What’s Coming Up?
Mon. Aug. 31 Science Lab Opens
Tue. Sept. 01 Back to School Night (Adults Only)
6:00 – First Classroom Presentation
6:30 – Assembly in Quad Area (In Front of the Office)
7:00 – Second Classroom Presentation
7:30 – Lights Off / Lock Up
Fri. Sept. 04 Admissions Day – No School
Mon Sept. 07 Labor Day – No School
Traffic Duty for the Week: Mr. Harrell’s Class
Frozen Treat Sales: Ms. Welch’s Class
A big thank you to the parents from Ms. Hoffman’s and Ms. Chatham’s class for helping with traffic duty. Please continue to help by being patient, leaving home or work early enough so that you’re not rushing, pulling all the way forward in the circle so other cars can move up, and not leaving your car unattended in the traffic circle. Together, we can make this work.
Volunteerism: Seven parents joined me this morning for our first volunteer training of the school year. After these new volunteers are processed by the school district (a form must be completed online), they will be helping our students either in the classroom or through one or the many committees we are setting up to address needs such as Art Trek, special events, safety, or even just making copies. Check our calendar for upcoming Volunteer Training sessions if you have not been trained and wish to sign up.
Back to School Night: Topanga Elementary will be holding Back to School Night on Tuesday, September 1st from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. This evening will be split into three parts: Classroom presentations, a presentation with the staff in the Quad area (the same place we have our Friday morning assemblies), and then a final half hour for classroom presentations.
We are giving you two chances to visit a classroom to hear the teacher’s presentation, so that those with siblings in two different classrooms can go to both rooms. I also encourage you to visit the Science lab and meet our new science teacher, Ms. Schoonmaker. I will be making a very brief presentation (so you won’t be late to your second classroom visit), and I look forward to seeing all of you on campus for this important school event.
I’ve had a terrific first two weeks of school, and I’m sure your child can say the same. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you all on Monday!
Mr. Steve Gediman, Principal
Topanga Messenger - August 27, 2015 - By Annemarie Donkin
Scores of Topangans, family and friends gathered underneath the great oak tree at the Community House ball field on Sunday, August 16, to celebrate the miraculous recovery of young Teddy Ward, the five-year-old boy who fell about 20 feet into Topanga Creek in May and suffered skull and brain injuries.
At the party, about 30 kids, including Teddy sporting a bike helmet, ran around throwing water balloons while their parents chatted, nibbled on tacos and sipped Sangria.
According to Teddy’s mother, Lisa Ward, it was a combination thank-you party for those who prayed, gave gifts, sent love and food, and also to wish Teddy an enthusiastic “Happy Birthday” and “Welcome Home!” from the hospital.
Lisa Ward recounted the terrible event when, on May 13, at 5.30 p.m., she got the call that every parent dreads that “changed her life irrevocably.
“My youngest son Teddy, age 5, had a terrible accident doing what every Topanga kids does, climbing on rocks around our creek,” she recalled via e-mail. “He was playing with his brothers (Luc, 10, and Cole, 8) at a friend’s house that backs onto the Creek in Fernwood; the kids were playing there and one of the older kids climbed higher than usual and Teddy followed. He slipped and fell about 20 feet and landed on his head, no other broken bones.” Lisa said that her son, Luc, got the attention of Julie McInally when he shouted up the hillside to people above to call 9-1-1.
“Teddy was with his [two] brothers and their friends and, in a heartbeat, all our worlds were turned upside down when Teddy fell and suffered a severe head injury resulting in major brain trauma,” Lisa said.
Lisa and her husband, Dan, rushed to the scene and struggled to reach Teddy down by the Creek. Locals cut brush with machetes and helped steady ladders so the paramedics and firefighters could carry Teddy to the waiting ambulance where they were taken to a waiting helicopter hovering above the S-Curves.
“It was so surreal lifting off over Topanga. I was in such shock that I still could not take in what was happening to my baby, only that he knew I was with him; he had made eye contact with me as he was loaded into the Medivac [helicopter],” Lisa said. “I continuously called to him letting him know I was there. The paramedic on board never strapped himself in but knelt over Teddy, working furiously. What a hero!”
Lisa and Teddy arrived at UCLA within minutes and were met by about 90 medical professionals. By the time her husband, Dan, arrived by car Teddy was already in surgery. Lisa and Dan waited with her sister, Sarah, and a friend for three hours until he came out of surgery and entered the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
“He was sedated and swathed in bandages, tubes and wires and the praying began,” Lisa said. “Not just the praying; healing thoughts, messages of love, gifts, white light, people who have never prayed before were praying now in every faith in many countries but mostly in Topanga. She said that within 24 hours a meal train had been set up bringing the family meals and groceries for the coming months.
“The blessings did not stop here,” she continued. “The outpouring of love began and, amidst the most terrible tragedy, we started to feel the surge of love and prayers and healing and positive energy that surrounded us and our sweet angel, Teddy.”
According to the doctors and neurosurgeons at UCLA, who saved his life, Teddy is a “warrior” who has defied the odds and survived without severe brain damage; they started calling his recovery “miraculous.” After surgery and two-weeks’ recovery at UCLA, Teddy’s next step was to be transferred to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for five weeks of intensive rehabilitation.
“No child with this severity of brain trauma should be recovering the way he is,” Lisa said. “I know why and I kept telling people, ‘it is not surprising if you only knew how loved we are, what Topanga is like and how much love they have to give, and how they weep for Teddy as one of their own. He has become Topanga’s baby and is loved by them all; they are spreading the word to pray for this child and it is working.’”
After more miraculous recovery, Teddy was transferred back to UCLA for a cranioplasty, i.e., putting his skull back together. “The incredible plastics team at UCLA used only his own bone to cover the gap, taking the broken retrieved bone and splitting it width-ways to cover twice the area and taking more bone from the other side and splitting that,” Lisa said. “It means his skull is half the thickness on one side of his head but he will not need another surgery to remove a plate down the line. The bone grows and after two years will be normal thickness but bone would have grown over a plate that would need to be removed later. He has to wear a helmet for a few months and we have been doing outpatient therapy in Encino since being released after his second surgery on June 29,” she said.
On August 18, Teddy started kindergarten at Topanga Elementary with Ms. Handler.
“He did great, better than expected,” Lisa said. “He had me at his side until an aide is available but he needed me less than I expected; they are now predicting Teddy will make a full recovery mentally and physically in a year.”
Teddy’s friends are also glad to see him back in action, running around like any other kid. “Teddy taught me how to break dance,” said Tristan Day, 6, who will be with him in Kindergarten. “We like to play surfer and police.”
For more information go to Facebook.
View full article at Topanga Messenger:
Topanga Messenger - August 27, 2015 - By Flavia Potenza
Nearly 100 friends and family gathered at the Community House on Sunday, August 16, to remember and celebrate the life of Gretchen Booth, a former special education teacher at Topanga Elementary and a beloved member of the Topanga community.
Born Gretchen M. Scarry in Scituate, Massachusetts, she died peacefully with family and close friends around her on August 4, at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, after a long and courageous battle. She was 66.
Booth was the daughter of Margaret (Dunphy) Scarry and the late Edward Arthur Scarry, graduated from Scituate High School and Smith College and completed further studies at Cal State University Los Angeles, always furthering her teaching credentials.
She had a special talent with troubled kids and special needs children and retired after a long teaching career in California as a Special Resources teacher. She adored children and animals, was a dedicated volunteer throughout her life and had a lifelong love of singing, art, cooking and adventure.
She is survived by her mother, Margaret M. (Dunphy) Scarry of Duxbury, MA; her sisters, Nancy J. Scarry of Palm Springs, CA; Jane Scarry-Trotta of Pembroke, MA; Rosanne Raven of Middletown, R.I.; Anita Scarry-Emery of West Yarmouth, Mass.; and her brother, Edward J. Scarry of Palm Springs, CA. She is also survived by her three children, Alexander “Allie” Maggio, Noah Maggio and Annie “Nini” Booth; and by three grandchildren.
Gretchen’s brother, Edward, representing the East Coast branch of the family, will take her ashes back to Massachusetts.
Donations may be made to the American Heart Association.
The great hall of the Community House hosted tables filled with Gretchen’s “stuff,” beautiful lamps, multiple household items, and the eclectic collection of a lifetime of living.
The stage and steps became a beautiful altar draped with colorful fabric, set upon rugs, with items that reflected her life set throughout the tableau with a photo of a young, beautiful Gretchen taking center stage next to a ceramic urn, made by Megan Rice, containing her ashes. Large floral bouquets placed on each side embellished the setting, something Gretchen would have liked.
First up to the mic, her son, Allie, encouraged friends to take what they wanted or needed from a table in the back of the room piled high with her “stuff” reclaimed from her home.
“When Nini and Noah and I cleared out our mother’s house, we packed all her belongings in my pick-up truck and just brought everything here,” he said. He went on to share the moment of his mother’s death.
“When that moment happened, I felt this incredible feeling of joy and thought, “great job!” I felt so proud of her. Throughout that whole time, the last days, about two months, she was willing to live but she was completely okay with dying. It was so beautiful to me and that’s why my joy came to me. She was fearless and beautiful. That helped us. I’m proud of her to have had such a graceful exit.
“My mom’s show has ended and this is the after-party,” he said to great applause.
“I’m so blessed to have had Gretchen as my mother,” said son, Noah. “I’ve been burned out for almost three years. Having a friend die at 15, it was hard for me to deal with death. But being sober and going through my mother’s death with her has been a blessing. I made my amends and made sure I got it all out at her last breath. This is really a celebration of Gretchen’s life and her life of being loving and tolerant. I’m learning her lessons now.”
Gretchen’s brother, Edward, and her mother, Maggie, “had many talks with her on the phone. She departed in peace, greatly loved and not afraid. Maggie, her mother, said, “Right now, she’s singing with the angels.”
Her sister, Nancy Scarry, called her “adventurous a free spirit, a true Child of Woodstock. For her, the more festive and embellished, the better and, more than anyone I know, she loved to cry. She was a rebel, a rule-breaker and it’s fitting we have this service here today because she loved Topanga. I’m so sad she’s gone.”
Susan Henry, her best friend for 30 years, said, “What drew me to Gretchen in the first place was her capacity for joy. We always chose joy, no matter what. If she could say one thing today, she knew that we were spirits in these bodies and we were made for joy. This is a journey that is meant to be joyful. We shared 67 miles in Utah and I helped her realize a lifelong dream: to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir…twice! Once rehearsing for the weekly radio show and again when they performed it.”
Nini’s husband, Dave Gray said, “When she was beginning to transition, I told her, “Don’t worry about Nini. You leave behind this amazing wake of love.’ The challenge now is for us to amplify the wave.”
View full article at Topanga Messenger:
Topanga Messenger - August 27, 2015 - By Messenger Staff
It was an exciting day at Topanga Elementary Charter School as nearly 300 students began the fall semester on Tuesday, August 18.
The kids ran around the playground before the morning bell as their parents stayed close by for announcements.
This was especially true for the first-timers—those kids who started in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and in the two Kindergarten classes.
After the TK and Kindergarten kids were safely installed in their classrooms, their parents gathered in the lower garden to meet Principal Steve Gediman, who assured them their children would be safe and sound.
“Our goal is always to provide a clean and safe learning environment with high expectations for academic achievement for all students,” he said. “In addition to our emphasis on fully implementing the California Common Core standards in all subject areas, we will continue to stress the arts (especially visual arts, dance, music and theater) and continue to draw on the artistic expertise of our parent volunteers.”
For the upcoming school year, Gediman was especially proud of the new science teacher, Catherine Schoonmaker, an environmental biologist who worked for years for the National Park Service in the Santa Monica Mountains, and was a zookeeper with the Los Angeles Zoo.
Schoonmaker will work with a committee of science-minded parent volunteers and a team headed by Rosi Dagit, Senior Conservation Biologist for the RCDSMM (Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains).
Sign on School Road in Topanga announcing the start of school for the fall semester.
Gediman told the Kindergarten parents that the new science program is “place based” in that the learning is centered around investigations and field studies from the amazing network of trails above the school that are still part of the campus.
“The program is called T.R.E.E.S. (Topanga Resource Ecosystem Exploration for Students),” he said. “I am very excited about our new science program. I believe we need to unlock the potential given to us in this unique school location and create a true outdoor classroom for students to explore and learn.”
View full article at Topanga Messenger:
What’s Coming Up?
Mon. Aug. 24 TEP Meeting – 7:00 p.m. on campus (all are welcome)
Fri. Aug 28 Morning Assembly – 8:00 am
Fri. Aug 28 Volunteer Training – 9:00 am in Room 8
Fri. Aug 28 Opening Packet and Comfort Bags Due
Traffic Duty for the Week: Ms. Chatham’s Class
Frozen Treat Sales: Ms. Tapper’s Class (Begins next week)
We had a great turn out at our first Friday Assembly of the school year. If you couldn’t make it or are new to our school, you’ll have another chance next week. Every Friday we have our outdoor assembly in front of the office at 8:00 am (the Kindergarteners line up with the other students at 8:00 rather than meeting in the morning on the Kinder yard). Today it was mostly just me giving reminders (traffic safety – and the importance of labeling jackets, sweaters and lunchboxes), but throughout the year we’ll have student presentations, live music, theater, and every sort of announcement under the sun. You won’t want to miss it.
Frozen treats (fruit based) will be sold after school next week on Tuesday and Thursday, and the Fifth grade will begin raising money next week after school on Wednesday with pizza and organic produce.
If you missed my important reminders this morning, or you’d like a recap of my Friday Focus beginning of the year tips from last year, here they are:
Traffic & Parking: Thanks in advance to parents who have signed up or will sign up to help with traffic enforcement. I’ve been observing and helping with the morning drop off and dismissal pick up, and I’ll want to work with the community and the police to improve our system to make it safer and more efficient for everyone. Here are a few ways we can all help:
Attendance and Tardies: The traffic challenges facing Topanga parents are certainly daunting, and that’s why we appreciate so many of you are arriving early enough to begin school on time (8:00 for grades 1-5, 8:15 for Kinder). For the first two days we left the gates open a little late, but now students will have to come to the office for a tardy slip if arriving late. Most of you have been very good about being here on time, and our attendance for this all-important first week was impressive as well. Let’s keep it up!
Back to School Night: Topanga Elementary will be having our Back to School Night one week from Tuesday: September 1st from 6:00 –7:30 p.m. This event is for adults only so that your child’s teacher can best describe expectations and goals for the school year. Next week we will be sending you more details about this event – and I know we will have an excellent turn out for this important night.
Health Advisory: Even though we are starting our second week of school, there’s still plenty of summer sun to go around. During my Good Character assembly on Wednesday, I reminded our students that it is especially important on hot days to drink plenty of water and stay out of the sun if they feel overheated. I also recommend using sunscreen daily (studies have shown that too much exposure to the sun early in life leads to heath issues later), and students are encouraged to wear hats and sunglasses on the yard during outdoor activities for further protection.
Once again, I thank you all for a fantastic first week, and best wishes for a successful school year.
Mr. Steve Gediman, Principal
The latest news from Topanga Elementary Charter School and TEP, including the TEP Newsletter and the Friday Focus.