Budget, Schools’ Reopening Are on BUSD Leaders’ Minds

Though no public meetings were on the Burbank Unified School District’s agenda this week, Superintendent Matt Hill updated the community on the state of the budget and the reopening of school for the 2020-21 year — issues that have prompted keen interest among residents in recent weeks.
No agreement had been made between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature as of Friday regarding the state budget, which is supposed to be ready by June 15. Suspension of operations because of health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic gave lawmakers less time to negotiate.
The May budget revise from the governor proposed drastic cuts in school funding, a big concern for small districts such as Burbank’s. BUSD would have to cut more than $13 million, and Hill urges parents and guardians to continue writing to political leaders.
“We need to continue your advocating and email the governor and the legislature,” Hill wrote in his weekly update. “Without the support of the governor and legislature, BUSD will be forced to adopt the governor’s May revise.”
The BUSD staff will have a study session on Wednesday, June 17, and the Board of Education will convene the following day for a regular virtual meeting at 7 p.m.
Hill also notified parents that the Reopening Committee — which is separated into four subgroups and takes into consideration guidelines provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and California Department of Education — will work with the Burbank Teachers Association and California School Employees Association and is expected to share proposed instruction models on July 2.
“We hope this will then allow for our families to choose the best option between a hybrid or 100% distance learning option,” he wrote.
According to a BUSD survey that received nearly 7,000 responses, 57.5% chose a hybrid model over distance learning and 25.5% said maybe. Nearly half of parents and guardians replied “no” when asked if they would choose a 100% online model instead of a hybrid.
Regarding distance learning, the community would like to see changes in direct instruction, grades, Zoom and Google Meet sessions and regular communication.
Members of the Spanish-speaking and Armenian-speaking populations noted that the language barrier made it difficult for parents to help their children in the distance learning model. They want to see more interaction between the teacher and students and are concerned about the safety of children on campus.
Some concerns and ideas presented to the committee include staggered openings, face masks, taking temperatures and sanitization.
The instruction portion of the committee led by Sharon Cuseo, assistant superintendent of instructional services, will focus on curriculum selection and instructional delivery models, assessment practices and policies, services to special populations, access and use of instructional technology and expanded learning opportunities.
Members include Tamara Shiern (director of special education), Martha Walter (elementary principal), Tom Crowther (high school principal), Dug Gutierrez (elementary BTA representative), Lisa Raluy (middle school BTA rep), Kailey McDonald (instructional services CSEA rep), Charlene Walters (elementary school PTA rep), Pavel Tantchev (Burbank High School student rep), Emilio Urioste (adult school and Independent Learning Academy), Debbie McHorney (instructional technology teacher on special assignment), Rebecca Mielowocki (instructional services TOSA), Robyn Anders (coordinator of instructional technology) and Jennifer Goldenberg (TOSA English learners).
Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services John Paramo will lead the social and emotional well-being part of the committee that includes Steve Ferguson (BUSD board member), Susan Conway (BTA executive board), Kelly Duenckel (middle school PTA rep) and Nadaly Jones (Burroughs High School student rep).They will focus on school-based mental health services, behavior support systems, family engagement and support practices, staff supports and maintaining student and staff recognitions, awards and traditions.
Part of the committee will also address family and community engagement, headed by Director of Elementary Education Peter Knapik, and includes Greg Miller (middle school principal), Lori Little (high school PTA rep), Andrea Espinoza (Monterey High School student rep) and Stephanie Fields (coordinator of child development). They will be working on ensuring effective communication systems, engaging stakeholders, using community partnerships, key systems and support, neighboring district trends and child care options.
Debbie Kutka, assistant superintendent of administrative services, was named leader of the operations and health and safety group that will focus on facilities, budgeting and financial operations, nutrition services, technology infrastructure, guidance, directives and recommendations from public health, and classroom, meal and cleaning practices. Health office practices, personal protective management and isolation of students showing signs of illness will also be discussed.
Other members of health and safety include Charlene Tabet (BUSD board member), Louis Ayala (CSEA executive rep), Maria Uribe (food services CSE rep), Ismael Lopez (technology CSEA rep), Wendi Harvel (PTA council president), Stacy Cashman (director of student services), Kathy Sessinghaus (director of food services), Sally Chew (emergency planning and safety coordinator), Larry Cross (director of facilities), Rick Vonk (interim director of information technology series and education support), Lenora Aguilera (head school nurse), Tony Franco (high school BTA rep) and Sandra DeBarros (elementary principal).

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