Smuts lauded, roasted during retirement dinner
By Randy Economy
Members of the ABC Unified School District Board of Education presented out going Superintendent Gary Smuts with a new bike to enjoy in his "retirement days."
ABC Unified School District Superintendent Gary Smuts was “roasted” and “toasted” at a retirement celebration this past Friday night at the Sycamore Plaza at the Lakewood Civic Center.
Smuts is retiring from the ABC Unified School District after a career that has spanned four decades and nearly 400 family, friends, community leaders, and co-workers gathered to pay tribute to one of the “most amazing educators in the history of ABC Unified School District.”
Cerritos Mayor Jim Edwards served as Master of Ceremonies and the event was filled with video tributes from local mayor’s, state elected officials, and by County Supervisor Don Knabe, a longtime friend of Smuts.
Smuts was praised by ABC USD Board President Olympia Chen, members of the Board of Education pounded drums as a symbol of their affection for Smuts.
Also participating in the tribute was former ABC Unified School District Superintendent Ronald Barnes, and Smut’s successor Dr. Mary Sieu.
Barnes joked that he and Smuts and Sieu all had one thing in common, that the three of them understand what it take to work in an office “with a leaky roof.”
Also poking fun at Smuts was longtime friend Dennis Mc Reynolds, who worked for decades with Smuts at Cerritos High School. McReynolds, now retired recalled all the “fun” they had as “youngsters” when they were both part of the early faculty and staff at Cerritos High School. “We taught each other how to be cool,” McReynolds said.
Sieu and Carol Hansen, Valencia Mayfield, and Toan Nguyen, members of the “Superintendent’s Cabinet” talked about “Gary’s ability to recycle coffee, day in and day out from the same coffee pot.”
“The bottom line was, if Gary ever offered you a cup of coffee from his office, we always would say no thank you. Yep, now it can be told that Gary actually drank coffee from the same grounds two and three days in a row,” Nguyen said.
Smuts, an avid athlete was presented a gift certificate for a new high end bicycle, as well as a gift of $1,000 to “spend as he wishes” from those gathered.
Also singing Smuts praises were Ray Gaer, President of the ABC Federation of Teachers Local #2317; Laura Rico, past president of ABCFT; Rebecca Michel-Macias, President of CSEA Chapter #24; Linda Harbin, President of AFSCME Local #2229, Council 36; and Sergio Garcia, Principal of Artesia High School who represented the ABC Management Association.
Smuts thanked each of his colleagues in a touching and moving speech that ended with a standing ovation. “It was a fitting tribute to a man who has dedicated much of his life to the students of ABC USD,” said former Cerritos High School Baseball Coach Vern Brock who also attended the event.
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