As one close friend coined it, a light went out on Sunday, July 26, when longtime Glendale resident Velvet Rhodes, the idiosyncratic founder of the Glendale International Film Festival, died in hospice care after a four-year battle with stage-4 cancer. Rhodes, who was 70, is survived by a brother in Tennessee and a cousin in Arizona. She leaves with her friends and colleagues the memory of a strong-willed woman whose fashion ensemble for the day would often announce her arrival to an event, whose passion for performing arts and her festival were positively radioactive, and who, by numerous accounts, would not take “no” for an answer. “I think really that’s the thing that stood out most about Velvet,” said Elissa Glickman, CEO of Glendale Arts, which operates the Alex Theatre. “At our first meeting, she pitched me an idea and concept that I wasn’t so keen on, but what her project could have brought to the community was so important that she made us believe that our vision could be her vision and it could translate into something really special to our community.”
Donald Rae Daves passed away peacefully at his home in Newbury Park on June 7, 2020, at the age of 89. Don was born December 6, 1930, in Los Angeles and grew up in Pasadena and Glendale. He was an alumnus of USC, a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, president of Trojan Knights and an honoree of the Blue Key Honor Society and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. While at USC, Don was responsible for the expansion of the Troyscope card stunts that took place during televised sporting events, as well as beginning the tradition of the white stallion, later known as “Traveler,” taking the field at football games. Don worked in the entertainment industry, spending 10 years as the unit production manager and director of the television show Bonanza. In 1973, he became the assistant general manager of Goldwyn Studios (later Warner Hollywood Studios) and was there for 24 years. Don is survived by his wife of 63 years, Teri, as well as his daughters Torie and Toni and granddaughters Kathleen and Kimberly, in addition to their spouses and significant others Robert, Brad, Matthew and Sean. Also mourning his loss are his brother Brent, his sisters-in-law Mary, Jeni and Gretchen, brother-in-law Ed, several nieces and nephews, and many dear friends. Don will always be remembered as someone who brought love, humor, fun and adventure into everyone’s lives. His was truly a life well lived.
Mary Freda Lohman Patrick passed away peacefully on Saturday, June 27th, 2020, after a brief stay in the hospital. Mary was born in Los Angeles, CA and raised in Glendale, CA where she attended Fremont Elementary School, Clark Jr. High School and Glendale High School, Class of 1951. After high school she attended the University of Arizona, where she received her degree in Education and was in the Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority. After college she returned to Glendale to start her teaching career at Horace Mann Elementary School, and she also taught at St. Mark’s Day School, Campbell Hall, Crestview Prep, and to raise her family. Mary loved giving back to Glendale, volunteering in many school events, was a 30-year member of National Charity League, and her Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumni Group. She was an avid bridge player where she played 3 days a week at the Arcadia Bridge Center. She was a beautiful needlecraft artist, where she won a Golden Needle award for best in show in 1979 and honorable mention in ’77 and ’78. She owned It’s a Stitch Needlepoint and Knitting store from 1976-86. Mary leaves behind her Sister Sally Herdman (Jeff), Daughters Sara, Meg and Son Michael. Grandchildren Carly and Declan. Nieces Mary Palmer and Cindy Valdes (Vince) and her family. She will be missed, she loved her friends and was loved by many. A celebration of life will be held in the near future.
Facing an increasing coroavirus case rate among its residents, the City Council has tasked the Glendale Police Department with imposing fines against residents and businesses that are flouting the city’s face-mask mandate. First offenders are subject to a $400 fine, with a second offense rising to $1,000 and a third ticket coming out to $2,000. Though Glendale was among the first Los Angeles County cities to impose a mask mandate for those in public, compliance issues have repeatedly been aired to city officials. Continuing spikes in local COVID-19 cases have only added urgency to the issue. “None of us want to do this,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said. “We’re all looking down at a potential other shutdown. I don’t think any of us want another shutdown. Nobody wants us to go under lockdown again, yet if you read the news articles and look at statistics, that’s where we’re headed. So, if it takes a little bit of tough love — and, quite honestly, I’ll trust our law enforcement and the police chief to do whatever they need to do and however they need to do it — then that’s what will be needed.”
It was a cruisin’ good time last Saturday for those who caught “Cruise 2020,” the scaled-down version of Glendale Cruise Night, typically the city’s largest public event of the year. About 125 classic and eclectic vehicles rolled up and down Brand Boulevard as outdoor diners took photos and others strolled. “Everyone wore their masks and people seemed happy to get outside and get some fresh air to enjoy the cars,” said Glendale special events coordinator Patty Betancourt.
The City Council once again extended its protections for residential renters this week, prolonging Glendale’s eviction moratorium and rent freeze till at least Aug. 31 as the nation continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic. In renewing the eviction moratorium, the council on Tuesday also set modified guidelines by which renters must show pandemic-related hardship as a reason for deferring their monthly rent payments. Those tenants must show documentation — such as bank statements or check stubs indicating income loss, bills showing new medical or child-care expenses or a letter from an employer attesting to reduced work — to their landlords on or before the rent due date. Council members certainly seem aware of the precariousness of continuing to kick the can down the road with regard to rent deferment. The majority of city residents are renters, a situation that creates a perfect storm of apartment dwellers — who already had a hard time affording rent — losing their income and mom-and-pop landlords suddenly suffering their own loss of income. “It’s a very sad and very difficult time for tenants especially and landlords also,” Mayor Vrej Agajanian said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Nobody was expecting to see something like this and I don’t see any solution to it in the near future.”
Glendale officials plan to continue researching specific past actions that contributed to a local culture that discriminated against black residents and workers, as part of a long-term reckoning with the city’s former reputation as a sundown town. The pledge comes after administration officials joined in a variety of outreach sessions with local civic and cultural groups to plot a course to promote racial equity in city government and healing from past practices that excluded minorities from the community. The next step of this process will be a panel discussion hosted by the city on Thursday, July 30, titled “Racism: Past and Present.” In preparation, city employees are diving into the city’s history. Meanwhile, the city plans to join a regional coalition that works to promote racial equity practices, but City Council members — at the urging of local residents — pumped the brakes Tuesday on adopting a formal resolution acknowledging the past for now. “Our staff is working on looking through our [past] ordinances at this time and our library staff is working on going through whatever they have in their archives of articles and whatnot and other resources we can go through,” Christine Powers, a senior executive analyst for the city, said at the council’s meeting.
The California Interscholastic Federation released its much-anticipated revised high school athletics calendar for the 2020-21 year, announcing a two-season format scheduled to begin in December. CIF State, the governing body for prep sports in California, announced its schedule for section playoffs and state tournaments on Monday morning. Soon after, the Southern Section, the largest section in the state with 566 member schools, released a calendar that gives student-athletes an opportunity to play “90% to 100%” of a normal season, according to CIF-SS Commissioner Rob Wigod. “The reason for [the two-season format] was to help with the overlap of sports and trying to have some separation between two seasons to allow for dual-sport athletes, for coaches that coach more than one sport and for maximizing the utilization of school facilities,” Wigod said in a press conference on Monday. Fall sports include boys’ and girls’ cross-country, 11- and 8-man football, boys’ and girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ water polo, traditional competitive cheer, gymnastics and field hockey. Boys’ volleyball would officially kick off high school sports on Dec. 12. Week 1 of football is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 8.
Safety Drives School Decision, but Heavy Hearts Follow
Making the decision to start off the upcoming school year with students taking lessons through their computer screens represented a heavy moment for the officials making it.
Nevertheless, for those Glendale Unified School District leaders and likely for many parents, there is some relief in knowing what to plan for as the first day of class approaches on Aug. 19.
“I feel relieved to have clarity,” said Elizabeth Vitanza, whose son attends Franklin Elementary School. “I don’t think there’s a school district in the country that has figured this out. It seems like their response was sensitive to the concerns of some groups of parents and guardians around child care and standardizing the technology used.”
The GUSD Board of Education agreed unanimously this week to start the year with remote learning and to leave open the possibility of creating some sort of hybrid model in the future should public health guidelines allow for direct on-campus instruction. The decision nevertheless drew emotions from school board members who clearly were dreading it.
“Our precious kids, they won’t be able to see their schools on the first day of school,” said board President Armina Gharpetian, who fought tears, “especially our kindergartners who have never been to the school sites, our first-year middle school students and first-year high school students. Some of them, they’ve never been to the schools they’re going to go to. They don’t know what the school looks like.”
Some elementary school students may end up seeing what their school looks like, in a sense. Under a pod system, the district expects to provide child care for certain families by grouping a small group of students in one classroom, spaced out, where they can perform their remote learning work under the supervision and watch of an employee, likely a classified staffer or substitute teacher.
“That’s going to be a big issue,” said Leslie Dickson, a parent of four GUSD kids, on the need for child care. “We have a lot of kids who are fortunate to have a parent who stays home, but obviously we have kids who don’t or don’t have parents who can facilitate instruction.”
I think it’s a really good solution for people who have to go out,” she added. “No one wants this. We all want our kids in schools. I’m a teacher and I know what school is supposed to feel like, and knowing that none of that can happen in any form is really hard. I think GUSD is doing a really good job.”
Vitanza, who herself teaches at a private school in Los Angeles, agreed that the child-care portion will be a key relief for parents and district employees otherwise faced with having to monitor their own kids at home while working. She added that practices adopted in light of the pandemic might continue use with the district, depending on how effective they are.
“I think the situation has changed for a lot of parents who had a job and were laid off or furloughed in the spring,” Vitanza said. “I think they’re probably thinking creatively about that piece and, eventually when we do go back to school, maybe some of that will be retained.”
Still, it’s clear that the school year is going to have a big asterisk next to it. Typical on-campus experiences and events obviously aren’t going to be happening. The California Interscholastic Federation is expected to announce a plan for fall sports at a Monday press conference, after which individual districts have the final authority on which sports they will offer in any given season.
“Believe me,” said board member Greg Krikorian at Tuesday’s meeting. “I love watching CIF tournaments, the Battle of the Bell, cross-country matches, the marching bands — we have the best marching bands in the state — and now this pandemic is shutting them down. But we can’t shut down the educational system.”
“When we say ‘school,’ school is not just academics,” Gharpetian added. “It’s the experiences. It’s making new friends. It’s hanging out with your friends. It’s sharing funny moments, joining clubs, playing sports, learning a musical instrument, creating art, singing in a choir, going to assemblies, going to school dances, having pizza parties with your teachers, participating in classroom competitions and so many other things.
“For me, school is that,” the board president continued, “and unfortunately, we will not be able to provide all these experiences for our kids with 100% remote learning, but we are only doing this for the safety and health of our students, our teachers and our community as a whole. We’re not making this decision lightly.”
Dickson, whose eldest graduated from Crescenta Valley High School in June and has four other children in three GUSD schools, pointed out that other districts, like Burbank, Pasadena and Los Angeles unified school districts, also have gone with fully remote starts to the year.
“All of our neighboring districts are doing the same thing,” she said. “Doing anything different would be really irresponsible.”
Added Vitanza, who has served on the world languages advisory committee and superintendent’s parent advisory committee: “I’m cautiously optimistic that this could be a unifying moment in the history of GUSD. You’re always going to have the anti-mask contingent and others like that, but for those of us who have been invested in GUSD, it really seems like the school board members and Dr. Ekchian are working and acting in good faith.”
School Board Wants ‘100% Focus’ on Distance Learning to Start Year
By unanimous verdict, Glendale Unified School District will start the academic year at 100% remote learning, mirroring neighboring districts that are facing the realities of educating students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The selection was one of three provided to the GUSD Board of Education on Tuesday by Superintendent Vivian Ekchian, who ultimately recommended exactly what the board took up. The board also committed to bringing students back to campus in waves once it feels that the public health guidelines indicate that it’s relatively safe to do so. Ekchian’s recommendation was based on a litany of survey data from families and GUSD employees as well as guidance from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
“I think the fall semester is a better turning point for when things might be different and I think right now we need 100% focus on one area, and that is remote and making it the best semester possible,” said Shant Sahakian, the board’s vice president. “I think we all hope that the school year and spring can end much stronger.”
This week, the Los Angeles, Burbank and Pasadena unified school districts all committed to 100% online models to kick off the school year. GUSD classes are slated to begin Wednesday, Aug. 19.
Much as school board members wished students could return to their schools on a normal schedule, they also acknowledged that simply was not an option right now, particularly as daily new cases of the coronavirus seem to set new records each day.
“Any decision we make, there’s going to be a segment that’s not going to be happy. But at the end of the day, I know from all the years that all of us have been in this community, the last thing we’d ever want is for something to happen to one of our kids,” said board member Greg Krikorian, who noted he “couldn’t be more supportive” of the remote decision. “I’m not personally willing to take the chance on a child or teacher’s life.”
Echoed board President Armina Gharpetian: “I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I knew somebody’s health is at risk because of our decision.”
Meanwhile, the district will continue to make available its free breakfasts and lunches to all children residing within the district, as it began doing in March when it, like virtually every other district in the state, closed its doors as reality dawned with respect to the pandemic. When the school year kicks off, the district plans to offer on-campus child care to families who need it. Small groups of students in child care would tentatively be assigned to a “pod” that has a dedicated classroom each day where kids can space out and do their remote learning.
This service would likely be offered strictly to elementary school students and would prioritize children who receive free or reduced-price lunch, children of essential workers and children of district employees. Ekchian said the district would make a final decision based on how many families express a need for child care and go from there. Classified employees and substitute teachers would likely be brought in to monitor these pods.
“Ultimately, our capacity has to be supplemented with family and community support, whether it’s for child care or nutrition services for medical care or employer flexibility,” the superintendent said Tuesday. “We have to be able to support our parents to reinforce the needs and guidelines around physical distancing, to ensure that children are engaged with e-learning and to make sure that parents are able to keep their sick children at home.”
Board members emphasized the need to ramp up what the remote teaching system was like in the spring and stressed that equity should be a priority among the district’s 26,000 students.
“The fact is that teaching remotely, no matter how vibrant it’s going to be, it is not the same as in-person,” said board Clerk Nayiri Nahabedian. “It’s a social justice issue, to be able to do right by our more vulnerable populations.”
Constant communication with stakeholders, the board and superintendent contended, will be key to future decisions as well.
“I know we have been working over the last several years to really increase engagement, really make sure that we are hearing from folks and that we are really taking that into account,” said board member Jennifer Freemon. “All of that has come together and up here on the dais, we have a really good pulse on where our entire GUSD community is, which helps us understand what can be done.”
As COVID-19 continues to surge — with Los Angeles County on Thursday registering its biggest single-day total of new cases, 4,592 — Glendale officials are urging residents to remain resilient and follow safety protocols, including wearing face coverings in public and staying home if possible. The city is also entreating residents to maintain social distancing and limit physical contact to family members with whom they live — what the Glendale Fire Department has dubbed “keeping it family style,” said Chief Silvio Lanzas. “If you’re going to be out in public, you should wear a face covering,” he said, emphasizing that those who are outside but not around anyone — jogging early in the morning, for example — should have a face covering with them and be ready to put it on should they cross paths with another person. “We are really trying to focus efforts on the educational piece — when our team is out in the community we constantly remind people to put their mask on and to wear it properly, put it up over the nose,” Lanzas said. Though Lanzas said he is aware there is some resistance among community residents to wearing masks, officials are trying hard to praise those who are doing a good job of following safety protocols to curb the spread of the coronavirus.