After a year that included a hard-fought negotiation over teacher salaries and an increased investment in music education, outgoing La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board President David Sagal passed the gavel to Dan Jeffries at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Like Sagal and fellow board member Kaitzer Puglia, Jeffries was elected to the board in 2013. After serving as vice president this past year, his fellow board members unanimously voted to name him president for the first time.
They also unanimously elected Puglia as vice president and tabbed Brent Kuszyk, who joined the board in 2015, as clerk.
LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette thanked Sagal for his leadership over the past year, when representatives for the district and its teachers spent more than 90 hours at the negotiating table before finally reaching a deal a couple of days before summer vacation. The agreement bumped teachers’ lifetime earnings to third among the five districts with which it was compared during negotiations.
“This year has been a phenomenal experience for me,” said Sagal, a Warner Bros. executive. “It has not always been a day at the beach, but nothing rewarding or fulfilling is.”
In his final president’s remarks, Sagal read a statement about the value of a tolerant climate on school campuses.
“The members of this board will change over time, as will the members of the administration and the faculty,” Sagal said. “But despite changes over time, we should all have faith in the strength of our institutions that ultimately guide us to the correct course of action in ensuring the elimination of discrimination and harassment on our campuses.
“Despite emotional rhetoric or changes in our political climate, or dramatic shifts in any one or more branches of our government, we can all have faith that our many-layered institutions will preserve a safe environment in our schools, one that promotes tolerance and sensitivity.”
Jeff Davis, assistant superintendent of human resources, offered an optimistic prediction of forthcoming contract talks: “We’re looking forward to very positive and productive negotiations this year.”
He added that negotiations are expected to include additional contractual language related to the use of online grading tools and extra-duty, extra-pay assignments.
When Jeffries asked whether any adjustments to the school calendar might also be on the table, Sinnette said a new question related to that topic would be included in the annual student survey.
“The calendar is always something we’ll look at,” she said. “There is some interest from a small group of parents about moving the start date later … I think we’d like to push it as late as we can [and] make sure that finals are finished prior to the winter holiday.”
CAREER TECH GRANT
La Cañada High School is using the approximately $800,000 to $1 million from a Career Technical Education incentive grant to bolster and reinvent its electives program. Principal Ian McFeat said the district expects to receive $419,000 this year, and that it could receive $339,000 in the second year and $200,000 in the third — based on matching money spent in those elective areas.
McFeat said some of the improvements already made include $25,000 for new cameras for the photography department and $181,000 for infrastructure upgrades for the new video and communications course. He said there also are plans to invest in other one-time costs, such as the purchase of new stoves for culinary classes.
“The idea behind it is to develop rigorous content and skill acquisition,” McFeat said. “We found that many districts didn’t take advantage of this, but we did.”
Following a complaint a few months ago about the fact that an LCHS teacher was offering a class independent of the district in space he rented at the school during summer vacation, board members reviewed rules regarding tutoring, soliciting and selling on campus.
No major changes are needed, they said, but board member Ellen Multari suggested the district update guidelines — which were established in the 1990s — to cover social media. Sinnette agreed and said the district will compare its rules with the state’s to come up with a consistent approach.
Jeffries wondered whether there might be a way to further separate the district from educational opportunities offered by teachers on their own time outside of school. Sinnette said the district can’t do much to change perception, but that it tries to “make the bright line a little brighter” when it can to delineate the separation between the district and teachers’ personal ventures.