Environmentalism Rocks & Rolls
California Safe Schools

Parents and elected officials joined to honor Gail Zappa, Julie Korenstein, and Jane Williams for their outstanding efforts to protect health and the environment on May 14 at Van Nuys High School. The “United for Safety” 2005 awards, presented by celebrated actor Joe Mantegna, were the highlight of an environmental health conference focusing on the school environment.

The conference and awards were sponsored by California Safe Schools (CSS). “Our work advocating for children’s health would not be possible without the concern, support and dedication of these outstanding individuals,” said Robina Suwol, Executive Director of CSS. The event attracted community members from as far away as San Diego, and attendees included political and environmental leaders, regulatory agencies, school district administrators, teachers, community members, and children.

Keynote Speaker Assemblymember Cindy Montanez, and Assemblymember Lloyd Levine with Joe Mantegna, star of stage, screen and CBS "Joan of Arcadia" presented the awards to Gail Zappa, wife of the late Frank Zappa, Julie Korenstein, Los Angeles Unified School District Boardmember, and Jane Williams, Executive Director of California Communities Against Toxics. The work of the awardees was also acknowledged by the office of Assemblymember Montanez, Assemblymember Levine, Rangell Oruga on behalf of the American Lung Association, and Michael Tou, representing the office of Congressman Brad Sherman California Safe Schools visual displays and materials provided information on steps to take to reduce exposure to pesticides and environmental toxins.

Most requested photo opportunity was a cut-out display titled "STUDENTS AND TEACHERS ARE NOT LAB RATS," designed by innovative illustrator Michael Bruza. The display refers to AB 405, legislation carried by Assemblywoman Montanez, that will prevent experimental pesticides from being used on school campuses throughout California.

CSS is a non-profit organization devoted to protecting children and community members from environmental toxics, especially pesticides.

Moderated by Maribel De La Torre, City of San Fernando Councilmember, a panel of distinguished guests described programs and policies enacted to protect health and the environment, and answered questions from audience members. Panelists: Bill Jones, US EPA Region IX, Jane Williams, Executive Director of California Communities Against Toxics, Cynthia Babich, Del Amo Action Committee, Martha Powell, Principal, Aldama Elementary National Green Flag School, and National Geographic School, Nita Davidson, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Robert Hamm, Deputy Director of Maintenance & Operation of Los Angeles Unified School District and Danny Villanueva, Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Between presentations guests were treated to environmental displays, interactive ROBOTIC presentation by the Van Nuys Champion Robotic Team, and entertainment by the Van Nuys High School Award Winning Jazz Ensemble, Drumline, and the Singing Vannairs. The grand finale of the event, a spectacular organ performance by Phillip Smith, curator for the Disney Concert Hall Organ, brought shouts of “bravo” from the audience.

Special thanks are due to Jack Humphreys (sound design), Brandon Baker, (lighting design), Taylor Young, (stage manager), and Marque Coy of the Zappa Institute of Technology (technical supervisor).

For further information about California Safe Schools, contact Robina Suwol, CSS Executive Director, at 785-5515.