After several months of enduring what some have referred to as an obscene billboard at the gateway to Westchester’s Central Business District, the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce was finally able to craft a deal that removed the scantily clad woman perched high over Sepulveda Boulevard and replaced it with a billboard touting the chamber.

“We are very excited that the chamber could play a role in getting this new billboard up,” said chamber president Steve Donell. “This project was a true collaboration between the chamber, the City Council and Arias, Ozzello and Gignac that has allowed us to achieve the goal of addressing the community’s concerns while promoting enhancing the visibility of our Chamber of Commerce.”

Thursday, November 30th, the old billboard, which advertised a West Los Angeles “gentleman’s club,” came down. The removal was timed in conjunction with the chamber’s official move to its new offices at 9100 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in the Westchester Central Business District.

According to the chamber’s executive director, Christina Davis, removing the offensive billboard was a long process that involved City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s Office, the chamber and the sponsorship of attorney Mike Arias of the law firm Arias, Ozzello & Gignac, LLP, which underwrote the cost of the new billboard.

The run of the controversial billboard, which was once slated for a one-year lease, was cut short to make way for the chamber advertisement.

“As a local business owner, a resident of Westchester and a father of two school-age children, I am very supportive of this undertaking,” said Arias. “When I initially received a call from the chamber asking for my sponsorship of this project, I did not hesitate to say yes.

“It is good to know that we have organizations like our chamber that work to continually promote not only the business interests of our area but also support the community as a whole. I am proud to be a part of this effort.”

LMU FACULTY MEMBER NAMED CALIFORNIA TEACHER OF THE YEAR — Jack O’Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, has named LMU part-time faculty member Alan Sitomer as the California Teacher of the Year for 2007.

O’Connell named Sitomer because of his unique approach to teaching reading and writing in high school. He implemented an innovative program using hip-hop to engage students’ interest and direct it to “classic” literature based on standards.

Sitomer teaches honors and “GATE English,” a program for gifted and talented students, and he is an “AVID” instructor at Lynwood High School, which assist students for college readiness in the Lynwood Unified School District. AT LMU, he teaches “Trends in the Teaching of English in Secondary Schools.”

All candidates for the National Teacher of the Year program will be honored at a White House ceremony in April.

In his California Teacher of the Year application, Sitomer wrote of how he reached unmotivated students who covered their faces with sweatshirt hoods like Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars, by turning to the positive power of hip-hop. He used Tupac Shakur to connect to Dylan Thomas and Ice Cube to connect to Lord Alfred Tennyson.

“From the very first moment I announced what we’d be doing, I had 100 percent engagement from 100 percent of the students,” Sitomer said. “They offered insight, they offered passion, they offered themselves, even as I assigned oral presentations, persuasive essays and classroom debates.”

“Alan Sitomer’s belief that he can make a difference was quite evident in his application,” O’Connell said. “In his classroom he hangs a poster that reads, ‘Attitude equals altitude.’

“I refuse to believe that the literacy levels of inner-city teens can’t be raised. We must never forget how teachers can make a world of difference in the lives of other human beings.”

LIBRARY HOLDS BOOK SALE — Friends of the Playa Vista Library will hold a book sale from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, December 9th, at the library, 6400 Playa Vista Drive.

A wide variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, hardback and paperbacks will be available. The sale will also include audio books, CDs and DVDs. Hundreds of items will be on sale with prices from 25 cents to $5 for nearly new bestseller hardback books.

All proceeds from the book sale will go to benefit the community programs offered at the Playa Vista Branch Library.

LMU HOLDS ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONCERTS — Loyola Marymount University’s College of Communication and Fine Arts will present the annual Christmas Gala Concert at 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, December 7th and 9th, in Sacred Heart Chapel.

Under the direction of Mary Breden, director of choral activities, the Consort Singers will present the beautiful Laud of the Nativity by Ottorino Respighi.

The Women’s Chorus and the Concert Choir will offer shorter seasonal works including selections of European carols. The combined ensembles will close this year’s holiday concert with a new piece from Z. Randall Stroope, his festive Cantus Natalis.

Tickets for the choral performances are $12 and are available through the Central Ticket Agency, (310) 338-7588.

YMCA SWIMMERS EXCEL IN LATEST MEETS — The Westchester Family YMCA Orcas recently competed in two YMCA League swim meets.

The Orcas hosted their YMCA Invitational Swim Meet at Loyola Marymount University, marking the season opener for the YMCA Swim League.

Of the 74 team members who competed, 65 percent achieved personal bests, with 63 percent of the team scoring points, giving the Orcas a second-place finish in the overall competition.

The top five point-scorers on the team were Teresa Lincoln with 107 points; Zachary Lew, 90 points; Sarah Hightower, 79 points; Ted Boehm, 77 points; and Nicholas Paz, 71 points.

The second meet, the 21st Annual CCY Dragon Invitational, took place at the El Monte Aquatics Center. Of the 57 team members that competed, 83 percent achieved personal bests, with 86 percent of the team scoring points, placing the Orcas third in the overall competition.

The top five point-scorers were Teresa Lincoln with 134 points; Karolina Garcia, 98.5 points; Sarah Hightower, 85.5 points; Bart Salvaterra, 80 points; and Tara Prentice, 79.5 points.

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