Sunday, May 31, 2009

Amy Epperhart, author of Lullaby, and Noe Preciado, whose essay helps him into university

Dear Readers: Since it's June and time to watch another flock of children leave their nests and fly off to university, I will share several of the essays they wrote over the next week or so --- along with other "when kids can write" pieces. Diana

Noe Preciado, 17: San Pedro High Varsity Soccer Team
Career desire: architect
Accepted to: UC Riverside, CS San Jose, San Diego, Cal Poly Pomona, Woodbury University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, UC Davis, USC
Will attend: Pomona
Essay Quote: “I have learned that criticism will always exist and that it should never conquer us.”

Essay From College Bound Writing Class at the Boys and Girls Club: My parents and the hardships I have experienced since an early age have both become my greatest influence and somehow motivated me to strive for more in life. My background not only shows how I have evolved into a better person but also why I have chosen my goals and why I am so desperate to complete them.

My father was born in a small town in Mexico, with few opportunities where the chances for a decent life were very limited if at all present. He was just another of ten children born whose sole objective was to help the rest of the family in the fields to provide enough food to survive. Clearly, education was not a priority at the time and my dad was forced to drop out of school by the third grade.

As a teenager he came to the United States and even though his mom acquiesced, he came against his father’s wishes. At the young age of eighteen when most boys haven’t transformed into men, my dad found himself in an unfamiliar country without friends, money and merely a vague idea of how things worked. Thirty-eight years later my dad overcame almost everything put in his path. Due to his hard work, he now lives the American Dream and owns his house but most importantly he has provided a better life for himself and his family.

My mom’s life has influenced me in a different but equally strong way. My mother’s destiny was partially controlled by my grandfather; he never allowed or approved of my mother’s desire to find a soul mate. At almost thirty-two, she lied to her father, saying she would go on vacation to the United States but instead reunited with my father and married him, even though no one approved of it. Her whole family criticized her and she ran the risk of becoming the family outcast, however, she never let people’s opinions change her decision and stood up for herself and her actions. A year later she went back to Mexico where everyone finally saw her strong will and accepted her for who she really was.

Even though this country does a lot to provide an equal chance at prosperity to everyone, there are always obstacles preventing many from reaching it. When I was born my first home was a small house in Wilmington, one of the worst areas in the county shared by our family of four and uncle. We resided in front of the projects, notorious for gang violence, drugs and crime. Conditions were so dangerous that my mom literally crawled to the kitchen so that she wouldn’t be a victim of a drive-by.

We finally moved to a better area and even though it wasn’t great, our new home was an improvement. By this time we began elementary school and I found myself making friends with lower-class children like myself, who no one had high expectations for. In middle school, I began to witness my friends and classmates change and conform into what many believed they would become. It was hard for me to see these people change so quickly and begin going in the wrong direction. Not many of the exceptional students from before remained, and I didn’t allow myself to follow my friends’ steps and become a person I was not.

These events have defined my personality and helped me set my goals. They will support me in pursuing my dream of one day becoming an architect and assist me in surmounting the intense program I seek to attend. They will help me become the first person in my family to go to college and make me realize that like my father, I too would like to one day give my family a better chance at life.

My mother’s life has taught me to always attempt to accomplish our aspirations no matter what, and to never let anything get in the way. I have learned that criticism will always exist and that it should never conquer us. My early childhood helped me become a stronger person and open my eyes to reality. I never let society define me, and became someone I wasn’t hypothetically supposed to be. With these experiences I know who I am, someone who defies all expectations that were once attributed to them.


By Amy Epperhart

They soon grow cold

The ones we love

We sing

A mourning lullaby

Sleep sweetly

Let dreadful pain ebb

Sleep sweetly

Let despair crumble

Sleep sweetly

As life fades

It rains

Salty tear drops

As we sing

A grieving lullaby

Sleep sweetly

Close weary eyes

Sleep sweetly

Fold snowy wings

Sleep sweetly

In the starry sky

Left behind

By those we love

So we sing

A peaceful lullaby


A lot of tastings exist in this world -- wine, beer, cheese -- but soda?
This tasting will aid in the development of a large kids' exhibit at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and will make for a fun family fun adventure on Saturday, June 6 at the Corner Store, 1118 W.37th Street.

Pop tastings cost $5 per ticket for either an adult or child. Tasting times are at 11:30 a.m./1 p.m. and 2:30. Tickets can be purchased at
the Cornet Store or a he museum, Berth 84, at the foot of Sixth Street, in San Pedro.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Gentle Reminder of a Celebration of Life Sunday Evening for A Boy Known as “the Campus Hippie,” Christian Stehlik, Who Died at Age 16 from Cancer; He Went Out with the Colors of the 1960s;Tie-dye Shirts Are Available for Sale at Fifth Street This Weekend for Those Interested in Wearing The Startling Tees to Honor His Time; His Best Friend Sends Us a Reminder of Who He Truly Was

A celebration of Christian Stehlik’s life will be held Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium where he volunteered for many years.

Christian, 16, fought a long, painful battle with neuroblastorma, a cancer that starts in the glands and nerves and typically works through the body, often eventually appearing as tumors.
Because of the years he served as a volunteer at the aquarium, the staff agreed to help host the event at 3720 Stephen M. White Drive in San Pedro. The family has requested that donations be made to the aquarium in his name and hope to fashion a small memorial there for him.

“Christian is someone EVERYONE should of known,” wrote his best friend in high school, Shadow Ansaldi. “If more people would be like Christian, the world would be a better place.”
His father, Pete, has encouraged those who are comfortable to dress in a 1960s fashion. For those wanting to wear tie-dyed, a local man living at 784 Fifth Street sells them outside him home on weekends and is donating many to students attending the celebration.

The San Pedro High student, who went back to school in the marine magnet program despite his illness, left behind two books, according to his mother, Wendy, at her Redondo Beach home.
His father, Pete, also found scores of poetry and cartoons written in notebooks in his San Pedro home. Family members hope to have his work published, which stressed the tone of what it was like to live on the edge, stuck somewhere between life and death.

Calling Christian a hippie and lover of the 60s, his friend, Shadow wrote,
he was a “strong fighter of life, never wanted sympathy and special treatment, brave, fearless, positive, polite and a non-complainer. Christian wanted peace and love for everyone. He was a hippie and proud of it and was quick to throw up the peace sign. The 60s flip-flop wearer, bell bottom lover was smart, an inspiration, a teacher, a thinker and a poet….I will miss you Christian.”

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ricardo Romero, 17, mathematician
See Why Diana is a Drip Bag at; And Here is a Re-post of Yesterday's When Kids Can Write Stories; Having Glitches With My Google Blog -- Apologies, apologies and apologies

Dear Readers: As usual, life often becomes a technological mess. Yesterday, I posted a story about two writer's and community events. As one reader told me, it looked like alphabet soup and even worse -- was not readable! The font colors, sizes and headlines came in a mess of all shapes and sizes. I am trying to re-post to see if this time it works.

Hopefully, I'll figure a way out of the mess as even my good friend, Lisa, Ms. Techy Queen, is having a bit of trouble fixing it.....Thanks for notifying me! -- Diana

Stories: When Kid's Can Write -- a 10-year-old Writes Sonnets at the Corner Store and Boys and Girls Club Math Whiz, Using Essay, Test Scores, High Grades Makes the Grade and Lands a Full Scholarship to Notre Dame

Corner Store Sonnet Writer, Kathleen "Katie" Roarke Haase, was troubled when it came to writing. She couldn't stand boundaries and rules! So she began writing sonnets at the Corner Store; Her Favorite author -- Shakespeare

Three Rooms of Justice: Rainbow Bridge
Part One
By Kathleen Roarke Haase

Follow me o'er the
Rainbow Bridge
Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow
Fly way 'cross Great
Cliff's Ridge,
Meet me tomorrow, tomorrow.
Three Rooms of Justice,
your good is debated.
In Moon's cavity, for
hate are you hated.
Follow me toward the
glowing sun
Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow.
I'm sorry but that can't
Be done,
But meet me tomorrow, tomorrow

____________A Boys and Girls Club Member Uses Essay and Help from the Club's College Bound Program to Land a Full Scholarship to Notre Dame

Ricardo Romero: 17, San Pedro High School Soccer player and on cross country and track teams
Career Desire: Architecture
Accepted to: UC Riverside, UC Davis, UC Irvine, CSU San Jose and San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Pomona, Marymount College, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Notre Dame and Johnd Hopkins University (Johns Hopkins has offered full financial aid.)
Will Attend: University of Notre Dame

Essay for College Applications:

“When I was four years old, my father left my mom, sister, and me in Mexico to go to the United States. His absence affected me greatly because I had no guidance from a father when I needed him the most. Even though he would send money to us, it was nothing compared to what his presence would have meant to me.

We moved in with my grandparents because of my father’s absence. Soon after, my aunts and their children also moved in to my grandparent’s house. After living with my grandparents two years, we took a chance and decided to join my father in the United States.

The moment when I finally saw him again was very emotional. A new life for my family full of obstacles such as learning the English language, having no friends and also adapting to a different form of teaching.

I entered school in the first grade and by the time that I was in second grade, I had learned English. Because I was advanced mathematically, I was being sent to the fourth grade class to take math with them. From then on, my math skills continued to develop and in fourth grade I attended the Math Fair with my school.

In fifth grade, I had an opportunity to attend Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and did so for five summers, which were paid by a scholarship foundation. In the classes we designed and built rockets, bridges, gear cars, cantilevers and mouse trap cars.

Opportunities like this continued to appear during middle school and high school. I was unable to attend most of them because of the high cost and for being undocumented. I felt that my dream of becoming an architect was over. Then, one day, after waiting for six years, I received legal residency.

My dream was reborn and the fact that I had maintained a high GPA gave me hope of becoming the first in my family to attend college. The perseverance that has helped me overcome these obstacles will keep me going to become an architect. I plan to accomplish this goal by attending a school that has a good architecture program such as Cal Poly San Luis Obispo or University of Notre Dame, both of which I was accepted to.

Math has been my favorite subject and my best. I use this to my advantage. I took difficult courses in Math subject such as AP Calculus and earned a 5/5 on the AP test. I also take science classes that involve the use of math greatly. For example AP Physics, where I earned an A in the first semester. My physics teacher recommended me to take the Calculus based Physics course on my own because that a class is not offered at San Pedro High School. I agreed and my physics teacher is currently helping me pass the AP test. I decided to take it because I like to be distinguished from everyone else and this is a good way to use my mathematical ability.

Apart from the educational goals, I will to attend college and play soccer there. I have played soccer for approximately 11 years of my life. I was taught to play by my father at a very young age and I have not stopped ever since. I played this sport for four years in high school. I was also a member of the Cross Country and Track team for two years. I often use running as a discipline to relieve stress.

I hope that this will inspire younger students to follow the same footsteps so that in the near future there will be many students at the same university.”

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Paige Marquez, who died at age four from a rare tumor, wound up linked to Christian Stehlik, not in life but in death, when her family pulled together and raised the needed funds to help for Christian's cremation costs. Christian, 16, died last week of neuroblastoma. Both fought hard to survive for their families. Christian left behind scores of poetry to remind us all what life is about.
Services are announced. See earlier story.
Christian Stehlik’s Death at age 16 Leaves Behind Scores of Poems, Students Who Wish to Wear Tie-Dyed Shirts and a Memorial Celebration of His Life Set for the End of May at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium; His Father Asks For Friends, Family and Those Who Were Interested in His Son’s Life to Attend and to Adorn 1960s Clothes if They So Desire

Money Pours in from a San Pedro Family Who Lost Their 4-Year-Old, Paige Marquez, to a Tumor to Pay for Christian’s Service Costs and to Aid the Family in Need

“Everything lives and everything’s dead. There are no colors just shades of light. Dancing and flying out into space where everything is endless and has no beginning.

Words don’t exist. Laughter and love is the language. Music is the voice. Shadows exist and light shines bright. This place I’m describing is the dream state. Come along for the Trip…” -- Excerpt from Christian Sthelik’s 2008 poem, entitled “The Dream State.”

By Diana L. Chapman

After battling cancer for nearly three years, Christian Stehlik , 16, left behind powerful memorial of his own -- pages upon pages of poetry reflecting on leaping between the shadows of life and death.

His dad found notebooks filled with poetry, some of which will be read at his ceremony to celebrate the life of a young man, who was often shy and retiring, and who seemed years beyond his age.

With often an edgy-style, the writings brink on the border of truism, fears, anger amongst a burst of love and trust braided throughout his work.

A lover of marine science and Bob Dylan, the teenager will be honored at the place where he spent countless hours -- at The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium on Sunday, May 31.

He struggled to go back to school as a freshman and enrolled in San Pedro High School’s marine magnet.

Because Christian volunteered for several years tending to gardens and the aquatic nursery – the aquarium staff will help host a memorial celebration of his life in the John Olguin Auditorium at 5:30 p.m.

Due to the financial issues the family faces, another San Pedro family – who lost their own child, Paige Marquez, 4, to a brain tumor donated more than $1,000 for Christian’s cremation.

Paige’s parents started a foundation, the Paige Marquez Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, when they lost their daughter in July 2005, from a rare, typically fatal brain tumor. The family used money they had raised from the foundation, but went ever further asking other relatives and employees if they would help as well.

It seems the children became linked, not by their lives, but by their deaths and their arduous battles to stay alive – especially for their loved ones.

Christian’s father, Pete, asks that those who feel comfortable doing so, to come adorned in 1960s style clothes – an era that energized the youth as he battled neuroblastoma, a cancer that infiltrates the glands and the nerve tissues before creating tumors in the body.

He wore colorful tie-dyed shirts, gave the peace sign to other students while in high school and always smiled – despite the frequent and tormenting hospitalizations for weeks at a time where he underwent a chemotherapy, blood transfusions and radiation treatments.

In addition, Pete made it clear that Christian many times asked him to quit rushing around and that both of them should slow down and enjoy life.

Several of his friends are expected to wear vibrant tie-dyed shirts to his ceremony, at the encouragement of his father. One of them, named Shadow, wrote to thank him for teaching her to respect the Earth and to quit littering.

The youth recorded his many reflections in pages of poetry, that showered the lines with his discouragement, his anger, his love and his fight with death.

In “Let Me Live Before I Die,” he asked for the freedom to explore life on his own without being forced to learn from other’s mistakes:

“Let me live before I die…

Let me learn from my own mistakes

Not cower in the shadows of yours

Let me live before die

Let me feel cold rain on my face

Let me scream into the sky

Let me leap

From hill to hill

Let me fly up into the sky

Let me live before I die.”

In his piece, the Shadow of Death, he wrote:

The shadow of death

Is trying to take me

It is knocking on my door

But it will not take me

Once I was close; I almost let it in

But I was saved, Once gain

It will try

But I’m not answering

And it doesn’t know why

It keeps a-knocking

I keep a-walking

Farther from the door

My heart is still beating

My blood is still pumping

Death will not take me

One day maybe

After life’s weary path

I’ll finally open

The door that had been locked

And I’ll breath in deeply

The sweet smell of heaven

No longer a shadow.

The father asks that donations be made to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium to honor his son, where he hopes a small memorial plaque will be installed. Checks should be made to the aquarium with Christian Sthelik’s name and sent to 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro, 90731.

Christian is survived by his father, sister, Rhea, mother, Wendy, and step-brother, Alex.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keli Mezin, 9,

Dear Readers: A small group of kids meet at the local Corner Store on Wednesday's after school -- to do something extraordinary. They spend an hour writing and creating stories. Here is one of the student's stories. In addition, please don't miss the letter to the Underdogblog below to remind readers that yes, some good things do happen at San Pedro High. Diana

--------------------Pie and His Chicks----------------------------

By Keli Mezin, 9, Park Western Avenue Elementary School

One foggy day a bird named Pie needed to feed his chicks. But it was so darn foggy. It was about to rain and his chicks were incredibly hungry. They hadn’t eaten in three whole days, not even a crumb.

Pie is a single Dad and has been single since the flood that happened in 1958, less than a year back. So, he can’t leave his chicks without protection for long. He would have to be fast.

“Little chicks,” he chirped.

“What?” said Billy, annoyed.

“Wait a second, Billy. Nicole and Carson, get off the branch and come in the nest immediately!!”

“Ok, Ok," they mumbled as they jumped from

branch to branch.

“What Dad?,” Nicole, Carson and Billy twittered in high voices.

“I guess we could all handle it,” they said, but really not too sure how they would do without their father. But, by the time they were all decided they could handle it, Pie was off and away.

Pie was very frightened it would start raining or his chicks might get eaten or even fall out of their nest. Pie shook his head and quietly said to himself, ‘No need to worry. It won’t rain. The chicks will be just fine.’

But soon…………it started raining, then pouring and finally, thundering.

Pie still had no food. He quickly flew under a big mushroom and started thinking: "What are Billy, Nicole and Carson going to think? That I betrayed them?" A little voice from inside his head said: “The chicks are fine."

He believed his head. I mean his head is him. After 5 hours the rain completely stopped. Pie got out from under the mushroom tiredly and saw a rainbow. He thought and thought until…………………………….: Maybe there is a food at the end of the rainbow.

He flew to the end of the rainbow and there was actually food. There was a big pot filled with worms and bugs. He took as much as he could handle and off he flew.

“Hmmmmm, I wonder where Dad is? Billy questioned.

“Oh, he’s probably on his way,” Nicole and Carson teased Billy for being nervous.

“I’m hungry," Billy cried!!!

Some sort of feather touched Billy’s wing. Billy turned around and there was Dad, with tons of food.

“We knew you’d come”, the chicks said, hugging Pie.

“Well, that’s what I said I would do,” Pie said happily.


San Pedro High Grandmother Writes About Some Good Experiences at the School

But, there are good sides to the story, too. My granddaughter will be graduating San Pedro High this year. She has been accepted to U.C. Berkeley and will be attending there in the fall. Several of her friends, also, San Pedro High students, will be attending UCLA. Let's hear a little about the fine teachers who have led many our your youngsters to fine opportunities, not to mention the students themselves who have studied diligently, given their summers over to taking advanced placement courses, and donated whatever spare time remained to community service projects. My hat's off to them.
Maxine Lebowitz

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chrstian Stehlik and his sister, Rhea, volunteer at the Cabrillo Aquarium
A Long Battle With Cancer, A Continuous Smile Despite the Odds, An Older Soul in a Young Man’s Body, Christine Stehlik, 16, Gives Way to Fatigue, Drops His 1960s Flair and Dylan Melodies to Become Part of a Larger World: With His Death Last Week, His Father Says He’s “Everywhere Now”

“Just remember that death is not the end.” – Bob Dylan

By Diana L. Chapman

When the second phone call came from his father, I knew Christian Stehlik had left our small world here on Earth. Pete would always wait patiently until I returned his calls.

This time, he didn’t.

Christian, a sometimes shy, pensive, 16-year-old boy, died May 13 at about 2:30 p.m. after a lengthy, arduous battle with neuroblastoma. That’s the name for a cancer that hits the adrenal glands or tissues in the nervous system, often causing tumors and working its way through the body. Typically, it strikes young children between 2 and 5, but older youth occasionally get it. About 650 children in the U.S. are diagnosed annually.

Christian was 13 when he learned why he was constantly tired and losing weight.

The combination of the disease and treatments rocked him back and forth between poor and better health almost daily. Nonetheless, he overcame a gauntlet that included radiation and chemotherapy and returned to school late in his freshman year.

He joined the marine magnet program at San Pedro High, and continued to volunteer whenever possible at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, where he had worked for years to observe the aquarium’s nursery and tend to the aquarium's outdoor garden. When people would ask how he was feeling, he told nearly everyone he was “good”—even when he was not.

He did all that between horrendous bouts of chemotherapy, hospital stays for weeks at a time, blood transfusions and even a trip to San Francisco, where he remained in a room for a week undergoing radiation therapy. While Pete literally roomed with Christian during the long hospital stays, his sister, Rhea, 13, stayed with her mother or family friends.

When he finally returned to school, Christian became electrified by the 1960s. He wore bell-bottom pants, let his hair grow even longer and listened to Bob Dylan’s music. Other students asked him about his dress and he'd quickly gave the peace sign.

"It was a persona he developed and he came home one day and said: "I'm the school hippie." He loved it. It was his new persona and he got a lot of positive attention from it," his father explained.

His teachers often concluded that he was an older man with plenty of wisdom living in a younger body. When I met him two years ago on a student field trip to Yosemite Valley, that soon became clear. One day while hiking in the lush meadows, he grew tired and asked if he could return to his cabin.

He sat in bed staring out the window and writing, describing how robust the squirrels were, how the branches danced in wind and wondered what the constant chatter between the crows and jays was about, wishing he knew their language.

As I commiserated with his father on the phone, I said: “I’m so sorry, Pete. I thought Christian had so much to offer the world.”

“But he gave it to the world,” Pete reminded me when I should have been reminding him. He believed he would become part of everything when he died, Pete explained, and that he was a gentle teacher and reminder that people should take care of Earth and volunteer whenever possible.

When they first learned of his cancer, teachers, students and parents at Dana Middle School, where he attended, had several small fundraisers to help the family pay the bills.

A memorial will be held at the Cabrillo aquarium, where Christian would want his friends to join him to celebrate his life.

He is survived by his father, Pete, his sister, Rhea, his mother, Wendy, and his stepbrother, Alex.

Friday, May 15, 2009

At Last, the Dogs Are at Rest: Sentry Canines That Spent Their Years Protecting Us and Dying Because They Weren’t Able to Become Good Family Pets, Receive the Honor They Deserve;

The Newly Revamped Cemetery Will Be Unveiled May 23; I Call Them Dorothy's Dogs

By Diana L. Chapman

There are times in my life that I wish there were more people around like Dorothy Matich and Florence Kleinjan.

These are the type of gals, who go after something, work harder than horses, and then they get it. Because of those two local heroes, when Dorothy decided that something must be done about the shameful vandalism of the historic canine cemetery, the two women mounted a small campaign, and raised more than $30,000 dollars.

The sweet and nostalgic graveyard – now with an iron-arch overlooking it called K-9 Commandos and two iron-forged German shepherds standing guard, sprung back to life after years of destruction and neglect at Fort MacArthur Historic Reservation.

The dogs, Dorothy explains, were trained to protect us at the former military site during The Cold War – and later most had to be killed for that training. The military contended they couldn’t become family pets.

They will be at peace at last in a respectful shady area at Angel’s Gate Park, where they’ve always been. But now an iron fence protects them. The military fort opened in 1914, was closed down in 1982 and became a historic museum in 1986.

Because of the two women, the newly refreshed, repaired and now gated dog cemetery (which includes one cat) and a three foot border of Palos Verdes stone will be unveiled to the public at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 23 – and is only one out of two military dog cemeteries in Southern California.

I can’t help myself. I applaud their efforts. If there were more folks like this in the world, we’d have a lot less desecration and a lot more beauty and serenity in our lives.

“I just love to come look at it,” marveled Dorothy as she walked around the cemetery, graced with a beautiful Eucalyptus on its border. “It’s been such an asset to our museum and when people walk around they are so impressed with it.”

When I got my sneak preview, the only thing I could say was how much I felt at peace in this tiny, sacred spot. When creatures and humans die to save us – they deserve at least this.

Canines such as Lance and Barron, who both died by the age of 12, Peter, 7, and Jack, 11, are buried there.

But years of vandalism, stealing, and disrepair, left dogs like Cheetah and the rest out in a grassy space in cold, disrespect. Other dogs from the next generations left their dumps on the graveyard.

Many of the dogs’ plaques were stolen or destroyed. To make matters worse, the fence around the cemetery had collapsed.

As most us of us living here already know, a lot of muscle has to be flexed to get any projects through massive bureaucracy of Los Angeles – where nothing slides on the rivers of easiness.

But between the two women and the museum director, Steven Nelson, it was done after three years of hard work.

Visitor and museum volunteer, David Reid, comes down from Burbank to work at the museum. He too praised the cemetery which he saw for the first time last week.

“Look at this sitting here,” David said with wonder. “There isn’t an equivalent around that you know of. These are forgotten dogs and the dogs suffered a lot – for us.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

San Pedro High School Principal Bob DiPietro Wednesday Explains His Imminent Departure from the Trouble Plagued Campus -- After 24 years of Service to LAUSD; Personal Troubles Began in March When His Father Died of a Heart Attack, His Mother Was Left Without a Caretaker and the Family’s Former Trucking Business Needed Liquidation

The Students, However, Still Will Shine Like Bright Stars in the Future and Are by Far the Politest He’s Ever Known – Despite All the School’s Turmoil

By Diana L. Chapman

After a disheartening year of lessons – from San Pedro High School not proving worthy of full-accreditation and an increased drop out rate, the principal Wednesday revealed his earlier-then-predicted retirement was personal – not professional.

A replacement will be selected for Robert DiPietro’s post, through Los Angeles Unified School District, said Linda Del Cueto, who heads the region of 90 schools, in which San Pedro High resides.

The typical hiring practices in the past, including the formation of a hiring committee, will be blocked due to recent layoffs, which have left many administrative directors without jobs – but gives them seniority to return to head up schools.

“I happen to know a person who will do a really great job,” Del Cueto explained. “I have somebody in mind and I have to take them because of “return rights,” which are part of the education code.

“Bob is such a professional that he will work 100 percent until his last day on June 30th, so it will be seamless,” Del Cueto explained.

In fact, DiPietro said he will work without pay after June 30 to help ensure that the changeover works.

At this time, the new principal will not be named officially, until the hiring has been approved, Del Cueto explained.

DiPietro’s upcoming departure has stunned some community members who hoped he would stay aboard and guide what seems to be a rudderless ship, a situation he inherited when he climbed aboard in Aug. 2007.

“He always put the kids first,” declared Richard Vladovic, an LAUSD board member in charge of the region from San Pedro sweeping through the Harbor area and up to Watts.

The sudden death of DiPietro's robust 89-year-old father came as a surprise, but the principal explained it was something that inevitably he should have expected since his father was the sole caretaker of his mother, who has Alzheimer's. The couple lived in Swansea, Mass where DiPietro was raised. His father had a heart attack March 2.

When he learned of his death, DiPietro raced home to arrange for nursing care for his mother, and realized that the job of dismantling his father’s assets was overwhelming. Since he is the only child, he plans to move back to the New England town for six month period, but return to Culver City where he lives with his 25-year-old son.

Death haunted him much earlier in his life, when his wife, then 45, died of cancer. He never remarried.

From the moment DiPietro arrived, the San Pedro campus was saddled with troubles, including a school that had swollen to 3,500 students, when it was made for no more than 2,000. DiPietro inherited some other nasty problems, besides an over population of students. The school’s accreditation now remains borderline, and a new state report revealed that more students were dropping out from high schools in general than originally predicted, including San Pedro High.

That fails to mention looming layoffs in the current dismal economy.

“This is a particularly bad time because there’s a lot more ambiguities,” DiPietro, 61, agreed. “But I remain very positive for the school. I feel really good about the kids. I’ve never met a group of children who are so polite.”

His mood late Wednesday afternoon remained upbeat and optimistic, but somewhat saddened to leave the students he had come to consider the most mannerly students he’d ever worked with in his 24 years at Los Angeles Unified. “They are such cool kids,” he added.

He joined the district later in life, after holding jobs in New York as an officer in reconciliation bankruptcy and later a researcher for a commodities firm.

Changing to a different course, DiPietro went into education, beginning his first job as a teacher at Locke High School and holding different teaching and administrative posts at many high schools, including Marshall, after he finished his masters at Columbia University.

His first full time principal post was at San Pedro High.

The principal believes the accreditation at the school will fare well as soon as teachers accept a new practice to ensure that they engage their students in valuable lessons, rather than working with them in a more traditional way.

For example, he said, he began to teach again to learn the impacts from a coach on student engagement and was impressed with the “thinking skills” the coach required of his students, meaning they were encouraged to participate in discussions and find the answers.

“We need to move toward a more student centered way of instruction,” he concluded, less than two months from his departure, at a school he oversaw for less than two years.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

After Less Than Two Years on the Job, San Pedro High School Principal Decides to Toss Away the Notebooks and Help His Family After His Father Died and His Elderly Mother Needed Care; The School Only Has One Year Remaining to Prove It Deserves Accreditation

By Diana L. Chapman

After a short, strenuous, stressful, painful and straining stint, San Pedro High School Principal Robert DiPietro announced he will leave the campus shrouded with issues, such as overcrowding and borderline accreditation problems.

He took over the leadership reins in Aug. 17, 2007, and will finish June 30, 2009.

Family crises took a toll in his short time at the port school, nestled in Los Angeles Harbor, where he attempted to salvage an entrenched campus with 3,500 students and bring it back to performance level it should be at -- much higher than it was scoring when tests results became the same as many inner-city high schools.

However, his father died last year and his mother has no one to care for her. DiPietro told school officials that he would return to New York to aid his family.

Due to the late night notice, he could not be reached for comment. Other school officials could not be reached for comment either.

His leadership, however, was fraught with turmoil, much of which he inherited when he accepted the raucous post – believing he could make a difference.

An except from a profile he wrote about the school, shows some of the issues that broiled over into his newly-acquired post: “The San Pedro High campus built in 1936 as part of the Work Progress Administration was constructed to service 1,400 students. Today we service approximately 3,600 students encompassing all three of the high schools. The 3,100 students attending the regular school are served by seven counselors for a student /counselor ratio of 500-1.

“One college counselor serves the 3,600 students combined from the three schools.”

DiPietro recently held a meeting with Linda Del Cueto, who is in charge of the Los Angeles Unified School District region that includes San Pedro High and some 90 plus other schools, to address that the campus had only one year left to prove it deserves accreditation.

Despite a heated exchange from parents at the meeting, DiPietro and Del Cueto listened, saying later the parents needed a chance to vent over issues that have been building for years, such as the lack of teacher cooperation, their failure to return phone calls and emails from parents – and leaving parents out of their child’s education.

When parents asked why teachers who were obviously not qualified to teach continued to do so, DiPietro reminded them that due to the unions, to remove a teacher takes a minimum of at least three years.

Earlier, the principal had indicated that his personal life weighed a great strain on him – and was taking its toll, much less adding the responsibility of some 3,500 students.

The exact date of his departure was not clarified, and whether the district is search for a new administrator has not been revealed yet.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Could Carmen Be Our True Leader at Last? We can Only Vote for Him to Find Out – and That I will do on May 19; He Just Might Be Our Ticket to Fewer Kids Being Killed on Our Streets, Our City Becoming Safer and Bringing LA Back to the Blessed Angels

By Diana L. Chapman

For the last several years, I’ve searched everywhere in the city of Los Angeles for a true and heroic leader other than City Controller Laura Chick.

Otherwise, I have yet to find one, no matter how hard I’ve dug.

Certainly, my hopes have been repeatedly shattered each time I spot another city politician, living like a spider in a cave polishing and shimmying up for one thing – themselves and their political futures.

But in the metropolis of Los Angeles, where lives are at stake every single day, no time remains for selfishness and photo ops when so many innocent people, including children, are dying in our streets.

When hard-core attorney, Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich, a former district attorney who handled case after case of gang crimes, from murders to drug dealing, I began to wonder if we at last, perhaps, have found a true leader who might make a monumental difference.

As a district attorney his record shows a rock hard attorney, who fought for the heart of what he truly believed. He jailed rapists, nailed environmental polluters and focused heavily on gang activities.

If he wins the Los Angeles city attorney post May 19, against the longtime council incumbent Jack Weiss, we are at last send a disparaging – and important -- message to our overbearing city leaders that we are burned out on their “what’s-in-it-for-me leadership.”

The city’s streets are filled with blood, it seems to me, because our city leaders fail repeatedly to address our gang issues in a way that is realistic; it’s only political. The mayor’s new gang initiative carved out only seven areas of the city with the worst gang activities. He then drew out all the funding from the surrounding communities.

That still leaves me baffled.

Doesn’t the mayor and our gang czar understand that this action allows gangs to flourish in the areas he left in the dirt? While I tried for a personal interview recently with Trutanich, who was born and raised in San Pedro, and now lives in Harbor City, the timing of the upcoming city-wide election made it impossible.

I was able, however, to grill Jane Ellison Usher, who headed the Los Angeles Planning Commission for three years until she became hopelessly disillusioned with the sad woes and chaos of city politics. She resigned. That in itself is telling.

What’s more telling is this: she spotted the same warrior grit and determination that I’m seeing in “Nuch.” She offered her services – freely -- and has ever since been guiding his campaign, against Weiss, who has a lot more money and the backing of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

But that hasn’t stopped Trutanich from some floating some powerful, side punches – and despite only having perhaps half the money in the ring compared to Weiss – he’s stood firm in gaining ground first in the run-off. My intuition tells me his chances of winning are huge, especially after he racked up endorsement after endorsement from many of the city’s big league media moguls and police officials.

Plus, people are weary of gutless leaders and are soul-searching for one who is not.

Because my blog focuses on kids, my main concern, right up front was this: What will Trutanich do to save our kids – all our kids? While I was watching a documentary of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, I couldn’t help but thinking of the “Lost Boys of Los Angeles.”

We fail them every single day in so many ways it’s shameful.

Usher politely walked me through Trutanich’s intense obligation to ferret out gang members for punishment and yet, to salvage those who still stand a stalwart chance of turning their lives around -- starting with middle school children.

“He thinks our failure with gangs as a society stems from the misguided idea that we can arrest our way out of the problem. We have shortchanged kids,” Usher explained.

Touche! Ole! Someone gets this – because it’s the blinding truth.

He believes, she continued, that middle schools especially need to be targeted to catch kids from running amok before they get to high school (AMEN! I’ve been saying that for three years) and that changing school curriculum to spike up students interest becomes a must!

Wow, just some plain old common sense!

He also understands, she said, the necessity of realizing the Los Angeles Unified School District can’t possibly tackle this tremendous social issue alone and that the community needs to be tapped. For example, she said, he wants to work with local businesses to arrange jobs for students throughout the summer and school year.

Even more interesting; he wants to prevent younger gangsters, who have a first-time offense, from landing in prison where they get the best instructions on how to become a better gangster, called “Lock-Up Gangster Lessons 101.” For those first time offenders, he wants to work out a choice between prison or joining the military.

Humm…this is beginning to sound interesting.

I’m just ready for someone who speaks the truth, has ethics, and who will not just save us, but will save our kids. Give this new warrior a chance, because God knows, we need him.

For more Trutanich information, visit:

Hoping Wolfie Came Through This time!

Friday, May 08, 2009


Help find Wolfie, a friendly, sweet dog last seen at Angels Gate on 4-19

Wolfie, a friendly sweet dog who loves children and animals, vanished from his home and his owner, Raven, has been on a desperate search for him.

Please keep your eyes wide-open to find "Wolfgang," who weighs about 50 pounds, is a golden-reddish color and was last seen in the park. He has the body of a golden-retriever, the face of a husky with and blue spots on his tongue. He's neutered and typically wears a black collar with his name, phone number and address on it. The owner has posted fliers all over town, so please be kind and help reunite these two friends. Email with any info.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

TIME for a Boston Tea Party in LA?????? YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUu bet....

By Diana L. Chapman

My friend e-mailed recently that our town needs to hold a Boston Tea Party – San Pedro style -- after reading my article suggesting a revolt against Los Angeles.

Why not? We’ve got the water! We’ve got ships! I’m sure we can find some imported tea – as can – many other Los Angeles communities, find their own path to a tea party revolt! We need to.

With past failed attempts to secede -- I dream what San Pedro might be without the handcuffs of our bureaucratic beast – as I’m sure many of us do who live in all sorts of ignored pockets of the city. The recently increased downtown parking fees here which quadrupled – and elsewhere -ignited a fury of frustration for many residents especially those who tried mostly in vain – to make our town a better place.

Instead, we get band-aid fixes, projects that make no sense, such as a million welcome park at the northern tip of Gaffey – that no one can get to, a $14 million water fountain along the boardwalk to nowhere and a red car system –stunning – but again, off track to provide much transit in its 1.5 mile stretch.

Where is the big picture? What if Los Angeles allowed all our neighborhood councils to pull together a vision for them? If this was so or we were our own community, I bet the following would already exist in San Pedro and I’d like you to e-mail me with the list that your own community would have at This is what we would have here, some really common sense approaches to running a community: Oops. Did I say that word: "Common sense?" Here we go:

· --A downtown parking structure for shoppers complete with ways to use ATM cards and – allowing local businesses to validate for its customers.

· --An overhauled, gorgeously manicured, money-making Ports O’ Call, revamped to bring in hordes of tourists and a place we are not embarrassed to take our friends. (This on again, off again project, is off again due to budget cuts. It’s been left to languish for more than ten years.)

· --A mini-transit system that links all our parks, museums, schools and shopping centers for residents, not to mention carrying tourists to our many jewels that aren’t possible to get to without a car, such as Angel’s Gate’s Korean Bell and Point Fermin Park.

· --A youth aquatic center near 22nd Street that would support teaching

kayaking, fishing, sailing, rowing and other marine related sports to our children – a request longtime mariner Bill Schopp has pressed for and has received no support from City Hall.

· --A permanent home for the-trouble plagued Eastview Little League, which serves 600 children (temporarily or maybe not so temporarily currently housed at Knoll Hill).

· --A skateboard park erected by the city officials– and not the youth, who out of frustration, built their own under a freeway ramp for the hip sport.

· --A small farm – complete with goats – in Peck Park to teach our children about domesticated animals, a vision Ray Patricio, a longtime resident, has lobbied for for more than 10 years – and something residents encouraged – but the city of Los Angeles does not. Does it matter what we want?

· --A dog park that’s in a permanent location. After residents poured thousands of dollars of their own money and years to acquire a temporary location to create one here in San Pedro, the dog park deserves respect – and a permanent home, if not two homes.

· --A sparkling clean Cabrillo Beach in which a boathouse – petitioned for by residents Gary Dwight and Allan Johnson –serves beach goers to rent boats and play off our local waters – as the two residents did when they were boys.

· --A maritime-themed walkway finished, polished and a glittering gem from the entrance of our cruise lines, including a walkway that goes into downtown, and snakes its way to the end of Paseo del Mar (rather than a few rambling pieces done like a hop scotch board – with no completion date.)

· --A community in which the development has some type of theme, such as a maritime or aquatic theme adopted at potential business developments, instead of rag-tag shops up and down our major corridors.

· --A balance of open parklands and sports fields for organized sports and pick up games to keep children off the streets – instead of not having enough of either – making the locals fight amongst ourselves for remaining scraps.

The list is endless. I’m sure you could add a dozen more projects and I apologize for those I missed.

Yes, I’m dreaming. The city will never free us because of the money the port generates and brings to Los Angeles’ coffers.

I say: Let’s give them the port. And in addition, we can sing Bon Voyage and give them plenty of strong Harbor tasting tea!

Diana L. Chapman was a newspaper journalist for 15 years with the Daily Breeze and the San Diego Union. She can be reached or visit her blog at:

Saturday, May 02, 2009



Two neighborhood councils geared money toward a $150,000 project that will impact children who arrive and make a day of it at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

Marifrances Trivelli, the museum director, expressed delight with the funding -- $5,000 from the Coastal Neighborhood Council and $2,500 from Central -- allowing her to pursue the building of an upstairs exhibit for youth to look out windows and learn about jobs and harbor operations.

The Neighborhood Councils, "are really good," Trivelli said. "I was impressed. They are local residents. They are knowledgeable and they know what they are doing."

Called "What's Going on in the Harbor Today?" the gallery will feature ways for children, ages kindergarten through fifth, to discover sailing and cargo routes -- and the way vessels operate.

In addition, to raise more funding, the museum will hold a "Soda Tasting," for families at the Corner Store June 6 with games and food. More information to come.


"Teachers Create Endless Possibilities," -- the name of this year's teacher recognition luncheon -- can only hit a successful note with endless possibilities if no school gets left behind.

Unfortunately, due to the hard financial economy, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce reported significant decrease in funds for the May program -- which honors a teacher at every school in San Pedro, whether private or public.

Knowing how San Pedro residents and businesses have a big heart, lend a hand to make sure the following schools get their share of the limelight: Angels Gate High School, Bandini Street Elementary, Christ Lutheran, Cooper Community Day School, Cabrillo Avenue Elementary, Crestwood Street Elementary School, Point Fermin Elementary, Leland Elementary, Mary Star of the Sea Elementary and Renaissance School for Arts and Sciences.

If you would like to sponsor this program, please call, Sandy Bradley, (310) 832-7272, for more information.

The May 15 luncheon, scheduled for a noon start at Ports O' Call Restaurant at Port's O' Call Village, will honor teachers at 27 local schools.

----Tasting some beer and sipping on wine will kick up funding for the Point Fermin Light House Society's which keeps our historic gem sparkling.

The lighthouse, built in 1874, is in constant need for upgrade and preservation. The Corner Store will host the fundraiser, Saturday, May 16, at 37th and Barbara Streets in San Pedro.

An adult-only event, tickets are $15 per person prior to the event and $18 at the door with three tasting times: 1 to 2:30 p.m.;3 to 4:30 p.m.; 5 to 6:30 p.m. Reservations are appreciated.

Appetizers will be served and a silent auction will be held. Tickets can be purchased at the Corner Store: (310) 832-2424 or at the Light House.