now, 31 years later, the Kiddo! executive director is retiring from an organization that just met it’s $2.7 million annual fundraising goal, has contributed more than $20 million since 1982 to supplement the Mill Valley School District, and currently funds a wealth of programs that includes all art, music, dance, drama and poetry as well as some technology initiatives and mini-grants to support innovative teaching in the classroom. That list also grew to include physical education this year.

Garlock announced her plans to retire within the next 12-15 months in an email last week to Mill Valley School District parents and teachers.

“Although I have been contemplating retirement since my husband retired two years ago, the timing has not seemed right until now,” Garlock wrote. “Our district and Kiddo! are in a good place. With a strong leadership team, the passage of Measure B and the conclusion of Kiddo!'s most challenging and successful annual campaign ever, there has not been a better time for a transition than the present. Kiddo! is thriving and poised for growth.” 

The Kiddo! Board has appointed a Transition Committee which will conduct a search for a new executive director, and plans to post a job description on the Kiddo! website on Feb. 8.  Inquiries can be sent to kiddo.ed.apply@gmail.com

“While we are incredibly sad to think of Trisha leaving us, with change comes opportunities,” said Kira Keane, chair of the Kiddo! Board of Directors. “Kiddo! is in a great position to continue the wonderful legacy Trisha has established. We have an extremely dedicated board, talented and committed staff, legions of excellent volunteers and a community that overwhelmingly supports our public schools.”  

Kiddo! was born in 1982 when Garlock was doing fundraising work for an arts organization in San Francisco. At the time she had a two-year-old son, and her next-door neighbor Penny Weiss was the PTO president at Old Mill School. The two started talking, and decided to do something to save the arts programs that faced elimination due to cuts in school funding brought on by Proposition 13. They co-founded Kiddo! and raised about $5,000 that year.

“We started the organization to save art and music,” Garlock said. “That has been our foundation, and we have added many other things since then."

The organization today is very different from what Garlock started three decades ago, Keane said. With an annual campaign that has grown to nearly $3 million, the foundation has been creative in its fundraising approach. In addition to donations from district families — which included contributions from — Kiddo! has established shopping programs, business partnerships, and even launched custom branded sportswear for cyclists.

“Kiddo! is definitely part of the fabric in Mill Valley,” Keane said.

The priority now is to find the right person to take over Garlock’s role, she said, and Garlock will remain on board for as long as she’s needed. Garlock said she’s eager to welcome an energetic new executive director, and will “help figure out how to transition 31 years worth of history to a new person.”

“I intend to stay until a new Executive Director is selected and fully transitioned, a process which could take up to 12 months,” she said.

And even then, she isn’t going anywhere. She plans to remain in Mill Valley, and will continue to be a staple at the many school plays, musical performances, and district events that have become an important part of her life.

But, she’s also looking forward to retirement.

“I kind of dream about reading books that don’t have to do with work,” she said. Garlock also used to paint, and she’s thinking of starting that back up, as well as doing some traveling with her husband Jim.

With two grown kids, people have often asked her over the years why she’s remained at Kiddo! for so long.

“All you have to do is walk into a performance and see the joy on the kids faces, and you understand what these programs provide both in terms of education and how it will effect their outlook on life,” Garlock said.

Since she announced her retirement, messages have been pouring in from people across the district. 

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of emails,” she said. “It’s really heartwarming to read the notes and letters from people who I know, and people who I don’t know, saying what a difference the programs have made for their children.”

But the residents of Mill Valley are the real heros, she said. 

“Kiddo! is a grassroots organization and it’s success is due to hundreds and thousands of people,” Garlock said. “It is really the result of a caring community.”

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Ken Wachtel January 29, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Trisha has been such an incredible asset to our community and has worked so hard and diligently over the years to help our schools and our kids. She will be sorely missed. Kiddo! has become an essential tool to support the teaching of arts, music, poetry and other so very important facets of culture in our commumnity. She leaves a legacy of good and selfless work and extremeley large shoes to fill. All my best to Trisha and Jim in their retirement. They deserve that and so much more from our community

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