Seniors Get Celebrity Shoutouts as LCUSD Sets Grade Plan

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The La Cañada Unified School District announced it will allow students grades 7-12 to choose a credit/no credit option or a graded report card this semester.

These unprecedented times have made senior year a non-traditional one for the La Cañada High School graduating class of 2020, a trend that continued last week as students earning their diploma received surprising bits of encouragement from celebrities.
LCHS seniors have been receiving personalized messages of support and encouragement in videos from celebrities, posted on Twitter, including congratulatory shoutouts from Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra, Chris B. Harrison of the “Bachelor” franchise, podcast host Adam Carolla and radio personality Dr. Drew Pinsky.
The viral messages have ranged from funny to heartfelt to cheeky congratulations to the seniors, who’ve missed out on a whole slew of memory-filled events due to the “Safer at Home” order meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Harrison, in particular, spoke sweetly to the Class of 2020, recognizing the loss the seniors must be feeling: “Congratulations. I know this hasn’t been the senior year you guys were all hoping for. Very sorry that some of those memories, prom, graduation, spring break, all of that stuff has gone by the wayside. But the most important thing is you are graduating. You are graduating from La Cañada with your high school diploma. You’re going to go off and do great things.”
The personalized messages, ranging from 30 seconds to several minutes in length, are a way to send the kids encouragement during this difficult time following the abrupt dismissal of school and cancellation of all activities for the remainder of the school year, noted LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal.
“I think the comments from these friends for the Class of 2020 is terrific, well deserved and a testament to how much people are thinking about them,” said Cartnal, admitting to helping coordinate a “great team” that has been able to wrangle the celebrity messages.
Meanwhile, the district said its yard signs commemorating the class of 2020 have been deemed wholly successful, with more than 800 being distributed so far to both the seniors and their families, as well as to community members.
The La Cañada Unified School District has also finalized plans with the city of La Cañada Flintridge to create a system to honor the seniors by displaying banners — with their names and graduation pictures — on all the light poles along Foothill Boulevard, said LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette.
The banners will be hung in lieu of the Fiesta Day banners after the annual parade was postponed from Memorial Day to Labor Day, she added.
LCHS 7/8 Principal Jarrett Gold also has been working with his teachers and a video production company to produce a high-caliber, virtual promotion ceremony.
“There was also a student art competition for 8th-grade yard signs and those are arriving in the next few days and will be distributed to 8th-grade families,” Sinnette said in an email.
Meanwhile, she added, at the elementary school level, principals have been busy working with parent volunteers and the district’s Technology Department to produce a virtual promotion ceremony for the 6th-grade classes.


In a letter to parents and students on Friday, Sinnette announced that the end-of-year grading policy will, essentially, be a hybrid model, with a choice being offered to all students in 7th-12th grades. Those students will be given a credit/no credit option or the opportunity to opt-in for a graded report card.
TK-6th grade will receive certificates of completion, with feedback on mastery and progress from their teachers.
Students and their parents or guardians have until May 29 to opt-in for the graded report card.
In her letter, Sinnette explained that the decision on grading was made after “hours of leadership team discussion and planning, extensive Governing Board review and exhaustive policy research from local and comparable districts.”
The district said it also referenced the results from the survey on distance learning it had conducted recently, as well as conferring with the La Cañada Teachers Association Leadership in order to bargain the working conditions resulting from the grading format decision.
“There are several philosophical commitments which informed our thinking,” Sinnette said, emphasizing the district’s commitment to a student-centered principle of education, as well as recognizing the impacts of the pandemic and ‘Safer at Home’ order.
“Students, teachers, staff and families have been navigating a new instructional delivery model with distance learning. The individual challenges, stresses, successes and limitations faced by everyone involved in LCUSD’s distance learning experience is unique and personal and prohibits a one-size-fits-all approach. There are issues of equity, loss, anxiety and grief that couldn’t be discounted as we developed our policy.”
More detailed information on how the format will work will be released this Friday, she said, and signed off with well-wishes:
“Please remember to take care, be well, stay socially distanced and remain connected to those you care about.”

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