Jennifer Sullivan, principal of Paseo del Rey Natural Science Magnet Elementary School in Playa del Rey, was recently recognized by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the Los Angeles Unified School District’s teachers union, as one of the top ten principals in the district.

Sullivan’s recognition was especially amazing since there are more than 600 principals in the district. Her rank as Number 8 in LA Unified was based on results of a questionnaire that was completed last spring by teachers throughout Los Angeles. The questionnaire included an evaluation of each principal’s leadership abilities, partnership, collaboration and respect for teachers.

“Mrs. Sullivan has been the principal at Paseo for five years, and this is quite a testimonial for her from the teachers who work with her every day,” said Louise Wallace, president of the Friends of Paseo del Rey “Booster Club.”

Parents at the school acknowledged Sullivan’s achievement with a plaque, a gift certificate, and flowers after she announced that the school’s Academic Performance Index (API) had jumped 27 points — from 809 to 836 since the previous recording period.

She congratulated the children at the school for all of their hard work and told them how difficult it is to increase scores once a school is in the 800s.

STAR PARTY — The community is invited to share an evening under the stars with author and astronomy educator Bob Eklund. He and fellow amateur astronomers will be pointing high-powered telescopes at Jupiter, the stars and the craters of the moon from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, October 3rd, in the parking lot of the Christian Science Church, 7855 Alverstone Ave. (at 79th Street) in Westchester.

In case of clouds or bad weather, the event will take place at the same time and location Friday, October 10th.

Eklund, who recently published a book of poetry and essays titled First Star I See Tonight, emphasized that children as well as adults are welcome to this free event.

“We’ll first look at the moon with its spectacular craters,” Eklund said. “As the sky darkens, we’ll be able to see brilliant Jupiter, largest of the planets. We’ll also look at double stars, wispy nebulae, and a distant galaxy.

“And if you have a telescope and want to try it out, bring it along. Our experienced astronomers will help show you the ropes.”

For information, call Eklund at (310) 216-5947.

TEEN TAKES ON OPEN-WATER CHALLENGE — Inspired by the new Olympic event of open-water swimming, Meriel Mitsakos, 13, of Playa del Rey, took on the challenge of the 2.4-mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim on Labor Day and emerged as the top 13-year-old finisher. She placed second in her age group (13- and 14-year-olds) in the race, which started at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel and ended at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu.

Meriel’s time of one hour, 12 minutes placed her 19th out of the 227 female swimmers and 92nd overall out of more than 740 swimmers.

Meriel sharpened her open-water swimming skills in the Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguard Program, where she placed first in her age group in the distance swim and run-swim-run in the county competition and then went on to place third in those events in the United States Lifesaving Association Junior Nationals competition held August 7th in Manhattan Beach.

A former member of the Westchester YMCA Orcas swim team, Meriel now swims with Team Santa Monica.

ARTIST HOPES TO CREATE WESTCHESTER MURAL — Steve O’Loughlin, a local artist and resident, is hoping to create a new mural at the intersection of Sepulveda Boulevard and Howard Hughes Parkway. The mural, which would depict icons of the community, everyday people and historic figures, would be seen by thousands of motorists as they exit the San Diego Freeway.

The eight-by-80-foot mural is themed “The History and Neighborhood of Westchester” and O’Loughlin is still seeking funds to make the mural a reality.

He is applying to the City of Los Angeles for a $10,000 Community Beautification grant and is approaching Loyola Marymount University, Otis College of Art and Design and local residents to help with volunteer efforts and to raise the $30,000 to install the mural. O’Loughlin, who has lived in Westchester since 1992, said Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl supports the project.

If fundraising goes well, the artist plans to begin fabrication of the mural in February and have it installed in late spring.

O’Laughlin has undertaken a dozen public art projects in the Los Angeles area, including murals for Covenant Presbyterian Preschool, libraries at both Kentwood Elementary School and Open Charter Magnet School, the handball wall and “sea mural” at Cowan Avenue Elementary School and another at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church.

ANOTHER EAGLE TACKLES NEILSEN — Following the completion of John Eggers’ “Eagle Project” in which he installed speed bumps in the Carl E. Nielsen Youth Park parking lot, another Eagle Scout candidate completed his project at the same location.

Colin Stanley spent more than 100 hours working with volunteers to plant trees and run irrigation lines at the park. Stanley and the volunteers also spent time weeding and generally cleaning up the park.

“I had a great turnout from the troop, and everyone worked unbelievably hard,” he said.

This was the last major step prior to Stanley receiving the prestigious Boy Scout Eagle Award, the highest award in Scouting.

CORRECTIONS — The September 11th “Off the Bluff” column provided the incorrect location for the Tenth Annual Fight for Jessica benefit dinner.

The event will be held Saturday, September 27th, at the Manhattan Beach Marriott Hotel. For information on the event or on the Fight for Jessica, www.fightforjessica .com/.

Also, the column failed to fully recognize the contributions of neighbor Robert Mogck to the repaving of the parking lot at Carl E. Nielsen Youth Park. Mogck went to the park every day, acted as a liaison between Jim Slater and the Youth Foundation and re-seeded and serviced the irrigation system for the girls softball field.