Culver City Teacher of the Year Honored at Culver Studios Gala
May 5, 2016
Win-Win was the music of the night for honored teachers and supporters of Culver City schools at the Culver City Education Foundation's (CCEF) splendid 18th Annual Tribute to the Stars gala fundraiser. It was a night of love from, and for, Culver City.
What an evening! A cocktail hour was followed by the awards presentation, followed by a live auction. And then there was a huge street party with food from more than 20 Culver City's best restaurants. After that, dancing under the stars, the real stars, all on the grounds of iconic Culver City Studios, where Gone With The Wind, A Star is Born, and E.T. were filmed.
The dapper CEO of Culver Studios, Michael Hackman, started the evening right when he said, "CCEF is the heartbeat of the city. I'm so moved that we're going to give another five thousand dollars to CCEF."
Actor Tim Robbins described Culver City as "this incredible community of forward thinking 'politicians' - can you imagine that? They had this enthusiastic embrace of the arts. Ten years ago, there were about three restaurants, and now there are - how many restaurants in Culver City? The arts fueled this."
Robbins added, "Not many municipalities view the arts as essential, as Culver City does.
"We're indebted to Culver City; there's incredible support of the government here for the school system.
People, when they get it, when they understand how important the arts are - Thank you so much!"
He thanked Janice Pober of Sony Pictures, calling her "our biggest advocate when we came here to Culver City. She set up this incredible organization to bring artists together."
Robbins announced Culver City's Employee of the Year Award to Mike Korgan.
Michael Rachlin, of Rachlin Partners, gave the CCUSD Superintendent's Award, saying, "It's a privilege to be able to pay back."
Steve Levin, President of the Culver City USD Board of Education, presented the Symantec Volunteers of the Year Award. He said, "For 20 plus years, Culver City has had a community that says, 'we need the arts in our schools, and if the government won't pay for it, we will'." CCEF is non-profit, independent of the school district. It was formed to raise money for the things the schools needed, that weren't in the budget.
After the presentations, Levin said, "It was a great party; it honored a lot of people who've done a lot of work."
Janice Pober, Sony Pictures Entertainment Senior VP for Corporate Social Responsibility presented the award everyone was waiting for, announcing that the Teacher of the Year was Tony Spano.
"We've been sponsoring this award for 12-13 years," she said. "I am humbled by the work of this district, incredibly humbled, by the work you do Leslie," she said, praising Leslie Adler, CCEF's Executive Director.
She asked the audience to hold applause while she read out the names of nominees for the award. No one waited. It can only be described as loving screams from the audience for nominee after nominee. There as wild applause when Tony Spano's name was announced.
Visibly moved, Pober later confided, "It was spectacular to both be honored for my work, and to honor Tony Spano for his."
Tony Spano thanked "the parents who have worked so hard to allow me to create opportunities for our students."
And then there was the auction! A huge amount of money was raised for Culver City Schools, auctioning off a $1,000 sports package (including great seats to Lakers and Dodgers games). Other prizes included Wine Country and Mammoth getaways, cooking demonstrations, and tickets to plays which included overnight hotel rooms and dinner. The auction continued, with prizes of a technology device and hands-on learning in school gardens. A big number of hands went up when they auctioned off backpacks for students.
Everyone looked happy with auction results as they strolled the studio lawn next, literally feasting on food and desserts donated by Culver City restaurants.
Elfie Weiss, owner of Hotcakes Bakers, told why she donated desserts: "This is the second year we're here; if I give food away, I always give it to schools. My son just graduated last year from Culver City High School, and I'm anticipating our five-year old daughter going there as well. It's always about schools for me."
Bonnie Seeberger told why she came: " I came tonight to support Dr. Spano. This foundation supports not just the arts, but theaters, science, technology in our schools. I came to support the cause and to see the jazz combo from Culver City High School."
She added, "My son's a senior at Culver City High School; my oldest son graduated from there. What's unique is having a public high school that offers kids a chance to study and learn about music. They work together so the music students know the art students; it's an enriching experience."
Thomas Small, Culver City Council Member, summed up the gala: "The incredible thing is how this event brings together the extraordinary brain trust we have access to in Culver City. It's so diverse, but it's so high-powered." He added, "It's relaxed and it's not really Hollywood, but the level of wattage is really incredible, especially in the arts and music."
A band played hot music; a dance floor appeared. Everyone was feeling happy.
People were dancing on the outdoor dance floor; someone was decorating guests with balloon animals; tall roses made each table beautiful.
This was an event of dreams, for parents, teachers, and volunteers. Win-win, and hugely inspiring.
©Carole Bell 2016