I am now sixty-seven years old, but I do not feel sixty-seven. I am in excellent health and shape. I exercise vigorously, on my own, every morning, as I have done for over forty years, and I maintain a healthy diet. I am married to Eric Hille and have two sons; my older son, Alex, is from my first marriage. Alex attended UCLA as a Regents' Scholar, after graduating as Valedictorian from the school I ran, Concord High School, and he also has a J.D. from UCLA Law School. He is now 35 and licensed by the State Bar of California, having passed the State Bar Exam on his first attempt. My younger son, Jackson, is 26; in 2014, he graduated from UC Berkeley, where he was a Regents' Scholar, a straight "A" student and the American Studies Program Citation Winner. He also graduated from Concord as the Valedictorian of his class. He was the youngest Obama Organizing Fellow in 2008 (only 3,600 Fellows were chosen nationwide).
My husband, Eric, and I met on the Eastern Airlines picket line at LAX in 1989. He was, at the time, a union organizer for H.E.R.E., the hotel workers' union, and I was supporting the machinists' strike as Chair of the Santa Monica Rent Control Board and as the Administrator of Concord High School. It was love at first sight - and I quickly found him to be the most non-sexist man I had ever met. He truly respects and loves women for their strength and resolve, and is always the first man in the room to call out another man for a sexist remark or attitude. Eric is a bona fide feminist in his own right. His younger sister, Anne, a nurse practitioner, is married to Daniel Morales; they, too, met in a political setting when they were both working for the farm workers with Cesar Chavez. Both Eric and Anne were raised to fight for justice, just as I was.
I was born in Far Rockaway, New York, and raised in Los Angeles in a very politically progressive, Jewish (cultural, not religious) household. I have one brother, Mark Packer, M.D., who is six years younger than I am. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard, and later attended UC Davis Medical School. He is now a world-famous cataract surgeon, based in Eugene, Oregon. My father, Peter Packer, was a writer (novelist and television), and my mother, Sonya Hope Packer (maiden name: Rosenzweig) was a speech therapist and professor at UCLA in the Speech Department, as well as the founder of Concord High School in 1973, a school with which I was associated for 37 years and ran for nearly 30 years. I attended progressive private schools as well as public schools, participated in civil rights marches and walked in picket lines. I worked for Eugene McCarthy and then Robert Kennedy when I was sixteen years old.
I began attending UCLA in the fall of 1968, after graduating from Oakwood Secondary School (in its first graduating class), where I skipped eleventh grade. I graduated from UCLA in 1974 (I took a year off after my sophomore year to do political work), Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Gamma Mu, with a B.A. in History. During those years I was active in the anti-war and student movements, as a member of "The UCLA Coalition" and "HENAC" (Humanistic and Educational Needs of the Academic Community), and in the developing modern-day women's movement, including work with UCLA's "Radical Sisterhood" and the UCLA Women's Resource Center (now the Center for Women and Men), founded by former California State Senator and Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl, who was at the time an associate dean of students. I worked with the Indo-China Information Project, Movement for a Democratic Military, the UCLA Black Students Union, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black Panther Party, the UCLA Chapter of MECHA, the Brown Berets, the Asian-American Students Alliance and many other political and labor groups in the Los Angeles area. My final senior paper was an analysis of the role of women in the anti-war and radical movements of the sixties, written for an independent study course I took with Dr. Jeanette Gadt, a leading feminist U.S. History professor, who later became a dean at Cal Arts and brought her baby to work with her (she was featured in an article in the Los Angeles Times for doing so), a practice I would later emulate with both of my sons.
During my college years, I also worked part-time for a local Ob-Gyn who became the first outpatient (local anesthetic), early abortion doctor in Los Angeles. Harvey Karman, the Ph.D. who invented the narrow, flexible suction cannula that made safe, outpatient abortions possible, brought the technology to the doctor for whom I was working, Lee D. Newman, M.D., and Harvey's assistant, Peggy Grau, trained me to be the first such abortion counselor in Los Angeles. I performed that service for hundreds of women from 1971 to 1974, pre-Roe v. Wade and after, at San Vicente Hospital in Los Angeles and St. Michael's Hospital in Hermosa Beach. I believe I was an excellent counselor, despite my young age, helping women of all ages through a very difficult ordeal - and helping them gain a better understanding of their bodies and the use of various forms of birth control - with my expertise in the field and my ability to be both straightforward and compassionate.
I began teaching at Concord High School in 1974, primarily History and Social Science courses, and used both my political background and communication skills to help me become a highly effective instructor, as well as mentor and resource for the young women at the school. I also had a great rapport with the young men.
In the mid-seventies I decided to apply to law school, mainly to further my political work. I attended Loyola Law School (where Sheila Kuehl was once again a professor and a dean) from 1977-1980, while I continued to teach at Concord, received my J.D. in 1980, took (and passed) the State Bar Exam in the summer of 1980, and was admitted to the State Bar of California in January, 1981. I promptly began representing tenants in Santa Monica, where I lived, under the new rent control law, and was appointed to the Santa Monica Rent Control Board in June, 1981. I later ran for election to the Board (twice) as a candidate with Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR), and was elected both times. My son, Alex, was the first and only baby to be nursed at the dais in Santa Monica City Hall. I served on the Board, including several years as its Chairperson, in its heyday, until 1990, when term limits forced me to leave. I loved the work. I still have in my possession a file full of "thank-you" letters from tenants for whom rent control was life-saving.
In 1982, my mother asked me if I would like to run Concord High School with her - and make it a family enterprise. I happily agreed and never looked back. I was determined to make Concord a no-nonsense, bureaucracy-free school, dedicated to academic excellence and to remaining small, and open to all worthy students through a pro-active scholarship program, including scholarships for minority students with promise. My aim was to make the school better every year, not bigger, because I believed in the "magic" of small classes for the high school years: a brilliant instructor in a room with about fifteen, sometimes far fewer, equally brilliant and motivated students always produced amazing results. I constantly strove to make the school one that I would be proud to have my own sons, both model students, attend. It took several years, but by the mid-nineties the school had become "an academic haven for the serious student" (my son Alex's phrase - it was on all of our brochure materials) and extremely successful, with over 35% of the student body on some form of Concord-funded scholarship, no mean feat on the hyper-competitive, social-climbing Westside of Los Angeles. In addition, we did no fund-raising among the parents of the student body, in contrast with most private schools, who do it incessantly, as we believed it to be an intrusion into the academic process and would compromise our relationships with parents and students. We managed not only to survive that way, but thrive. Parents loved the fact that they could just pay the tuition and be done. We also did not involve the parents in the running of the school, as we felt that practice to be inappropriate. They had their own jobs, and we had ours. We had very frequent contact, but the parents were not "used" by the school as unpaid labor.
By the early 2000's, Concord High School's record of college acceptances and collegiate merit scholarships was unparalleled [see Internet Archive - Wayback Machine - www.archive.org for www.concordhs.org, for a yearly announcement, always advertised in the Los Angeles Times, of each graduating class (including all college and university acceptances and scholarships), the annual curriculum, the annual faculty roster and many letters of profound thanks, addressed to me, from parents and students], an achievement I was able to sustain until the worsening economy destroyed the middle-class economic base of the school. Concord was unique and never attracted mainstream upper-class families seeking athletic programs and after-school activities. I did everything I knew how to do to fill up the school during the Great Recession, but the success I had enjoyed in doing so earlier eluded me; the middle class that had supported the school was broke. Full-paying families already in attendance became scholarships; I kept their students at the school, often for no tuition at all.
To summarize, then, other than the jobs I had while still at the university (UCLA), I spent my entire working life at Concord High School, the school founded by my mother, at first as an instructor, then as Concord's Administrator/Director and finally as Concord's sole Director after my mother retired in 2001. I ran Concord extremely successfully, and in exactly the same way, for nearly thirty years, and amassed an extraordinary record of college and university acceptances and merit scholarships when, as a small, independent, solely tuition-supported, no-nonsense high school, with over 35% of the student body on Concord-funded scholarships and no sports program of its own, in the uber-competitive, social-climbing environment of the Westside of Los Angeles, subjected to several crises not of its own making, it should have died more than once.
For nearly thirty years, and especially after my mother retired in 2001, I worked literally around the clock, seven days a week, wearing multiple hats, including doing all the college counseling and college application preparation and review, to assure the success of the school and to provide the highest level of personal attention and administrative response. Both of my sons, each at the top of his class at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica (public), chose to attend Concord High School. I ran the school efficiently, fairly and successfully - in exactly the same way - year after year after year. The school's stability was one of its greatest strengths. The same two women, and then the same one woman, guided the school for almost forty years. The instructors were paid extremely well and treated like college professors; I ran interference for them day and night, and they stayed for ten, fifteen, twenty years. In addition, I believe I was always an important role model for the young women at the school, particularly when I had my nursing babies/toddlers (nine years apart) in my (very open) office with me, a daily occurrence until the boys were respectively ready for nursery school. The young women at Concord were, for me, the daughters I never had, and, over the years, several of them told me I was like their second mother. Everything worked perfectly - for a long, long time.
In the fall of 2009, just before the start of my younger son's senior year, facing an increasingly difficult economy and the approach of my "later" years, I decided to make a change for the future, and I put my trust in people I thought were reliable and honest, an awful mistake. Should you want to contact me, I will recount for you in detail the events that led to the worst two years of my life. Suffice it to say here that all the public allegations leveled against me, my husband, who worked with me at the school for thirteen years, and my older son, who also did extensive work for the school over many years, were lies, intended to discredit, humiliate, weaken and ultimately destroy me. The entire bankruptcy case (which I did NOT file) and associated legal actions were without merit: garbage. The various lawsuits have now all been settled, as there was no other way out, and the bankruptcy case is over. A protracted legal battle would have left me completely penniless, with no assurance of a decent result, given the current state of affairs in federal bankruptcy court; there is no justice there. The State Bar of California opened a confidential investigation, as is its duty to do when allegations of that nature concerning an attorney are aired in the press, and then, finding NOTHING, closed the case. What transpired was horrendous, and we unfortunately had legal counsel at the outset who advised us not to respond publicly to the false allegations - a huge error - and who proved to be inadequate. At least the horrifying saga is all over now [under the guidance of a different attorney, Henry David, firstname.lastname@example.org, (213)550-4020, who was also a Concord parent and would be more than happy to speak with you], although I still feel traumatized by the fact that I was, in essence, forced out of the school I built, my life's work, in what amounted to a coup, by dishonest, unscrupulous and ungrateful individuals who scandalized my name, besmirched my reputation, appropriated my legacy and attacked my family. The only wrongdoing was placing my faith in the wrong people.
Again, to be clear, all the allegations contained in the Los Angeles Times article and subsidiary articles about me and my family were outright lies and distortions, aimed at destroying my credibility (and me, for that matter), advanced by a tiny band of thugs who stabbed me in the back and stole my school. My husband and I had provided for the orderly transition of Concord High School into new hands, with an agreement reached in the fall of 2009, but the other parties abruptly breached the contract in January, 2010, after it was partially performed on both sides, and then set about attempting to take over the school anyway.
Concord High School (the dba of Concord International High School, Inc.) thus met a rather sudden and very nasty end, with its longtime Director of nearly thirty years, and employee of thirty-seven years, me, viciously slandered in the press by a few parents “egged on” by an attorney with an agenda (a large amount of money: his share of the $200,000 "settlement" was $80,000), who knew nothing about Concord High School, nor my years of work there, nor did they care.
The bankruptcy, including the lawsuit targeting me and my family, was a case that should never have been filed, and has now, thankfully, been put to rest. If any of the allegations made against me had been true, I would not be sitting here, writing to you; the State Bar of California, in particular, would have taken action against me if they had found even a scintilla of evidence warranting that they do so.
Eric and I moved to the Bay Area in December, 2010, fulfilling a long-time dream of ours. Eric has resumed his former work in retail and the wine trade. I am now once again doing the work I love, too. I (still) have exceptional organizational and editing skills, and boundless energy. I do not want to "go gentle into that good night." I want to bring my expertise, unrelenting pursuit of excellence and dedication to a new generation of high school students - and continue to make a difference in people's lives.
Finally, to all who read this story: I hope I made a difference for good in your lives; I believe I did. To all my students, 1974-2010: I will always think of you as my non-biological children, and I will always be proud of you - and what we accomplished together. I remember everything.