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First published in the Sept. 9 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

Valentine Elementary School 3rd and 4th graders recently attended the annual Bike Safety Rodeo, where students spent a portion of the school day brushing up on their bike safety knowledge and skills. Students also practiced riding and signaling with Valentine’s physical education teacher Wes Gonzales and listened to an informative safety talk provided by San Marino police officers.
Brent Bilvado, a parent, organized the event and Principal Alana Faure and PTA President Erin Clougherty were present to cheer for the students.

The 2021 California Gubernatorial Recall Election ends Tuesday, Sept. 14, but there is still time to vote. For vote-by-mail, voters can return their ballots in the mail using the prepaid postage as long as it is postmarked by Sept. 14. Ballots may also be dropped off at designated drop-off boxes now until 8 p.m. on Sept. 14.

In-person voting locations will offer voter registration, replacement ballots, accessible voting machines and language assistance to those who need it (address and hours are listed below).

For any additional information on the election or voting locations, please visit the link: California Gubernational Recall Election.

San Marino Vote Center

Valentine Elementary School

(Early Voting, Same Day Voter Registration & Ballot Drop-Off Location)

1650 Huntington Dr.

San Marino, CA 91108

Hours:

Sept. 13: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Sept. 14: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Photo by Mitch Lehman / TRIBUNE The San Marino Unified School District held a new employee orientation and luncheon for the 16 recently hired educators who reported for work Tuesday morning, with some SMUSD veterans also present. Those in attendance included SMUSD human resources officer Judy Correnti (front row, from left), Candice Choi, Natalie Badalof, Amanda Zia, Nicole Kwok, Kellee Sung, Judy Lewes, Nicole Mendoza, Vanessa Zamalloa and Acting Superintendent Linda de la Torre. Back: Assistant Superintendent Stephen Choi, John Franklin, Stephen Lane, Daniel Hernandez, Stephanie Egger, Megan Rauch, Heather Smith, Vanessa Acosta, Graham Lewis and Assistant Superintendent Lena Richter. For more information on the new hires, see page 14.

Photo by Mitch Lehman / TRIBUNE
The San Marino Firefighters Association presented a check for more than $800 to Connor Lee and Luke Aloe to help fund the Lorain Road candle project. From left are Firefighter-Paramedic Jeff Tsay, Shawn Stewart, Capt. Dominic Petta, Connor Lee, Luke Aloe, Firefighter-Paramedic Dave Tannehill, Engineer Nate Foth, Firefighter-Paramedic Brian Campbell and former Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey.

Pasadena had its Balian mansion, the famed “House of 10,000 Lights”; upper Hastings Ranch had its distinctive look during the holidays with dozens of homes bedecked with Christmas; and just up the street, Southern Californians flocked to see the 50-foot deodars that every December were strung with Christmas lights. San Marino resident Marvin Totten thought it would be fun to give his neighborhood a distinctive look, too.

The San Marino Unified School District has contracted with a company to provide child-care services for its employees and other essential workers.
By a vote of 4-1, the SMUSD Board of Education on July 21 approved a pact with Right at School, a child-care vendor that provides services to youngsters from transitional kindergarten through 8th grade.
Right at School began providing services in San Marino on the first day of the school year, Aug. 12, in a former STEM lab at Valentine Elementary School, while district students receive instruction via distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The service is currently being used by “less than 10” young people, according to district Superintendent Jeff Wilson, who connected Right at School with the SMUSD based on his experience with the company when he was an assistant superintendent with the Arcadia Unified School District.

Students at Carver Elementary enjoying the Titan marching band. Mitch Lehman Photos

On a typical Friday, the only sounds heard on the athletic fields behind Carver Elementary School are laughter, bouncing balls and the occasional adolescent screams of joy. But last Friday was anything but typical.

Enter San Marino High School’s award-winning marching band and color guard, which paid its annual campus visit to entertain and educate the community’s young ‘uns.

The long-standing tradition was started by Musical Director Ben Ubovich during his long tenure at SMHS as a means to recruit elementary school students to join the district’s instrumental music programs that are made now available to students starting in the 5th grade. It’s a convention that Shota Horikawa, the current musical director at SMHS, is more than pleased to continue.

“The visits are a fantastic way to introduce elementary school students to the different instruments that they have available to them as they go through middle school and high school,” Horikawa told The Tribune. “They are also a great way to start exposing students to special programs that we have available such as drumline and color guard, which are typically not offered at the elementary or middle school levels.”

The students received an extra bonus as Christina Chu, a second grade teacher at Carver and 1994 graduate of San Marino High School, is a former drum major, one of just seven females to serve in that capacity in the band’s rich history. Chu was asked to come forward and lead the assemblage in a rousing rendition of the school’s fight song.

“It was great,” said Chu, who flawlessly reprised her former role. “The movements have stayed exactly the same and I love getting out there.”

By the actions of the students and faculty members, the feeling was quite mutual.

Isaac Jung finished 7th in the National History Bee.

You might recall the exploits of Isaac Jung, who recently completed the fifth grade at Valentine Elementary School. In March, Isaac finished in first place at the Los Angeles Regional History Bee & Bowl, punching his ticket for the nationals. Just last week, Isaac took part that competition, which was held in Rosemont, Illinois.

There, 213 students from across the United States competed in the elementary school division. After four preliminary rounds, the quarterfinals and semifinals, Isaac earned a 7th place national ranking.

The National History Bee and Bowl feature a lockout buzzer system on its competitions with “pyramidal questions,” which are of paragraph length and progress from more difficult to easier clues. Students can ring in with the buzzer at any time during the reading of the questions, thus rewarding students with deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Isaac Jung, right, with David Madden, a 19-day Jeopardy champion and founder of the National History Bee & Bowl.

“The Bee was a great experience,” said Isaac. “It was fun meeting other kids who share my interest in history. There are many amazing students who are extremely knowledgeable, and they are very inspiring.”

He said he likes history because “it’s fun.”

“I enjoy reading about people and cultures of different times and from different countries,” Isaac said. “History is important because it helps us understand the world. It also helps us avoid repeating mistakes of the past.”

Students from Valentine Elementary School expressing their appreciation for supporters of the San Marino Schools Foundation.

The San Marino Schools Foundation kicked off its year-end giving campaign by hosting a successful #GivingTuesday on November 27 that raised over $68,000 in one day. #GivingTuesday supports charities, and takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving following the consumer spending days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Over 60 people responded to the Foundation’s call to action and made contributions online, in person, or by phone. These funds will go directly towards helping fund teacher positions at all four school sites and helping fund innovative programs throughout all of SMUSD.

Even though #GivingTuesday is over, the Foundation is still accepting year-end donations, which not only invests in the education of students in San Marino public schools, but could also help to reduce the tax liability of donors.

The Tax Cuts and Job Act, signed into law in December 2017, made a number of changes to our tax laws. It nearly doubles the standard deduction for individuals and families, limits the aggregate amount of state and local income taxes, including property taxes, that can be deducted, and reduces the cap on home mortgage interest deduction for new loans.

An additional change is that tax filers can deduct a larger percentage of their charitable donations, increasing from 50 percent to 60 percent of their adjusted gross income.

Charities, including San Marino Schools Foundation, could potentially receive larger individual donations. To take advantage of charitable giving opportunities in 2018, below are some of the ways that you can maximize your giving in 2018 and beyond. Of course, each person’s tax situation is unique, so please do consult with your tax and/or legal advisors.

Appreciated Securities (Stock)

Receive charitable tax deduction at fair market value of publicly traded securities and bypass tax on the embedded capital gains. Consult with your tax advisor to determine the amount of any deduction you may be able to claim for a gift of appreciated securities. To donate stock/appreciated securities, please visit the San Marino Schools Foundation website and download the stock donation directions. Please call the Foundation office at (626) 299-7014 if you need any further assistance.

Donor Advised Fund

A donor advised fund (DAF) is a charitable giving program that allows you to combine the most favorable tax benefits with the flexibility to support your favorite causes. If you have a donor advised fund, you may recommend grants to SMSF directly.

Matching Gifts

Did you know that many companies offer their employees a matching gift program to encourage them to be active in their communities? Some companies offer as much as 1:1 or even 2:1 in a matching gift of their own. That means if you give $100 your company might match with a $100 or even $200 gift of their own, doubling your donation! Contact your company’s HR department and discover how you might be able to stretch your generosity.

IRA Charitable

Rollover Gifts

If you are the owner of an IRA and are at least 70-½ years of age, you may make a charitable gift directly from your IRA to the San Marino Schools Foundation. An IRA Charitable Rollover of up to $100,000 will count toward a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) effectively minimizing taxes on the transfer. Gifts must be made directly to the Foundation before the end of the tax year (2018).

San Marino Schools Foundation will remain open during the holidays (closed on December 24 and 25) and can accept donations in person by visiting its office at 1665 West Dr., by phone at (626) 299-7014, or online at www.smsf.org/donate.

Gretchen Shepherd Romey has told The Tribune that she is a candidate in the race to fill three seats on the five-member San Marino City Council at the November, 2017 election.

Shepherd Romey – a lawyer – joins Susan Jakubowski, Calvin Lo, Dr. Hai Sou Chen, Scott Kwong and Ken Ude as the sixth declared candidate. A one-month candidate-filing period with the county registrar begins on July 18.

She explained that the idea to run for a seat on the city council developed about a year ago after meetings with a group of younger women community leaders, which were organized by San Marino’s first and second female mayors Rary Simmons and Suzy Crowell.

“They felt there was a need after about 10 years with no female presence on the council; that they needed to pass the torch to a new generation,” Shepherd Romey stated.

After a year of attending council meetings and conversations with the community, Shepherd Romey has identified preservation of historically significant homes—which she referred to as a “movement”—as her top priority.

“I’m running for city council to preserve and protect San Marino,” she said.

“As a city council member, I will strive to rein in this rapid redevelopment by strengthening existing building codes and enforcement,” Shepherd Romey noted, expressing her support for a new historic preservation ordinance.

Shepherd Romey shared her preservation experience with The Tribune.

“Over the past 17 years, I have had hands-on experience in the community’s efforts to preserve the historic Hill Harbison House,” she said. “I learned that modernization and improvements can be successfully accomplished while preserving historic structures along with the surrounding mature landscape and trees.”

Crime reduction is also a top priority in Shepherd Romey’s campaign platform.

She explained, “When I moved here over 20 years ago, San Marino had long been considered an extremely safe community. The recent spike in criminal activity is cause for alarm.”

“If elected, I plan to start a community crime prevention program with a goal of educating all residents and empowering them with information and strategies to protect their families against burglaries and home invasions, as well as financial exploitation,” she stated, noting the importance of a partnership with local law enforcement to revive San Marino’s neighborhood watch program.

Shepherd Romey has her eye on the city’s finances as well.

A firm supporter of the recommendations submitted by the citizen advisory group of the council’s Ad Hoc Committee, which reviewed the city’s administration and parks and public works departments, she feels full implementation would result in savings, increased productivity and financial responsibility for the city.

“Having served on executive boards of numerous nonprofit organizations that have monthly financial reports, I believes this method of reporting and analysis will increase the city’s financial responsibility to stay at or below budget and lead to greater financial transparency,” she added in her call for departmental monthly financial reports.

Savings resulting from a more financially responsible approach should go straight toward financing deferred infrastructure maintenance, she argued.

“I want to bring those matters to the forefront, and work on city council toward fully funding payments on those [infrastructure] liabilities annually, and directing any budget savings to go directly to payoff those liabilities,” she said.

Shepherd Romey earned her juris doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. Since moving to San Marino with her husband Michael, also an attorney, and children, Morgan and Turner, Shepherd Romey has played an active role in National Charity League, National Charity League Juniors, San Marino Garden Club, the Hill-Harbison House, San Marino Junior Alliance, San Marino Service Unit of Girl Scouts of America, and the Huntington Middle School and Valentine Elementary School PTAs. She is also a docent and educational facilitator at The Huntington Library.

“After a career as an attorney, and since moving to San Marino in 1996, I have been continuously active volunteering and leading many local civic, charitable, and educational organizations. Those two decades of community experience have given me a deep appreciation of our city and its residents, as well as a strong commitment to public service. If elected to City Council, such knowledge and experience will enable me to make an even greater impact for the betterment of our city,” she added.

To learn more about Shepherd Romey’s campaign, visit gretchenshepherdromeyforsanmarino.com. A campaign kick-off event will be held at the Hill Harbison House, 1841 Alhambra Rd., San Marino on Sunday, June 25 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Valentine Elementary School fourth grade teachers Sue Walworth, Mary Van Hiel, and Lisa Goyco walked their students to Huntington Middle School’s Kenneth F. White Auditorium for a fire safety presentation last Tuesday.

The presentation was prepared by MySafe:CA, a organization that partners with local fire departments to teach students about fire and life safety. Cameron Barrett and Bill Whitney of MySafe:CA met the fourth graders at the auditorium.

“They’re the ones who protect you every single day that you’re here,” Barrett said of the firefighter/paramedics of San Marino’s Station 91.

“Isn’t that neat? Doesn’t that kind of make you feel calm and secure knowing there’s a bunch of professional firefighters that are literally minutes away that are going to take care of you in case there’s an emergency?” she told the students. “We know firefighters are heroes,” Barrett continued. “You can be a hero, too. Every single one of us can be a hero if we learn how to keep ourselves and our family safe.”

So Barrett taught students three easy steps.

First, she explained that every family needs a fire escape plan—examples of which Barrett and Whitney sent home with their audience of heroes.

“A family escape is the same thing [as a fire drill], except we don’t do it at school. Where do we do it?”

“At home!” the group of approximately 100 students enthusiastically responded during this interactive assembly.

Barrett encouraged each student to draw a map of their home, and mark all the exits, including doors and windows. Then identify two ways out and a safe meeting place, which, for example, could be a tree or a mailbox on the block.

She stressed that the most important thing is to get out of the house and to not go back into the house in the event of a fire.

“You are the family hero!” Barrett told the students, noting that each student should encourage their family to practice their escape plan.

Next, Barrett said it’s important to have working smoke detectors. From smoke detectors to carbon monoxide detectors, Barrett and Whitney taught their audience all about these detectors and the behavior of smoke, including several helpful tips.

Cameron Barrett, on stage, and Bill Whitney, right, teach fire and life safety skills to Valentine Elementary School fourth grade students. Kev Kurdoghlian Photo

New detectors, they said, are installed with batteries with a 10-year life span, meaning there’s no need to replace the batteries. Instead, smoke detectors can’t be kept longer than 10 years.

It’s important to install smoke detectors in rooms where people sleep and in hallways, but it’s not necessary to have them installed in the kitchen. “Unless you constantly want to listen to beeping when someone burns the toast,” she said.

“Smoke is also poisonous. Now we surround ourselves with plastics,” she said, contrasting it with materials previously used by people. “[Plastics] burn really fast,” she said.” The time you have to get out of your home if it catches fire is two minutes.”

To get out of a burning building, she explained, the key is to “get low and go.” But not before checking off the third step, which is to get a Go Bag on each person’s back. A Go Bag consists of a warm jacket, comfortable shoes, whistle, and flashlight with extra batteries.

Just as the MySafe:CA presentation came to a close, San Marino Fire Department Division Chief Mark Dondanville walked into the auditorium.

Dondanville immediately allowed the audience of fourth graders to put its recently learned lessons into practice with a “get low and go” exit from the auditorium.

Now on the lawn by the turnaround, students met San Marino Firefighter/Paramedics Brian Campbell and Anthony Alvarado, who introduced the students to San Marino’s ambulance.

Campbell and Alvarado showed the students the department’s electric gurney, backboard, heart monitor, drug box, and trauma box, which Campbell called their “big first aid kit.”

Students also walked through the ambulance, or San Marino’s ‘mobile hospital,’ before returning to class.

MySafe:CA returned to Valentine Elementary School on Thursday, May 25 and visited Carver on May 26.