The Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey seated newly elected board members and selected officers during its meeting Tuesday, January 9th.

Those elected in the October, election officially took their seats for a four-year term that evening and were promptly asked to select a leader for the board to run the Neighborhood Council over the next year.

The board voted to hold a secret ballot, and in a close vote, Mike Arias, who had served as interim president of the board for three months following the resignation of then-president Gwen Vuchsas, was elected 16-12 over David Voss, with one abstention.

Arias said that while the vote was close, he hoped that the board would come together to work for the community.

“I have no doubt that we can all work as one and, while we don’t always agree on every issue, I know we all have the community’s best interests at heart,” said Arias, who vowed to be inclusive and open when setting the board’s agenda and interacting with the board and the public during Neighborhood Council meetings.

“Everyone deserves a voice. We all love our community, and I look forward to a great year where we all work together to address the issues important to Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista.”

Following Arias’s election, the board voted to fill the remaining officer seats and unanimously elected Frances Stronks as vice president; Steve Donell, treasurer; Judith Ciancimino, recording secretary; and David Coffin, corresponding secretary.

The board has one remaining vacancy, created by Vuchsas’s resignation. Given the timing of her resignation, a candidate could not be placed on the October ballot for the Service Club and Fraternal Organizations seat she previously held, and Arias appointed Rotarian Tom Flintoft to fill out the remainder of Vuchsas’s term, which ended Sunday, December 31st.

Arias said he intends to seek interested members of service clubs and fraternal organizations within the Neighborhood Council boundaries before appointing anyone to fill the seat permanently —Ýa term that would last until the end of 2010.

Arias’s appointment would have to be confirmed by a majority of the board before the seat could be filled.

Those interested in being appointed to the seat should contact Arias directly at (310) 670-1600 or

Arias said he hoped to review the applications and bring his selection to the board for approval at its meeting Tuesday, February 6th.

TEACHER MINI GRANTS — The tenth annual Teacher Mini Grant awards event was held Friday, January 12th. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Westchester and the Playa Sunrise Rotary Club, 67 mini grants totaling more than $16,000 were doled out to teachers at 18 schools.

The LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, Crowne Plaza Hotel, and the Travelodge Hotel LAX hosted a morning reception to hand out the checks to the winning schools.

The grants went to pay for a variety of items schools and teachers alone could not afford.

For example, Ryan Burden, a kindergarten teacher at St. Jerome School, requested funds to purchase a carpet, not just any carpet, but “Öa graphed one that would help organize 28 bodies on the floor, teach the children proper spacing between one another, and engage all the girls and boys in the learning process.”

Micki Montgomery, a Cowan Avenue Elementary School teacher of autistic children in grades three through five, asked for a grant “that will enable my students to participate in math activities involving using fractions in a recipe, while taking a walking (social skills) field trip to the local supermarket to purchase fruit for a fruit salad party; then a later trip to buy treats for a Valentine party to which they invite general education students to visit their special education classroom, facilitating the formation of friendships, encourage acceptance of students with disabilities, and teach appropriate social interaction to students with autism.”

Wendy Green, a sixth- and ninth-grade English and history teacher at Orville Wright Middle School, used her grant to purchase a Geo Safari Learning System (GSLA).

The GSLA is a computerized, game-like program that asks questions about a multitude of topics. The topics include ancient empires, math and English mechanics. It is a wonderful tool to enhance learning, increase the desire to learn and add fun to a sometimes-dull task.

The contributors to the Teacher Mini-Grant program participated in the presenting of checks to a representative from each of the schools.

Gateway to L.A., represented by Laurie Hughes, executive director; and Grant Coonley, president of the board, contributed $4,115 to the program and distributed four grants to St. Bernard High School and nine grants to Westchester High School.

Presenters included Sibyl Buchanan, Playa Vista; Neil Pyne, LAX Kiwanis; Jan Davis, SuperbTech; Rebecca Lyon, Pawz/ The Wild $ Store and Westchester Watch Works; Flora Gil Krisiloff, donation made in tribute to her selection as YMCA Woman of the Year; Isaac Lieberman, Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s field representative; Michael Payton, general manager Crowne Plaza Hotel; Maria Miramontes, Travelodge Hotel LAX; Antje Frei, To Go’s and The Real Estate Consultants; Rob Hupp, Westchester Rotary Community service director; Lance Lipscomb, coordinator of the Jim Bunch Memorial Fund; and Gwen Vuchsas, memorial donation for Derrick Bunch.

Warren Bobrow, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Westchester; and Paul Maynard, president of the Playa Sunrise Rotary Club; distributed checks to St. Anastasia School and Westside Neighborhood School respectively.

John Theuer, president-elect of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, presented grants to Cowan Elementary School on behalf of Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, who has donated to the program for years.