La Cañada Unified School District has identified Ellen and Anthony Portantino as two of the district’s “most valuable resources,” and for that, awarded them the annual Golden Apple Award. It’s one of the Association of California School Administrators’ highest honors.
“We were both very thrilled and very excited to get word from [Superintendent Wendy Sinnette] about it,” Ellen Portantino said. “We really feel like it’s an incredible honor, especially in a community like ours, where there are so many parents and supporters who do so much.”
Anthony Portantino, a former La Cañada Flintridge mayor and state Assemblyman who recently began his first term as a member of the state Senate, has long served the district in a variety of ways as he and Ellen’s daughters, Sofia and Bella, have attended LCUSD schools.
He was part of the Joint Use Committee that allows the city and school district to combine efforts and he worked in support of the Measure LC Parcel Tax Committee. He served on the Child Care Round Table Committee, the LCHS 7/8 Home Tour Committee and has been an emcee for the La Cañada PTA Halloween Haunt for nearly 20 years. And he’s currently a member of the Music Parents Association, the Choral Parents Association and the Spartan Boosters.
In what Ellen deemed a highlight of Anthony’s district-related efforts, he also worked closely with the PTA to spearhead traffic and carline improvements at each of the district’s four campuses, including negotiating with the city of Pasadena to allow drivers dropping off students at La Cañada High School to utilize Hahamongna Park.
“It’s not a complete solve, but it really mitigated a lot of issues at the junior high and high school, because it’s one more place to go,” said Ellen, who sees the result of her husband’s effort every day when she drops off Bella.
Anthony’s response to the honor was to give credit to his wife: “We’re thrilled and excited,” he said, adding that he “has ridden [Ellen’s] coattails to the award.”
He’s referring to her long history of PTA volunteerism with the district: She’s worked her way through three campuses, starting with LCE and graduating to LCHS 7/8 and LCHS. Within the PTA, she’s been vice president of ways and means, vice president of membership, and she’s been historian and parliamentarian.
Ellen has also helped organize hundreds of volunteers as part of the Home Tour committee and partnered with LCHS 7/8 Principal Jarrett Gold to achieve 100% PTA membership among families and teachers.
“Dr. Gold really worked to do that and the teachers all rallied, and it was awesome,” said Ellen, who is the director of global-themed entertainment at Warner Bros. Consumer Products. “It’s hard to do, and it’s not that teachers don’t appreciate the PTA, but they’re busy. So that’s one of my highlights.”
Anthony and Ellen will be honored alongside recipients from 10 other local school districts on Feb. 22 at the Region XV-ACSA Golden Apple Awards breakfast at the Westfield Arcadia Santa Anita Mall.
“Individually and as a team, Ellen and Anthony are two of La Cañada Unified School District’s most valuable resources,” Sinnette said in a statement, adding that both “are dedicated working professionals who put family values at the center of all they do.”
The appreciation is mutual, Ellen said.
“I tell anyone and everyone, it is just the most special community to be in,” she said. “And it’s the quality of the school district, including every teacher and every staff member, from the principal to the fantastic custodians that I have worked with over the years … everyone takes an incredible pride in the school district and supports the kids. I can’t imagine any other school district having the same sense of community and support that we do.”