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ABC School Board Rejects $750K Multimedia Center Donation for Whitney High School

Councilman Cerritos City Councilman Mark Pulido

Councilman Cerritos City Councilman Mark Pulido

“Cerritos Councilman Mark Pulido leads group to alter naming rights, forcing cancellation of the generous donation.”

By Jerry Bernstein

Like a smoking volcano close to eruption, rumbles are beginning to be felt over the naming of the Whitney Multimedia Center now under construction and the ABC School Board refusal to honor an agreement with Cerritos resident Grace Hu who contributed $750,000 toward its construction.

On Sept. 4, 2012 the ABC School Board voted 5-1 in closed session to return the $500,000 donation made by former Cerritos Mayor Grace Hu with no explanation made to the general public.

This automatically eliminated an additional $250,000 that had been pledged by Mrs. Hu, a 36-year Cerritos resident.

When asked why the vote was made in closed session and if the vote violated the Brown Act, Superintendent Dr. Mary Sieu denied the Brown Act had been violated and said all sides had agreed to the refund.

However LCCN has learned that when informed about the Board’s vote, Mrs. Hu was surprised and disappointed.

Many feel local politics involved in the decision.

Under the agreement made between former Whitney Principal Patricia Hager, the Whitney Foundation, and Mrs. Hu-allegedly approved by former Superintendent Dr. Gary Smuts and the ABC Cabinet consisting of Dr. Smuts, Dr. Sieu and CFO Toan Nguyen-Mrs. Hu’s name was to be prominently displayed on the building and in the main lobby area.

In discussions with District officials, Mrs. Hu said she told Dr. Sieu if the District was not going to honor its commitment to name the Center after her then her donation should be returned.

In a letter to Dr. Sieu dated Aug. 14, 2012 Mrs. Hu wrote, “I have worked with the District to resolve this issue, but no action has taken place. I was never informed regarding any Board Policy regarding the naming of the facility. In fact, the District has had several months to form a committee and resolve the issue. To date, nothing has been done.

In addition to the $750,000 Mrs. Hu had also offered to help the school raise an additional $250,000 that was needed to equip the center. She also said she had planned establish a foundation that would provide the Multimedia Center with a continuous source of maintenance funding.

In a letter to Dr. Sieu dated Aug. 14, 2012 Mrs. Hu requested a meeting to discuss her $750,000 commitment to Whitney and to clarify Dr. Sieu’s statement that Whitney’s former Principal Dr. Patricia Hager had no authority to propose any agreement.

According to Ms.. Hager, she did not act independently. She stated she had discussed
the agreement with then Superintendent Dr. Gary Smuts and was given specific

Mrs. Hu said she was never informed regarding any Board Policy regarding the naming of the facility. She said the District had several months to form a committee and resolve the issue, but “nothing happened”. She told the District if it couldn’t find a way to expedite and follow through with the agreement, she would like her contribution to be returned.

In a letter dated Oct. 31, 2011 Hager asserted the agreement she and the Foundation had made with Mrs. Hu and the ABC Cabinet was that Grace Hu’s name would be prominently displayed on the building and in the main lobby area. Because construction had not yet begun, no official move to name the building was made.

Pulido Recommendation
The controversary about naming the Media Facility arose when City Councilman and former school board member Mark Pulido and some alumni put forward the name of the late Bob Beal, Whitney’s first principal.

Pulido wanted the Center should be named in his honor. The councilman was very vocal about the naming and said Beal was principal when he was a student at Whitney and students of his generation have fond memories of him. Pulido held a large rally promoting the former principal be so honored.

Hager responded the building should focus on Whitney’s current and future students not the past. “I think people who have played important roles in Whitney’s history should be remembered, but not through this project.” She said the focus of this project is to help Whitney students stay competitive in the modern world of technology and entertainment (graphic arts, computer programming, film masking, performing arts etc} to support them with the tools and academic skills they need to continue into their best math colleges. The idea is to broaden their elective classes and programs to be offered.”

Hager asserted that Beal had nothing to do with this vision and knew nothing of the best match of philosophy so his name on the project did not make sense. Why not name the gym after him or the MPR? she asked.

The Whitney Foundation also contended it should be named after Grace Hu who contributed the seed money needed to get the State Grant.
At the Nov. 8, 2011 school board meeting Dr. Gary Smuts denied that his cabinet had given its approval about naming the building after Mrs. Hu. “Only the school board can give that approval. “ he stated.

However, Hager reiterated the ABC Cabinet had approved the agreement she made with Mrs. Hu that Mrs. Hu’s name would be prominently displayed on the building and in the main lobby area.

She ended her letter by saying that Grace Hu and her donation, in her and the Foundation’s opinion should be respected because without those two entities, there would be nothing to discuss.

  • Wendell Jones says:

    I’m saddened by this whole thing. It shows the character of all the people involved. And I’m sure it’s embarrassing to the current students and the city. It shows the pettiness of Mrs. Hu, who would make a conditional donation then ask that her donation be returned if she doesn’t get her name on the building. I could understand her point if she was buying a building and wanted her name on it. What percentage of the total cost of the building does her $750k represent? Did my tax dollars fund any portion of this building? Should I get a say in the naming rights? As for Mr. Pulido. Why would you want the building named after Bob Beal? What significant contribution did he make to the school? Why would you disrespect Mrs. Hu in such a way. I’m sure you knew the building might be named in horor or Mrs. Hu.

    I hope Jerry Bernstein digs deeper into this story.

  • Jay Gray says:

    It reply to the above Facebook poster asking about why the CC does not ask Mrs. Hu for this money to develop the 183rd/Bloomfield property — It is my understanding that the property was purchased by the “redevelopment agency” and not the city of Cerritos. As such the property is in limbo.
    This stinks, because the CC (knowing redevelopment would not last forever) had taken Millions of dollars from the city’s general fund only to loan that money to the redevelopment agency.
    Millions and Millions of dollars that could have been used out of the general fund for programs, trees, sidewalks, roads, etc. gone!
    In this case, it seems once again members of the CC have acted more in self-interest than for the benefit of the community.

  • Mr. Cerritos says:

    Maybe they gave the money back because the didn’t want to be associated with the former disgraced mayor. All you have to do is go to dogpile type in Cerritos Grace Hu Charged, see for yourselves.