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Press Release


Napa Valley Vintners Invests $3 Million to Close the Academic Achievement Gap

St. Helena, CA--The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), a nonprofit trade association with 450 member wineries, today announced it is investing $1 million per year for at least three years in an initiative aimed at closing the academic achievement gap between English-learning and English-fluent children and those of differing socioeconomic status in Napa County.

This new initiative tackles the academic achievement gap—a national priority noted by U.S. leadership—in Napa County by organizing existing local community organizations to fund programs which create high-quality preschools and parental support services in school neighborhoods with the highest need.

According to Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, research proves the importance of quality preschool. Children who attended one year of high-quality public preschool were less likely to be held back or placed in special education, and in the longer term, had higher graduation rates, and lower arrest rates and reliance on food stamps and cash assistance. They also have greater lifetime earnings, thereby generating more tax revenue. Although the amount of savings varied, the studies consistently found that this early intervention resulted in significant returns to taxpayers.

Funding for this initiative will come from proceeds from Auction Napa Valley, an annual fundraiser hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners since 1981 to raise funds for local charitable causes. To date, it has invested more than $110 million in local health, education and affordable housing nonprofit programs.

"The good news is that there are existing community programs with proven success in helping children prepare for kindergarten. This commitment of funding from Auction proceeds will allow us to bring these organizations together and concentrate the services in the areas with the greatest need," said Ed Matovcik, Chairman NVV Grants Review Committee.

The Local Challenge

In Napa County, nearly half of all kindergartners are English-language learners, and by third grade, there is a 34-percentage point difference on Standardized Testing and Reporting test scores between English learners and those fluent in English. In addition, nearly 10 percent of Napa County residents live in poverty, which also directly affects children's development and educational outcomes.

The Plan

The NVV will bring together a coalition of community organizations and educators to implement the initiative's elements:

  • High-quality preschool services on or near elementary school sites to prepare children for school, both academically and socially

  • Coaching for preschool instructors on language development, social and emotional development and basic learning skills

  • Summer programs for those about to enter kindergarten who have not attended preschool

  • Family-friendly English as Second Language classes and other workshops for parents to support their children's growing academic and literacy skills

  • Support for children and families making the transition from preschool to kindergarten

  • The goal is to create a model to use at schools countywide to close the academic achievement gap among Napa County students by third grade. The NVV will work with local school districts to determine where to launch the pilot program this September.

    "Studies have shown that when children start school behind, they remain behind," said Janine Burt, principal at Bel Aire Elementary School, located in the city of Napa. "But it also shows that early intervention—such as high-quality preschool to ensure kindergarten readiness—not only works, but is where we can make the greatest impact with the greatest cost effectiveness. We see a tremendous difference in the kids that come through our preschool program. They not only gain needed skills, they learn how to be a student and understand the language and processes of school."

    The first $1 million of this initiative is the final category of funding from Auction Napa Valley 2012 proceeds. The other five investments that round out the $7 million in giving were: $1.9 million for direct medical services; $1.14 million for resources, education and services for at-risk families; $1.275 million for resources, education and services for school-age children; $772,000 for programs helping those at risk or affected by substance abuse, mental illness and health issues related to aging; and $840,000 for basic safety net services for those living in poverty. For more information visit

    The Napa Valley Vintners is the nonprofit trade association responsible for promoting and protecting the Napa Valley appellation as the premier winegrowing region. From seven founding members in 1944, today the association represents more than 450 Napa Valley wineries and collectively is a leader in the world-wide wine industry. To learn more about our region and its legendary American wines, visit


    Read "Stories of Impact" from Auction Napa Valley 2012 Giving