Celebrating union activism
The "We Honor Ours" (WHO) awards are awarded annually to UTLA/NEA members who have displayed exemplary dedication and/or have given outstanding service to UTLA and its membership.
2014 WHO Awards
Monday, April 28, 2014 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Embassy Suites - LAX South
1440 E. Imperial Ave.
El Segundo 90245
$45 per person reserved or $60 at door
2014 "WHO" Recipients
Carmen Acosta Esterman
Mary Jan "MJ" Roberts
Gold Community Award
Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center
2013 "WHO" Recipients
Honored October 14, 2013 are from left to right: Sean Abajian, John Paul Cabrera, Laura McCutcheon, Karen Ticer-Leon, Shirley Bass, ULA/NEA VP Mary Jan "MJ" Roberts, Robert Stromoski, Linda Guthrie, Hattie McFrazier, Ginger Rose Fox, Jamie Wolf, Ange McNeel and Ingrid Villeda.
Eight union members and a progressive legislator were honored for their service to UTLA and our communities at the “We Honor Ours” awards dinner at the Knollwood Country Club on October 14, 2013. WHO Award recipients were recognized for their individual efforts in providing outstanding leadership and advocating for public education. The awards were given by the WHO Planning Committee, based on nominations from fellow union members. The effort and time generously given by the recipients demonstrate that activist members are the key element to a strong and vibrant union.
From the Valley to South L.A., from East Los Angeles to Koreatown, Sean Abajian’s activism has been phenomenal. He is currently in his sixth year as UTLA chapter chair at Jefferson Community Adult School and is serving his second year on the Central Area Steering Committee. He has been elected as a CTA State Council delegate alternate and has been actively involved in the UTLA Adult Education Committee. He organized six rallies in support of Proposition 30 at Jefferson CAS and at Pacoima Skill Center. As a founding member of the community-based organization District 2 Neighborhood Coalition, Abajian has organized three highly successful candidate forums. He has also worked as the campaign manager for the UTLA-endorsed School Board candidate Robert D. Skeels by organizing precinct walks, phone banking, and providing general strategy.
Shirley A. Bass
Shirley Bass is a 33-year veteran of LAUSD and has been at 99th Street Elementary for 32 of those years. She has been active in supporting members as chapter chair, House of Representatives member, UTLA committee member, PACE committee member, and lead teacher on the School Leadership Team. She has been an active participant during two UTLA strikes. Bass has devoted much effort and time in mentoring members, organizing parents in support of schools, and involving staff members in school leadership and protecting professional rights. Her success at local organizing and collective action over the past nine years has resulted in voluntary removal of a principal (or two or three). Bass inspires growth among colleagues to face challenges. She has been known to say similar words to these to members: “Now, I am willing to help you, but I am not going to do everything for you. You have to be willing to stand up for yourself and defend your job.”
John Paul Cabrera
With his tireless commitment and dedication, John Paul Cabrera has been a strong advocate for UTLA health and human services members. John Paul Cabrera currently serves as the chapter chair for psychiatric social workers. He has spoken before the LAUSD Board of Education on their issues and the issues of other health and human services professionals as well. He is a co-chair at Banning High School, where he works on behalf of teachers on union matters and works with parents and community leaders in support of students. He is true activist. He has participated in all UTLA demonstrations and rallies. He has traveled to Sacramento as a UTLA/NEA representative. He works for the inclusion of health and human services members in all UTLA activities as a member of the UTLA House of Representatives and the Health and Human Services Committee.
Ginger Rose Fox
Ginger Rose Fox has been with LAUSD for 15 years and has been an active staff member of the Elementary Arts Program. She has been a long-time advocate and fighter for the arts and for its rightful place in the curriculum. As chapter chair, Ginger Rose Fox represents about 210 K-6 itinerant visual and performing arts teachers across LAUSD. Before program cuts, she represented 350 arts teachers. As chair of the Arts Education Committee, she works with teachers, parents, community members, and the Board of Education to create viable arts education for all students pre-K-12. As a state representative for CTA, CFT, the CDEA (California Dance Education Association) Board, and CREATE/CA, arts council, Fox is working with these groups on common causes that also includes creating policy to develop California Single Subject Credentials in Dance and Theater. As dance representative on the NEA Fine Arts Caucus Board, Fox was a key speaker at the 2013 NEA Representative Assembly, helping to pass policy that ensures NEA’s active participation in the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards.
Laura N. McCutcheon
Laura McCutcheon has served as chapter chair at Menlo Elementary for 13 years. She seriously takes her UTLA leadership role in defending teachers at all cost. McCutcheon collaborates in employee hiring, New School Review, and Leadership and School Site Councils. She coordinates her school’s Student Peer Mediation Program, supported by UTLA. McCutcheon served several years on the UTLA House of Representatives and as a representative to the NEA, AFT, and CFT. She has volunteered to work on various campaigns, lobbied in Sacramento, and supported local Public School Choice teams. McCutcheon is a National Board Certified teacher, a mentor, and a BTSA support provider, and she models pedagogy and union activism.
Now in her 25th year of teaching at Lassen Elementary, Ange McNeel is the cornerstone of the school. McNeel was one of the founders of the Lassen Steering committee, along with some colleagues from her school site, after the 1989 strike. Their committee concepts were covered in the UNITED TEACHER and the committee was asked by Gregg Solkovits to present them at a Leadership Conference so that others may learn from their success. She has been the chapter chair, vice chair, and chapter chair trainer throughout her years at Lassen while also serving as the LEARN Lead Teacher and on the School Site Council (since 1989) and on the Personnel Selection Committee (for more than 20 years). She has been awarded other honors, such as Phi Delta Kappa teacher of the month and LEARN Academic Excellence in team teaching. McNeel has mentored every teacher since her arrival at Lassen Elementary.
Karen Ticer-Leon has been a teacher with LAUSD since September 1989 and at Tweedy Elementary School since July 1990. During this time, Ticer-Leon has been on numerous committees, always working for the betterment of our school and students. While at Tweedy, she has been very active in UTLA, fighting for teacher and student rights. She has been the school’s co-chair, chapter chair, and cluster leader on the South Area Steering Committee. At the current time, she is one of three South Area NEA directors. Former UTLA President A.J. Duffy appointed Ticer-Leon to the Calendar Committee, where she works with the District to schedule the LAUSD school calendars. UTLA President Warren Fletcher also appointed her to the Enrollment Resolution Working Group to help determine the reasons why LAUSD has been experiencing declining enrollment.
Robert Stromoski has been a chapter chair/co-chair for more than ten years. He has been integral to the shift to LEARN/SBM and has defended it at San Fernando High School. He has worked to provide effective representation to all members when necessary. He has dedicated countless hours to leading the WASC accreditation and Public School Choice writing teams.
Ingrid Carol Villeda
Ingrid Carol Villeda is an exemplary union leader, giving countless hours of her personal time to defend public education. Her extraordinary leadership has been the force behind numerous successful union events. She mobilized members when teachers and staff were unjustly sanctioned at Miramonte and when Los Angeles schools faced reconstitution. She has quelled unjust efforts to degrade or deny Latinos or any other people of color an equal education. Her recognized ability to effectively organize parent groups needing political assistance has been a model for averting injustices affecting her communities. Villeda expertly lobbied legislators, debated before School Board meetings, and wrote reform plans defending public education. She actively supports numerous committees at UCLA, CTA, and the NEA-RA. Villeda runs an annual scholarship fundraising campaign for students seeking higher education. She is a true friend of public education, a model of excellence, and merits this award.
Jamie Wolf has provided outstanding service to UTLA/NEA members. He has demonstrated leadership within the organization through his participation as chapter chair, member of the Area Steering Committee, and West Area Cluster Leader. In his role as Broadway’s chapter chair for 13 years, he kept the members informed of all union activities and has volunteered for various phone banking campaigns. He has served on the Steering Committee for seven years and he also serves as a cluster leader for school in the Venice area. He is a dedicated union member and has always supported each member. Although Wolf is no longer at Broadway, he is working just as hard at his new school, Menlo Elementary.
State WHO Awards
Over her 31 years working, Hattie McFrazier has been a teacher, grade counselor, pupil service & attendance counselor, and school attendance review board chairperson. Besides all the roles she has taken on with LAUSD, she has also been involved with UTLA. In the union, she has been active as a Board of Director member for Health and Human Services, Health and Human Services Committee chair, Harbor Area director, UTLA House of Representatives member, UTLA Budget Committee member, Education South Parent Advisory Committee member, and a WHO Committee member, to name just some of her involvements. On the state level, McFrazier has been on CTA State Council for nine years as well as being a member of the CTA Association for Better Citizenship (ABC) Committee, the Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee, the Communication Advisory Committee, and the CTA African-American Caucus. And if that is not enough, she has been attending the NEA Representative Assembly for the past 13 years. She has lived by her principles, which has made her a strong advocate for all children in the pursuit of education and health and human services professionals and teachers in securing safe working conditions, fair compensation, due process, and dignity on the job. Her beliefs are clear and direct: A union cannot survive without unity among all members . . . we must stand up for all members because each member is important . . . together we stand, divided we fall . . . and we must truly be united not in words only, but in action.
Linda Guthrie has been teaching in LAUSD for 32 years, spending the majority of her time at Virgil Middle School and then at Thomas Starr King Middle School. Her activism kept her busy in UTLA — so busy that she decided to leave the classroom and become an officer for nine years, from 2002 to 2008. Guthrie helped to write three key sections of the UTLA-LAUSD contract, on Peer Assistance and Review, professional development, and charter schools. Her knowledge of the contract and history of UTLA made her an asset to the updating of the UTLA/NEA by-laws. On the state level, she gave her time for nine years on CTA State Council and participated on many committees. Guthrie also participated in CTA’s “State of Emergency” budget protest in Sacramento and was even arrested for her convictions on education. She will always stand up for what she believes in. On the national level, since the 90s Guthrie has attended the NEA Representative Assembly, where she has spoken to issues on the RA floor and has been active in promoting education with a focus on kids first.
Community WHO Award
Councilmember Gil Cedillo
Longtime legislator and friend of education, Gilbert Cedillo was elected in May to represent the first district on the Los Angeles City Council. In addition to serving as a Democratic member of both the California State Assembly and the California State Senate, the councilman had been a teacher for many years before seeking a more public platform to advocate for children, our students, and their families. As a union organizer and general manager with SEIU, Cedillo protected youth programs and played a critical role in securing federal funding to ensure that the Los Angeles County health care system remained afloat. Councilman Cedillo’s advocacy on behalf of marginalized communities is legendary. His progressive politics represent a personal balance with his underlying message and good deeds over the years. He is credited with authoring more than 100 bills that were signed and chaptered into California law by four different governors. Most prominent is his authorship of the California Dream Act and promoting legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to get drivers’ licenses. The later law took time and consistent attempts to finally get it passed. Councilman Cedillo’s tenaciousness and achievements exemplifies UTLA’s past and present, and our hopes for the future of our own union.