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Posts / Recent blog posts

Administrative Personnel Changes at Local Schools

| Community | June 23, 2017

In an arrangement looking a little bit like musical chairs, William S. Hart Union High School District administrators are assuming new positions at a number of sites. An assistant principal at West Ranch High School is replacing the principal at Rio Norte Junior High, who is taking a newly vacated principal position at Saugus High School. At the same time, two junior highs and two high schools will receive new assistant principals.


Audrey Asplund was named principal of Rio Norte Junior High School, a site where she served as a seventh grade teacher for 10 years before becoming assistant principal at West Ranch. Prior to working in the William S. Hart Union High School District, Asplund taught history and special education in the L.A. Unified School District.

Vince Ferry is leaving the role to Asplund, as he will replace retiring Saugus High Principal Bill Bolde.


“I am excited and honored to serve as the next principal of Rio Norte Junior High School,” Asplund said. “I am looking forward to partnering with students, families, teachers and staff in preparing students for success at the next level. I also aspire to continue the rich learning traditions established by the Rio Norte staff and leadership, including Mr. Vince Ferry who has been an outstanding principal.”

Asplund received a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in education from UCLA, and a master’s in educational administration from California State University, Northridge. Asplund and her husband, Dave, have three children in college who all attended local public schools.

Ferry was a Hart District special education teacher for nine years, as well as assistant principal and director of the Associated Student Body program at Valencia High School. He was named principal of Rio Norte in 2014.


Robert Fisher, a teacher and coach at Golden Valley since 2006, will become an assistant principal at Canyon High School. While at Golden Valley he served in many different leadership positions, including athletic director, department chair, administrative intern, and induction support provider. Previous to that, he taught and coached at Royal and Agoura high schools. Fisher has a bachelor’s degree in social science and a master’s degree in education from California Lutheran University.


Kristin Hinze will become an assistant principal at West Ranch High School. She started for the Hart School District as a substitute teacher from 2005 – 2008, when she moved to Arroyo Seco Junior High to teach special education, serving as a seventh- and eighth-grade inclusion teacher and SC-1 math teacher. Hinze was a member of the professional development team, intervention coordinator, and administrative intern during her time at Arroyo Seco. In the fall of 2014, she moved to Canyon High School as a special education teacher for students with emotional disturbance. During the 2015-16 school year, Hinze became the head softball coach and ASB director at Canyon. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from California State University, Northridge and her Master of Arts in educational leadership from the University of La Verne.



David Miles joins Rio Norte Junior High School as an assistant principal, excited to be returning to his hometown district after beginning his education career in the Bay Area. As a teacher and department chair at Oak Grove Middle School in Concord, he helped to guide the English department’s implementation of the Reader’s Workshop model and also became the school’s AVID coordinator and teacher. Most recently, he was vice principal of College Park High School in Pleasant Hill, where he oversaw the ASB, English Language Development, attendance, and technology development programs. He is passionate about helping teachers take their next step with educational technology and supporting student inquiry and collaboration. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Point Loma Nazarene University and his Master of Arts in educational leadership from the University of California, Berkeley.


Paula Saavedra will become assistant principal at La Mesa Junior High School. First teaching grades two through five, both Spanish bilingual and English general education classes, during Saavedra’s time as a classroom teacher, she became a certified trainer of Thinking Maps, providing district-wide training to staff and strategies for differentiation in the classroom. She has served as an assistant principal at a middle school for the last three years, serving as the special education, ELD, English, math, and history administrative liaison at her site. Saavedra holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, a master’s degree in education, and a Spanish bilingual credential from UCLA. She also earned a Master of Arts in educational administration and an administrative credential from California State University, Northridge.


In related news, Assistant Principal Catherine Nicholas will move from Arroyo Seco Junior High to Canyon High School, and Assistant Principal Fayanne Bakoo will move from Rio Norte to Arroyo Seco.





Party in Canyon Country – Annual Summer Bash Set for June 23

| Canyon Country Magazine | June 15, 2017

Canyon Country doesn’t need a coastline to celebrate summer in a big way. Everyone is invited to the Annual Summer Bash on Friday, June 23 on Luther Drive in Canyon Country. Like a giant block party, families will gather from 6-10 p.m. for food, live music, beverages and activities. The Summer Bash will include a beer garden provided by Route 66 Classic Grill and dinner options from two food trucks and a dessert truck. Restaurants in nearby shopping centers will also be open during normal business hours.

The Summer Bash will feature inflatable carnival games, a mechanical shark, a 20-foot inflatable slide and a boot camp style obstacle course. Entrance to the event is free and open to the public.

The event’s coordinator has worked on the Summer Bash in the past and says he’s seen the annual celebration grow in popularity.

“We have witnessed a steady increase, as more and more individuals from the public keep returning every year,” he says, “and a growing (number) are new patrons who never heard of the event, but love the fact that we put this on for the public.”

City staff members set up the event in the parking lot of the Edwards Canyon Country Stadium Theatre and invite the participation of all the surrounding businesses, Beck says. Some set up booths to play an active role.

For more information about Canyon Country’s biggest block party, search “Summer Bash” on Facebook or on Santa-Clarita.com, or you may call Summer Bash Event Coordinator Joel Beck at 661-250-3720.

Mother’s Day

| Canyon Country Magazine | May 8, 2017

My husband says Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are made up holidays, invented by the card companies. While I can agree, it has been a nice thing over the years to have my children recognize my worth at least once a year. When they were younger I cherished the handmade cards, even the one that said, “I love you because you feed me, I don’t always like it but you feed me.” Then there are the ones from their friends — handwritten, thanking me for being their second mother.

Mother’s Day cards from my young children always made the carpool easier, the never-ending laundry a bit less challenging, and especially because I have all boys, the lack of general communication a bit easier. It was a reminder that they did appreciate my efforts when once a year they wrote something special, heartfelt, and personal to me. That means they had to stop and think about their mother and her worth. Even if it was only food they didn’t like.

For me, Mother’s Day notes, cards and words were much more meaningful than gifts. Perhaps that’s because there were very few gifts (did I mention the boys’ father doesn’t believe in the holiday?) but there were always cards, handwritten notes and genuine appreciation.

If nothing else, Mother’s Day is a time to reflect on your mother, your motherhood, and to be appreciative. If you are still blessed to have your mother, call her — or better yet, send her a note.

Drug Abuse Conversation Continued

| Opinion | May 5, 2017

Last week in The Signal newspaper, in response to the multiple heroin overdoses in our valley, Cary Quashen of Action Family Counseling wrote an article directed, in part, to parents. While he brought up excellent parenting tips, such as put down the electronic devices and spend time with your kids, they cannot be construed as bulletproof. Kids from good families fall into addiction — kids who spent their early years going to church, excelled in school, even those with very involved parents, can become addicts. There is not a parental code that ensures your son or daughter will not succumb to drugs or addiction.

We have three sons who are all adults now and all grew up in the same home, with the same parents. Electronic devices were not a huge part of my boys’ lives — they were involved with sports and choir. I can’t say we were perfect, but according to Mr. Quashen, we did everything right. The same can be said for friends of ours who ended up with challenging results similar to ours.

We have a son who became an addict, yet our other two didn’t head in the same direction. One is a business manager and the other son is a pastor. So, I’m not sure — what actions could I have taken to avoid the addiction?

I can tell you one thing for certain. With anything in parenting, especially teens, go with your gut. If you think it might be occurring, it probably is. On this point I agree with Mr. Quashen.

Our son tasted oxycontin when he had his wisdom teeth out, and again after a few surgeries for football injuries. Each time, I kept the medication and left him only the day’s dosage. I can’t tell you why I didn’t trust a 16-year-old with those pills, but I didn’t. This was over 10 years ago, and hopefully, in this more enlightened time oxy is not prescribed for teens. Fast forward to young adulthood and, as we all know, the pills become harder to obtain and heroin is cheaper. Whatever drove him to try again, to feel however oxy had made him feel, I can’t say. But there was the drive to feel that way again.

Action and Mr. Quashen do an amazing work here and are an incredible resource. I simply want parents to know, the best of parenting cannot prevent addiction. Quite honestly, it is likely NOT your fault, or even preventable. I could say that if my son was never introduced to oxy he would never have found heroin, but I don’t know.  Some personalities are more prone to addiction — not everyone who loves food is obese; not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic.

Love your kids, spend time with them, and watch for subtle changes in behavior and friends. Above all, don’t assume that because you do everything right your son or daughter will never try drugs or become addicted. It happens in the best of families.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

Santa Clarita Gazette, Week of February 17, 2017, Issue 962

| Print Archives | February 15, 2017

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Tax Issues

| Community | February 10, 2017

By Christopher D. Munchhof

Certainly you’ve heard about how the new Trump administration and GOP have plans to drastically reduce taxes. The majority of those reductions are targeted towards corporations with the hopes that such reductions will spur hiring in the U.S. and boost economic growth nationally. The president and Congress both have plans to simplify and reduce taxes for individuals as well, however those reductions will be less drastic. How will the proposed changes affect us?

The potential changes could result in one of the most dramatic single year transformations to the tax code in history. The Trump plan reduces the number of tax brackets from the cumbersome seven to a simple three and reduces the top rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent. The adjustment to the brackets raises the rate of the lowest bracket from 10 percent to 12 percent, but also expands it to cover taxable income up to $75,000 for married couples. Currently, taxable income over $18,551 is taxed at 15 percent, so the new brackets would tax more income at a lower rate.

Included in the plan is a proposal to increase the standard deduction and eliminate exemptions. For single filers, the standard deduction would be increased from $6,300 to $15,000, while married filers would see an increase from $12,600 to $30,000. The proposal eliminates the “Head of Household” filing status, which has a standard deduction that falls in between single and married. These are substantial increases to deductions which will allow taxpayers to reduce the amount of income they have subject to tax and is particularly beneficial to those who don’t have a lot of tax deductible expenses.

Some have been critical of the plan because it eliminates personal exemptions, which would mean losing a way to deduct $4,050 for each of the children on your return. However, the Trump proposal includes a new way to deduct the cost of childcare for children aged 13 or younger. This deduction can be taken whether the taxpayer uses the standard deduction or itemizes and counts as a reduction of gross income, not just a reduction in taxable income (this means taxpayers may be more likely to qualify for low-income credits and government aid). The wild part about this deduction is that it is based on the average cost of childcare in your state, not necessarily the amount you actually paid for childcare, and the deduction even applies if the care is provided by the child’s parent. We will have to wait and see what the average cost of child care is determined to be for the purpose of this deduction, but currently stands in California somewhere from $5,000-$10,000 annually.

The average household income for Santa Clarita families is approximately $90,000 annually. Under the Trump proposal, a married couple with two young children who earns $90,000 annually and has no other deductions would pay about $3,500 in federal taxes. Under the current law, that same family would pay about $6,200, or roughly, $3,000 more. Families with young children and married couples with no children at all will mostly see a reduction in their taxes.

It’s not all good news, however. Families with teenaged children could end up paying more, especially in households which have substantial deductible expenses like mortgage interest and property tax. The increased standard deduction won’t help a family that already has a lot of deductions, and the elimination of exemptions could leave more income subject to tax, resulting in a higher tax bill. In addition, the elimination of the Head of Household filing status could result in an increase in taxes to single parents who are average income earners, but hopefully the addition of childcare credits would offset any increase.

Another popular plan from the Republican Congress is the idea of eliminating the deduction for state income taxes, something we are particularly fond of doing here in California. We should also expect the elimination of the ACA penalty to those of us who are still holding out on getting health insurance. Other proposed changes include the creation of a dependent care savings account. This account would allow parents to take a tax deduction on up to $2,000 set aside for child care, after school programs, or school tuition. The accounts could be established once you are expecting a child. Investment growth and withdrawals would be tax-free if used for the specified childcare purposes. If funds from this account are used to pay for child care while the parent is at work, the amounts can also be applied to the dependent care credit. Lower income families who utilize the account would receive matching funds from the federal government. The amounts in these accounts could rollover year to year and are also available for use when paying for the care of a dependent parent.

While there may be a large quantity of tax law changes on the horizon, the result of those changes may not be very significant for us. Overall, most Santa Claritans could expect a modest reduction in taxes. Some, unfortunately, might experience increases. Of course, these are all just proposals at this point and there’s no way to be certain about what exactly is going to happen. What most industry experts agree is that significant changes will occur and those changes will apply to your 2017 tax return.

“Christopher D. Munchhof is a licensed tax professional, investment adviser, life insurance agent and 30-year Santa Clarita resident. You can reach him directly by emailing chris@free-financial.com.”  

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