‘Shields’ of dreams

Fran Shields reflects on her 42-year career with the city of Whittier beside one of her proudest achievements, the 2010 Whittier Police Memorial on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015

Fran Shields reflects on her 42-year career with the city of Whittier beside one of her proudest achievements, the 2010 Whittier Police Memorial on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015

‘Hand it to Fran’ set to retire on Dec. 4
By Tim Traeger
WHITTIER – Put a starving kid in a candy shop and you have a hint about the career of Fran Shields. They say if one loves what they do, they never work a day in their life. So after 42 years with the city of Whittier, on Dec. 4, 2015, Frances Leone Moretta Shields will retire with zero hours on the books.
Because she’s loved every minute.
Her Italian-borne exuberance as director of parks, recreation and community service has fostered a plethora of too many things that make Whittier a wonderful place to live. Many of the statues and monuments to arts and culture come as a direct result of her passion. So do the multitude of programs that make the some $13 million department she’s ran since 2010 come to life.
When Whittier residents take their dogs to their very own dog park, Fran is there. When they walk or bike the Greenway Trail, Fran is there. When seniors get a nutritious meal every day, Fran is there. When your child goes swimming in a city pool, Fran is there. When the police honor a monument to their lost heroes, Fran is there. When thousands of people come together as a community 12 times a year to hear concerts in the parks, Fran is there.
You might say, Fran has left her legacy everywhere.
Shields was born here 61 years ago and never left. At a lofty 4-foot-nothing, the beloved dynamo said why go anywhere else?
“It’s about quality of life. I’m not just saying that because it’s the stock answer. It IS about the quality of life. It is about what Whittier is in creating that sense of community and making sure people have things to do that are fun and to expand their knowledge.
“The families that come out to the concert series, it’s the best thing we do. We get 3,000 to 4,000 people coming out for one night. And it’s the whole family, grandma and grandpa and the kids. And we’re bringing them together, we’re helping that family unit do something together,” Shields said from her spartan yet smartly decorated office at City Hall.
The Sierra High School grad (before it became a ‘continuation school’) began her career at the city as a police dispatcher in 1975, “her dream job.” She met her husband, Mike, who was working in the city’s fire department, and the union produced two boys, Sean and Brian, and five grandchildren. Titles held along her illustrious career include secretary in recreation, office services supervisor, management assistant, community services manager, director of community services and director of parks, recreation and community services, the longest title held by any city employee.
In 2000 she returned to academia and earned her bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of La Verne.
People don’t want to see her go. She has a fervent hand in many Whittier institutions including the Whittier Cultural Arts Commission, “Activate Whittier” and the Whittier Community Foundation, which has raised more than $400,000 for programs in Quakertown, including the Police Memorial of 2010.
“It was one of the biggest highlights of my career,” she said.
Aside from presiding over the city’s 22 parks, two senior centers, 54 full-time employees, 200 part-time workers and 100 volunteers, Shields has served as president of the Whittier Police Officers Association and spearheaded the Art in Public Places initiative, which was paid for with a half-percent tax placed on any development worth more than $250,000.
“The arts are really special to me. When I started working with the Cultural Arts Commission, it was like opening a new world to me. The Art in Public Places program, we have 14 pieces, all came under my watch,” Shields said.
Fran is an enigma in a world frustrated by governmental bureaucracy. And her humble smile is endearing. She said a tight-knit community like Whittier is unique because it cares about its people.
“And that’s it. They talk about traditions. They’re family values, they’re supporting each other. That’s what it’s all about.”
In retirement Shields said she will continue her penchant for stitching and crafting. She’s also held a longstanding love of dancing. She proudly pointed to a simulated disco ball trophy she earned in 2014 while participating in the Soroptimist Club’s “Dancing With The Whittier Stars” gala.
Fran is afraid of flying, so she and Mike will place a great strain on their motorhome in the years ahead. She said her dream is to take time off from everything and traverse this great nation.
On Thursday the Whittier Host Lions Club honored Shields for her service at Parnell Park, another one of her favorite recreational haunts and home to Whittier’s only petting zoo. Over the years Shields has helped the service club do great things in bolstering Whittier’s quality of life.
Past Lions Club president and former state sen. Frank Hill said the club got a kick out of ribbing the parks director for what may be the last time.
“You’ve got to hand it to Fran. Because Fran is so short you have to hand everything to her,” Hill said. “Whittier is a great place not because of the great schools, because we have great schools, or the great neighborhoods, because we have great neighborhoods. It’s because of the people. And no one is more special to Whittier than Fran. She retired after 42 years, but it was never a job to her. It was all about her passion and commitment to the city.”
White-Emerson protégé Paul White then presented Shields with a bouquet, assuring her they were NOT stolen from the longtime Whittier mortuary.
Fellow roaster and Lions Club past president Eric Day told Fran to grab a seat up front. “Let your legs dangle, they won’t hit the floor.”
What was the worst thing about her 42-year tenure?
A teary-eyed Shields simply said:

Tim Traeger is executive director of the Whittier Historical Society and former editor of the Whittier Daily News.

For rent: Whittier’s Special Activites Building

WHITTIER – Rental space is currently available at the City of Whittier’s Special Activities Building, 7702 Washington Ave.

The Special Activities Building was constructed in 1976 to provide reasonably-priced office space for local non-profit social services agencies, and has housed such groups as Meals on Wheels, the Intercommunity Blind Center and the Intercommunity Counseling Center.

The current vacant area in the building is on the first level and is about 2,800 square feet. The current rent is 59 cents per square foot, or $1,652 per month. The office space is available in whole or in part, and any modifications to the space must be approved by the city and the costs borne by the lease holder.

To apply for renting the Special Activities Building space nonprofit organizations must meet the following criteria: have current 501(c)3 non-profit status; have a majority of members or serve a majority of recipients who are city of Whittier residents; and have a mission or services that would not violate the federal or state constitutional prohibition on establishments of religion or providing public funds or support to sectarian organizations or purposes.

The deadline to apply for consideration to rent the space is Friday, Dec. 4, 2015 and must include the following information: A letter of interest; Mission Statement; explanation of how the facility will be utilized; a list of the Board of Directors of the organization; the current operating budget; and proof of non-profit status.

Anyone wishing to view the available space during regular business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday may make an appointment with Dan Walker, Community Services Supervisor, at 562-567-9430.

Applicants will be reviewed by the Whittier Social Services Commission, which will make a recommendation to the City Council for the rental of the space.

For more information, potential applicants may contact Fran Shields, Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, at 562-567-9400.


A solution for our parks problem?

Erv Ulbrich

By Erv Ulbrich

When I moved here 50-plus years ago, Whittier was building out as a bedroom community serving the industrial enterprises all over Los Angeles and Orange counties.

It had some parks, lots of trees, and many ranch houses. The CCNRs where I bought a house in Mar Vista Heights specified ranch houses only. As time went on, there were some parks added, most notably Palm Park, Leffingwell Park and Hellman Park. Many of the parks were improved, especially Parnell Park.

The population, however, expanded rapidly from about 60.000 to 100,000 people, and today, many of the parks can be seen to be quite crowded. On a holiday, Michigan Park has so many cars that they overflow into the local neighborhoods. A parking limitation has been set up for Hellman Park, etc.

In the longer run, there is not much room in Whittier for more parks and some of the new construction of three-story townhouses even has been relieved of the requirement to put up money for more parks because there is no local land. This is obviously one of the sticking points in the ongoing Nelles negotiations where the most recent plan is for more or less 10 residences per acre with no real parks for soccer or tennis or picnics.

As luck would have it, in the early 1990’s various oil fields next to the city became available and were purchased by the city using county park funds known as Proposition A funds. A committee was organized by the Parks Department in 1993 to figure out how to manage the park.

Quite a few thousand acres were ultimately involved, and the committee came up with a management plan for the park’s use by hikers, horses (not overnight), and mountain bikes. Some moneys became available and the Park, renamed a Preserve, started to operate. In about 2007, it was decided by the city to lease some of the park to an oil company for a proposed 60 oil wells.

This set off a fracas among the citizens and resulted in several lawsuits that ultimately resulted in preventing the oil drilling in perpetuity. Meanwhile, the Puente Hills Landfill closed which impacted the operation of the Preserve. It is hard is get the latest data but as many as 300,000 people a year are reportedly using some part of the Preserve for recreation. It is convenient to approximately 500,000 people.

As things have come out in the last few years, the move by OPEC to manipulate the oil market intended to drive out the frackers and retain OPEC’s market share is working and they say they will continue it for eight more years. Earlier estimates are that the oil wells in the Preserve would have been in tertiary production producing oil at $70 per barrel in the face of the current market prices of $45 per barrel.

The royalty-based deal that the city had with the driller would have been worthless and the driller besides would have had to invest big money in the wells.

So it would seem that the solution to the problem of too few parks is at hand: use some or all of the Preserve for a city of Whittier or L.A. County park. In some more distant time, the Preserve could become part of the slowly happening San Gabriel Mountain National Forest / Monument / Park.

But for now, there is a need for more recreational areas for Whittier. These areas need not interfere very much with the wildlife in the Preserve who think nothing of leaving the Preserve. Deer, raccoons and coyotes are seen all over Whittier already.

There are seven gates to the Preserve and a sensible place to start would be those gates that have an area internal to the Preserve that offers parking that will not bother neighbors. Hellman Park is probably a candidate. Another one is the top of Turnbull Canyon Road where at one time a cemetery was planned. Probably the most developed is the entrance at the Catalina Gate where the oil trucks were to go.

There is a good space there for picnics and access under Colima to the Preserve east of Colima. Another place that might work is the Savage Canyon which is currently the dump but which someday will be full.

In general, access is better on the Whittier side than on the Hacienda Heights side but many of the streets that end at the Preserve cannot support parking inside the Preserve. At one time, the oil field roads were to be converted to trails but the old roads were kept in consideration of oil drilling. Now they might be considered to be like the roads in Griffith Park which are getting an international reputation.

When the original committee was done with the management plan, we were all allowed to take our cars onto the existing roads in the Preserve for one afternoon. Some of these were quite steep and dangerous requiring good redesign for park use.
In the long run, those areas near a well-designed system of parks should greatly build up the real estate values in the neighborhoods nearby just as the Los Feliz area has been built up by Griffith Park.

Careful design must be done to avoid some of the problems of traffic in Griffith Park like Christmas light shows, miniature railroads, the planetarium, the zoo, etc..
If the park is to be useful, there must be shade especially as global warming continues.

This indicates trees and in the original plans these trees would have been Valley Oaks and California Sycamores. As the ambient temperatures rise, other trees may have to be considered. One that is naturally thriving is the Modesto Ash. Areas of sagebrush might be nice.

There must be some form of irrigation for the trees but gray water may be a solution. Obviously there will need to be labor from the Park Department, perhaps not for the expert grooming that they do to the current parks. In addition, fire protection for the city should be paramount.

I was here the last time it burned and it was scary. The adobe, hot water deposits and rocks underlying areas of the park may also offer problems.

So, what should be done? The existing city management has not done much for the last 20 years when they were handed a management plan by the citizen’s committee. The current parks budget is probably quite limited. It would seem reasonable for another citizen’s committee to re-examine the problem.

Is there really a need? Is there really too little parking? Where should we start? Who should own the park, the city or the county? What should be the interface to the Preserve? How long will the park be open each day? How will it be patrolled? Will Hacienda Heights and other involved cities have a say? What will we name the park? Will other parks follow?

We cannot move on all the possibilities, however, there may be enough money in the city budget to start one park. Maybe some developer could be the source of some funds as part of a future development. ($5 million was excused as I remember for the Gables development.)

Perhaps the county parks department could suggest a county park as nice as the one in La Mirada (but no golf course). The best part of our situation is that the land is already purchased by the city using county funds.

The future of Whittier is at stake. Will it be a bedroom town with trees and parks and space or will we allow apartment buildings like the Mosaic Gardens to be built right to the sidewalk in the manner of Hong Kong. Will we line the streets with three-story townhouses that are 20 percent stairs in the name of getting 100 people to live on one acre so as to maximize rent?

If the city and the county will not move, maybe it is time for the citizens to organize the effort and then get some management who can get the job done.

If anybody would like to talk more about this, I am available most of the time at 562-696-4886 or eulbrich2@verizon.net. I have enjoyed parks since 1937 starting in the local parks and then the Forest Preserves surrounding Chicago.

I have used the city parks here almost daily since 1963 and I have seen them get more crowded. I am a member of the Audubon Society, the Arbor Day Society, the California State Park Association, the National Park Association, and sometimes the Whittier Conservancy (for parks more than keeping old houses).

I could pursue the suggested committee but my age and health indicate that a younger person will have a better chance to get things done. I read that there are now 75 million people in the millennial generation; maybe they could do it.

The first citizen’s committee was managed by the Whittier Parks Department. They should be interested because most in places that is part of their job description. Their success on the Greenway Trail should point the way.

Irv Ulbrich is a 50-plus-year resident of Whittier and a founding member of Whittier Hills Oil Watch.


‘Bordertown’ coming to our town

New TV series fetes skills by Alcaraz, MacFarlane

By VMA Communications

WHITTIER – Celebrated syndicated cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz will present a talk and advance screening of his new animated TV series, “Bordertown,” at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 as Rio Hondo College continues its first-ever Fall Lecture Series.

Alcaraz, author of the nationally syndicated “La Cucaracha” comic strip and a well-known satirist on immigration issues, is a consulting producer and writer for the series, which is executive produced by “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane. The series follows the lives of two neighbors – an immigrant and a border patrol agent – living along the U.S.-Mexico border in the fictitious state of Mexifornia.

It will air on Fox starting in January 2016. In addition to the screening, Alcaraz will provide commentary about the program before what is expected to be a full house at the College’s Wray Theater, 3600 Workman Hill Road, Whittier. The presentation is the second of three in the College’s first Fall Lecture Series, a multi-disciplinary effort that features writers, artists and activists known nationally for their talent and focus on human rights.

The series launched Sept. 23 with renowned sculptor Mario Chiodo, whose works have been praised for their focus on social issues and display of deep human character and emotion. It concludes Thursday, Nov. 5 with LGBT rights scholar and activist Dr. Ronnie Sanlo.

“We wanted to provide authentic learning opportunities for our students that would inspire their social consciousness while providing a real-world perspective to the topics they are studying in their courses,” said Dr. Robert Holcomb, Ph.D., Rio Hondo’s Dean of Communications & Languages.

The lecture series was Holcomb’s inspiration, tying together programs from his division with thematically similar events planned by colleagues at the Division of Arts and Cultural Programs and the Office of Student Life and Leadership. Each speaker is known not only for possessing a unique voice, but for using his or her talents to promote social justice – a concept integrally linked with Rio Hondo College’s dedication to providing access to higher-education opportunities for all members of its community, especially those that are under-represented.

Sanlo, for example, will screen the 2014 documentary, “Letter to Anita,” which relates the impact of her decision to come out as a lesbian during Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign in the 1970s. Sanlo will comment on the documentary and join a post-screening discussion. Director Andrea Meyerson will also attend.

“Talks by figures such as Mr. Chiodo, Mr. Alcaraz and Dr. Sanlo enrich our learning environment and generate a meaningful dialogue among our campus community,” said Rio Hondo College Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “Their focus on social justice will help deepen and underscore the learning that goes on our Rio Hondo College classrooms.”

Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro said the speakers selected represent more than a cross-section of the Southern California arts community.

“These individuals are all highly relevant to our student body – their work has a well-observed impact in our communities. Speakers of this stature send a message of high expectations and cultural relevance to our students,” Shapiro said.

Rio Hondo earns $2.6 million grant for Hispanic, low-income students

From staff reports
WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College will receive $2.62 million in federal funds to help Hispanic and low-income students prepare for the rigor of college courses, identify education goals and map achievable programs of study in order to shorten their time to completion, the college announced on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015.

The award is one of about 87 five-year Title V grants of up to $2.63 million each for individual institutions and up to $3.25 million each for cooperative arrangements awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to colleges and universities at which enrollment is at least 25 percent Hispanic.

At Rio Hondo, 70 percent of students are Hispanic.

“This generous grant will allow us to develop important new resources to significantly improve Rio Hondo College’s already highly successful model for ensuring student success,” said Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “I’m excited to see the difference we will make in the lives of these students thanks to the innovative ideas our team has developed.”

Rio Hondo has received several of the five-year grants for Title V, Hispanic-serving institutions. The most recent grant, which spanned 2010 to 2015, helped the college create its popular Summer Bridge program, which eases the student transition from high school to college. The new grant will fund The Avance Project, aimed at expanding Rio Hondo College’s capacity for fostering student success by establishing a yearlong integrated and connected success pathway for first-year students to persist into their second year.

Avance is Spanish for advance.

“Our goal is to create a continuum of integrated academic and student service supports for our first-year students,” said Barbara Salazar, Interim Assistant Dean and Title V Grant Project Director for Rio Hondo College’s Office of Student Success & Retention. “We have learned that strong guidance during the students’ first year is critical to ensuring they get the most out of their college experience.”

Avance’s components include a summer math academy, a guaranteed first-year schedule, a seminar course so students can explore discipline-based career paths and focus on a continued program of study, and regular tutoring, counseling and coaching.

In addition, Rio Hondo College will celebrate and support Avance students through a first-year seminar conference, where they can learn more about different college disciplines, hear both student and professional presentations, and present their own field-related research inspired by the first-year seminar course.

The grant will fund training for faculty and staff for the first-year seminar course and ensure they are attuned to the California Standards instructional approaches being used at local high schools.

“Our new array of expanded student services underscores our commitment to pursuing every avenue to ensure our students will be successful when they leave Rio Hondo College, whether they choose to attend a four-year university or tackle a career in today’s highly competitive job market,” Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro said.

Avance will run from Oct. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2020, serving 200 students in its initial year and adding 100 students annually until participation peaks at 600 students in its final year.

The ‘real’ Watergate scandal

From staff reports
In a mostly unknown side of Watergate, former Whittier College alumnus Geoff Shepard (’66) will present a case against President Richard Nixon’s prosecutors through his recently published book, “The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy and the Plot that Brought Nixon Down” at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 in the Wardman Library at Whittier College. A reception is slated at 5:30 p.m.

Geoff Shepard will rebuke prosecutors in the Nixon Watergate scandal at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 at the Wardman Library at Whittier College.

Shepard was one of the transcribers of the White House tapes that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

More than four decades have passed since Watergate, one of the greatest presidential scandals in American politics, which continues to cause great debate and discussion. Richard M. Nixon ’34 resigned from his post as president of the United States, becoming the only presidential resignation in our nation’s history. But does the American public know what happened behind the scenes?

“My book focuses on the judicial and prosecutorial abuse in the Watergate trials and unearths astounding elements of collusion between the trial judge and the special prosecutors,” said Shepard, who served as the principal deputy to the president’s lead defense lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt.
Shepard said he has uncovered evidence behind a comprehensive plan to remove the 37th president from office. Shepard shares in his second book about the Nixon administration his findings from his research.
“Going through 200 to 300 memos from the prosecution was like going through the playbook of the opposing team’s coach for the championship my team lost,” Shepard said.
Shepard’s career had an explosive growth in a short amount of time. A standout undergraduate, he earned a scholarship to attend Harvard Law which catapulted him to the Nixon White House as a White House Fellow in 1969. He was assigned to the Treasury Department and following his fellowship year, Shepard joined the Domestic Council staff at the White House, where he served for five years.
Shepard, who later on had a 35-year career in the insurance industry, shares several parallels of his life with President Nixon besides working at the White House and having the same alma mater.
As a first-year student, the Santa Barbara native took the required English course taught by long-time Professor Albert Upton. Upton’s teachings, based on his ground-breaking book, “Design for Thinking,” transformed generations of students’ way of analyzing, classifying, and communicating, including Shepard’s.
“As one of the youngest lawyers working in the White House, I wrote many memos on policy issues for the Domestic Council,” Shepard said. “President Nixon liked my approach and I suspect he could perceive Upton’s influence in them, since he also had Upton as his professor at Whittier way back in the 1930s.”
Shepard was a political science major and always knew he wanted to become a lawyer. He later became the first recipient of the Nixon Scholarship.
“I attended the student scholarship luncheon put on by the Republican Women’s Club of Whittier and Richard Nixon sat next to me,” said Shepard. “I wasn’t expecting him to be there.”
At this point, Nixon had been vice president of the United States, ran unsuccessfully for governor of California, and had dropped out of politics and relocated to New York to practice law.
“In his luncheon speech, Nixon compared the student government issues in his own campaign as student body president, with those of my own,” Shepard said. “I was very impressed.”
Young Shepard must’ve made quite the impression on Nixon because he later found out that the former vice president had doubled the amount of his scholarship.
Since 2010, Shepard has helped produce a series of Nixon Legacy Forums focusing on President Nixon’s various public policy initiatives. The forums are co-sponsored by the Richard Nixon Foundation and the National Archives, and have been broadcast on C-SPAN’s American History channel. More than 30 such forums have been produced to date.

Parents’ rights pivotal in Common Core lawsuit

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute

By Brad Dacus


Pacific Justice Institute

LOS ANGELES – A new lawsuit is alleging that school district officials in Southern California broke the law by not telling parents about their rights to decline involvement in the controversial Common Core testing.

Pacific Justice Institute filed suit Monday, Sept. 14, 2015 in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Concerned Parents of California. The defendant in this case is Walnut Valley Unified School District, though a ruling in the case could affect many other districts as well. The lawsuit states that WVUSD did not comply with state law and regulations requiring them to inform parents of the right to decline participation by their children in statewide assessments.

“Just like everyone else, school districts must follow the law,” noted PJI attorney Michael Peffer, who is the lead attorney in this case. “They may not agree with it, but they cannot ignore it. The statutes and regulations in this area are clear and unambiguous. The district doesn’t get to pick and choose which rules it will follow.”

The troubled rollout of the recently-adopted Common Core State Standards continued last week with the disclosure that just 44 percent of California students met the standards in English, and only 33 percent in math. The statistics were even worse in Los Angeles County, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, said, “As we’ve just been reminded, the implementation of Common Core continues to be a disaster, and many parents want no part of it. Parents have the right and responsibility to do what is in their children’s best interests, and California school districts have the legal obligation to make sure parents know their options.”

PJI previously confronted Calabasas High School after the principal threatened retaliation against students whose parents opted them out of the common core testing. The principal reversed course after receiving a demand letter from PJI which prompted inquiries from FoxNews.


Council gives solace in student death

WHITTIER – Mayor Fernando Dutra and the Whittier City Council expressed their deep sorrow on Tuesday following the death of 19-year-old Whittier student Hun Joon “Paul” Lee. Lee, a special-needs student, was found unresponsive on a school bus contracted by the Whittier Union High School District about 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015.

Dutra said, “The City Council and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the Lee family upon the loss of their son. Please know that the Whittier community has been greatly touched by this terrible tragedy and is supporting you in our thoughts and prayers as you navigate the days to come.”

The city confirmed the Whittier Police Department is investigating the incident and will continue to work with the Whittier Union High School District, transportation company, and other entities as appropriate during the course of the case.


Rio Hondo, El Rancho join to build Pico Rivera Education Center

By William Diepenbrock
VMA Communications
WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College is partnering with El Rancho Unified School District to open a Rio Hondo College Educational Center in Pico Rivera, bringing the promise of higher education closer to home for thousands of residents.
When completed in fall 2016, the $1.3 million center will be the third satellite site established by Rio Hondo since 2010. Other sites serve South Whittier and El Monte.

“Our mission at Rio Hondo is to support our community by providing access to college education opportunities,” said Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “These centers are bringing that mission closer to home across our service area.”

The satellite sites circle Rio Hondo College’s hilltop campus, with Pico Rivera to the southwest, El Monte to the north and South Whittier to the east. The Pico Rivera center will sit on 2.4 acres at El Rancho Unified’s former adult school at 9426 Marjorie St., across the street from El Rancho High School.

The college will upgrade seven buildings spanning 6,720 square feet to create a collegiate identity and integrate 21st century learning tools into six classrooms and an office. The site will include a shaded campus quad and 1.3 acres of parking. Rio Hondo College’s Board of Trustees and El Rancho Unified’s Board of Education both unanimously approved the center in meetings this summer.

“Through our partnership with Rio Hondo College, we will continue to expand post-secondary opportunities for our students and school community, which will lead to more students being college- and career-ready,” El Rancho Unified Superintendent Martin Galindo said.

“Our partnership with Rio Hondo College is another step toward the transformation of El Rancho Unified School District into one that is second to none,” said Dr. Aurora Villon, president of the El Rancho Unified Board of Education.

“The satellite campus will increase the accessibility our students and the community have to a higher education and professional development. We look forward to a robust course offering that will complement our curriculum and give students the opportunity to earn college credit. This is another step toward preparing our students for a 21st century global society,” Villon said.

The satellite campuses help Rio Hondo reach students who otherwise might not be able to attend college.

“It’s highly rewarding to know that by creating campuses of convenience, we’re also delivering the promise of a higher education to a larger share of our community,” said Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro. “I’m also excited to be deepening our partnership with El Rancho Unified School District. Like us, I know they are dedicated to providing their students with every opportunity for success.”

The College began planning its satellite expansion in 2004, when voters passed Measure A, a facilities bond for upgrading college facilities. The South Whittier Education Center opened in August 2010. The El Monte Education Center opened in spring 2013.

“Pico Rivera residents will be well served by having our own satellite campus,” said Board of Trustees Vice President Vicky Santana, whose district includes the community. “We will transform a closed facility into a thriving educational facility. Satellite campuses make it convenient for students who are juggling multiple responsibilities to maintain their educational goals despite challenges with time or transportation, and at Rio Hondo, we put our students’ needs front and center.”

Know your legal rights in the new school year

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute

By Brad Dacus

President, Pacific Justice Institute

With a new school year already under way for many of us, and just about to start for others, I wanted to make sure you were aware of the resources and help that are available from PJI. (This would also be a great e-mail to forward to your youth pastor, friends who are educators, friends with kids, and just about anyone else!)

Students have always been one of our top priorities at PJI, so it’s hard to fit all of our resources and recent successes into one e-mail. Here’s a quick list of what you need to know going into the school year:

• This past school year, PJI won two significant federal lawsuits on behalf of student evangelists. This means students should feel more confident than ever to share their faith on campus and invite their friends to church! Click here for more details and video about these cases.

• Our two major resources for students, parents and teachers are now fully online! You can visit our website and download my book, “Reclaim Your School,” and our shorter booklet on students’ rights, completely free of charge. I’m humbled to say that these two resources have helped countless families and even led to the creation of new student ministries. Make sure you’re as informed as you can be!

• Check out our opt-out forms and privacy notices to protect your children as much as possible in the public school environment.

• We now have developed school opt-out forms for 11 states, covering all of the West Coast, as well as some states in the Midwest and South.

• We have advised a number of principals, teachers and school board members this past year on handling difficult issues involving transgender students.

• We continue to fight in court for the referendum against AB 1266, the notorious school bathroom bill.

• Our attorneys drafted the new privacy initiative now in circulation, and we are a proud part of the Privacy for All coalition.

• We continue to help a number of teachers assert their rights to steer union dues away from their unions and toward causes they believe in.

• Our attorneys worked with parents to fight shocking sex ed curriculum being presented in schools by Planned Parenthood.

• We stopped two different principals in Southern California from retaliating against families who exercised their rights to decline common core testing.

• We are currently defending a school district in federal court against a lawsuit by atheist groups.

• Over the last few weeks we’ve been advising a number of families and Christian schools about their options in light of the new vaccine mandate, SB 277.

• We will be launching a major new offensive to enforce state laws protecting common core objectors in the coming weeks. (Stay tuned!)

Friends, I hope that you know we are here for you and your family in the coming school year. Each year we respond to hundreds of questions—many of them school-related — from parents, teachers, and community leaders seeking to understand their legal rights. Most of these will never make it into the headlines, but everyone is important to us.

We expect more intense battles — and incredible opportunities — in our schools this year. Please help us spread the word so students, families, and educators know where they can get help and resources this year.