La Jolla Elementary School names interim principal

Stephanie Hasselbrink has agreed to serve as the interim principal of La Jolla Elementary School until a permanent principal is selected. Longtime principal Donna Tripi recently resigned to accept a position in the Rancho Santa Fe district.

Hasselbrink — a classroom and resource teacher in the San Diego Unified School District for 18 years — will be available to meet parents at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 11, in the La Jolla Elementary School auditorium, following the pledge assembly on the campus field.

Julie Martel, retired area superintendent, will also provide the school with ongoing support through the transition.

Salk makes autism headway

Although the cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remains unclear, the Salk Institute reports study findings that could lead to diagnostic methods to detect it at an early stage, when preventative interventions could potentially take place.

In findings published Jan. 7 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Salk researchers compared stem cells created from individuals with ASD against stem cells created from those without it to uncover, for the first time, measurable differences in the patterns and speed of development in the ASD-derived cells.

“Although our work only examined cells in cultures, it may help us understand how early changes in gene expression could lead to altered brain development in individuals with ASD,” said Salk professor Rusty Gage, the study’s senior author and president of the Institute. “We hope that this work will open up new ways to study neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders.”

In other Salk news, Gage’s tenure as president was recently expanded through 2024 by Salk’s board of trustees.

New Hemlock Society president

Faye Girsh, founder of the Hemlock Society of San Diego, an assisted-suicide advocacy organization, is stepping down as its president. She will be replaced momentarily by Barry Price, a former Peace Corp volunteer and college professor of 35 years.

“I am happy to turn over the reins of this respected organization to Barry Price, who will usher in our 32nd year with competence, passion, and integrity,” said Girsh, the former La Jollan who founded the Hemlock Society of San Diego in 1987 and served as its president until 1996, then again from 2006 to 2019.

Price added: “Seeing older friends and family members suffer long-debilitating illnesses that caused so much pain and suffering, as well as a complete loss of dignity, and contrasting those experiences with the gentle, painless death experienced by my dogs at the local vet, provoked my interest and commitment to the right-to-die movement.”

La Jollan Marty Block reappointed to state post

Retired state senator Marty Block of La Jolla has been reappointed by outgoing governor Jerry Brown for a four-year term as chair of the board of appeals of the California Unemployment Insurance System, on which he has served since 2016.

The board oversees 150 administrative law judges around the state, who resolve 200,000 appeals annually.

“Our Board of Appeals assures that working families who deserve unemployment compensation receive the funds to bridge them from one job to another,” Block said. “We are careful to provide speedy and fair resolution of claims by both employers and workers.”

Block served as senator for the state’s 39th district from 2012 to 2016.

No meeting in January for La Jolla Town Council

La Jolla Town Council’s regularly scheduled Jan. 10 meeting has been canceled. Instead, chair Ann Kerr Bache announced, trustees will gather privately to formulate the community group’s 2019 agenda and priorities.

However, Kerr Bache said, the public will still have a voice in this process, through its ability to submit issues to be considered during the brainstorming session.

To submit an idea, e-mail by 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10.

Airnoise making national noise

The Airnoise button and service — developed by former Air Force pilot and La Jolla Shores Heights resident Chris McCann to radically simplify registering airplane-noise complaints to the Airport Authority — was the subject of a prominent Dec. 29 feature story in the Washington Post.

McCann reports more than 500 new users due to the coverage. “The response has been amazing,” McCann said, “and many people have inquired about other uses of the technology, from reporting road and train noise to contacting 911 with a button. I’m glad this project has inspired so much citizen activism.”

For information about airnoise, visit

UC San Diego to launch unique phage study

UC San Diego is about to launch a clinical trial employing intravenous viruses called bacteriophages (phages for short) to kill resistant bacteria, a first in the United States.

Bacteriophages were once considered a promising therapeutic tool. The advent of modern antibiotics in the 1930s, however, redirected research interests. But with 10 million people estimated to die from drug-resistant superbug infections by 2050, phages are getting a second look.

“This is just the beginning,” said Steffanie Strathdee, UCSD’s associate dean of global health sciences and co-director of its Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics (iPath). “This collaboration is one of many we are undertaking to bring phage therapy into the 21st century to combat the global crisis of life-threatening antibiotic-resistant infections.”

It was Strathdee’s husband, UCSD professor Tom Patterson, who had been stricken by a seemingly untreatable bacterial infection while vacationing in Egypt in 2015. By the time Patterson was airlifted back to Jacobs Medical Center, he was dying from a multi-resistant bacterium until an unprecedented emergency phage therapy saved his life.

No more paper receipts?

A new California Assembly bill requires retailers to offer digital receipts as the default to customers. Introduced by Assembly member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), “Skip the Slip” would take effect Jan. 1, 2022.

The bill — the first of its kind in the United States — is intended to help protect consumers and workers from the toxins that often coat paper-based receipts, while also creating substantial environmental benefits. (Research from Ecology Center estimates that 93 percent of paper receipts are coated with Bisphenol-A or Bisphenol-S, known endocrine-disruptors. These toxins are absorbed when people touch receipts and are linked to cancer, diabetes, and reproductive issues.)

According to the bill, paper receipts could still be requested by consumers concerned about giving out their e-mail addresses for privacy reasons.

Civics essay/video contest for high school students

The Ninth Circuit Civics Contest offers high-school students an opportunity to win cash prizes totaling $7,000 while learning about the role of the judicial branch in preserving our constitutional rights.

The theme of this year’s contest is “The 4th Amendment in the 21st Century — What is an ‘Unreasonable Search and Seizure’ in the Digital Age?” Students are challenged to write an essay or produce a short video focusing on how the federal courts have applied 4th Amendment protections to electronic data devices, particularly the cellphones upon which almost everyone relies.

Entries will be accepted Feb. 1 through April 1 from students in grades 9-12 in public, private, parochial and charter schools, as well as from home-schooled students of equivalent grade status.

The top three finishers in both the essay and video competitions will receive $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second $500 for third.

For contest rules and entry instructions, visit

— Compiled by Corey Levitan