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Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District
1:00 p.m, April 15, 1996

The Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles, acting as the Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District, met in regular session on April 15, 1996, in Room H-160, Los Angeles City Board of Education Administrative Offices, 450 North Grand Avenue.

President Mark Slavkin called the meeting to order at 1:26 p.m. The following Members were present:

Mrs. Barbara M. Boudreaux, Mr. Jeff Horton, Mr. George Kiriyama, Ms. Julie Korenstein, and President Mark Slavkin. Ms. Victoria M. Castro arrived at 4:58 p.m. Mr. David Tokofsky was absent. Superintendent Sidney A. Thompson was present. President Slavkin led the Pledge of Allegiance.


President Slavkin called on Superintendent Thompson to begin the recognition of Mr. Leo Politi, one of the world's greatest authors and book illustrators in the field of children's literature, who passed away at the end of March. Mr. Politi was a long time resident of Los Angeles, who the Board recognized by naming a school after him. Mr. Richard Alonzo, Principal of Leo Politi Elementary School, introduced student Christopher Avalos who was inspired to write a poem in Mr. Politi's honor. On behalf of the Board, Mr. Horton thanked Christopher Avalos and presented him with a certificate of recognition.


Friends and family remember author-illustrator Leo Politi

Mr. Leo Politi pictures, colors and love
Would make a man an artisit
Books, words and love would
make a man an author.

Love that he gave,
Care that he sent,
Made his life improtant
Until he lost it.

He will be a person of peace and love.
He will stay with us
Forever and ever.

By Christopher Avalos, fifth grader (1996)

Those who knew children's book author and artist Leo Politi say they will miss the gaunt-looking man who wore an old baseball cap and carried a sketchbook and pencil where ever he went.

The 86 year old Politi, who died in his Los Angeles home on March 23, 1996, will be remembered during a memorial service at 10 a.m. on April 22, 1996 at Olvera Street. Politi is survived by his wife, Helen, his son Paul, his daughter Suzanne and several grandchildren.

Many people were influenced by Politi. A library in Fresno (California), his birthplace, the old lodge area in Elysian Park and a school in Pico-Union were name after him. He loved children and animals, and became known for successfully and consistently breaking down racial barriers through his art and storytelling. "When I read his books, they were the only books whose characters looked like me," says Richards Alonzo, principal of Leo Politi Elementary School. "He showed so much diversity in his books. He’s a legend and a hero to us." Sol Grossman, a friend of Politi’s for 15 years and collector of his work, says part of Los Angeles died along with Politi.

"He had a real affinity for kids," says Grossman, who plans to donate much of the personal collection to the Fresno County Library System. "He was himself a kid and was able to communicate with them. He also had a magnificent feel for the old buildings in Los Angeles. He always saw beauty in those areas."

Politi was born Nov. 21, 1907, the son of Italian parents. He lived for the first few years of his life on a ranch outside Fresno where his father bought and sold horses. When he was 6, his family moved to his mother’s childhood home in Broni, a small town in northern Italy. At age 15, Politi was awarded a scholarship to study at the National Art Institue at Monza, just outside of Milan. For the next six years, he studied drawing, design, architecture and sculpture. He started his career by drawing illustration for a textbook for deaf children.

Politi moved back to California when he was 22 and settled on Olvera Street. There, the artist did just about anything to earn an income, from sketching tourists to drawing murals. In 1938, he married his wife, Helen Fontes, and published his first book, "Little Pancho."

However, Politi actually got his break in the children’s book business by sending a handmake Christmas card with illustrations of Mexican children to Alice Dalgliesh, an editor with Charles Scribner’s Sons Publishing. She was impressed with his drawings and encouraged him to do another book. Politi followed up with "Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street" in 1946, which became a Caldecott Honor Book a year later. His next effort was "Juanita," which was a runner-up for the Caldecott in 1949. Politi won the prestigious award in 1950 for "Songs of the Swallows." He went on to produce more than 15 children’s books.

Politi lived in Bunker Hill and Angelino Heights for the remainder of his life. He returned to Olvera Street during the 1970s to paint a mural of the blessing of the animals that appears on the side of the Biscailuz Building. Paul Politi says that his father preferred to live in Los Angles because "he wanted to live where he felt the real life was. "He always felt that his work should speak out on its own," he says. "Everyday, he was able to sketch some part of life."

Politi was known for not sticking out in the crowd. He chronicled Los Angeles life wearing an old T-shirt draped by a work shirts and khaki pants. He walked with a slight stoop. A smile would peek through his roughened, stubbled face whenever he came across children or animals. "He was a very nice, humble person," says Sgt. Webster Wong of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart Division, an admirer of Politi’s work. "There will be a lot of children and a lot of adults that were children that will miss him, too."

By Jeff Ponce (Written on April 16, 1996)