Buena Vista Horace Mann’s Parent Teacher Association is once again hosting its long-running fundraising event: La Gran Pachanga, a big party with live music, dancing — and this year — views of the downtown skyline and the Bay as the party goes big on the 30th floor of the Salesforce East building.

The $60 ticket for the March 16 event includes food from Taste Catering, drinks and live music by Danilo y Olga of Danilo y Orquesta Universal, a local Latin music group. Tickets will only be sold in advance of the event.

The school has a tradition of raising money through La Gran Pachanga that predates the merger of the K-8 community school, but the event had recently lost momentum.

When Phyra McCandless heard that it wasn’t held last year, she did what many creative-minded parents would do: she took her fundraising and nonprofit experience to lead the ambitious fundraising event of raising $20,000 for the PTA budget.

She and her husband, Angelos Kottas, are using La Gran Pachanga to raise the profile of the school and its visibility in the community. “It’s a school that deserves a spotlight,” said Kottas.

Finding a space big enough to host the event proved to be a bit of a challenge. “It would have been nice to do it in the Mission near the school,” said McCandless. “But we also have other events at the school, and this is more of a 21+ party.” She originally had her eye on Galería de La Raza, but the organization was later evicted from its longtime space.

After sending five or six inquiries to other nearby locations, Kottas, who works at Salesforce, knew that the company offered space for community groups. Once they received confirmation that they could use the Ohana Floor at no cost, the leadership team approved.

“The fact that it’s on the Ohana Floor, which means ‘family’ in Hawaiian…” said McCandless.

“ … but pachanga is a Cuban dance … ” said Kottas.

McCandless continued, “So if people are wondering how they should dress, think … ”

“ … island!” they said in unison.

In the months leading up to La Gran Pachanga, McCandless shared what she found to be an interesting discovery when asking for donations: she often met people with connections that led back to the school, whether they were alumni or alumni parents.

“No one says, ‘Oh, I had a horrible time at Horace Mann!’ They all say, ‘I went there!” or “Of course, I want to give to the school! I love the school,” she said. “So, it’s making an impact and it’s evident the community remembers and appreciates the school.”

In particular, Kottas said, they are focused on the sustainability of the event so that it continues to benefit the school in the years to come.

“For us, it’s a way to give back to the community and the community that our daughter is spending the majority of her time,” he said. And they’re happy to lead the effort, McCandless added.

The PTA budget is used to fund the dance, music and art teachers’ salaries, field trips and start-up funds for teachers who request specific supplies or instructional materials above and beyond what’s available through the school budget.

At present, the PTA budget is about $140,000 a year, said Kottas. Parent contributions are the biggest source of funds, but if La Gran Pachanga proves to be financially successful, it could potentially be the second biggest source of funds to sustain the programs that the PTA sponsors.

“To a certain extent, this is a really critical time for us to see how successful we can be because the budgeting process for the next school year is just kicking off,” said Kottas. “We can run a deficit this year if we need to, but we can’t do that in perpetuity.”

From 6 to 8 p.m., the agenda for the night of La Gran Pachanga will begin with a silent auction and transition to a live auction for some of the more unique prizes, like donated experiences by the teachers, “whom we consider to be priceless,” they said.

McCandless said there’s an opportunity to bid online for the items and experiences before the auctions. The online bidding website features passes to the Walt Disney Museum, Children’s Creativity Museum, Chabot Space & Science Center, Bay Area Discovery Museum, and tickets to the San Francisco Ballet’s 2019 Repertory Season, the SF Opera, SF Symphony, and a 49ers home game – among other museums, classes, and offers from local businesses.

The donated experiences by the teachers for the students include a personalized reading list, ice cream and books and a ceramics workshop.

The best chance to win an item or experience, however, is in person, as the auctions will be closed out at La Gran Pachanga. A local teacher, who is also an alumni parent of Buena Vista Horace Mann, will assume the role of the auctioneer.

A host committee was also recruited: Mayor London Breed, District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, BVHM Principal Claudia Delarios Morán and Vice Principal Gissell Medina.

Due to conflicting schedules, Breed and Ronen will not attend, but Walton, the former board of education commissioner, and the school’s administrators will be present at La Gran Pachanga.

While they’re aiming to sell between 100 to 150 tickets to the event, free admission has been offered to the staff members at Buena Vista Horace Mann, so a good percentage of the attendees will be teachers of the school, said McCandless and Kottas.

“That’s good!” their first-grader chimed in.

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