Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Musings in the 'Moonlight'

Hats off to Mary McMullin and Adrineh Ghazarian, co-chairs of the 26th annual La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation's Spring Gala, held at the Langham Huntington hotel last Saturday. And, to their remarkable staff and also to those who attended. Themed "Moonlight in Morocco," it was a fun-fest gala of community camaraderie, all while raising dollars for our children's education.

What caught my attention was the meticulous attention to detail and the elegant logistical appointment of the evening. Year in and year out, the event defines La Cañada as a remarkable town with stellar public schools. Here's where I offer a disclaimer while I boast of our school system: my wife, Kaitzer, is on the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board.

What I'm most impressed about is that the foundation's efforts regarding fundraising work is at a grassroots level. People come together and demonstrate community self-reliance. Emerson tells us, "Do not seek outside ourselves."

Kaitzer and I drove up to the entrance of the Langham. "Where can I self-park?" I asked. I've never been a fan of someone doing something for me when I could easily do it myself.

"Parking is $14," this kid — who looked like his name would be Biff — emphatically exclaimed.

"Does it come with an oil change?" I countered.

He didn't get it. I can be such an embarrassment.

As we approached the entrance, we were greeted by neighbors, friends and our community's public servants. Kaitzer was engulfed by well-wishers. You'd think she was Derek Jeter. I, on the other hand, stood on the periphery.

"What am I, chopped liver?" I was thinking, when I heard a friendly voice call out, "Joe, come up here and join us?" It was Deborah Weirick. I can see why she was the 2017 Spirit of Outstanding Service Award recipient.

One of the ladies at the gate stamped us with red stars. We were whisked to the VIP lounge on the second floor. I tried to wrap my head around why I was considered a very important person; I've had a sordid past. Regardless, the lamb chops in the VIP lounge were to die for.

Later, dinner was marginal at best, and the hotel staff could have focused a bit more on service. Maybe next year we should have the In-N-Out truck.

When it comes to education and its implications regarding philosophy, performance and efficiency, I typically defer to Kaitzer. However, she was having too much fun laughing and kibitzing with friends while holding a glass of chardonnay. Subsequently, I was on my own.

I understand the pragmatic nature of the gala. And of course, I understand the causal relationship between money and a quality school district. However, the conventional wisdom, which implies that throwing money at public education is the essential ingredient for success is questionable. The research is speculative at best, and both sides of the argument are founded in supporting statistics. Funding is indeed a variable, yet it's a component of a widening necessity of variables that define student performance.

The buzz words for the evening were, "what if." I paid attention during the rationales expressed in the film and the emcee's constant sermonizing, "What if we had unlimited classroom resources?"

Sister Audrey, my philosopher professor, used to say, "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas." Sister had a way of putting everything into perspective. I can't wrap my head around the nebulous. But maybe we do need the nebulous of a "what if." Because the real solutions toward any success are irrespective of money. Perhaps what we need to assure our children's success is to roll up our sleeves and look within. What is our role in improving our child's education?

Regardless of my discourse, the Educational Foundation is terrific and thank God we have them because they make the battle.

Believe me, my thoughts would have been different if Kaitzer hadn't been busy taking selfies with friends and holding a glass of wine.



JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at