The Westchester/LAXñMarina del Rey Chamber of Commerce will present Rear Admiral David Stone, assistant secretary of homeland security for the nation’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as the keynote speaker at the chamber’s annual Protectors Breakfast Wednesday, February 16th.

The breakfast, which begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott, will be an opportunity for the chamber to recognize the efforts of the men and women who protect our community, including representatives from all of the local police, fire and sheriff’s departments. In addition, Stone will speak about the unique security challenges facing our country, our airport and our community.

Seats are $25 per person and can be reserved by calling the chamber office at (310) 645-5151.

Stone was nominated by President Bush on April 8th last year and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on July 22nd.

Stone had served as acting administrator of TSA since December 4th, 2003 and had been deputy chief of staff in TSA headquarters since August 2003. He was selected for that position from a field assignment as TSA’s first federal security director at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). During that assignment, he led the local effort to mobilize, train, and deploy the largest federalized screener work force in the United States, a monumental effort completed two weeks before the required deadline. The airport also implemented the 100 percent electronic checked-baggage screening program, screening in excess of 150,000 items per day.

As a career naval officer, Rear Admiral Stone retired from active duty in April 2002. He began his naval career in 1974, as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He also holds a Master of Science in management from Salve Regina College; a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island; and a Master of Arts in National Security Affairs from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

His initial command at sea was the USS John Hancock. As a senior officer, he served as the first Commander Destroyer Squadron Fifty, homeported in Manama, Bahrain, and later served as chief of staff to commander, Sixth Fleet in Gaeta, Italy.

Upon promotion to rear admiral, he served as the U.S. commander of NATO’s Standing Naval Force Mediterranean during operations in the Adriatic in support of the Kosovo conflict.

He was presented an Outstanding Citizen Award by his hometown of Algonquin, Illinois, in recognition of this achievement and his outstanding commitment to service.

COWAN AVENUE LIBRARY — Cowan Avenue Elementary School will soon open a completely remodeled and expanded library, thanks to the Wonder of Reading Program.

The library, which will be the size of two classrooms and will include story steps for group reading, individual reading stations for tutoring and a cove for quiet reading will open Friday, February 18th.

Outdated and worn books will be replaced with $10,000 worth of new books, and support will be provided to train volunteers from community organizations and local businesses to be reading partners.

Wonder of Reading, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring children to read, provided $25,000 for the project, but the school hopes to raise an additional $40,000 to fully furnish and complete the library expansion project.

For more information about the project or to make a donation, call the school at (310) 645-1973. Donors who make gifts of $300 or more will be recognized with a donor plaque in the new library and will be recognized during the February 18th grand opening celebration.

TOP EYE DOC — The California Optometric Association has named Dr. Ernest Nankas Optometrist of the Year for 2004 in recognition of his exemplary contributions to public service, service to the visual welfare of the public, service to optometry and service to the association.

“I am truly honored and humbled by this award,” said the Marina del Rey optometrist.

Nankas has been an active member of the community for many years. He is a member of the California Yacht Club and serves on the board of directors for the Annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade.

ESCUELA OPEN HOUSE — Escuela Village Academy in Westchester will hold an open house for potential students and their parents from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, January 29th, at the school, 8820 Sepulveda Eastway in Westchester.

The school, for students in preschool through sixth grade, will offer tours, refreshments and entertainment.

For more information, please call (310) 645-4775.