School Board Observers’ Reports

School Board Observers’ Reports


Pasadena Unified School District Board Meeting, September 17, 2020

The California Department of Education (CDE) Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan template described the impact of COVID-19 on the district and the various stakeholders (parent/community advisory groups, district labor groups, and the administration).

A $95,199 consulting contract was requested by Dr. Marco Villegas, the new Associate Superintendent of Specialized Student Support/SELPA, for Larry Brunson, Brunson Educational Consulting Group, to act as the interim Special Education Director for the school year or until a Special Education Director can be hired by the district. This generated much discussion, as the request lacked a description of the work, benchmarks, or MOU. Board members requested a “listening tour.” Superintendent Brian McDonald said that he would supervise this division, which would be subject to his job evaluation, as he hires and supervises his staff.

The 2019–2020 Unaudited Actuals Financial Report due to be sent to the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) was presented by Dr. Leslie Barnes, Chief Business Officer, in both PowerPoint and detailed financial statements. The good news is that there is currently an “unrestricted fund balance” of more than $6 million, due to the reduction of services starting mid-March and renegotiations with prepaid arrangements. The complexity of funding sources, account adjustments, and future unknowns led the board to request a workshop with Dr. Barnes in the coming weeks to make clear how the funding works so that the 2020–2021 budget might avoid cuts to programs and personnel later in the year.

—Hannah MacLaren

La Cañada Unified School District Board Meeting, September 8, 2020

The board voted to add progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as an important issue among Superintendent Wendy Sinnette’s objectives for the school year. It was decided to use the results of the year’s professional study on inclusion at La Cañada schools as well as input from residents in order to address community goals. At the board meeting, audience comments were split. Most, if not all, favored support for the goals of DEI. The Superintendent stated that the goal of the school district is to provide academic excellence and prepare graduates for success in an increasingly diverse world.

—Rae Aaselund

Alhambra Unified School District Board Meeting, September 15, 2020

San Gabriel presented its program for English-language learners, the Newcomer Academy. This is a weekly Zoom meeting that is geared toward high school students who are recent immigrants. It includes English instruction, games, social interaction, and information on the U.S. educational system, including AP classes and information about two- and four-year colleges.

It was noted that the Alhambra Educational Foundation was one of thirteen community organizations that participated in a Feed Alhambra Drive-Through Food Distribution event on Saturday, August 29. It distributed donated food and goods to 1,200 families.

Alhambra school personnel presented information on learning loss, attendance, and remedial strategies, addressing mental health and free lunch distribution.

A member of the audience announced that there will be a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Pasadena Area on October 8. It will be a live virtual event. (You can register for this and other candidate forums at

—Rae Aaselund

Monrovia Unified School District Board Meetings, August 20–September 15, 2020

Regular and special board meetings were held once a week during this period, mainly to review and renew contracts and hear reports.

The Developers Fee Annual Report 2019–20 listed a Capital Facilities Fund balance of $1,380,712.

It was decided to establish “Village Learning Pods” to allow MUSC employees to provide daily supervision of virtual learning. These “pods” would be physical sites where students and parents could come for assistance. To fund the pods, the board planned to tap After School Education and Safety (ASES) grant funds. The board planned to prioritize the funds for assistance to 200 homeless children, foster youth, and children of essential workers.

—Bonnie Skolnik

South Pasadena Unified School District Board Meetings, September 2020

SPUSD held a total of four meetings this month, the scheduled meeting on September 8 and three special sessions on September 14, 18, and 23.

As the school district resumed with distance learning, there was continued community feedback to the board about the stresses associated with virtual learning on both students and teachers. High school students expressed their concern about the physical and emotional stress associated with extensive screen time and a marked increase in homework, in addition to the pre-pandemic level of homework. Teachers reported that the time demands associated with developing and implementing a new online curriculum were affecting their abilities to care for themselves and their families. Both groups advocated for a mental wellness day once a week, when time previously scheduled for class would be used for extracurricular activities, community building, collaborative learning, and mentoring for both students and teachers.

Two of the board meetings were closed to the public. They involved negotiations between the district and parties that may be interested in acquiring the school district building. The board listened to a presentation about Mello-Roos Community Facilities Districts by Tim Carty. He presented the potential benefits of this source of funding for SPUSD.

A Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan was presented during the September 23 meeting. Concerns about mental health of students and teachers secondary to the increased workload associated with distance learning were again expressed by all stakeholders.

—Joanne Als

Arcadia Unified School District Board Meetings, August–September 2020

Barry Lisbin, Teacher of the Year 2020–2021, was recognized. Appointments of three new members of the Citizens’ Oversight Committee were announced. COVID-19 updates included provision of 1,700 meals daily, 65 percent of the pre-pandemic level. Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Dierk Esseln presented unfavorable predictions should Proposition 15 pass. In August, there were multiple comments against changing the Apache emblem/mascot for Arcadia High School.

—Raymond Lee

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