Former Culver City school board member Julie Cerra dies

Wave Staff Report

CULVER CITY — The Culver City Unified School District family is mourning the loss of former school board member Julie Lugo Cerra, who died March 27.

Cerra was the district’s first Latina board member, serving on the board from 1985 to 1993, including two stints as president.

Cerra is credited with leading the charge to annex the Fox Hills area into the school district. 

The city annexed the Fox Hills area in the early 1960s when it was an undeveloped area, but neglected to follow suit, leaving the area in the Los Angeles Unified School District for another 20 years or more. As school board president, Cerra helped parents organize and worked with the LAUSD to bring Fox Hills students into Culver City schools, a district spokesperson said.

“If Fox Hills wants to be a part of Culver City schools, it’s our responsibility to help them,” she said at the time.

Cerra also was part of the board that laid the groundwork for the reopening of El Marino Elementary School and the creation of the District’s Japanese Immersion Program. El Marino reopened in 1994 to house the district’s two elementary school language immersion programs that help students to master grade level content while learning to speak, understand, read and write in both English and the target language — Spanish or Japanese.

“Julie was an amazing mentor to me,” said Culver City High School Assistant Principal Kelli Tarvyd. “She focused on what was best for the the student. Even after retiring from the board, she served on committees at Culver City High and helped guide grants.”

A native of Culver City, Cerra was appointed the official Culver City historian in 1996 and she was the producer and host for the popular cable program, “Local History, Legends & Lore.” She was an accomplished author whose published works, include “Culver City: Heart of Screenland,” “Images of America: Culver City, CA,” “Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble,” as well as the Teachers Resource Manual for Culver City Schools and associated video, “Glimpses of Culver City, Heart of Screenland.”

Cerra’s dedication to historic preservation was reflected in her many accomplishments and appointments. She served on the California Historic State Capital Commission as well as the Culver City Cultural Affairs Commission, where she served as chair during the commission’s inaugural year. She was a member of the Culver City Historical Society, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Los Angeles Conservancy, Los Californianos, Historical Society of Southern California and the Southern California Genealogical Society.

Cerra studied sociology as well as art and behavioral sciences at UCLA and Cal State Northridge.

Her daughter, Michele Lachoff, said that there would be no funeral service.

“Mom didn’t really believe in funerals as she firmly believed we should do things for our people when we can enjoy the time together and they can feel the love instead of waiting to share our appreciation till after they are gone,” she said.

“She will join her parents and husband Sam and be spread at sea through the Neptune Society of which she always proudly declared to be a ‘card-carrying member.’ So next time you are near the Pacific Ocean send your best, and to honor Julie, please do something for someone you love: share a meal, an adventure or a conversation. 

“If you’re looking to make a donation, please consider a donation in her name to the Culver City Historical Society which was near and dear to her heart from the very start, or to any cause that is meaningful to you personally.

“Mom was all about doing the things that are important to you most of all,” Lachoff added.

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