New Principal at TECS

(l-r) Topanga Elementary third graders, Lior Bendavid and Marek Monn, capture students in the Scratch Coding workshop, as part of their documentary film class. Photo by Amy Ruskin

The full moon of November, also known as the Beaver Moon, occurred this year on November 12. For those of you who follow these things, full moons are considered auspicious as times of renewal, so it was fitting that, between November 12 and 13, the interim principal passed the reins to the incoming principal, Mr. Kevin Kassebaum. 

The Beaver Moon is named after the beavers that build dams at this time of year but all of us who have observed Ms. Abramovitz these past weeks, she has been beavering away with the school’s dedicated Safety Committee, to help obtain updated emergency supplies from the LAUSD, which arrived the week before her departure. She also has prepared the school to welcome the new principal as seamlessly as possible, especially in the middle of the school year. 

On Tuesday morning, our Appreciation Committee chair, Kristine Sloan, wrangled more than 30 parent volunteers to provide a “thank you and farewell” brunch of (kosher) deliciousness for Ms. Abramowitz and simultaneously greet Mr. Kassebaum, who was meeting his new staff for the first time. His first day official day as principal was November 14. 

Another, much larger item that arrived on campus was a new portable building for the upper yard. The older prefab was whisked away and a new one put in its place. This is the first phase in a long-term project that LAUSD is overseeing on behalf of our school; the second phase, coming in 2020/21, will involve resurfacing the playgrounds and upgrading accessibility.

An informational meeting to bring together school and community was held on Wednesday, October 16, when Program Coordinator Lorrie L. Munoz facilitated a meeting with the planners and architects of the project who answered questions.



Topanga Elementary was closed for one week in October due to unhealthy air quality and evacuations, but parent volunteer teams danced around scheduling snafus to launch our first two Maker Club workshops that filled up within five minutes of registration opening. 

Maker Club is a new endeavor housed under TECS’ Technology Enrichment pillar and inspired by the Maker culture that has popped up across the country, particularly in public libraries. Our mission is to provide tools, materials, and opportunities for students to invent, design, tinker, and explore high-tech to no-tech projects that inspire self-reliance and provide new perspectives on themselves and the world. 

“How to Make a Documentary Film” was a rocking success with eighteen students, grades first through fifth participating. The students lit up as they embraced the roles of boom operator, interviewer, director, assistant director, and documentary subject, in this 90-minute workshop sponsored by Black Magic Design and Sigma Lenses. Students worked in small groups led by parent mentors to make a documentary film about love, which will soon screen for the community. 

“I witnessed students waking up to their power and potential,” said Andrea Shreeman, first grade parent and Maker Club co-founder. “Our lives are so driven by media today, there was a ripple of excitement running through each group as students began directing, interviewing, and working with the HD and 4K equipment for the first time.”

When asked what he learned in the workshop, third-grader Raiden Ray said, “I learned I need a producer for my Lego movies. One man can’t do it all.” 

On Tuesday, November 5, JB Whittenburg led a team of parent mentors in teaching scratch coding to a room full of curious third, fourth, and fifth graders. The students created a simple animation and began an interactive story that they will continue in part two of this popular after-school workshop. 

Whittenburg, who formerly served as Maker and Technology Integration Specialist at The Willows Community School in Culver City says, “Scratch is super engaging. I’ve heard from several parents that their kids have asked to keep coding at home, which is easy to do since scratch is free and available online, 24/7.” 

Fifth-grader Franklin Blanco confirmed, “My favorite part [of the class] was that I got to code with my friend. I learned how to properly make a jump animation, and the biggest surprise was that I actually had fun.” 

The next big step for Maker Club is to develop a lab on campus that teachers can walk into at any time to facilitate classes in the tinkering project of their choice.

Donations of supplies, electronics, computers, and tools are welcomed. Please e-mail to assist us in growing this immensely popular program. 



The Science Committee of TECS partnered with the Greener Empowerment Foundation and Sassafras Shoppe to launch our Monarch Pollinator Stewardship program on October 27. Amidst Santa Ana events, we were blessed with a calm, sunny day when town and school folks met to learn about the many challenges facing Western Monarch butterflies in an era of dramatic climate change, pesticides, urban sprawl, and shrinking habitats. 

After an educational session, the organizers explained the Xerces plant award of 1,600 plants that will be installed at Topanga Elementary Charter School, as well as in the town center near the General Store, the Library, and Flower Power.

Volunteers are welcome to help plant at Topanga Elementary school on consecutive Fridays, December 6, 13, and 20. Meet at 2:45 p.m. at the school.

To donate funds, volunteer, or adopt plants for your home, contact Alisa Land Hill (, Elisa Clay (, or Hannah Wear ( 


By TECS News Team


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