Letters – April 19, 2019

Dear Topanga Community Stakeholders,

Please join fellow Canyon parents at Topanga Elementary School for the upcoming Leadership Council meeting on Tuesday, April 23 at 1:45 pm to learn about a developing proposal to bring a Spanish dual-language immersion program and a research- based progressive education pilot program to our community.

While Topanga Elementary Charter School is one of LAUSD’s top performing schools with a large body of satisfied families and engaged parent volunteers, many Topanga families choose to drive their elementary age school children out of the canyon to schools that offer more progressive educational models or schools that offer language immersion. According to the 2017 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program, there are approximately 585 children between the age of 5-9 residing within the Topanga CDP (Census Designated Place). Topanga Elementary has a current enrollment of approximately 300 students. 

This spring, a group of Topanga parents have formed a coalition with a mission to enhance Topanga Elementary with a pilot program operating within the school that would offer curriculum and learning imperatives that closely match the priorities of many members of our community including second language acquisition, nature immersion, differentiated instruction, creativity, peaceful communication, emotional wellness, screen-free classrooms for younger children, restorative justice, sustainable classroom materials, sugar-free lunches, project-based integrated curriculum, play-based learning, and multi-age classrooms.

Reflecting our growing shared interest in helping our children become socially and emotionally competent, creative and engaged bilingual citizens of the world, several local parents will share some of the research- backed benefits of such programs and request that the Leadership Council approve the initiation of a feasibility study to explore the possibility of implementing bilingual and progressive education programs, already in use elsewhere in LAUSD or other L.A. County school districts, here in Topanga.

These programs would be proposed to operate within the unused portable classrooms at Topanga Elementary and the LAUSD- owned acreage adjacent to the state park. The successful implementation of such as program would initiate the hiring of 1-2 new teaching staff specifically for the program using the state funding that comes along with the additional students and would not jeopardize the job status or security of any current Topanga Elementary teachers, staff, or the curriculum that they currently teach to the students in their classrooms.

We encourage interested parents to attend the Leadership Council meeting to to learn about the scholastic and social benefits of such a program, the process for bringing it to Topanga, and to openly and honestly discuss how dual-language and progressive educational programs would benefit all of our stakeholders. If you would like to learn more, please email topangaparents@gmail.com to be added to the email list.

-Willow Geer


Rooted and Rebuilding

Dear Editor,

Thank you so much for Kait Leonard’s article, “Deeper Rebuilding,” in the April 5 issue of the Messenger Mountain News.

It’s important to acknowledge the extreme stress of the 250,000 people who evacuated from their homes in the Santa Monica Mountains and survived this fire experience.The magnitude of the Woolsey Fire—fast, hot, and unstoppable—was like nothing any of us could have imagined.

While many in canyons like Topanga, where the Fire did not reach this time, were able to return to our homes, anxiety and sorrow nag at our very core—for the magnitude of loss for our friends, neighbors, and the natural environment, depression about the future, our inability to change the direction of extreme weather events and climate change. We grieve, too.

Finding the resilience to move forward without denying how vulnerable we are, is an emotional and cognitive balancing act between acknowledging this new reality and our instincts to recover, rebuild, and restore.

The rains have brought rebirth to our natural landscape and a keener sense of responsibility for us to care for the blessings here in the mountains. I see bees on the flowers, birds nesting, swarms of butterflies, sprigs of green on oak trees I thought were done in by the long drought. I hear frogs singing at night, the coyotes yelping and, now, I can mindfully express my gratitude for each. It helps.

It’s more than appreciation; it’s talking to the place I live in; it’s sharing our aliveness. Simply pulling the non-native weeds (so many this year) as I’ve done every year of the 44 years my family has lived here, doing what we can to protect, preserve, and nurture the goodness that is rooted all around us, that helps, too.

After the 1993 fires, with heavy rains predicted within a week, I recall gathering at the school auditorium and listening to the biologists talk about those roots: we were told that the Toyon and other native vegetation, while burned above ground, should not be removed, as they have roots deep into the mountains, thousands of years old some of them, that will come back. And, they did. It took time.

Recovery is not instant. Healing is a process. Never easy. But our roots are deep, too.

I am grateful, to you, Kait Leonard, and the Messenger Mountain News, for writing and publishing this piece. That helps, too.

-Susan Nissman



By Joan E. Stern 

Silhouetted high

Against a steel sky

Profiles of crowding

Crows point as massing

Sentinels toward the sea

From a brittle tree’s

Perch of scorched branches

Lamenting the stripped twigs

And beseeching the breeze

Not to bring back wildfire

Until these remnants

Are resuscitated

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