Thursday, May 31, 2007

OK I'm Not in the Dog Business...., but I need a good home anyway. Check out my stats below and if you are interested look me up. You can find my San Pedro foster family by emailing at:

Katrina Puppy Brindle White Socks Female
Pit Bull Staffordshire 5mos (San Pedro Los Angeles) Female, Brindle with white socks, the only puppy from a Katrina litter whose new owners are unable to keep her due to a situation which evolved from within their family (unexpected domestic violence created by the stepfather). The human mother is living in a shelter, the teenager got pregnant, lost her job, and she is living with her boyfriend’s parents, who will not allow her to keep the dog. This puppy stuck by her family through thick & thin, but she does not deserve to be in a domestically violent situation after surviving Katrina! She is safe from harm, and I will keep her safe until finding the "right" home who will love her and keep her away from danger and harm. She loves to play, she is still a puppy, she's been living with a cat, and she was put in a boarding facility for a week before I could get her out and make her feel at home while searching for someone special to make her a part of their family. The kennel staff loved her and ranted/raved about what a great puppy she is. Right now she needs love because she fell in love with her family and was moreless desserted... Please inquire if you know of anyone who can adopt this special female canine friend. Her bro went to a LA firefighter, and we can all stay in touch and get 2gether for playtime, so don't let it be an excuse if you feel you might not know where to walk her or how to socialize, we are here to help, we just want a loving home for this sweetheart. She will need to live inside, not outside in the doghouse, for she will be on the large side of the breed, and she seems to be a jumper and athlete, very strong, not for the weak or novice. Shots are current, will try and get a more recent photo- she resembles a striped tiger, she has grown since this photo, very muscular & lean

Monday, May 28, 2007

Does Your Child Have Art You'd Like to Submit to the Underdog For Kids?

Does your child have some art you'd like displayed? Please e-mail to with a photo of the art. I nclude your child's age, school and location where you live and a way to contact you for postings.


Introducing Artist Maya Pavic:

Hello my name is Maya Pavic I am 13 years old I attend Dana Middle School and I am in seventh grade and I love to draw and I love looking at art. This drawing that is drawn by me is a wolf, I made this character up in my head. So basically I was just bored and I was thinking of what to draw for Diana's blog. I hope everyone likes this drawing of mine. I think I am a very good drawer and I love to draw no matter what I and feeling like. Well enjoy this drawing everyone.

A Successful Boys and Girls Club Girl Comes Back to Run the College Bound Program for Kids Who Truly Believed Upper Education Was Not in Their "Atmosphere; Now Going to College Becomes More of A Norm at the Clubs with Signifigant Increases Each Year
Story By: Mike Lansing, Executive of the Los Angeles Harbor Area Boys and Girls Clubs
(Photo above of Yesenia Aguilar, who runs College Bound, and Justin Johnson, who received acceptances to three University of California campuses: Santa Barbara, San Diego and Riverside. Justin opted to go to San Diego.
The Student, the Teacher and St. Jude

I first met Yesenia Aguilar in 1994 when I was volunteering in the Learning Center at the San Pedro Boys & Girls Club. Yesenia was a very personable high school junior who exhibited noticeable leadership traits, excelled in sports especially basketball, but put forth the minimum amount of effort in her school work just to stay “eligible”. She faced numerous challenges which didn’t support making her education a priority. Her family was poor, her immigrant parents were loving but divorced and her two brothers were heavily involved in gangs. In fact, one had been almost fatally stabbed a block from the Boys & Girls Club when she was growing up. One thing she did have going for her was that she didn’t follow in her brothers’ footsteps – there was no way she was going to be a gang member. Her “gang” was the kids who played ball at the Club.

I became Executive Director a year later and in June of that year Yesenia visited me to share a major decision she had made. “I need to get out of town Mike and go to college” she stated. Yesenia proceeded to tell me that she didn’t want to travel down that same dead-end path that her brothers and too many of her friends had taken. To be honest, I was most surprised when she told me that San Jose State had accepted her with a 2.3 G.P.A., but she assured me this was true. She said that she knew she had wasted her high school opportunity and now wanted to make a commitment to her education and future. I told her the Club would help out any way we could.

Besides her limited academic progress to date, Yesenia also faced the fact that due to her family’s limited resources, she would basically have to finance both her education and living expenses by herself. We stayed in touch throughout her college years and though the Club helped her out with some limited funding each year, the reality is that Yesenia had to work multiple jobs while going to school so that she could afford her room, board, tuition and books. This would be difficult enough for a top notch student - for someone who had yet to exhibit any academic success, this hurdle seemed almost impossible to scale in my estimation. But she promised to put forth the effort necessary so we supported her in that endeavor.

The reality was that Yesenia was a very bright young woman and exhibited the dedication necessary to both meet her work and school responsibilities. In 2001 she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science as well as a multiple subject Teacher Preparation waiver to provide her direct entry into graduate school. Given her lack of support and effort prior to going to college, being the first person in her family to earn a college degree and enter graduate school was nothing short of remarkable.

The Teacher

One of Yesenia’s numerous jobs during her undergraduate years was working with disadvantaged elementary students to provide tutorial assistance and guidance. This experience convinced her that becoming a teacher was her calling, so she enrolled in the teacher certification program at San Jose State upon graduation.

As previously noted, I had been in contact with Yesenia throughout her college years and I had been biding my time hoping to get her to come back and work with “other Yesenia’s” back here at the Club. In 2003 I called and made her an offer: come back to San Pedro, finish off your teacher certification program at Cal State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) and become the director of the fledgling “College Bound” program we had just started a year before. I knew she was capable of balancing both a full time position and going to graduate school – she had exhibited the same as an undergrad. Yesenia was the model for why we started the College Bound program in the first place – a teen with lots of potential, little support at home/school who just needed someone to care, support and motivate them each and every day. Yesenia had obviously “walked in the shoes” of those coming to our Teen Center which would both provide her credibility with her young charges and assist her in meeting their needs. This is why I wanted Yesenia to return so badly and she agreed.

Yesenia has thrived as our College Bound director and was the catalyst for its tremendous growth. The first year she headed the program there were “4” seniors enrolled who would go on to college. This year she has “54” seniors in the program and 44 have already committed to a two or four year college! She expanded the program to include besides daily tutorial support - case management, college application assistance, Writer’s Workshops, SAT & PSAT preparedness workshops, F.A.F.S.A. and other funding assistance application support, college visits, and SAT exam fee waiver support. She has grown the program to include well over 200 participants this year (including 80 “juniors”). Next year she will be working to expand this important College Bound program to both our Wilmington and Port of Los Angeles sites. Last but not least, that student who barely graduated high school with a 2.3 G.P.A. - she had “straight A’s” in her graduate classes while earning her teaching credential at CSUDH.

St. Jude

St. Jude is the patron saint of “lost causes”. Too often the teens we serve at the Boys & Girls Club are labeled as “lost causes” by far too many adults in our community. We developed our College Bound program to support all levels of students, but in actuality we target those who for the time being are average to below average achievers – many of whom are labeled as “lost causes”. This is so very important because due to lack of college counseling resources at our high schools, usually only the high achieving students receive the full attention they need – the “lost causes” who make up a large percentage of high school students are way down the list. This is why our College Bound program is so very different than any other college pathway program I have researched – for we give the teens who truly need our help the most the same services and support provided the highest achieving students. We have developed a program so that the late blooming Yesenia’s of today are given a real chance to reach their full potential.

Next week I will be attending Yesenia’s graduation from the Teacher Credentialing program at CSUDH and have the distinct pleasure to be one of the guest speakers. In reality though the ceremony is a bit anti-climactic, for Yesenia has already been a “teacher” for many years – guiding, cajoling and motivating young people just like her to believe in themselves and become in most cases the first in their family to attend college. She has dedicated herself to the teens who are anything but the “lost causes” too many others see. She knows first hand that the “Yesenia’s” of our world are many and they only need an advocate, a mentor, a taskmaster, a friend - a “teacher” who will believe in them each and every day.

Congratulations Yesenia on earning your teaching credential, but more importantly, for bringing hope and opportunity to many who are facing the same limitations you had growing up. Without you and College Bound, they would have little or no chance. Thank you for continuing on next year as our College Bound director – for you are both the original model and the engine for this most important program. Like St. Jude, you too firmly believe in what some see as “lost causes”. You too believe in the Yesenia’s of today who will become like you – the leaders of tomorrow.

Last year, I attended the Dana Middle School Talent Show and had so much fun I’m going to go again this Friday.
I know what you are thinking: a talent show is a talent show is a talent show.
But somehow, because the students hadn’t done a talent show in years, the enthusiasm deliciously spilled over into the crowd and when one vocalist had a tough time singing, the students in the audience chimed in to help her over the blip in her chart. The show is free.
“We now have approximately 30 student acts: singers, dancers, comedy skit, monologue, student band, school band and cheerleaders,” said Kim Blanks, the event organizer.
Some school staff members are daringly brave and are expected to sing too.
The show begins at 6:00 p.m. The PTO will be selling hotdogs, sodas, chips, prior to the show beginning at 5:00. Raffle tickets will be sold to for $1 each or 6 for $5. Some of the prizes are: handmade rugs, Disneyland tickets for two plus parking pass, two Six Flags Magic Mountain tickets, gift certificates to Babouch, Chicago for Ribs and two Spirit Cruise tickets.
PTO members will also sell DVD's of the production for $5. So this Friday – if you want to see it all from humor to dancing, take a jog over to one of your local school’s. Dana is located at 1501 S. Cabrillo Avenue. For more information, call Kim Blanks at the school: (310) 241-1100 and leave a message with the Main Office


Why Should You and Your Kids Attend Dinner with the Killer Whales?
It’s an Experience None of You Will Forget

Every time the photos of the killer whales pop up on my computer screen, it reminds me of the exact reasons we went to dine with Sea World’s orcas in San Diego.
It’s expensive– especially when you have to pay the entrance fee first. But in my book and all the children that went with us, it was one of those cherished waves of lifetime experiences that’s hard to flip.
After all, how often can you say that you dined right next door – and side by side with killer whales. ?
This isn’t really worth writing about. Photos tell the tale of the tail more than I ever could. And that’s no fluking.
Go dine with the beasts.
For dinner, tickets are $35 for ages ten and up and $19 for ages three to nine. Breakfasting with the whales costs $24 for ages 10 and up and $10 for ages three to nine.
Under three for either outing is free.
Entrance fees to a day in the park are $57 for ten and up and $47 for ages 3-nine.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Retired Veteran LAUSD Adminstrator Kleiner Booted the Day Before Arriving To Begin As Interim Principal at Locke High:

Only Politics Can Answer the Mystery

By Diana L. Chapman

As quickly as former Los Angeles School Board candidate, Neal Kleiner, was tapped to become interim principal at the contentious and controversial Locke High School, he was told he had been removed from the position before he had a chance to start today.

Kleiner said he arrived at the school Wednesday to check out the campus, and the superintendent of that district, Carol Truscott, apologized and commiserated with him, but added: "I was not wanted," Kleiner said.

Arriving one day sooner to stroll the Locke campus – a school under fire after the entire staff from the principal on down petitioned to leave the district and become a charter school – Kleiner wanted to talk with the staff to start paving the way for the LAUSD school the following year.
Kleiner was to temporarily fill the vacancy of Principal Frank Wells, who was escorted from the campus a week earlier apparently for allowing teachers to sign petitions during school hours.
But upon his arrival, Kleiner said he was greeted by the district’s superintendent of Region 8, Trescott, told him he was no longer wanted for the post.
“It hurt,” said Neal, a former Locke High School teacher and counselor, over a cup coffee at a local diner, the Omelette & Waffle Shop. He has lived in San Pedro for 27 years.” I really wanted to be there. I wanted to try to stabilize the school and fill teacher positions before the fall.
“I’m not a miracle worker. I just wanted to help the school moved forward.”
In an odd last minute decision, Kleiner, who was beaten by mayoral-backed candidate Richard Vladovic in this month’s race for the school board, said he was unsure why the ropes were pulled out from underneath him when he arrived at the school Wednesday.
However, Neal, 60, a district veteran whose career spanned nearly four decades with LAUSD who began campaigning vehemently against Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's attempts to takeover the school district, said he believed his opponent had nothing to do with it.

Instead, he believes the effort to remove him from the post was driven by the mayor. He believes possibly LAUSD Superitendent Richard Brewer the III received complaints from the mayor and then the edict to fire him was ordered.
The educational spokeswoman for the mayor's office had not returned calls for this story..

If so, School Board Member Mike Lansing, currently in charge of that district until he steps down in June, said he would be extremely angry. He added that he'd learn more today when meeting with the Superitendent this afternoon.
"I don't know what happened," Lansing said. "I just hope it's not intervention by the mayor or anyone else who would for personal reasons hurt an opportunity for our kids. I'd be most upset if the students were paying for adult issues."
Asking Kleiner whether Vladovic might have fought to have him booted after the recent race elections, Kleiner contended that both men were professionals and would put the past behind them. They both know, he said, that the district has much bigger issues to cope with.

“I just don’t think Vladovic would care," Kleiner siad. "I lost in the long run and we had a hard fight. But I felt good. And I wish Mr. Vladovic all the best. I took yesterday a lot harder than I did losing election.”
A top-level source says it’s his understanding, however, that the incident had nothing to do with the mayor but rather with Vladovic. The incoming board member called and complained there would be trouble if Kleiner was hired, according to the source.
Because school districts often hire retired administrators to fill in personnel gaps, it would be unusual for Vladovic to complain, especially since he himself is a career district administrator.

Reached late Friday afternoon, Vladovic said he knew nothing about Kleiner being removed from the post, that he hadn't even joined the board officially yet and had no reason to shake up attempts to hire Kleiner as the interim principal.
In fact, he said, he received an interim administrative position with the district after he retired. The night before he was slated to start, the district called and told him he was not needed. It was a position, he said, involving salaries.
"Let's just get settled down and focus on the kids," Vladovic said. "It's unfortunate that everything is so personal. It was an absolutely terrible campaign. Neal is a nice guy. I like his family. I like him. I'm so sorry this has occurred."

Others say there is no question politics played a key role in this last minute decision to remove Kleiner. The former candidate began to wonder openly if he would be continually punished for running for the school board “in a democratic society” and whether it would dampen his interest in helping schools–especially in LAUSD, where his roots lie.

He started with the district in the fifth grade and, except for his college years, spent his entire life either being educated or working as an educator in LAUSD. Now retired, Kleiner wanted to fill in as a teacher, substitute principal or in another administrative post.

The mayor had hobbled together a piece of state legislation and attempted to muscle it through to take control of LAUSD, but the district challenged him on legal grounds – and the courts’ agreed with the district.
Finally dropping his legal fight after the recent elections, Villaraigosa was able to forge ahead with a new angle by placing four of hi his proponents in seven of the school board seats, which introduces a new wedge about who will run the district – the school board or the mayor.
While Kleiner’s opponent, Vladovic, accepted more than $250,000 from the mayor, Neal said he refused to believe that Vladovic, also a career LAUSD administrator, had anything to do with the decision to bar him from the post.
The mayor, however, he believes did.
“I was just going to be there for a short time to stop the bleeding,” Neal explained. “I think the mayor took it as an affront since it was part of the battleground. All I was going to do was hold down the fort until the end of the year and they found a replacement. The moral was low. I had a history at this site. The thought was that people would feel better because I had a history.”
Kleiner began his educational career at Locke in 1968 and taught social studies there until 1982. At that point, he became a counselor and the school’s athletic coordinator. Later, he became an administrator at other LAUSD schools, including Dana Middle School and retiring as the principal last year from Muir Middle School.

Despite his loss, Kleiner said he believed both men battled evenly for the post, and each had a lot to offer. He was not nearly as devastated by the election loss as he was by the firing before he even got the chance to jump start Locke for the upcoming school year.

Whether the school should become a charter school, with the sometimes successful campuses run by Green Dot Charter Schools, is not his battle, Kleiner said.
He would not take positions for either Green Dot or LAUSD, because he believed both could do the job of taking one of the worst school’s in the district and bring it up the ladder.

Susan Cox, a spokeswoman for the district, said a last minute change was made in regards to Kleiner obtaining the post.
“A last minute decision was made regarding Mr. Kleiner’s services as the interim principal at Locke High School and unfortunately he learned about this decision upon his arrive at the school on Wednesday, but that they (school officials) appreciate his willingness to serve the school during this difficult time.”

Cox added because that it was a "personnel matter" she was not privy to who hired or fired Kleiner or what dynamics took place. The district would not discuss those issues, she said.

It was unclear who made this decision, but Neal said he understood that it came directly from LAUSD School Superintendent Richard Brewer Jr. the III. Truscott had officially hired him.
District officials have found themselves grappling with one battle after another from where to build new schools, to the direct challenge from the Locke staff, an extremely under performing school in South Los Angeles.
Wells was escorted off campus after publicly announcing his preference for Green Dot, who has paved some successes in running district school’s as a charter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Blake Marquez, 6, sits next to her sister's photos at the relay. Her sister, Paige, 4, died last year of a radical brain tumor.

Below: Vickie Guglielmo, Kim Blanks and Aurora Rojas raised thousands of dollars for Dana Middle School's team. Vickielost her mother recently to lung cancer.

The Relay Starts Again Next Year...
By Diana L. Chapman

It was the oddest feeling, as though I’d come home. Or perhaps it was a sense that I belonged.
My son and I were walking along San Pedro High School’s track about 9 p.m. last Saturday night holding “luminaries” to honor those who’ve died from cancer and those who have survived, a fundraiser called the “Cancer Relay.”
A damp mist trickled our faces as we walked quietly in the cool sea air and looked at some 800 bags glowing with lit candles inside. We’d hear people murmur as they saw a bag with a name on it: “I remember her.” Or…I remember him.”
Sitting on the bleachers, a set of golden luminaries bathed out the words: Hope & Faith.
It was so poignant. But for some reason, I didn’t feel sad at all. Later, I believed that my sense of peace was exactly what Mary Hamlin, the co-chair of this American Cancer Society relay, told me she felt during the event -- that her loved ones she lost to cancer were somehow with her.
I sensed that too. I sensed that all of those who had died from this dreaded illness had settled in along side me. Side by side, it seemed I was walking with my friend, Matt, 16, who died from neuroblastoma, my adopted father, Papa, who died from lung cancer and though I never met her, the loss of a tiny sprite, Paige Marquez, who died at the age of four, from a brain tumor.
As a columnist for More San Pedro, I covered Paige’s story and never could get her to quit whirling around in my mind. That evening, I was hoping to spot her family to reconnect. But so far, I had not received that blessing.
Ryan and I shuffled along with the rest, hundreds of those honoring friends and family deceased to cancer or to those battking with it now. Some giggled as life should be happy; other walkers were lost deep in thought. But but we were all pulled together, threaded by a bond, of loss and caring and perhaps even of love. This year’s relay made $130,000 toward cancer research – which ended last Sunday, May 17. Twenty-seven teams from all over San Pedro responded – schools, businesses, youth organizations to join the fight to raise money. All day long, and for a continuous chunk of the night, the teams walked the track to memorialize those who had died and to respect cancer survivors.
As far as the co-chair, Mary, is concerned, we need to stop cancer in its tracks. She described the horrible pain of losing family and friends to some form of cancer or another, in the past five years -- including her mother, her best friend, her father-in-law
and lastly, her sister, Lenora Mecham, 62, who died of lung cancer.
Her depression deepend after that, but when she heard about such relays, she jumped aboard.
“The relay gave me back my life,” Mary explained, after saying she became tired of being a victim. “I feel I’m doing something constructive. I feel like my sister is sitting on my shoulder.”
The relay, in its 7th year in San Pedro, and continuously gains steam as more people find this as a solid way to heal their losses – and forge ahead to help others.
After Paige died last year, her parents, Cheryl and Tim, began holding fundraising dinners, started a foundation and raised thousands of dollars for brain tumor research and try to help other parents who’ve found themselves in this ugly chasm of a bitter loss.
The Marquez’s learned Paige had an A-Typical Rhabdoid Terratoid brain tumor that is so radical and violent that while her symptoms began in February 2005 and she was diagnosed in June, she died by July 30.
“Fund raising is what we can do for her memory and to help other kiddies,” her father told me. “She is the reason.”
So far that evening, I had not spotted Paige’s family, but then I rounded a bend and there sat a little girl reading something off a poster board with an impish face smiling back. I recognized Paige’s photo instantly, and saw her father, Tim, brushing tears from his eyes, as Paige’s sister, Blake, 6, proudly read memories from Paige’s board.
“What I would like people to remember about cancer is that it does not discriminate with regard to age, religion, ethnicity, or financial status,” Paige’s father e-mailed me later. “It takes the ones you love and tries to destroy their life and yours, but through fund raising for research and family assistance we can make a difference and fight cancer. We must fight for the families who are afflicted now and the families who are to come in the future.”
Last year, the family had their own team for the relay. This year, due to another family illness, they attended, but did not form a team. That, however, will not stop this family.
Their Paige L. Marquez Pediatric Brian Tumor Foundation has raised nearly $26,000 to help those other children afflicted by cancer, he said, donating $8,200 to Miller Children’s Hospital/Children’s Cancer Center, $4,100 to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and $4,100 to the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation.
This year, the family will do another big fundraiser – with the goal of earning $35,000 – on July 28 at the San Pedro’s Elk Lodge. (More will be posted on the blog about this event.)
Cancer impacts everyone sometime in their lives. People like you and me. People like
Kim Blanks, responsible this year for lighting and putting together the hundreds of luminaries that graced the track.
She formed the Dana Middle School Team last year, and realized that it was part of her calling to continue the relay efforts.
“I guess I do this because of those I have lost and for those who have had to suffer from cancer. I think I always need some cause to help schools or the community,” she told me.
Dana’s adult relay team raised nearly $6,000 this year, but perhaps more interesting is the way the students responded when Kim asked for their help to provide funds for cancer victims.
The students brought in coins by the hundreds and raised about $1,581 in four days. That
me back to this: all of our lives will be touched by cancer, somehow, somewhere, sometime. Even the kids realize this.
So in the end if we keep working hard enough, we won’t have to look for angels sitting on our shoulders They will be sitting right next to us, instead.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Apologies…

Dear Readers:

Many of you sent me Happenings around town that unfortunately – due to an internet glitch – I could not post for you for this past week. I apologize for missing many great adventures that were happening here in San Pedro.

The best way to get your calendar item posted at: site is simply to put everything into three to four paragraphs, with the time, event, address, contact information, phone number – and a headline. Explain what the event is about and what the cost involved are. If the event is a fundraiser, please make sure to say for what!

Ship all Happenings events – especially anything that caters to children -- to Thanks for your patience this past week.



By Diana L. Chapman

Razor-wire fences fail abysmally in capturing public support.
Citations for crisscrossing the cliffs of Point Fermin Park doom local residents’ freedom because of other people’s actions – even if visiting residents remain far back from the cliff walls.
The newly posted signs detailing the dangers haven’t stopped anyone. It just seems that nothing short of building another Berlin Wall along the jutting, bony cliffs off Paseo del Mar stands a chance of keeping people out of the spectacular area spliced by expansive ocean views that draws people like bees to sweet nectar.
The truth is, these kinds of measures won’t ever keep folks off the spectacular cliffs or out of Sunken City, the jumble of broken pavement that was once a stunning residential area at the east end of Point Fermin Park. Victimized by a landslide, the former community began a slow-motion plunge down the cliffs.
The only answer I can think of for this entire sad mess is vigilance. Vigilance for all of us who are regulars. Vigilance for us local parents who need to reinforce again and again the dangers of the cliffs and unfortunately, accepting our own accountability when tragedy occurs.
After the 19th death from falls from our sheer rock walls, including two very young, up-and-coming members of our community, Councilwoman Janice Hahn began to discuss such measures. If they take place, I believe residents will lose – and we will lose big time. We will lose views. We will lose freedom for those who use the area safely. And we will lose – I believe – more children who will consider this even more challenging than before, an even bigger and badder “taboo.”
I don’t know if vigilance is the total answer, but it’s certainly a piece of the puzzle, especially in the case of the frequent suicides that happen there. At first, I liked the signs the council office recently had posted along Point Fermin Park in both Spanish and English that clearly describe the cliff’s dangers of slipping and falling. Even still, there hasn’t been a single day that’s gone by where I haven’t seen parents carrying their babies down the cliff sides, an older woman strolling along in thong-shoes, who was clearly uncomfortable and unstable, despite a middle-aged man guiding her down the rocky edges and people sitting on the very edge of the cliffs.
Other than having the police out in force, I don’t know what else can be done except perhaps for using our own vigilance. Vigilance worked, for instance, in three cases I remember.
One day I was strolling along Point Fermin Park and spotted a teenage boy who had walked out on a storm drain pipe jutting out of the cliff. He crawled out on the drain and began to bounce.
A man in his 50s came around the bend, jogged over to the teenager and immediately told him that if he fell, he would probably die. While not all teenagers would act like this, the youth looked at the man and said: “Oh,” and scaled back over the fence.
Thank you to the man, for that day, he was a hero.
This story is a bit more embarrassing for me.
I once went over the wall in broad daylight – with no intention of killing myself. I watched a sea lion pup trying to climb a rock to hang to get out of the burly, sweeping seas. But each time, the pup was lifted away by powerful waves. I was so overwhelmed by the pup’s plight and wanted to urge him on. “Come on!” I yelped. “You can make it!”
The next thing I knew, a man had launched himself over the wall and was talking to me, murmuring in soothing tones.” Why don’t you step back over the wall with me?” he cajoled. I did.
It didn’t occur to me until months later that he thought I was trying to kill myself. After all, I’m sure this man had read all the many times paramedics have gathered bodies from the bottom of those cliffs – an area plagued by suicides. It wasn’t until months later that I realized he was a hero. I applaud the fact that he took a risk to make sure no one was injured – even if he was wrong. He could have been right on target for all he knew.
The recent deaths of extraordinary people like Mario Danelo, the USC place-kicker, and Megan Maynard, 19, from slips off the edge – have helped to ignite concerns about how we can deal with this spectacular gem we have in this community, and balance that with safety.
It makes me think we have to start depending on the regulars, people like me who walk daily there, the radio-controlled airplane buffs who consistently fly their models on almost a daily basis and even the horse shoe players that were out in Sunken City until they were told to leave because of the cliff’s inherent dangers.
One resident I was discussing this with asked a really good question: “Couldn’t we post a specific phone number?” directly to lifeguards or police so that the visitors can call the minute they know a problem is brewing. I have been to Paseo del Mar in broad day light when a woman wanted to kill herself and was over the wall at the cliff's edge. Had I not been able to race to a nearby patrolling police officer (who believed my story), I don’t know what I would have done.
It seems to me we can put up all the fences and pass out all the citations in the world, and none of it will work. What might, however, is asking those who frequent the area to keep our eyes peeled and to call a special number where we could prevent more people from dying.
That still leaves us with one big problem – how can we possibly watch out for anybody in the entire cliff area sweeping around our coastal town in the middle of the night?
Even if we put up an outrageously big fence, the truth is -- we can't.


My Dear Friends,

I am disappointed that I didn't win, but I'm not sorry I made the fight. It was something I had to do. I decide a couple of years ago, but did make the mistake of not campaigning until I retired from Muir. Other than that, I am proud of the campaign, but mostly proud and in debt to all of you who gave me so much support, encouragement, and love.

I am humbled by the outpouring of an "all volunteer army" that made a real race out of a contest that few gave me a chance. I will always be in your debt. I walked over 35 precincts since the primary, and went to every community event, imaginable to try to compensate for my lack of finances. You walked, called, emailed people everywhere and people came "out of the woodwork" to give support. I may have fallen short of votes, but YOU WON. You believed in me, despite my weaknesses and worked to prove small campaigns can still work. I know what you did and I am very proud of you. At the end of the day, we are still standing, not necessarily to fight another day, but to continue to do what we feel is right for public education in LAUSD.

I will do what I can to support Dr. Vladovic and hope he is successful in helping students in this area, especially at some of the most troubled schools in the District. I sincerely wish him luck.

Neal Kleiner

Language Immersion Academy is offering an exciting way for children to learn Spanish during the months of summer. We use music, videos, pictures, dancing, singing and other ways that makes learning another language fun and exciting.

Our instructor is a native speaker of Spanish with 25 years of language teaching experience. Classes will begin July 9 - August 3. Lessons are one-hour, twice a week. Eight lessons are $128. Materials are included and there is no registration fee. To enroll call Magally Rollice at 310-980-0766 or Mark Rollice at 310-980-0765.

LIA also offers Spanish classes for adults and tutoring in Math and Language Arts (Reading and Writing) for elementary and middle school students.

Language Immersion Academy
461 West Sixth Street, Suite #214
San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 980-0766

Monday, May 14, 2007

Neal Kleiner lies? Say what?

Please Mr. Vladovic....You Know Better

By Diana L. Chapman

For a long time, I really believed I liked Richard Vladovic, but every time I received a new mailer from him for his campaign to run for the Los Angeles Unified School Board, my stomach ached, my head hurt and I began to wonder:

Is Mr. Vladovic really the man I thought he was? Apparently not.

How hard does he have to go to attack his opponent with accusations such as this: “I promise not to lie. I promise not to lie. I promise not to lie. I promise…” written on a chalkboard and accusing Neal of lying about the test scores when he was principal at Muir Middle School? It also gave Neal an “F” in bright red letters when he was one of those administrators who had the guts to go into the heart of South of downtown Los Angeles to try and bring students up who live in some of the most fearful, deteriorating areas of our sprawling, and at times, not-so-angelic city.

In the meantime, Mr. Vladovic often sat comfy as an administrator with Los Angeles Unified.

“Neal Kleiner does not deserve a promotion,” screams the latest of the ugliest fliers I’ve received Monday afternoon, just before Tuesday’s election. For awhile there, I was entrenched with the idea that while I liked Neal better much because he did not accept money from Los Angeles Mayor Richard Villaraigosa -- who for some reason he believes he can run the district more efficiently when the city really needs to focus on its very own messy inefficent backyard -- I at least thought Richard would still be a good man for the post.

Now, I’m just very disappointed – to say the least. I wanted to fall off my chair in laughter when he made this accusation: “Kleiner failed to meet federal standards.” Does Mr. Vladovic just not know how many school’s fail to meet those standards as they are next-to-impossible to meet?Educators from many walks of life have told me this repeatedly – and I know Mr. Vladovic knows this too.

Then, the flier campaigned: “Neal Kleiner does not deserve a promotion”

First, I’d never call being a school board member a “promotion,” as it’s an incredibly time-consuming job – with no money for that time (I think the post pays $25,000-a-year) and why not give Neal a promotion? Richard Vladovic was with the same district for years and we can most certainly point to the many failing schools that exist in the district – now – the very same district he worked for dozens of years.

While I was nurturing myself into believing that Neal might lose this election – I at least lulled myself into thinking that Mr. Vladovic would still be a good choice. Now, my opinion of that has been buried.

Mr. Vladovic, I most certainly hope that if you win this seat, this will not be the way you represent us. The need for an upstanding, honest individual – such as our prior board member Mike Lansing – is of the utmost importance. No matter what people want to think of Mike, there’s one thing I knew about him always – he protected the kids, the students. Neal Kleiner is the same. And for along time, I believed this too of Mr. Vladovic.
It’s just now that I’ve really realized; I am no longer, by any means, sure when I saw the latest release of campaign literature.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Why I’m Voting For Neal Kleiner…
He's for the People
By Diana L. Chapman

He’s called a long shot, a dark horse, a candidate with the lack of bucks, but I’m casting my vote for Neal Kleiner in the upcoming Los Angeles Unified School District board race for District No. 7 anyway.

And it’s not that I don’t like his opponent, Richard Vladovic – a long time Los Angeles Unified district administrator, lastly a principal in 1987 and the head of West Covina Unified School District until 2005. I do like him.
But it’s what I like about Neal that’s making me cast my vote his way –in particular his early stance in the candidacy that he would continue the court battle to fight the mayoral takeover over of the Los Angeles Unified School District. This smacked of unconstitutionality to begin with – and recent court rulings have twice rendered that very same decision.
This takeover bothered me so greatly that I searched for a candidate with a similar belief – a candidate who would immediately align himself against the mayoral takeover. Because no matter how you word it, how you write it, how you argue it, there’s no one who will ever convince me the city of Los Angeles – it’s own problematic entity which can’t afford to trim city trees or fix street potholes – could run the schools better than the district. Having worked both sides of the fence, all I could see in the future with this bill shoveled quickly through the state legislature at the behest of the mayor – if gone unchallenged, would trigger a much greater problem than we already have.
We’d have the blind city running the already semi-blind school district.
How would that work for our kids?
It doesn’t. So on May 15 – despite a predicted ridiculously low voter turn out and despite Neal’s uphill battle against a smoother, glossier and more polished Richard Vladovic – I’m marking a check next to Neal’s name.
“We won our independence because people here felt England was making laws for us,” Neal contended on his stance against the mayor’s takeover. “This is just the same thing and the courts threw it out. I will work with the mayor, but he just started running for the governor and using the school district as a political football.”
Granted, Neal’s only garnered about $50,000 to put in his coffers ($10,000 of his own) and never climbed too high in the district’s administrative arm, but remained dug in at the trenches as a principal at John Muir Middle School—a campus in the heartland of south Los Angeles near the Coliseum until he retired last year. At age 60, Neal has vowed to come back, join the board and work it more than a regular full time job. Who better to know the district’s faults than a former Los Angeles Unified School teacher whose career spanned the district for nearly four decades, beginning from teaching high school to ending his lengthy career as a principal within the district?
Both Neal and Richard are vying for District 7, an area that stretches from San Pedro in the south to drinking in Lomita, Gardena, Harbor Gateway, Carson, Watts and Athens and smaller portions of Los Angeles to the north.
Having someone who lives in and has recently served tougher schools in the district, brings a rounder vision to some of the district’s greatest problems – problems which he intends to address by promoting greater leadership skills at the top.
District superintendents, he contends, must include and work cohesively with principals and their staffs. Principals, he believes, deserve greater autonomy to make the school campuses work more efficiently and to address the needs of the student population.
His biggest supporters, in fact, are teachers and staff at John Muir, which is telling.
“I will represent (voter’s) interests as I have done for the last 38 years at the school sites and I’m not interested in politics,” Neal told me over a cup of coffee at his San Pedro home, where he has lived for 27 years, currently with his three elderly rescue dogs, Jake, Brandy and Cayla. “I’m in touch with what works. I’m the people’s candidate. I am not in the pocket of the mayor. I represent the people. I don’t pussyfoot around.
“I am an advocate for our children and not for the mayor.”
Neal has taken other strong stances as well. He’s against building a mega-high school on Western Avenue – or any other additional high schools in San Pedro. He believes that anchoring 9th grade academies, one at Angel’s Gate to serve San Pedro and another to serve Lomita residents, possibly at Harbor College, will help ease the overcrowded conditions at both San Pedro and Narbonne highs.
In the same breath, he readily admits, that’s not the only answer to overcrowding and that he will be exploring other options as well.
He also has spoken openly about his opposition to the proposed Ponte Vista Bisno development, a plan to usher in a gated community of 2,300 condominiums across from Green Hills Memorial Park. The project has gathered intense animosity and strain in town – dividing our coastal community
The proposal, he said, only intensifies problems for local schools and he doesn’t need a single traffic study to indicate the difficulties of future traffic problems. “You can’t get down Western Avenue now!” he argued. “I just don’t want San Pedro in a stranglehold.”
“I was never afraid to take a stand and that’s why I get into trouble,” he explained – one incident coming to mind immediately when he became outraged that parents dropping their children off at Muir for a few seconds were getting costly parking tickets.
He was so bothered by the issue, that he wrote asking the city of Los Angeles to remove signs and allow for a drop off zone and to give the parents – “many who are the working poor” – a break so they could legally drop off their children. Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry agreed, made the decision with the Department of Transportation and sent the letter, saying the signs would be removed.
However, when parents were still getting ticketed before the signs were removed, Neal protested, presenting the official letter to parking officials and was threatened with arrest.
“I didn’t want to get arrested and I didn’t want to go to jail,” he said. “I just felt it was the right thing to do. My supervisor wasn’t happy. But I just felt it was immoral.”
He did not get arrested.
While walking precincts in Carson and Gardena, Neal said he’s found an overwhelming discontent among voters who seem greatly disturbed by the mayor’s proposal to run the schools. Many voters, he said, feel the way he does – that the mayor’s using the district to catapult to the state governorship.
This is the one issue, he believes, greatly separates him from Richard, his opponent who was endorsed by both Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilwoman Janice Hahn. Richard has accepted $250,000 from the mayor, he contends.
Despite his opponent’s polish – and his popularity in town as many people here know him -- I still like the underdog in this race. I like Neal’s lack of political charm with these politicians, which means to me he will truly be making the decisions for me and my child – and not for Janice or Antonio or the long and lengthy lists of other politicos endorsing Richard.
As for the future, if he wins, he said, he plans to strengthen leadership skills of the local district supervisor’s, and ask them to work directly with principals, teachers and the community – rather than just mid-level managers.
He also plans to visit schools weekly, and determine why some schools are working and others aren’t to see if he can carry over some of the successful programs to other campuses. And coming from an area where students died frequently from gang shootings – either innocently or not so innocently -- he has learned that no matter what, students have to be kept busy all the time to distract them from the pressures of urban life.
While these killings never happened on his campus, he said, the school had to brace frequently for another youngster’s death. For those reasons alone, he’s a big advocate of invoking after school programming at all campuses and obtaining more joint use projects with schools and their surrounding communities, such as using school’s basketball courts and fields.
Neal, now divorced, has two children who graduated from San Pedro High School, a daughter, Nicole Wesley, 31, and Jay, 34. Like their father, they too were educated within Los Angeles Unified Schools. Neal, a big advocate for a public schools, speaks Spanish fluently, started his own educational career as a child with Los Angeles Unified in 5th grade and graduated from James Monroe High School.
He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in political science at UCLA and
a master’s in educational administration from California Lutheran University.
With his hands in the mud like the rest of us trying to make lives better for students, I will vote for Neal because he’ll have something more simple in his back pocket to watch out for – people like me and you, our kids, and not our slick and shiny politicians.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Thanks for being A Great Captain for LAPD's Harbor Division...
Congratulations on Your PROMOTION.................... Cmdr. Joan McNamara saying goodbye to her friend, Isaiah Alexander, who helps to run the police teen advisory board.

Captain Joan Becomes Commander,
Leaves our town to fight Terroism....We will miss her...

Having recently been promoted to a commander for LAPD’s counter terrorism, Joan McNamara, the captain of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor Division, hugs San Pedro High School student, Isaiah Alexander goodbye. The student gave a telling speech of what she meant to him and especially her efforts to support the recently formed police teen advisory board. Isaiah became the co-founder of that program and praised the commander for her caring about the community – and for teens in general. A goodbye party was held Monday evening.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sixteen-Year-Old Marina Alexandra Handwerk Just Published Her Mystery, Hey Cool, I've Never Seen A Teacher With His Head Cut Off Before!
By Marina Handewerk

San Pedro, CA. March 2007.

People are always complaining that our public schools are turning out semi-literate teenagers. Sixteen-year-old Marina Alexandra Handwerk disproves this myth: she just published her first novel.

Marina, a tenth grader at San Pedro High School, has always had a passion for reading and writing. Marina's mother, Linda Handwerk, remembers, "When Marina was a toddler, her stuffed animals slept alone in a hammock above her bed, while she'd sleep cuddling two dozen or so of her favorite books." Marina came up with the idea for her book as a role-playing mystery for her friends. After a flurry of e-mails with her friend Emelia, Marina sat down at her laptop and began to write. Just over four months later, Marina screamed, "Mom!!!!! I'm finished!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Hey Cool, I've Never Seen A Teacher With His Head Cut Off Before! is a young-adult mystery novel that will make you "either die from laughing or from the suspense." The heroine, the new kid in town Emelia Newes, stumbles over the decapitated body of her math teacher. Although this does help her make friends and adjust to life at her new school, it leaves her with a whole new set of problems. Along with her mysterious new friend, Tanya, Emelia sets out to solve the mystery. In order to do this, the girls must deal with thugs, snobs, and criminal masterminds, along with the "normal" residents of Something-Or-Other, such as Mr. Kowzitz, the murder victim, who wears a green suit jacket, purple pants, and an orange t-shirt and teaches his Pre-Algebra class that five times five is ten and the times three is six, Officer Swenny, a police officer who makes prank calls to the suspects in her cases, and the mayor, who gives a campaign speech instead of a eulogy at a funeral. Exaggerated as it is, anyone who is or ever has been in a middle school will whole-heartedly identify with the world Marina creates.

Despite the gruesome title, Hey Cool, I’ve Never Seen A Teacher With His Head Cut Off Before! is actually a lighthearted book intended mainly for middle-school aged students. The title is not meant to be offensive to teachers, in fact, Marina’s mom is a teacher. The title actually comes from a phrase a minor character uses any time anything happens. Other uses of this phrase in the novel include “Hey cool, I’ve never gotten two D’s and an F on my report card before!” and “Hey cool, I’ve never had a bomb in my classroom before!” Marina said that “When I first told my grandpa about the title he warned me that I could be considered a disturbed student. At the time I thought he was paranoid and just laughed about it, but now people really are making stores take down my posters.”

Hey Cool, I've Never Seen A Teacher With His Head Cut Off Before! is available through and Book signings, at which Marina will be reading from her book, are scheduled for May 6, from 2:00 to 4:00, at Williams Book Store, 443 W 6th St, San Pedro, CA., Under the Bridge, 358 W 6th St, San Pedro, CA, and at Barnes and Noble in Torrance sometime in June. Diana