CCEFs Tribute to the Stars – A Constellation of Successes

Teacher of the Year Kari Fretham
Teacher of the Year Kari Fretham

As we waited to get in to Sony Studios for the 2012 Tribute to the Stars, one those very stars- Kari Frethem – came over and suggested we’d better hurry in, the awards were about to start. Posing for a picture by a balloon column, she quipped, “It’s very nice to be honored.”

Deservedly so; the Sony Pictures Entertainment Teacher of the Year has a list of credits, credentials and inspirations that is a template for how the Culver City Education Foundation supports education.

Currently the chair of the English Language Development Department, Kari has received CCEF Teacher Grants to study ways to bring the arts in as part of the lesson plan. As the Arts Integration Coordinator with the Music Center, Kari schedules performances for the students. She also receives training through the Music Center Summer Institute, and was presented with the Bravo Award by the Music Center for her excellence in integrating the arts (music, acting, drawing) into her curriculum. For some of her students, it is their first exposure to the arts. Kari is also deeply involved with expertise about blues music and African-American history, and she is the author of the biography Sweetback Blues; the Twelve Bar Tale of South Side Slim. Students rave – colleagues exclaim – and star status is conferred.

The evening was so star-filled it might have been a night at the planetarium. Another “name above the title on the marquee” was Anissa McCullen, the Rotary Club Classified Employee of the Year, famous for holding the front office at Linwood E. Howe Elementary School. With a mega-watt smile, Anissa was almost above the reach of gravity as she floated through the evening. Juggling a daily schedule of registrations, budgets, calendars, field trips and answering every question that walks in the door, Anissa is considered slightly more essential to the success of Lin Howe than running water. She was beaming like a spotlight at all her fans and friends congratulating her on the honor. “Everyone works hard, we all want the kids to do well,” she said “I’m just really flattered to be here.”

The Superintendent’s Award went to the Fineshriber Family Foundation for their many contributions, but particularly for the Science Lab at El Rincon, which was the direct result of their offer to help the district. Cathy Hession of the Caro & James Collins Foundation was also given the gratitude of the CCEF with the President’s Award.

See’s Candies, which sponsors the Volunteers of the Year, gave some big boxes of chocolates along with lots of applause to Josette Trux of the Office of Child Development, Alisha Martin of El Marino, Ronni Kass of Linwood E. Howe, Steve Zee of El Rincon, James Sparling of Farragut, Nancy Richards Chand and Mohi Chand of LaBallona, Allison Brush of Culver City Middle School, Steve Stautzenbach of Culver City High School, Margaret Fujisawa of Culver Park High School, and Ronald Ruben of the Culver City Adult School.

Keeping all the stardust swirling was the premier CCEF contributor, Sony VP Janice Pober. Not only did she graciously thank many of the award recipients for their time, effort, funding and imagination, she reminded us that there was a crew of Sony folks waiting to get back into the Cary Grant Theater and get back to their post-production work on the next Spiderman film.

Spilling out of the theater into the Street Scene, the revelers were fed by the best of Culver City’s restaurants, with everyone from Akasha to Tender Greens offering some fine food.

CCEF leaders and event heroes Lise Friedman, Paula Wilson, and CCEF President, Marci Shulman can take pride in all the stars, and know that the community they work so hard to educate and enrich is grateful for all they do.


The Actors' Gang


  1. This is one of the best things to happen every year in Culver City. Congratulations to all the teachers and school staff, and thanks to the CCEF volunteers for your incredibly hard work.

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