Diamond Bar soccer player scores in fight against cancer

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Marissa Favela has fought hard to play in the first-round of Friday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoff against visiting Mayfield.

While teammates were battling on the field, the Diamond Bar High School girls soccer player took on cancer.

The 16-year-old recently returned to school and the sport she loves so much. Though still recovering her strength, the midfielder has scored goals in the last two games.

But just returning to the soccer field has made her a winner in the eyes and hearts of her coaches and teammates.

“I think she has inspired all of us,” coach Matt Brummett said. “It changes your perspective. While we were fighting on the field, Marissa was fighting for her life.”

The junior has been playing on the Brahma’s soccer team since her freshman year. She had been named to this newspaper’s All Valley Team for her play. She scored the game-tying goal in a 2013 quarterfinal playoff against Bishop Amat that sent the game to overtime.

Fortunately for Favela, her playoff dreams are not finished.

Coach Brummett was impressed when the young woman asked to return to the soccer team in midseason.

“She had such determination to play on the team again,” he recalled. “Marissa’s tough, fighting for everything.”

Though still recovering from surgery and chemotherapy, Favela felt it was important to return to the team when she returned to the local high school.

“My illness began when doctors discovered a benign tumor on my ovary last year,” she explained.

Surgeons removed the tumor at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. But another tumor appeared, so doctors decided further surgery would be followed by several courses of chemotherapy.

“I was too sick to return to school, so I studied at home the first semester,” the Brahmas standout said. “The chemo made me nauseous and very tired.”

A third tumor was removed shortly before Christmas. Now, doctors screen her every six weeks with an MRI.

Throughout her ordeal, Favela’s spirits have been buoyed by family and friends such as teammate Angie Puerta.

The 17-year-old junior would visit her friend at Children’s Hospital as well as at home in Diamond Bar.

“I was very sad because she was so sick, but I was grateful when she began to feel better,” Puerta said. “I know how much she loves soccer, so I wasn’t surprised when she came back to the team.”

Favela, who has dreams of playing at Oregon State University, admits her strength and stamina is only half of what it was before her illness. But she says she feels a little better every day.

Favela didn’t look like anyone overcoming an illness at Wednesday’s practice, she looked like her old self, getting ready for another playoff run.

“We’re dedicating our season to her,” said Assistant Coach Jameson Campbell. “She’s a tremendous ball handler, so I know she’ll help us in the playoffs.”

Jeopardy champion visits Walnut Elementary School

Walnut Elementary students Jeremy Cai, Daisie Leng and Jimmy Wu played Jeopardy! with Ken Jennings, the game’s biggest winner of all time.  Photo by Kelli Gile

Walnut Elementary students Jeremy Cai, Daisie Leng and Jimmy Wu played Jeopardy! with Ken Jennings, the game’s biggest winner of all time. Photo by Kelli Gile

By Kelli Gile, Walnut Valley Unified

About 180 Walnut Elementary students got a special visit from Jeopardy! champion and New York Times bestselling author Ken Jennings on Feb. 14. Jennings holds the record for the longest winning streak on the popular game show hosted by Alex Trebek.

He told the Walnut students they wouldn’t remember him because he was on Jeopardy! a decade ago. But their principal did.

Principal Janet Green said she watched Jennings on the show for weeks and weeks and weeks and could not believe how phenomenal he was.

“He is like the Kobe Bryant of Jeopardy!,” she told the students.

Jennings stopped by the Walnut school to visit with the excited group of third to fifth graders during his book tour for his brand new series, Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides.

Kids can earn whiz-kid status with the Maps and Geography and Greek Mythology books. The popular series helps them become experts and learn how to wow their friends and families with clever facts and the best stories.

“I’m always exciting to be at an elementary school and see your happy, smiling faces. And I’ll bet you guys are excited too because you got out of class for this!” he joked.

The children giggled at his silly stories and jokes

“Ten years ago I was on Jeopardy!, but now I write children’s books,” he shared with the group assembled in the multipurpose room.

He told the students they tape the show months and months in advance. And they tape five shows in one day.

Jennings played the game on 75 shows. He was on Jeopardy! a total of six months. He flew from his home to Los Angeles for the tapings.

“I would play for two days and ten shows and win a crazy amount of money,” he said.

“And I couldn’t tell anybody where I was because they didn’t want to ruin the surprise,” he said. Only his boss and wife were in on it.  Jennings couldn’t share his big news his parents, friends or co-workers.

“I had this totally excited secret double life and I couldn’t tell anyone!”

After each show his head hurt from all the thinking, his feet hurt from standing, and even his thumb was sore from the clicker.

“It was very intense,” he said.

Jennings even had to find a way to borrow 75 ties on the sly from his friends.

“It was the most fun I’ve ever had. I’ve always been a huge fan of Jeopardy! because knowing stuff equals success,” he stated.

As a child, the author loved to read crazy facts books and delighted in sharing quirky tidbits with his family. And he also watched game shows every day.

“They had smart people who won fabulous prizes,” he said.

At age 10, his family moved to Korea where there was only one English language television channel on the American Army base. He began watching a lot of Jeopardy!.

“I just loved it. I just thought they were the smartest people I had ever seen,” he said.

Jennings decided that’s what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“You don’t have to have a super brain to be on the show,” he said. And he told the kids they are so much better at learning things than adults.

“I always wanted to be a writer. First I wrote books for grown-ups about maps,” he said.

Jennings said he became a children’s author when he realized kids would be more interested in learning about them. He also couldn’t find books full of crazy facts for his own kids.

“I had a hard time finding them, so I thought what if I just wrote them?”

Jennings said there’s going to be a bunch of other Junior Genius Guides too.

“The idea behind these books is learning stuff is fun if you’re learning about it in a fun way,” he said

He said even if a map seems boring, there’s always something cool like the names of the weirdest towns like Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky; Accident, Maryland; Ding Dong, Texas; and Burger Town, North Carolina. The kids howled at the silly names.

He shared some fun facts about the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, volcanic heads on Easter Island, the Great Sphinx of Giza, and the Little Mermaid statue in Denmark.

“I totally thought old-time statues would be boring, but it turns out that there are lots of cool secrets that I didn’t know,” he said.

And that’s idea behind the Junior Genius books. The series slogan is “it’s much better to know something about everything, than everything about something,” he said.

He encouraged the children to enjoy their classes.

“Everything is interesting if you look at it the right way. You should like every subject and learn about everything. And that’s a little tricky,” Jennings said.

“It means it’s better to know a little about every subject, not just having one favorite subject,” he explained.

Jennings told the kids that what they’re learning in school is actually going to pay off later.

“Maybe you’ll be more interesting, or a better person, or maybe you’ll go on Jeopardy! and break my record!” the author said.

Jennings answered several questions from the audience and then played a round of Jeopardy! with Walnut Elementary students Jeremy Cai – third grade, Daisie Leng – fourth grade and Jimmy Wu- fifth grade. The topics were geography and Greek mythology, of course.

The assembly was presented through Mrs. Nelson’s Book Fair Company.

La Puente student receives Young Leaders Scholarship

Jose Comi of La Puente is a recipient of the Young Leaders Scholarship from the National AIDS Memorial Grove.  The program received a record number of qualified applicants from which nine recipients were selected for their active roles of public service and leadership in the battle against HIV/AIDS. 

 Comi is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Biomedical Engineering. He hopes to one day use his education to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.

Sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, this national scholarship program accepted applications from both college-bound high-school seniors and college undergraduate students.

 The nine recipients – four high-school students and five undergraduate students – will each receive $1,000 to $2,500 in financial support to continue their education.  The program also encourages continued community service on behalf of individuals touched by HIV/AIDS.


Walnut Valley hires Asst Superintendent of Human Resources

The Walnut Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees approved Michelle Harold as the new Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. She began on Feb. 3.

Harold is a veteran educator bringing 29 years of experience to her new post. She has a strong background and many diverse experiences in the field of education.

Michelle Harold

Michelle Harold

“She possesses the leadership qualities, technical knowledge of the position, and proven ability to perform effectively in this administrative role,” said Superintendent Robert Taylor.

“I look forward to working with Dr. Harold. She will make a great addition to Walnut Valley,” he added.

Since 2009, she has served as Director of Human Resources in the Chino Valley Unified School District. Harold is responsible for all areas of the division including both certificated and classified bargaining groups of the 30,000-student district.

Prior to that, Harold worked as an elementary school principal, assistant principal, and project administrator.  She has the unique distinction of having served as a teacher at the high school, middle school, and elementary school-levels, highlighted by her work as a Reading Specialist, and being named Los Angeles County Bilingual Teacher of the Year.

Harold received her Doctorate of Education from the University of La Verne, and has participated in extensive training in the most critical areas in Human Resources.  Prior to her service in public education, she served as a Teacher Trainer for the United States Peace Corps in Kathmandu, Nepal.

“I am really thrilled to be joining Walnut Valley Unified.  The district has an amazing reputation across Southern California, and as I’m quickly learning, there are many good reasons for it.  I’ve been so impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of the students, teachers, and parents I’ve met so far.  I am excited about joining this incredible leadership team. I am so grateful for the opportunity and look forward to contributing to the continued excellence and success of this great district,” Harold said.

Harold will succeed Dr. Kathy Granger who accepted a position as superintendent of the Mountain Empire Unified School District in November 2013.

Mt SAC holds Cash for College Fair on Saturday in Walnut

With more than 1,000 attendees registered, Mt. San Antonio College will offer free financial aid assistance to area high school seniors and their parents during its annual “Cash for College” fair on Saturday, Feb. 8.

The event kicks off with opening co-sponsor presentations by Congresswoman Gloria Negrete McLeod, Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, and Senators Ed Hernandez, Norma Torres, and Bob Huff, starting at 9 a.m. in Mt. SAC’s Sophia B. Clarke Theater. 

 “This event is all about helping students fill out the necessary financial aid forms by the March 2 deadline so that they don’t miss out on thousands of dollars that may be available to them,” said Mt. SAC Financial Aid Director Chau Dao. 

Cash for College provides hands-on assistance to college-bound students and their parents in completing and filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms for the 2014-15 academic year.

The event also helps students maximize their financial aid prospects by meeting the March 2 priority financial aid filing deadline. Assistance with the California Dream Act application will also be available. Filing applications early is recommended. 

Parents and students must bring a copy of students’ Social Security cards or permanent resident cards, and a 2013 federal 1040 tax return and W-2. If 2013 information is not available, a 2012 tax return may be used along with 2012 W-2 forms. The workshop information and assistance can be used to apply to any college, not just Mt. SAC.

Information and application forms will also be available for Admissions, Extended Opportunity and Programs Services, and other Mt. SAC student support services. 

Rowland Unified teachers demand new superintendent

By Staff Writer Steve Scauzillo

Eleven months after filling the superintendent’s position with its business manager, the issue of who is going to lead the Rowland Unified School District continues to make waves.

On Thursday, the Association of Rowland Educators, the local chapter of the California Teachers Association representing about 700 members, demanded the board open up a search committee to look for a new superintendent.

The position comes after a survey conducted by the teachers union in December revealed a lack of trust and respect for Superintendent Ruben Frutos.

About 68 percent of the respondents answered no to the question, “Would you like to see Mr. Frutos continue as superintendent of RUSD,” according to an email blast sent by the union obtained by this newspaper. Only 4 percent responded yes, and 28 percent said: “I don’t know/care.”

Nearly 50 percent of the teachers — about 334 people — responded to the survey, one of the highest response rates in the history of the union, said ARE President John Petersen.

Many of the respondents took the time to write written responses, of which the overwhelming majority were negative, he said.

“Ninety percent of them were leadership-related and had to do with their perception of how the district is run,” Petersen said.

He declined to release the survey or its comments in its entirety to the public. He said CTA legal staff advised the union not to expose themselves to a defamation lawsuit.

“In my opinion, he has had nine months to prove he is the right guy for the job. We haven’t seen any evidence he has been able to convince the teachers of that,” he added.

Frutos did not return two phone calls over two days and did not respond.

The ARE will present its position at the board meeting on Tuesday. The email said they have learned the board will put Frutos’ contract extension on either Tuesday’s board agenda or take it up March 4.

The agenda is drawn up by Board President Heidi Gallegos and Frutos, said board member Angelena Pride. Gallegos also did not return phone calls. Gallegos was the only board member to vote against the Frutos appointment.

Pride and Lynne Ebenkamp, both elected to the board in November, did not know if the superintendent’s contract was coming up for a vote. His contract expires June 30.

“I don’t know what’s on the agenda,” said Ebenkamp on Tuesday When asked about the teachers’ union demand to begin searching for a new superintendent. She said: “I can’t say I’m surprised. I am surprised they are doing it right now.”

Pride had a similar reaction on Tuesday. She said the ARE survey results were mailed to each board member and she looked them over. “Part of me was surprised by some of those results,” she said.

As to whether she supports searching for a new superintendent or extending the contract of the current one, Pride wouldn’t say. “The only decision I’ve made is whatever the process is that determines the outcome of his contract, it would be transparent.”

One Chu, president of the Rowland Parents and Educators Association, a community group, said his group supports the call for a search. He said Bassett Unified School District began a search for a deputy superintendent and attracted 45 candidates. “They have the normal, transparent process,” Chu said.

The superintendent issue may be spilling over into the negotiations between the district and the union over teacher salaries and benefits.

According to Rowland’s Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Douglas Staine, the average hourly rate for the district’s teachers is $63.83 and the average daily rate is $382.95. The average benefit contribution is an additional $8,730 per teacher.

In the email, the ARE says it is not happy with the progress of the talks. The district has reserves of at least $50 million and will be receiving more money if the governor’s budget is approved, Petersen said.

The Rowland Unified School District approved a $132.5 million budget on June 25. The budget projects an $8 million deficit that will be covered by the district’s $52 million balance going into the next school year.

“The district doesn’t want to increase class size or cut more programs,” Superintendent Ruben Frutos explained in an earlier interview. “So the school board decided to use some of our reserves.”

Frutos expects the district to receive $2 million more from the state.

“We will also use other cost cutting measures over the next year to cut the deficit down,” the top administrator said at the time.

Last year’s adopted budget anticipated a $20 million deficit, but actual figures show that deficit shrank to only $2 million. Revenue actually increased $4.5 million than expected, while expenditures were $14 million less than budgeted.

“The cost of our proposal is less than the new revenue they are getting,” Petersen said.

He cited a school district in Rosemead in which the teachers received a 6.4 percent raise and one in Ontario where the teachers received a 5 percent raise this year and next year.

The RUSD teachers want salary levels and benefits to reach the median of those in Los Angeles County. “Right now we are below the median,” Petersen said. He declined to be specific.

RUSD operates 19 schools in Rowland Heights, Walnut, La Puente, Industry and West Covina — with 15,000 students.

Staff Writer Richard Irwin contributed to this story

Brahma’s football coach steps down in Diamond Bar

Diamond Bar High School Coach Ryan Maine has decided to step down as Varsity Football Coach. Ryan and his wife Lindsay are pursuing opportunities for their family that may include relocation.

“We truly appreciate all that Coach Maine has done for the program over his entire history at DBHS. We fully support him and his wife in their future endeavors and wish them the best of luck,” said Principal Catherine Real.

He will remain on the Diamond Bar High School staff as a teacher.

“We will be conducting a comprehensive search for a new Head Football Coach to ensure that our student athletes will be successful for years to come,” Real added.

Maine served three years as Head Coach and seven years in the Brahma Football Program.

“We appreciate the efforts that Coach Maine and his entire staff have made over the last three years.  We are in a much better place because of this.  Principal Real and I have already begun the search for a new Head Coach and are excited to see where that search will take us.  Coach Maine will still be around for the immediate future and will assist in making the transition as smooth as possible.  I can’t thank Ryan and Lindsay enough for the extreme sacrifice they have made over the last three years to bring Brahma football back where it belongs,” said Athletic Director Kurt Davies.

Wilson High School plans open house in Hacienda Heights on Feb. 18

Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights offers many unique and special programs have led this educational resource to be recognized as a TOP high school by US News and World Report a California Distinguished School .

Wilson offers the most rigorous and intensive curriculum that a high school may offer. Diploma recipients of Wilson’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program are sought after by the most highly regarded universities including the UC system, Ivy League schools and other elite colleges.

There is a wide variety of academic classes in the arts and sciences to meet student’s needs including Biotechnology, Photography, Choir, Art Video Gaming Design, Science Olympiad, computer applications, and more. This open house is a chance to investigate, and explore the depth of the Wilson experience .

Bring the family and friends to find out if there is a future ‘Wildcat” in your midst to an open house on Feb. 18 beginning at 6 p.m. at 16455 Wedgeworth Dr. Hacienda Heights

For more information call 626-934-4400 or visit http://gwhs-hlpusd-ca.schoolloop.com/