Parcel Tax Renewal Crucial, Says LCUSD Board Leader

Joe Radabaugh
Joe Radabaugh

Joe Radabaugh, who has been a La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board member since December 2017, was recently selected by his peers as the panel’s president after serving most recently as vice president.
Radabaugh, a resident of La Cañada Flintridge since 2007, has lots of experience working in the community.
He is the president of the La Cañada Baseball Softball Association, was a member of the LCUSD parcel tax renewal advocacy team and belongs to Kiwanis. Radabaugh is a past director of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation and a past member of the Measure LCF bond committee team. The proposed parcel tax renewal will be on the March 2020 ballot and would finance programs. Consultants recommended that the tax be offered at the current rate of $450 per parcel, with adjustments by the annual Consumer Price Index to offset inflation. The vote would extend a tax that was passed in 2014 and is set to expire in June 2021.
Meanwhile, Measure LCF is the $149 million bond measure used to fund campus improvements — not programs — that passed in November 2017.
Radabaugh, a retired former division vice president for Nestle, and his wife, Tina, have a daughter, Ava, who attends 8th grade at La Cañada High School 7/8, and a son, Jackson, in the 6th grade at Paradise Canyon Elementary School.
Radabaugh recently sat down with The Outlook at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse.
Question: What do you think the biggest challenge will be in 2020?
Answer: We’re in a really good place right now as we start 2020. Proud to see the district working hard in so many important areas such as student well-being, facility upgrades, safety and security, etc. However, therein lies what I see as our biggest challenge for 2020 — ensuring the district stays financially strong enough to sustain all of the great work we’re doing. That brings me to the parcel tax, and our critical efforts to renew it with residents during the upcoming March ballot. At almost $2.7 million annually, parcel tax revenue is a key component of our annual operating budget. Parcel tax funds critical programs and services for all of our students. If the parcel tax doesn’t pass, we’ll be forced to cut programs, services and staff. La Cañada wins when we have great schools. Can I make a plug? Vote yes on Measure LC.
Q. What would you like to see the district accomplish in 2020?
A. The good news is we’ve already invested a lot of time with various stakeholder groups [in] developing our top goals for the year. They’re captured inside our LCAP [Local Control Accountability Plan]. Goal No. 1 is to recruit, retrain and train the highest-quality teaching, support and administrative staffs. Goal No. 2 is to provide a high-quality instructional program to all students. Goal No. 3 is providing resources and programs to promote students’ social and emotional health. Goal No. 4 is to maintain safe districtwide facilities and initiate capital improvement projects. Our job will be ensuring we’re making measurable progress against these goals and that we’re course-correcting where needed. I’ll be pushing to ensure special emphasis in student well-being, safety and security, [diversity, equity and inclusion,] and ensuring our financial health.
Q. What are your personal goals as board president on 2020?
A. Reality is, board president is still just one of five members, each with an equal vote. So it’s less about driving a personal agenda per se and more about ensuring that as a group the board effectively collaborates to enable outcomes that consistently meet or exceed community expectations. So to that end, my personal goals are associated with ways of working for the board: visible and accessible, engaged and informed, proactive and transparent, trustworthy and accountable. Unforeseen things will happen; they always do. We just have to be ready to react with speed, coordination and good judgment.
Q. Why were you open to the idea of becoming board president? You could have said no.
A. Given I was vice president this last year, it was a natural progression. I was honored that my fellow board members had the confidence in me taking the reins. In the end, knowing we have such a capable and experienced team, always quick to help each other, gave me the confidence to accept.
Q. How important are high test scores and rankings on national high school lists? Where does that rank for you in importance?
A. I’m a firm believer in academic achievement as a key measure of success, and I’m very aware it’s been a source of pride for our community and staff for many years. I’m confident we will always stay committed to pursuing best-in-class results. I think we do have an opportunity to relook at how we analyze and report on test score data such as [the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress]. I’d like to see us analyze the data in new ways and new leverage insights to best drive practice sharing and continuous improvement.
However, at the same time we must be mindful of potential unintended consequences if our focus on test scores is over-weighted. We have to be careful it’s not about high test scores at all costs but that we balance that with a focus on student well-being. We need to live in an “and” world.
Furthermore, the state has also moved beyond academic achievement as the primary success measure and is now using multiple measures to gauge the quality of schools. Things like school climate, parent engagement, graduation rates, academic standards and more.
Q. How closely will you be monitoring the Devil’s Gate sediment removal project, also called the Big Dig?
A. I’ve been personally involved behind the scenes for the last year and have seen firsthand all of the hard work of the La Cañada parents group, district staff and Los Angeles County personnel have done to put safeguards in place to help protect our kids and community. We will continue to monitor very closely, throughout the duration of the project and beyond; beyond in the sense that we’ll stay committed to such things as real-time air quality monitoring and upgraded filters at the high school for the foreseeable future. We’ve created a new norm.
Q. What do you think of the current safety and security plans for all the school campuses? Are you satisfied?
A. We’ve come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. I’m very pleased how true we’ve been to the original plan and in the speed in which we’re executing. We’ve made meaningful implementation progress in such areas as campus security, staffing, communication systems, training and much more.
Q. What do you feel needs improvement in the district, and how do you plan to fix it?
A. I have my eyes on improving communication. Not just what we share but how we share it. Being more proactive on sharing positive stories occurring each and every day. Leverage emerging channels such as more social media, podcasts, streaming services, etc.
Q. How closely are you monitoring the Sagebrush territory transfer?
A. We’re monitoring the status of the transfer very closely and continue to offer our support and assistance to the petitioners where it makes sense. If the transfer goes through, we’re confident in our ability to seamlessly accommodate. The district has been represented at all key L.A. County meetings by board members and staff.
Q. How has the equity and inclusion effort and officer-hiring been going? Are you satisfied with the equity and inclusion consultant and her plans?
A. So far we’re on track. Our consultant is finalizing her initial assessment and will be sharing with us in January. Results from that assessment will help inform key priorities and the plan she’ll put together for our eventual review and sign-off. I strongly believe this is important work for us, which I can already see having a positive impact in at least two key areas: Student well-being today: Ensuring all students are given a fair shot to succeed, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexuality, disabilities, etc. Tools for success tomorrow: Preparing students to succeed in an increasingly diverse college and workplace environment.

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