First published in the Sept. 30 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
Sarah Tran always arrives to her classes with an attitude that one of her teachers said is “joyful, upbeat and positive,” Liam Thomas proved to be “a fantastic role model to his peers,” and Amelia Hu was observed being “helpful and kind to a student who is new to Huntington Middle School.” Those and many other acts were the reason the three received Good Citizenship awards, along with 15 other students, at a special breakfast that was held Sept. 23 in the school’s library. It was the first of 10 gatherings that will be hosted by Principal Daryl Topalian and Assistant Principal Mary Hazlett to acknowledge students for character traits such as honesty, courtesy, responsibility and service inside the classroom.
Honorees are nominated by teachers and staff members and receive a breakfast as well as a popular swag bag, filled with an HMS T-shirt and a license plate frame that declares the recipient one of “Huntington’s Best.” The first ceremony acknowledged students for showing respect. “I feel it was wonderfully well received by the students,” said Hazlett, who was overseeing her first Good Citizenship breakfast. “I could tell they were pleased and excited to be there and felt it was an important ceremony. Since it was the first one of the new school year, I think they felt honored and special. At this age, the students still like being publicly honored as long as there are others who are also being honored.”
First published in the Sept. 23 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
With most news about education still revolving around the COVID-19 pandemic or related issues, the San Marino Unified School District received welcome information on Tuesday morning: Huntington Middle School has been designated a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. The coveted award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content. Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards on more than 9,000 schools.
Though their institutions are located approximately two miles apart, San Marino High School Principal Jason Kurtenbach and Daryl Topalian, his counterpart at Huntington Middle School, had an identical message last Thursday morning. “It is great to see the kids again,” said Kurtenbach, as students completed the requisite temperature screening and filed into SMHS.
Abby Geng, an 8th grader at Huntington Middle School, recently earned some extra money teaching a virtual cooking class. Abby and her parents consulted on the matter and agreed the funds would best be used “for something special.” The result — a $200 donation to the San Marino Police Department, to the pleasant surprise of San Marino Police Chief John Incontro.
During his keynote address for the City Club’s March meeting, San Marino resident Dr. Steve Park provided an overview of his life which includes service as a United States Navy medical officer and career as a hospitalist. In retrospect, an argument could be made that the subject of memory retention would have also sufficed, as Park’s is apparently as sound as the proverbial steel trap. So is former San Marino educator Loren Kleinrock’s, Park’s former assistant principal during his days at San Marino High School and offensive coordinator for the Titan football team, for which Park was a record-setting wide receiver. In vivid detail, Park recalled Kleinrock busting him for going to a buddy’s house for lunch even though he was not yet a privileged senior. Kleinrock, meanwhile, recalled one time Park didn’t perfectly execute one of his pass patterns. That these transgressions took place almost 30 years ago was incidental and only seemed to heighten the mutual respect that exists between them to this day.
San Marino’s Grace Navarro has advanced to the semifinal round of the Los Angeles Music Center’s annual Spotlight program, thus remaining in contention for more than $100,000 in scholarships. Navarro, a junior at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), is majoring in classical voice in the school’s opera company and vocal department. She attended Valentine Elementary and Huntington Middle schools before spending a year at Maranatha, then it was on to LACHSA. “This is an incredibly unique school and it has given me so many opportunities,” said Navarro. “I love all of my peers, friends and teachers at LACHSA because we are like-minded people and inspire one another to strive for citizen artistry. I really couldn’t ask for a better high school experience. By far, my favorite part about LACHSA is the confidence it instills in me. My teachers always encourage me to believe in what I am doing.” Navarro also studies piano, music theory and acting. After LACHSA, she plans on taking a gap year before applying to conservatory.
As dedicated volunteers, working intimately at each of our San Marino School sites, we are devastated at the failure of Measure E. Despite PTA and community efforts to support the Measure E campaign, it failed to pass by 120 votes. On March 9, the School Board voted to eliminate 41.2 positions throughout San Marino Schools. We are heartbroken for our students, teachers and staff.
As with most life-changing events, Julie Anding can recall one particular anniversary with pinpoint accuracy.
“December 27, 2017,” exclaimed Anding, without hesitation. “I was in Utah for Christmas and my mom and I were going to grab some lunch.”
Unlike memories of other landmark events — a marriage proposal, or finding out you were admitted to your dream school or landed that once-in-a-lifetime job — this is one date Anding would much rather forget.
“We took a one-floor elevator ride in the lodge and immediately after I stepped out of the elevator, I turned and looked at her and said, ‘I feel really weird, like I’m on a boat or something,’” Anding recalled recently. “That was my onset.”
She was spot-on in identifying the symptoms and also the very complex name for what was happening to her. It’s called mal de debarquement, a French word that means, literally, “illness of disembarkment,” a neurological condition that typically takes place following a cruise, plane trip or other event that includes sustained motion. While many feel similar effects for a short period of time, Anding’s lasted much longer — in fact, to this very day.
Measure E, the parcel tax that raises $4 million annually for schools within the boundaries of the San Marino Unified School District, had fallen behind the pace needed for victory following an initial ballot count that was taken after polls closed on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m.
At The Tribune’s press deadline, Measure E had received 1,850 yes votes (62.82%) with 1,095 votes in opposition, or 37.18%. The parcel tax required two-thirds approval by the more than 10,400 registered voters who live within the boundaries of the school district to pass.
That tally included all votes that were received by day’s end Tuesday either via mail or in-person drop-off since the election began.
Citing what he referred to as a strong recommendation from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Superintendent Jeff Wilson announced last week that the San Marino Unified School District has suspended all in-person services through January.
The action includes athletic programs at San Marino High School, small special education cohorts at Valentine and Carver elementary schools and Huntington Middle School, and the Right At School day-care program.
Speaking on a video on the district’s website, Wilson referenced Dr. Robert Gilchick of the public health department, who presented “staggering new data of the current surge of COVID-19 cases” to educators as grounds for the decision.
“Some of the data includes a new record number of deaths on Wednesday, Jan. 6,” said Wilson, a day that saw a then-record of 258 deaths and more than 11,000 new cases reported. “When you include that to where we were in May, when we were getting 700 to 800 reported, that’s quite a shift,” said Wilson. “All of the projections nationwide say that the surge is only going to get worse through January.”