Sunday, June 27, 2010


FRUSTRATED UNEMPLOYED EDUCATOR WRITES ABOUT LIFE SINCE HIS JOB LOSS: NOW READY TO RETURN TO CONSTRUCTION WORK HE DID TO SURVIVE THROUGH COLLEGE, HIS NUMEROUS DEGREES, HE SAYS, APPARENTLY DON’T MEAN A THING

By Mike Bennett

You have to love this country, where most politicians speak from
both sides of their mouths to remain in office and could care less about
their constituency, as long as they are receiving their paycheck! Well, now
that I have been deemed by our illustrious Congress a "Welfare Recipient,"
"Hobo," Ne'er-do-well, and refusing to accept a position below that of my
salary history, let's cease the sublimated, caste system equivocating of our
esteemed elected officials and look at my own real-life situation. No, I
shall not be whining, just stating the facts.

I am the son of a Building Contractor, grew up working and learning the
business and eventually took over and expanded the business for 15 years,
while at the same time I attended and graduated from college. After spending
two years in physical therapy learning to walk again (following a severe
construction accident) I returned to school for a second graduate degree and
became an Upper Elementary, Middle School and Continuation High School
Teacher, teaching all subjects, but also being the Math/Science Resource
Teacher for 11 years, at the various schools in the Inner City. While
teaching, I received yet another Education related graduate degree and after
11 years in the classroom, I made the transition to being an Adjunct, then
Appointed Professor of Teacher Education for the next 10 years. With the
budgetary upheaval in the universities, state budget crisis, and cuts in
Education (cut teachers, there is no need to train more); I became a member of the "Unemployed Hobo Association. It is at this point that things become
quite interesting and makes Congressional opinions, attitudes and comments
so supportive, resplendent and filled with the knowledge of myopic wisdom.

I have lost count of the number of positions I have applied for in the
past year, most of which have gone unanswered or filed in the circular file,
but when a hopeful response is received, you are told the department is on
the edge of collapse (or has already done so), you are too highly educated
to want to consider returning to the classroom or you do not meet the
current standards as set by the office of the Secretary of Education (three
quick notes, both Bush and Obama are guilty of promulgating the demise of
Education most; even if you have an outstanding success rate in the
classroom, they want younger, less experienced teachers whom they will pay less; and if schools don't do exactly what they are told (teacher guidelines) they face having their funding cut or vaporized); or if I hire you to hang drywall, dig foundations, frame or even attempt to sell building materials, you won't remain with us (if they indeed have any work and are hiring) for very long because you are too highly educated, will either bebored by those you work with or try and take away my business.

So with over twenty years of construction experience (in all
trades/phases) and 21 years as an Educator (ok, I’m being snotty, but I am
far more than simply a teacher) I have been turned down for jobs stocking
shelves and/or off-loading materials at Home Depot, nor can I get hired as a
Middle School Teachers Aide, but, oh, that’s right I’m a Hobo, a Welfare Cheat and won’t ever consider a job that pays less!

Mr., Mrs., or Ms., Congress Person, I guess you have either forgotten or
it was beneath you to know that I am the person who may have educated, you,
your children, grand-children, at the very least some of your constituents and/or was the person, who unclogged your toilets, fixed/remodeled your
home, was the person you called, at any hour, after the flood destroyed the floors and walls in your house or when the tree caved in your roof, that I am
merely a conman and a bum, who you have supported far to long, at such an
exorbitant wage.

Since that is your belief and with all the available time I now have not seeking honest gainful employment, I suppose I am going to have to reassess your future employment and do everything I possibly can, to make sure you join me in the bread-lines and experience the Caribbean Cruise Life, firsthand, outside you polished marble, hallowed rotunda.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


LONGTIME VETERAN ADMINISTRATOR AT SEVENTH STREET ELEMENTARY DEPARTS THE SCHOOL HE LOVES FOR REST, PEACE AND SOLITUDE FROM THE INCREASING CHAOTIC TURMOIL IN THE LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT


IN A CAREER THAT SPANS ACROSS SOUTH CENTRAL AND REACHED OUT TO A LARGE PART OF LA, THE PRINCIPAL SAID THE SHRINKING SIZE OF HIS STAFF AND OTHER HARDSHIPS ARE PART OF HIS DECISION-MAKING TO RETIRE AT 57


By Diana L. Chapman


Veteran Principal Zan Colazas – who ushered in after school Italian classes and encouraged parents to dress his campus in artistic mosaics – announced his retirement from Seventh Street Elementary School in San Pedro where he served for nearly a decade.


He leaves at the end of June.


Taking with him stories riddled in both horrific heart-break and glowing warmth, Colazas departs from a school he adores, a staff he admires and the faces of 550 elementary children he can’t resist. His health, he said, pushed him out the door sooner than he expected when his blood pressure soared.


“My personal life is stress free,” Colazas explained, adding that he’s proud of his 19-year-old daughter, Kristin Colazas Delfs, who is currently studying Arabic in Morocco. “But (the job) is becoming more difficult and more stressful. The support for the principal and teachers has been slowly eroding. They cut our custodian. They cut our clerk position. They cut our literacy coach and writing coach. We averted disaster with our library.


“I love the school and I love my job. It’s just that nothing stays the same, does it?”

The district’s increasing budget mayhem, however, has taken a toll on his health and reduced his staff (many he considered like family) by more than 20 percent . So at the age of 57, he vowed to hang up his chalk board and walk away from primarily Los Angeles unified schools that have partially shaped his life over the past 33 years.


Facing a $640 million deficit for 2010-2011, the Los Angeles school board approved the layoffs of thousands of teachers, custodians and other administrative staff Tuesday.
Even during tough times – Seventh Street has markedly improved in test scores, earning many accolades and built a better reputation and bridge with the community.


Despite being a Title 1 School – meaning many of the students are below the poverty line – the campus swarms with an unusual number of parent volunteers which helped beautify the once drab school with colorful mosaics – including a long windy outdoor wall that snakes in front of the library.


As part of the school’s literacy garden, the wall – about the height of a bench that was geared as a place for students to sit and read– speckles daily with an array of bright and bold mosaic tiles that represent children’s books such as Charlotte’s Webb and The Cat and the Hat.


While beautifying the school was one of his goals from “it’s drab 1960s look” and achieving a campus that has an “overarching philosophy of doing what’s best for kids,” he’s proud of bringing aboard a Wonder of Reading Library – which enhanced the facility and doubled its size.


Winning the California Distinguished Award in 2006 and 2010, Seventh Street also achieved federal recognition four times for “Triple A” academic achievement.


Because an Italian population exists in San Pedro – and Colazas believes in introducing children to second languages as soon as possible – he grabbed the chance for grants that provided Italian classes. For the past five years, he applied and received funding which sends an Italian teacher to Seventh Street four times a week to teach two classes.

It’s programs like this and his support for parents that improved the campus.
Jeannie De La Cruz, the president of the Parent Teacher Organization who herself is stepping down from the leadership post, said she and other parents will be sad to see Colazas leave.


“We will miss him very much,” De La Cruz said. “He was a great principal and he did what he could for the parents and the students. He was supportive with the parents and the workers. It’s a stressful position.”


Los Angeles School Board Member Richard Vladovic agreed that Colazas was an excellent fit for the school. "I brought back Zan to the district and assigned him to Seventh Street,” he said. “His leadership will be missed."


Describing a career both sweet and sour, rewarding and punctuated with heartbreak for some students, Colazas , a Long Beach resident, began teaching kindergarten at the private Rancho Lomita School in Lomita about age 19. He leaped to Los Angeles Unified when he was hired in 1977 to work as a sixth grade teacher at Manchester Avenue Elementary School in South Central.


Working at that school was some of the happiest times in his life, he added, because he knew he could aid the children there.


“I loved it,” he said, dressed in a casual periwinkle-colored shirt and sitting in a chaotic office due to the move. “It’s the kids who need help and where a teacher can really impact a kids life in a good way. I might have stayed, but I got bumped out.”


While Manchester was primarily an African-American school, he did spot a growing Hispanic population which led him to take courses to become fluent in Spanish and receive a California Bilingual Certificate. That opened doors, he never expected. Other teachers recruited him to the Harbor area where he taught sixth grade at Wilmington Park School in 1983.


From there, he worked his way into becoming “an outreach consultant, which is like a glorified truancy officer,” he said, where he was in charge of uncovering why students failed to attend schools. Reasons stemmed from children having nowhere to wash or bath, because they were living in junkyards, boatyards or entire families were residing in cars or the children were “school phobic” – too terrorized to attend.


“I did help a lot of kids, because I’d solve the problem,” he explained of the post. “If it was clothing, I’d find them clothing. If it was baths, I’d find them housing. I guess the worst case I saw was two kids. They lived in a wrecking yard and they both had severe head lice. They were never going to get into school that way. We were able to find them hotel vouchers.
“It was a real eye-opening experience.”


His career took off in an administrative fashion where he held numerous posts and in 1992 soon became an assistant principal – who then ping ponged into schools that needed substitute principals and the “rocky road began.” Each time, he landed a new school to fill in for top administrator on leave, they’d return and he’d get bumped “again.”


In 1994 – after an 11-year-old boy fatally shot himself on the front steps of Forty-Ninth Street School, Colazas was tapped to take over the school after the principal and the boy’s teacher both took leaves of absence.

His job was to pull the devastated morale at the campus back together and get the staff and students through the horrific suicide. The child killed himself after a teacher demanded he get his father’s signature on a paper or not to bother to come back to school. It’s a ploy teachers have used so students can attend field trips and such, the principal said.


No one knew the child was so terrified of his father that killing himself seemed the better option than asking.


“It was a tough school, a tough year, and everyone thought the principal wouldn’t come back, but he did,” the administrator said. “I had to clean up some messes, fire some employees and then rebuild morale and build a positive spirit. We brought in an arts program the students never had.


“It was a challenging year.”

He continued to ping-pong to two more schools before he landed at Hawaiian Avenue Elementary School in Wilmington where he stayed for six years. He left the district briefly and then returned to Seventh Street in 2001 and found himself home at last.

“It’s a school that really fits into my philosophy and I had a good run (at Seventh Street),” he said. “I plan to travel, fix my house and spend time with family. I’m going to miss it. I already have twinges of sadness.”

A replacement principal has not yet been selected, he added.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rick Parszik brings Blocky, the opossum to writing class!


Blocky is a hit and the students later write about her.

Writers below are Sean, 7, Ava, 9, and McKenna, 11



STUDENTS IMAGINATIONS SPARK IN WRITING EXERCISES, WRITING CLASSES BEGIN THE END OF JUNE AT CORNER STORE AGES 6 to 15; 16-YEAR-OLD DEREK ESQUIBEL RAISES $2,000 PLUS FOR RACE AGAINST CROHN’S DISEASE USING K-1 RACE TRACK; EXCITING TIMES FOR SAN PEDRO KIDS AND A FREE MUSIC FESTIVAL COMING FOR FAMILIES

Dear Readers:

During Seven Golden Secrets to Writing Classes at the Corner Store every Wednesday, students have fun and learn the joy of writing. They are also allowed to be creative in a nurturing environment! Here are a few samples of their work. – Diana

BLOCKY, THE OPOSSUM,

-This story stemmed from students meeting a pet opossum outside the Corner Store. Owner Rick Parsik brought Blocky as a special treat for the children to write about and to understand that they are not rats – which many people mistake them for.

By Ava Pfannerer, 9

Blocky is an opossum, AKA, a marsupial. Blocky’s name is short for Blockhead!

Did you know that opossums can have ten to 12 babies at a time?

Blocky is white, gray and brown and has beetle-black colored eyes. Her favorite foods are figs, avocado, hard boiled, chicken and cheese. Her tail looks like an armadillo’s tail.

She is three-years-old, which is quite old for an opossum. These creatures can weigh 14 to 20 pounds, but are about the size of a bee when they are born. Sometimes, like birds, they nest in trees. Blocky is calm. I saw her itch her nose with her little claws. She seems so shy and is curled up in a ball.

Rick Parzik taught us about Blocky.

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THE GREAT WHITE SHARK’S TALE

By McKenna, 11

A great white shark was once lurking around the Great Blue. Today, the ocean was stormy and ghost-like.

All of the fish that saw the shark swam as fast as they could and sped into a burrow. The shark then came by a school of clown-fish. It swam over and lunged at them. She jerked her head and: Wham!

Ten fish disappeared.

Then many more sharks appeared. All were aggressive today!

Another shark came from behind the Great White and bit off her tail! She lurched and with one great CHOMP, bit a huge hole into the other shark’s nose. Then there was a big, bad, bloody fight! But since the Great White shark was bigger, she won – and ate the other sharks and all the little clown-fish.

That was the Great White shark’s tale – or– tail.

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A POLAR BEAR

By Sean Rosenfeld, 7,

A polar bear has white fur, but its skin is black to help soak up sun. Polar bears mainly eat seals, but if there are no seals around they will probably eat different animals like the arctic fox. The polar bear likes meat and is a big animal. It can eat big things. Some polar bears can even weigh a 1,000 pounds! A male bear can weigh more than 1,000 pounds. That’s why I love polar bears.

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SEVEN GOLDEN SECRETS TO WRITING WORKSHOP BEGINS END OF JUNE

The Seven Golden Secrets to Writing Workshops are an unorthodox approach to learn this fantastic skill with ease and fun in a safe and nurturing environment. Students are given permission to create in a positive manner as they learn to gain confidence and improve at writing while enjoying it! Longtime writer Diana Chapman conducts the workshops.

For ages 6-12, the workshops begin June 30 and run through Sept 1, each and every Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. at The Corner Store, 1118 W. 37th Street, (Please note: Two lessons may be canceled for the writing coach’s vacation dates. Those dates will be announced).

Costs are $45 per student. A second sibling, enrolled in the same session, can attend for half the price, $22.50. There are no refunds and classes must be pre-paid.

For more information, email Diana at hartchap@cox.net

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A 16-YEAR-OlD TEEN DEREK ESQUIBEL RAISES $2,000 PLUS TO FIGHT CROHN’S DISEASE AT K-1 RACETRACK

San Pedro High School student Derek Esquibel, who suffers from the maddening symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, raised more than $2,000 in his race against the illness using the K-1 go-carting track in Torrance.

Derek, who plans to do the same event next year, said he was pleased with the results where he combined his love for racing to fight the illness that hospitalized him last summer for 28 days.

“I thought it went really well,” explained Derek, who had courage to publicly discuss a disease that often attacks the intestinal track, causes weight loss, fevers and other complex symptoms that can make it life-threatening. “Next year, it’s going to be even bigger and it might run even over a whole weekend.”

Pleased and proud of her son’s effort, Derek’s mother, Jean, said she plans to help him again next year. About 175 people used the Crohn’s flier, in which K-1 donated $5 per race. The proceeds went to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. The combination of T-shirt sales, private donations and K-1s contributions reeled in $2,091.61, Jean explained.

“I am just so proud of him, he worked so hard,” Jean said. “And next year, we are going to set our sights higher.”

Roughly 1.4 million Americans, 150,000 children, have the not-so-glamorous disease, that few adults are prepared to admit they have. Derek came up with the plan while hospitalized and suffering an abscess in his intestinal track.

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Target Arts & Wonder Free Family Event

Submitted by -- Jarrod Eamon Fasching

Saturday, July 17th, 2:00p to 6:00p, and Sunday, July 18th, 2:00p to 6:00p

at Peck Park, San Pedro, CA

This is a FREE two-day music & arts festival sponsored by TARGET with Live Music, Arts & Crafts led by professional artists from Angels Gate Cultural Center and top quality food vendors at Peck Park, 560 North Western Avenue, San Pedro, CA 90732.

Each day will feature exciting music and arts presentations from. This outdoor event, produced by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Grand Vision Foundation, Duval Productions, and Angels Gate Cultural Center, will feature musicians include La Charanga Cubana, Spirit Chorale of Los Angeles, Sacred Fire, Taiko Center of LA, Bonne Musique Zydeco, Nu Pan Groove Steel Drum, and La Santa Cecilia, as well as a variety of art activities and food vendors for people of all ages to enjoy!!

Call (310)833-4813 or email taran@grandvision.org for more information. Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 04, 2010



Student Tiffany Barber reads ingredients out. Marisa Giuffre prepping lemons.

Susan McKenna explaining cooking to students while Marisa boils water.



Susan -- Let the cooking magic begin!

TWO COOKING EXPERTS – THE FORMER OWNERS OF THE COMMUNITY ORIENTED CORNER STORE – BRING THEIR EXPERTISE TO WHAT BETTER PLACE – SAN PEDRO HIGH SCHOOL WHICH LOST ITS CULINARY CLASSES THIS PAST YEAR;

THE AWESOME TWOSOME HEAT UP AN AFTER SCHOOL COOKING CLUB THAT’S MET WITH MORE THAN DELECTABLE DELIGHTS; THEY KNOW THEY COULD RUN IT EVERY DAY AFTER SCHOOL IF ONLY THERE WAS MONEY, TIME AND MORE VOLUNTEERS; THERE ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH STUDENTS

By Diana L. Chapman

Squished side by side, the students practically crushed the culinary room with big eyes, good behavior and beaming interest in something San Pedro High School recently lacked for the past year – anyone to teach them how to cook.

Boil a pot of water. Break an egg. Cook up a plate of pasta. That’s what scores of teenagers wanted to learn, but their former Culinary Teacher Sandy Wood retired last year and no one was hired to replace her.

But as usual and just in a pot of time -- when it seemed the culinary scene for the high school was over -- Susan McKenna and Marisa Giuffre arrived with big hearts for kids and a dream to teach students how to whip up meals for themselves. The former owners of the popular Corner Store -- stepped up to the dish – and launched a “survival cooking club,” in May after school every Monday.

They plan to continue, with perhaps expanded plans, in the fall.

With not much time left in the school year and more than 57 students signing up straight away and more asking to join, the experts have already taught students how to make affordable delicious dishes from fresh lemon pasta to making their own salad dressings from scratch.

The first day of the class, Susan, who now owns a cozy eatery in downtown San Pedro called Nosh CafĂ© – asked student, Tiffany Barber, a junior, to read out the ingredients in a processed French dressing:

As Tiffany read: “Soybean Oil, Water, Sugar, Vinegar, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% of Skim Milk, Paprika, Xanthan Gum With Sorbic Acid And Calcium Disodium Edta as preservatives, Polysorbate 60, Dried Garlic, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Yellow 6, Yellow 5,” students gasped at the latter ingredients.

“There is absolutely no reason on earth to buy salad dressing,” Susan told the students as they boiled pots of water getting prepared to make pasta. “It’s easy to make.”

The gals – including their friend pastry chef Therese Dee–

showed students how they could blend mustard, vinegar and
whisk in some extra virgin olive oil” to make a traditional
vinaigrette.
Susan and Marisa, who both came from Australia, share similar

beliefs on what students should learn to cook;
Summed up: it’s scrumptious made from scratch meals that
and not expensive to make – in many cases an entire course
can be made for less than $4.99 that a student would pay for
greasy fast food fare.
 

They wanted kids to get away from becoming sugar-aholics and fast-food addicts, and show them how the meaning of true food – cooked from your own ingredients – can be easy – and tasty. Call them both “foodies ” -- and it looks like many of their students will follow suit.

“We still thought there was a need to educate the kids as

fast food had become the norm for most kids and we wanted
to change this,” Marisa explained. “There was a culinary
kitchen at (San Pedro High), nobody using it with the
possibility that it may have been taken over for something
else besides cooking.
 
“Susan and I jumped at the chance to start our

after school survival cooking program, giving the kids
a chance to learn alternative ways of cooking and the
ability to turn a few simple ingredients into a meal for
one or ten.”
 
But don’t  even think of this as the “white-bowl,” 

everything chopped and ready to go as done on T.V.
stations like the Food Network, the women say.
Think of this as finding good things in your own cupboard
and learn what to do with them.


They especially want to target high school students leaving home and need this skill in their tool kit.

Get lemons free from your neighbors to make lemonade and other dishes, the women exclaim!

Buy a giant bottle of virgin olive oil from a cost-savings store that will last a long time and run about $13!

Shop at Numero Uno where the produce is good and often cheaper!

“The goal of this is shop well, cook well, eat well,” Susan explained during an interview at Nosh. “Those three things go together and then you can’t go wrong. There’s this bit of knowledge that you just need a few ingredients and you can provide a meal.

“There’s a sense of accomplishment.”

At the first session, students zested lemon peel, used leftover pasta water to make lemon pasta and had a delicious meal afterward. They giggled when scraping the peel and delighted in tastes that some described as “awesome.”

Working with students is nothing new to these culinary

wizards. Both of them taught children in Australia and
Marisa has a repertoire of cooking abilities coming from
an Italian family. Her parents , when they immigrated to
Sydney, ushered in their cuisine by opening a restaurant.
Both women are loaded with talents and are eager to share
it with students. Susan qualified as chef with London City
and Guilds and received a Cordon Bleu certificate.
 

The students brimmed with pleasure in the class, many saying they would join again next year. Pots steamed. Dressing was whisked. And kids smiled.

One senior already plans to ask if he can come back even after he graduates; He’d even volunteer, he said.

“It’s really fun and the food is good,” said 15-year-old Caytie Briggs, who already plans to return in the fall and doesn’t cook at home. “The ladies are really nice and they explain everything so well. We made three cheese pasta. It was good.”

Rita Marquez, a 15-year-old sophomore, said she does cook at home, but mostly a Mexican cuisine of rice, meat and beans. Already, she has started making foods she’d never experienced before, such as pasta.

“Their food comes out really good,” she said, who added she was disappointed when she made it at home. But she plans to return anyway.

Two brothers, Leland, 16, and Marsalles, 17, Williams also enrolled.

“I like it,” Leland said candidly. “We are cooking all types of different foods and we get to cook it! They don’t do it for us.”

Added Marsalles: “What I like is if there’s enough, you get second helpings.”

As this point, the culinary sky is the limit, the women say. They have bigger plans for the future, perhaps going non-profit and teaching at more schools. But for now, they are pleased just to be at San Pedro High. They plan to do fundraisers, maybe teaching parents to cook or hosting a dinner.

The next thing on the menu: they’ll just have to let us know.