Thanks to generous donations during the 2019-20 school year, the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation — with a boost of $380,000 from its endowment fund — will contribute more than $2.3 million to the La Cañada Unified School District this fall. That’s the Power of Community, and it’s a ray of inspiration in an otherwise gloomy fiscal and emotionally taxing year. As LCF students return to learning, LCFEF remains dedicated to preserving the high-quality education this community expects. This is a resilient community; during the 2008 recession and over these past few months, increased donations poured in to support local schools. Because of your generosity and support, the school district can continue to strive even if faced with uncertain state and federal funding over the next few years. The value of an exceptional public school education is critically apparent now. Students’ learning experiences may look different, but that doesn’t make them less rigorous than what this community has grown used to. The foundation needs support regardless of when students eventually return to campuses, or if they learn solely via distance or in a hybrid model.
Citing the “enormous impact” Michele Kipke’s research work has had for more than three decades, USC recently bestowed its prestigious Associates Award for Creativity in Research and Scholarship on the local leader. Kipke, a La Cañada Flintridge native and La Cañada High School graduate who is serving this year as president of the South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education, said in an interview that it was “an incredible honor” to receive the award. She is a professor of pediatrics and preventative medicine at Keck School of Medicine and also serves as vice chair of research with the pediatrics department at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “Part of what’s very special about that is being recognized by your peers that you’re really making a difference and that your work is impactful and significant and is changing the field, whatever that is,” Kipke said. “As a researcher, you really want to know your work is making a difference. I definitely want to know that my work is making a difference in the lives of children and families.”
Local resident David F. D’Orazi has published his new book, “The In-Between Artist: The Story of Tony D’Orazi,” a candid reflection on his father’s life drawn from journals and scrapbooks dating from the early 1920s. He will be signing his books and answering questions at Flintridge Bookstore on Saturday, Aug. 29, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (All COVID-19 precautions will be observed; the event will be outside.) The successes and struggles of 20th century artist Tony D’Orazi are detailed, from his early years as a child prodigy in Missoula, Montana, to his ascension into an award-winning artist by way of New York City and Chicago. He also worked for Disney and ultimately became the radio and television personality known as Uncle Tony O’Dare, “the first cartoonist of the air.”
For many local residents, working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic involves spending a lot more time with pets. The health crisis has had a far more complicated effect on the local animal shelter. At the start of the pandemic, Pasadena Humane decided to move toward appointment-based services and close its kennels to the public. The nonprofit put out an urgent call for foster volunteers and quickly placed the majority of the shelter’s dogs, cats and small critters into temporary homes. With all of its pets in foster care, the shelter then launched an online adoption process through the group’s website. As of July, more than 500 pets have been adopted. As the pandemic continues to affect daily life, the shelter is shifting to meet the needs of animals and the community. It has launched a new Animal Resource Center and expanded its Pet Food Bank with the goal of providing guardians with resources to prevent pet surrender. It also has moved training sessions, kids’ activities and community programming entirely online. The global pandemic forced Pasadena Humane to pivot its operations to find innovative ways to serve people and pets. For information about the organization, visit pasadenahumane.org.
The La Cañada Flintridge City Council is taking action in assisting businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing a gift card program that would encourage the public to spend locally. Lisa Brancheau, senior management analyst, presented the idea in a virtual meeting on Tuesday, and the council unanimously approved a motion to allow City Manager Mark Alexander to run a pilot program that will cost up to $15,000. Mayor Mike Davitt and Councilwoman Terry Walker abstained from the conversation and vote because of their stakes in local businesses. The program will allow people to purchase gift cards at a discounted rate and use them at participating businesses. Staff considered options that included a collaboration with Citizens Business Bank in which it would sell gift cards that function as a debit card. The idea of selling them through City Hall was also explored. However, the discussion between Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Curtis and members Keith Eich and Richard Gunter favored a digital approach because it would present fewer challenges. Brancheau said other cities have successfully implemented similar programs through Giftbar and Yiftee, and the online platforms make it easier to conduct research and track data. The city would use the agreed-upon $15,000 to pay for any fees incurred on merchants.
Though the coronavirus pandemic has largely crippled in-person educational systems across the state, the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine opened its doors recently for the first time in Pasadena, immersing its inaugural class of 50 students in a hybrid learning model. A La Cañada Flintridge resident, Dr. Mark Schuster, is leading the charge at the highly anticipated school, which is offering free tuition for all four years of instruction to its first five classes. The school had to quickly — and creatively — revamp operations in the final steps to opening amid COVID-19. “We will have a hybrid model of in-person learning and virtual platforms; we looked at every component of the curriculum and decided what made the most sense for that specific topic,” said Schuster, the school’s founding dean and CEO. “We considered the full range of possibilities, and we are prepared to go fully virtual if we need to, but for now we are able to make it work with the hybrid model, and we think that’s going well.” The school is also in the unusual position of opening its state-of-the-art, 80,000-square-foot, four-story building to just 50 students in its first year, though it will eventually house 200-plus. That left the administration with endless possibilities of creating small-group classes, Schuster noted.
Los Angeles County public health officials are “cautiously optimistic” that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing, though they also indicated that delays in reporting are contributing to an underestimated count. Because of the technology issues causing the delays, La Cañada Flintridge’s case count of 129, reported on Wednesday, was potentially an undercount. There were also six deaths reported. According to the number of confirmed cases that have been reported, new LCF infections have been keeping fairly steady for some time; the case total was reported at 118 through the end of July 27, while 107 cases were reported through July 20. The largest weekly increase in July was registered from July 13 to July 20, at 14 new cases within the week. “I, like so many, do want this to come to some type of resolve,” Mayor Mike Davitt said in an email. “We continue to work with our county and state leaders to find ways to allow business and field [usage] to reopen in a safe and prudent manner.” Davitt also said that LCF’s leaders are considering options for programs that “could be helpful to our business in town as well as our residents.”
Service-oriented nonprofit organizations are known for their high-energy schedules, but leading one like the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge during a global pandemic has proved to be an adventure of its own for recently named Executive Director Ethan Stern. Soon after beginning his duties in March, Stern was required — under a statewide directive from Gov. Gavin Newsom — to close the Community Center’s doors due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. He sent an email to nearly 6,000 people who had been enrolled at the center, explaining the closure and offering refunds of payments for classes. “We were issuing so many refunds,” Stern said. “When you’re a director and you’re watching that revenue go back out there, it’s scary. It’s disheartening. You know that your programs give so much to the community and people value them.” The center also offered the option of donating program tuition instead of receiving a refund. Happily, he said, the CCLCF ended up receiving the same amount of money in donations as it refunded.
The La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce will hold a Virtual Community Backyard BBQ on Thursday evening, Aug. 13, to recognize, honor and raise money for the 2020 Miss LCF and Royal Court scholarship. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. The Royal Court comprises five high school students who are selected from the community each year to serve as official representatives of the city of La Cañada Flintridge and the Chamber of Commerce. Each year those selected, through a vigorous interview process, participate in publicity photos, promotional events, and assist in fundraising activities throughout the year. Their fundraising efforts support the Royal Court scholarship fund. The Royal Court also fully participates at various civic functions, including ribbon-cutting ceremonies, chamber mixers, Fiesta Days Memorial Day Weekend celebrations, and miscellaneous chamber-sponsored events.
State Sen. Anthony Portantino’s SB 1299 passed the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee last week with bipartisan support. The bill previously passed the Senate unanimously. Portantino has long supported incentive-based legislation and SB 1299 is consistent with that approach, according to a spokesman. The Los Angeles County Business Federation suggested the bill idea to the senator earlier in the year to help address L.A. County’s housing shortage. According to a Portantino spokesman, SB 1299 will create a program for cities to convert abandoned big-box retail sites into affordable and workforce housing. Under Portantino’s bill, local governments will be able to use these incentives to replace sales tax revenues previously generated from big-box retail stores. Specifically, SB 1299 will enable local cities to receive from HCD the average of the annual amount of sales tax revenue generated by that site for the last seven years if the site has been converted and occupied with new housing. The city would receive that average amount for a total of seven years.