“Every parent is willing to throw themselves in front of a truck for their child. So what do we do to make every family able to translate their love for their child into action that allows and supports the potential of achievement for their child.” Louise Jaffe, Chair of the Santa Monica College Board of TrusteesThe way Louise tells it, she was born in the middle of the 1950’s and in the middle of mainstream USA. She mostly grew up in Salisbury, Maryland, a rural community on the Eastern Shore. Her dad was an optometrist and her mom a homemaker, raising Louise and her brother, and helping out with the optometry office. But mainstream USA was changing and Louise, a good student, instead of senior year in high school, went to the local college. She wrote a paper that she thought was original and received her first “C”. She wrote her next paper in a traditional style and got an “A.” She went long enough to learn that the idea of being in a classroom for four years and being graded on her work was not for her and transferred to Antioch College. Louise describes Antioch “as a whole new way to be in the world.” “Amazing” professors who didn’t try to “manage” people, just to “welcome” them. She turned away from a human-centric course of study, wanting to focus on things outside herself. Her degree in Biology took her to the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, GA. Louise discovered she was “good enough at science but not good enough to have sparks of insight” and she wanted that feeling about her work.Not knowing what should come next, she accepted an opportunity from her uncle, the film director Herbert Ross, who was working on The 7% Solution. She describes herself as ‘lucky enough’ to work on films until her last film job, Howard the Duck. It was 1985 and she married her husband, Richard Casey, (called Casey) just 2 days after the film wrapped. By 1986 they were living in Santa Monica and their daughter, Maggie, was born. “Everything changed in a moment. Casey and I were walking Maggie in a stroller and crossing Lincoln Blvd. Without thinking, I stepped out into the street to create a protective zone around the baby. From then on, I couldn’t look at any person without thinking ‘that’s someone’s baby.’”Luck again intervened and Louise got the chance to work, part time, on The Simpson’s as script supervisor and she’s been working on The Simpson’s continually since 1986. She and Casey had a second daughter, Nora, who was born in 1989. Louise turned her focus to their education. Louise credits Mary Hartzell, Director of First Presbyterian Nursery School and Julie DiChiro, the principal at Will Rogers, as her teachers. “Julia was a person who didn’t say no. She made each idea better. It was a big lesson to me.” Louise followed her children from Will Rogers to John Adams and to SAMOHI. She was the PTA president at Will Rogers and at SAMOHI; a founding member of the Community of Excellent Public Schools; and a past PTA Council president. “It has all been a remarkable learning experience and I learned as much as I gave.”Louise describes the teachers and the principal at Will Rogers as “inspired.” Yet she could see that, in the same school environment, one group of children was doing much better than the other. “I began to realize that learning had to begin at birth and to be a responsibility of the family and the community.”Right about that time she read the City Open Space Plan and learned about the concept of “City As Park.” Louise applied the same framework to education and developed the concept of Santa Monica as a Lifelong Learning City. “Education is essential. Everyone needs access. All children flourish.”“My daughters are in college now. I will be at UCLA this coming fall studying for a doctorate in Educational Leadership. I work hard. I try to be a nice person. But I recognize that I’ve been lucky in my marriage, my children, my work, and my city. I’m thrilled and I’m grateful.”
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