Top News

Hey Teacher! What's Up for 2000?


By Michele Johnson

As the school bell rings in the new year this week, knapsacked kids will be running back to a recharged Topanga Elementary School. During the summer, staff and parents of the charter school immersed themselves in an intensive Galef Institute training program and will bring their training back to the classroom. A P.E. teacher--a Pepperdine intern--will be hired with TEP (Topanga Enrichment Program) funds to offer weekly classes, which should free up some planning time for the teachers. Kindergarten through third grade will be held to a 20 to 1 student/teacher ratio. Also, for some second-graders, an intensive 10-to-one class will be offered to provide extra reading assistance.

  
 VOL.24 NO. 18
September 7 - 20, 2000

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 The school is spruced up, too. As a preventative measure, the District replaced flooring containing asbestos with new flooring in all the classrooms. The classrooms tested safe, but with Prop BB funds in hand, the District could replace the old floors before they could release asbestos as they wore out. Energy-efficient lighting was added, too, and new office furniture. Air conditioning and fresh paint haven't happened yet, but are promised down the line. The upper and lower playgrounds are newly refurbished, with spongy fall mats set beneath climbing structures and new grassy areas with trees that will provide shade as they grow. Some complained that the new playgrounds are not user friendly, with too few activities for the kids, but the much missed handball courts will be in as school begins and other innovations will follow, Goodman said.

 PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER

Topanga Elementary's teachers. Top row: Leslie Yates, Ann Matsuyma, Marty Langham, Jenny Baker, Laurie Gurvis, Julie Buntin, Amy Weisberg, Devon Chatham, Anne Heed. Bottom row: Nancy Spire, Principal Eileen Goodman, Marianne Bordier, Gretchen Booth, Lisa Bowden, Donna Workman, Ellen Gill, Brooks Walker. Not pictured: Bonnie Wallace as well as Sylvia Gentile, Dawn Da Mar (both new this year).

GALEF GIVES A LIFT

Scores are generally up at Topanga Elementary, especially in the early grades. Second and third grade scores have risen dramatically-up double digits in math, reading and language. Fourth grade scores are also up across the board, though fifth grade scores have dipped a little. So if scores in general are up, why Galef? "The information is not new to the Topanga staff," said Resource Specialist Gretchen Booth, "but Galef gives us permission to sit down and plan a curriculum as a team." Galef training is based on a theory of multiple intelligences, says Gretchen, that assumes each child has a gift in one or more areas of intelligence. The program integrates the arts from dance to drawing into the curriculum in a way that allows each child to use his or her gifts to learn. That should benefit all students-from the gifted to the learning disabled-and allow each student to progress in a personalized way.

Since the Galef Institute has a proven track record, raising scores and more in the schools where it has been applied, "It will validate what we've been doing," Gretchen feels. Galef follows up its training with a unique support system, offering class plans, free supplies and regular monthly visits by Galef staff members that will continue for three years. This is a vast improvement on similar programs, says Gretchen, that "give you the information and then it's 'Goodbye, you're on your own.'" Booth mentioned that Meryl Price, once the innovative principal of Pali High and now the head of the new subdistrict that includes Topanga Elementary, has given his support to the new plan. "He helped behind the scenes," said Booth. And she continued, "Eileen Goodman, to her credit, really sought to have this happen."
Everyone took the training, including Goodman and several parents. "We all responded very positively," said Gretchen. "We had a terrific time. They made it fun. We learned a lot about each other."

To get the new program off and running, teachers planned to meet before school started on pupil-free days beginning at the end of August. "Everybody's really feeling empowered by Galef support to ask for what children need to be successful even if it is unorthodox or nontraditional," though, Gretchen stresses, "we're certainly not going to neglect the basics."

Third grade teacher and long-time Topangan Brooks Walker agrees. "I'm excited about Galef," he says, and hopes it will bring "more discussion and problem solving among the teachers." And though, he says, "teachers have done a lot of art in the past," now it will be more integrated into the curriculum. Also, thanks to supportive parents, finished pieces will be exhibited in a new display space in the auditorium.

BONNIE'S BACK

Topangan Bonnie Wallace will teach the second grade this year in the small class, part of the District's Intensive Academic Support Program to provide extra support for early literacy.
Bonnie, in her 11th year at Topanga Elementary, took a leave of absence last year to cope with a serious illness. Now she's back and "very excited by the Galef program. I so believe in constructivist teaching"-having students build on their prior knowledge and abilities. Though she doesn't feel 100 percent, Bonnie says, "I'm on the way." She asked to say thanks for "the support in the community and at school. The love and the care in the community was so phenomenal. I think it really assisted me in my recovery. The thoughts, prayers and concerns-it all mattered. It really mattered." Four of the 19 dedicated teachers on staff have put down roots in Topanga, including Gretchen, Brooks, Bonnie and fifth grade teacher Marianne Bordier.
Those teachers reflect the overall high standard of Topanga Elementary teachers. Gretchen, for example, grew up in Boston where she graduated from Smith College with a degree in Theater. She had a career in theater and as a professional singer doing backup on commercials.

Changing gears, she got credentialed as a preschool director and relocated to Los Angeles, where she worked as a preschool teacher in Los Feliz. When she began having children of her own, though, she yearned to raise them in a more beautiful environment. "I drove everywhere in the city and when I saw Topanga, my jaw dropped and my heart started pounding." She took a job at Topanga Co-op Preschool 14 years ago and moved her three children here. Later, she received a Resource credential and after teaching severely emotionally disturbed and incarcerated kids in the city, found her way to work as a Resource teacher at Topanga Elementary. "We're very sensitive to special needs," said Gretchen. "Eileen Goodman is supportive. She used to be a special needs teacher herself."

Brooks Walker was born and raised in Topanga, and was a graduate of Topanga Elementary himself. After college, he began to travel, from Australia to Africa, to Europe and on to Central America and the Middle East. "I searched all over the world for a place to live and ended up 100 yards away from where I was born [near mother, Jean]. I live in the best place and have the best wife and baby [Attica, two months old]." He's been teaching at Topanga Elementary for three years, starting as a P.E. teacher and teaching assistant. Keen on the sciences, he has the kids collect water samples and weather information, submitting the information to the Globe website, which according to strict protocols, analyzes the data for the class.

Bonnie Wallace is a California kid who has lived in the Canyon since 1968, and has been teaching at Topanga Elementary since 1989. She began there as a parent and PTO president while she raised her two children. Before her illness she was tireless, not only working at the school but offering invaluable services as a tutor.

Fifth grade teacher Marianne Bordier was also a California kid, growing up in Mar Vista. But, Marianne says, she "always loved Topanga." She began boarding a horse in Topanga when she was 18, and "rode all the trails." After spending a year studying art in Mexico and graduating from Northridge, she and her husband found property in Topanga and built a home here in 1989. In 1992, "the year of the fire," she began teaching fourth grade at Topanga Elementary. She switched from fourth to fifth this year because her son Matt will be a fourth grader. Her daughter went through Topanga Elementary, too, and is now at Malibu High. She's looking forward to the Galef program. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun." Though, she adds, "Their philosophy goes very much according to the philosophy we've been using over the years." Marianne feels the help they'll be getting from the Galef Institute will enrich their program.

THOSE AMAZING PARENTS

Gretchen says the school is not just reliant on its fine teaching staff. "We have amazing parents and that's all there is to it," she enthuses. "The amount of parent talent and support is phenomenalIt's why I love my job." Specifically, she praised hard-working parents like Rick Oginz, Elaine Hansen, Jeanne Vanos, those on the Board and with TEP and the PTO, room parents and all the many who offer their services in the classroom. They teach art and cooking, provide materials for projects, do repairs, build shelves-the list goes on, says Gretchen.

ADDRESSING CONCERNS

Parents were concerned because last year no one was appointed coordinator for the gifted program. Despite that, Gretchen said, teachers still continued to serve gifted children well within the classroom. But she says she speaks for the other teachers when she says, "We're going to make sure it happens this year." Leadership committees were not staffed last year, either, stifling problem-solving. This year, "We will all really make an effort to make sure these committees are filled," said Gretchen.

This year, she says, the teachers are working with administration and parents to foster "free-flowing communication" among all stakeholders, including the community at large. "Communication must be honest, free, respectful and open at all times."



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Woodland Ordinance Update

By Michele Johnson

On Wednesday, September 27, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission will once again take up the question of the Woodland or Protected Tree Ordinance. They could decide to vote on a newly revised ordinance, or they might decide to postpone the vote while they consider alternatives or schedule community meetings, reports Annie Lin, acting senior Regional Planning assistant.

According to Lin, some version of a 40-foot exempt zone around each home and a tiered system of fees will be included in the revision up for the September 27 vote. The changes have not been written into the ordinance yet, Lin said, because the details have not been ironed out. Regional Planning met with Forestry and Fire to discuss the changes during the week of August 20. At issue is what to do about trees planted by builders to replace trees they remove. According to the existing permit process, these replacement trees are meant to stand in perpetuity. Under the new 40-foot rule, should those trees be exempt from the permit process or should the current owner be required to protect them? Another question: should all species of trees be exempt from permitting or should there be exceptions? These questions, says Lin, must still be resolved.

On September 27, along with the newly worded ordinance, the staff will present "suggestions" for the commission to consider, says Lin, "to streamline the ordinance; some alternatives to the current proposal." They could, she said, "perhaps scale it down to pinpoint what are critical areas in the County and focus on those." This would involve taking the ordinance back to the drawing board, using Fish and Game statistics to target the areas most affected. That is one suggestion. There could be others, she said. "We're looking at different options."

If the commission approves the ordinance on September 27, a public hearing would be held before a vote is taken by the Board of Supervisors. People could come and testify and a full public review would take place, Lin said.

Faced with opposition to the ordinance, the County had been planning to discuss the ordinance with community leaders before the commission vote, Zev Yaroslavsky's aide Laura Shell told the Messenger in early August. But at this point, though Shell "talked to some folks in Topanga about the ordinance," no formal discussion with Town Council or TASC (Topanga Association for a Scenic Community) leaders has taken place. But, she insisted, "We will be talking to them before the vote." The Regional Planning staff, said Lin, has no plans to sponsor any community meeting or outreach with leaders before the vote.

 

For current letters on the Proposed Woodland Ordinance, click here

For more about the Proposed Woodland Ordinance, click here


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Citizens Move to Lower Limit

By Tony Morris

Concern about the speed and increasing commuter traffic through the center of town has prompted a group of Topanga businesses to call for a "Safe Zone" with a speed limit of 25 miles-per-hour from School Road to Grandview Drive. Following an August 10 Messenger article summarizing Caltrans' draft report for proposed traffic improvements along the Boulevard, Phyllis Persechini, graphic artist and owner of a web page design firm, joined with Arlette Morgan, proprietor of Café Mimosa, to review the Caltrans proposals. Morgan is especially concerned about proposed traffic improvements as she experienced an 80 percent drop in business during the re-construction of the Boulevard in 1998.

Persechini and Morgan contacted businesses along the Boulevard requesting support for a "call to action" to lower the speed limit through the center of Topanga and improve the safety of the community.

In a letter addressed to Sheik Moinuddin, Senior Transportation Engineer in the Office of Traffic Investigations at Caltrans, 16 owners of businesses, ranging from Topanga Lumber to Country Natural, say that the steady increase in commuter traffic has resulted in increased traffic speed. "Rather than making a thruway out of our Boulevard in the central area, let's treat the Boulevard like the center of town that it is and slow traffic down to 25 mph."

Persechini and Morgan began to circulate a petition throughout Topanga: "It's our Main Street! (not a Freeway!)" Within hours of its appearance, hundreds signed the petition. Copies of the petition will be available for signature at most businesses in town.

 It's our Main Street!
(not a Freeway)


New proposals could destroy our town.

There are State plans afoot to re-regulate Topanga Canyon Boulevard. These plans are already well advanced. They limit turn access into and out of residential and business roads and driveways. Roadside parking in many areas would be eliminated.

The State feels this is necessary, because they want to maintain a high speed limit through heavily populated areas. They appear to consider our main street to be no more than a commuter route.

Topanga is a beautiful small town, with an engaging and unique mixture of family homes, businesses, pedestrian interests and spontaneous activities which occur along the Boulevard. The quality of life will be better improved by respecting public safety through the establishment of a safe zone with a speed limit of 25 mph from the lumberyard to the school road.

A lower speed would create:
oNo need to limit access (turns/parking)
oIncreased pedestrian safety (at last you could take a walk in Topanga)
oA safer environment for our children
oA safer environment for our pets and wild animals
oAn increased sense of community
oLower noise levels.

Immediate action is necessary to implement our plans for community safety rather than their plans for commuter convenience. Please sign the petitions in local businesses and come to the scheduled meetings to help find solutions. A meeting with Caltrans is scheduled for Thursday, October 12.

Meetings to form strategies will be held prior to that date. Call Arlette Morgan at (310) 455-7876 for more info or to find out what you can do to help.


"Slow Down Thru Town"

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Accidents Will Happen

By Penny Taylor

For some people, August 23rd was one of those days when the best reason for crawling out of bed was to crawl under it.

It started early at 4:58 a.m. when a motorcycle heading southbound on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, just beyond the bridge below the s-curves, crossed the yellow line and hit an oncoming car. The driver of the car was uninjured, but the motorcyclist was taken to the hospital to be treated for an injured hip.

At 10:35 a.m. Captain Mike Johnson and Station 69 crew responded to a call on an accident in the 300 north block of Topanga Canyon Boulevard. A vehicle heading southbound on Topanga Canyon Boulevard crashed into a utility pole on the first turn north of Entrada. The impact damaged a piece of relay equipment owned by Verizon Wireless and didn't do wonders for the front end of the vehicle.

Officer Doug Reynolds of the California Highway Patrol said the driver, a Valley resident, sustained only minor injuries, but was transported by ambulance to Kaiser Hospital in Woodland Hills. He quoted the driver of the car as saying he was "just going too fast."

Jump to 7:11 p.m. and the corner by the Post Office on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. A Porsche traveling southbound lost control on the curve and hit a parked car. The Porsche then bounced out into the boulevard and ended up across the street. The car that was hit was pushed into another car, which pushed a parked SUV partially into the street. The owner of the Porsche, another Valley resident, wasn't hurt and the Porsche, which was fairly new, wasn't damaged much. A bystander overheard him speaking on his cell phone to his father, telling him that he'd had another wreck and it was the blue Porsche. Apparently there are more than one in the family.

In all three cases, speed and loss of control were major factors. Could this be why local businesses are trying to get the speed limit reduced in the area between the lumber yard and Old School Road? (see article above.)

And ya' all be careful out there.

PHOTOS BY VIRGIL MIRANO

 

On Friday, August 25, a car became fully engulfed in flames on Entrada and Cañon. Only quick action from the Fire Department kept the conflagration from spreading.

 
 
 

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Mulholland
Pipeline
Delayed

 

By Michele Johnson

Facing stiff opposition, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has agreed to delay a pipeline extension that would have brought water and, opponents contend, massive development to a stretch of Dirt Mulholland. The pipeline, which would run from the Corbin tanks on Dirt Mulholland westward to the end of Dirt Mulholland, has been put on hold until a Focused Environmental Impact Report is prepared. The report will "address issues raised, specifically issues of growth inducement and geologic impacts," read a letter that the DWP's Assistant General Manager Gerald A. Gewe sent to all interested parties on August 15.

The pipeline would have extended to a point 1/2 mile east of Santa Maria Road in Topanga, paving the way for two planned developments very close to Topanga, said Roger Pugliese, head of TASC (Topanga Association for a Scenic Community), who has lobbied hard for the delay. "Everybody sees it as growth-inducing," Pugliese insists. Opponents, he says, include L.A. City Council member Cindy Miscikowski, whose district the line would traverse; Assemblyperson Sheila Kuehl; Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and "various other environmental groups." The delay comes at a meaningful time, said Pugliese, since both the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the American Land Conservancy have expressed interest in buying the land for the public.

TASC is also alarmed by a geological report prepared by Slosson and Associates, Consulting Geologists, who propose that the area has a history of landslides that "can cause slope failures. These can or may also create failure hazards during and after construction of the pipeline." The Negative Declaration Report prepared by DWP also states that the area is "a potential earthquake induced landslide area," but contends "the effect is not considered to be significant."

Pugliese called into question, too, using taxpayer dollars to pay for an extension that would particularly benefit developers. TASC reported in their July newsletter that DWP representatives admitted that they were prompted to build the pipeline by developers who owned land along Dirt Mulholland. In its Negative Declaration report on the project, though, DWP contends the line is needed to correct water pressure problems in the area and to provide a supplementary source of water in case of fire or earthquake.

When the Environmental Impact Report is completed, says Pugliese, "We have to look at the EIR, see what is says, digest it and then dissect it," before deciding the next course of action.

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Wrecks Readied for Removal

By Woody Hastings

 PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER

Volunteers doing the dirty work, preparing car carcasses for removal.

 It was a no-brainer for Nic Paparella and his best friend, Joseph Sloggy, 4th graders a couple of years ago at Topanga Elementary. Of the many civic projects proposed at teacher Ritesh Shah's class, cleaning up Topanga Creek was the one project that survived the process of elimination from a long list of projects proposed in an assignment to "do something for Topanga. . ."

See the current newsstand edition of the Messenger for the full story

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Controlling the Flow on PCH

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has announced Board approval of a $3.2 million contract to P.B. Farradyne, Inc., to develop, design, and implement a state-of-the-art traffic management system of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

"We've needed something like this out here for a long time," Yaroslavsky said. "PCH has long been one of our most beautiful, but most congested, traffic corridors, but we're hopeful that will change with adoption of this plan."

Yaroslavsky said that the advanced system would include traffic signal monitoring, control, and real-time management of traffic information along PCH from the McClure Tunnel to Trancas Canyon Road. It will also include a portion of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and the Ventura Freeway at Las Virgenes Road. Several jurisdictions are involved, including the cities of Los Angeles, Malibu, and Santa Monica, and unincorporated County areas.

Once in place, Yaroslavsky said, the management system should increase mobility, reduce traffic congestion, and enhance air quality.

Financed by a Proposition C half-cent sales tax grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and State Traffic System Management funds from Caltrans, the County Department of Public Works will administer the project as lead agency. Under the contract, P. B. Farradyne, Inc., will provide project management, system design, software development, equipment, installation, inspection, training, and system maintenance.

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Be a Docent

Topanga Canyon Docents lead mid-week interpretive walks for public school children and weekend family walks in the Santa Monica Mountains. They also host visitors to the Nature Center in Topanga State Park on Sunday afternoons.

This non-profit all-volunteer group will be holding their annual fall training classes at Topanga State Park beginning 9:30 a.m. Saturday, September 23 and every other Saturday thereafter. Six all-day sessions are taught by leading experts from area universities and museums on geology, botany, pre-history, mammals, ecology, fire, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians as well as interpretive techniques.

The cost of $40 includes membership in the Docents, all written materials and handouts and introductory walks in the Santa Monica Mountains to acquaint new participants with the local mountains.

For further information, call Beverly Weil at (818) 738-1964.


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Scouting for a Leader

Needed: Daisy Girl Scout co-leader. Are you interested in helping Kindergarten girls build a sense of personal worth, develop an awareness of others and a sense of personal responsibility, learn about and believe in themselves, develop a concept of good citizenship, develop a meaningful set of values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision making and contribute to the improvement of society through the use of their abilities and leadership skills working in cooperation with others?
Come join Troop 43 and have the time of your life. Call Terri (310) 455-2459.

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Fernwood Assault

By Tony Morris

The Lost Hills Sheriff's station reported that guests driving to a party on Friday, August 19, on Vision Drive in Fernwood were threatened at knifepoint.

According to Detective Parker, four male Hispanics, standing in the middle of Fernwood Pacific Drive, blocked two vehicles from proceeding to the Vision Drive address. The driver of a Honda sedan was approached by a suspect who told him that he would have to pay $5 for parking and a $5 cover charge. The driver told the suspect that he knew the host would not charge a cover or parking fee. The suspect threatened to stab him if he did not pay and when the driver refused he was hit in the face and back of the head. The driver then accelerated and left the scene. Waiting behind the Honda the driver of a Jeep, hearing the earlier exchange, was about to drive off when another suspect took out a knife and slashed a tire on the vehicle.

Sheriff's deputies investigating the incident determined that the four suspects may have pulled a gun when they were refused entry to the party earlier that evening. A Bowers Drive resident said that loud music was heard coming from the Vision Drive location all evening and stopped abruptly at 11 p.m. Witnesses described one suspect as 6' 2", 220 pounds and another as 5' 9", 200 pounds. The suspects' vehicle was described as a 1996 black Ford Mustang.

Anyone with information regarding the suspects should call Detective Parker at the Lost Hills Sheriff's office: (818) 878-1808.

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Controlling the Flow on PCH

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has announced Board approval of a $3.2 million contract to P.B. Farradyne, Inc., to develop, design, and implement a state-of-the-art traffic management system of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

"We've needed something like this out here for a long time," Yaroslavsky said. "PCH has long been one of our most beautiful, but most congested, traffic corridors, but we're hopeful that will change with adoption of this plan."

Yaroslavsky said that the advanced system would include traffic signal monitoring, control, and real-time management of traffic information along PCH from the McClure Tunnel to Trancas Canyon Road. It will also include a portion of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and the Ventura Freeway at Las Virgenes Road. Several jurisdictions are involved, including the cities of Los Angeles, Malibu, and Santa Monica, and unincorporated County areas.

Once in place, Yaroslavsky said, the management system should increase mobility, reduce traffic congestion, and enhance air quality.

Financed by a Proposition C half-cent sales tax grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and State Traffic System Management funds from Caltrans, the County Department of Public Works will administer the project as lead agency. Under the contract, P. B. Farradyne, Inc., will provide project management, system design, software development, equipment, installation, inspection, training, and system maintenance.

[top]


Be a Docent

Topanga Canyon Docents lead mid-week interpretive walks for public school children and weekend family walks in the Santa Monica Mountains. They also host visitors to the Nature Center in Topanga State Park on Sunday afternoons.

This non-profit all-volunteer group will be holding their annual fall training classes at Topanga State Park beginning 9:30 a.m. Saturday, September 23 and every other Saturday thereafter. Six all-day sessions are taught by leading experts from area universities and museums on geology, botany, pre-history, mammals, ecology, fire, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians as well as interpretive techniques.

The cost of $40 includes membership in the Docents, all written materials and handouts and introductory walks in the Santa Monica Mountains to acquaint new participants with the local mountains.

For further information, call Beverly Weil at (818) 738-1964.


[top]


Scouting for a Leader

Needed: Daisy Girl Scout co-leader. Are you interested in helping Kindergarten girls build a sense of personal worth, develop an awareness of others and a sense of personal responsibility, learn about and believe in themselves, develop a concept of good citizenship, develop a meaningful set of values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision making and contribute to the improvement of society through the use of their abilities and leadership skills working in cooperation with others?
Come join Troop 43 and have the time of your life. Call Terri (310) 455-2459.

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