District Wants Advice on Construction Work

With the oversight committee for the $149 million Measure LCF bond scheduled to meet for the first time today, June 28, and the first $30 million of bonds having recently been issued, La Cañada Unified School Board President Kaitzer Puglia encouraged the community to continue to offer input.
In an update at Tuesday’s board meeting, Puglia said that the district has begun working with consultants and architects to prioritize which projects would be the best to tackle first, but that nothing “is set in stone.”
At a meeting in May, district officials established a sequence of projects according to the age of the school, starting with Palm Crest Elementary (built in 1956), then Paradise Canyon Elementary (1959) and La Cañada Elementary (1968). In the first phase of work, there isn’t any new construction planned at the high school, where the most substantial initial projects are expected to include a new pool and hard courts, track and field stadium bleacher upgrades and security improvements.
Still, Puglia emphasized, there are many design details left to figure out, much of which will occur at the various school sites.
“Although we have identified priorities … we’re going to continue to look for feedback as the needs evolve,” she said.
Parent David Haxton said the district could be more transparent about its plans. He said he was able to locate the Facilities Master Plan on the district’s website, but that it wasn’t easy.
“I would guess that of all the people in this room, only a handful would be able to find it,” he said. “It’s not prominent; it should be prominent.”
He also suggested that the district explain the plans in an easy-to-digest format: “From each of the sites, you need to have a narrative that talks about what you’re going to do, why you’re going to do it and how you’re going to do it, how much it’s going to cost and why you chose to do that instead of something else. And, finally, when are you going to do it.”
And he suggested that the district expand its communication beyond school families to all of LCF’s residents, who together will support the bond with their tax dollars.
Chief Technology Officer Jamie Lewsadder said it wouldn’t be a problem to feature the Facilities Master Plan in an easier-to-find space online. And Superintendent Wendy Sinnette assured Haxton that, as has been the case with previous oversight committees, the panel’s members will be responsible for disseminating information to the broader public.
Mark Evans, the district’s associate superintendent of business and administrative services, said the citizens’ oversight committee also will be charged with making sure that money is spent on items that are dictated in the bond language.
“My experience with the painting of the high school and [resurfacing] the field is that the community was very engaged with giving input and feedback,” Evans said. “Every site will have a design committee, so we’ll be balancing that with the district-wide vision.”

TALKING MATH

The discussion about how best to modify math curriculum continued at Tuesday’s board meeting, where district officials and parents spent nearly two hours on the subject.
“I’ve been with the district going on 17 years, and when I came, the charge then was, ‘Fix the math program,’” Sinnette said. “And we’re still here, but we’re making progress.”
The parents in attendance Tuesday — most of whom also attended three previous meetings with Sinnette and teachers — indicated they were most concerned about proper instruction for high achievers.
Parent Joshua Gottheim pointed out that, according to recent California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress data, only 1.34% of the district’s 4th-graders failed to meet state standards. Meanwhile, he said, 62% of those students exceeded state standards.
“Let’s do something concrete with them,” he said.
Board member Ellen Multari said the district shouldn’t focus on only the highest-performing math students.
“We’re pursuing intervention, differentiation and acceleration,” she said. “We want to overhaul the entire elementary math program. That’s a very robust and broad-based goal and very challenging. I did not feel [at the previous meetings] that we were coming to the conclusion that we were focusing on all three. I felt we were focusing on one, and moving forward with acceleration. But moving forward in just one direction is not the right way to go.”
Sinnette identified some ways in which the district can support its young math stars in the near future. She said she wants to develop more comprehensive plans at each school site, with Mathzilla and Math Olympiad questions peppered into regular classroom curriculum, and exploration of more after-school enrichment opportunities as well as a math camp program.
She said she also envisions more frequent parent-teacher conferences and opportunities for parents to observe math instruction.
As for the longer term, she said the district could explore bringing aboard someone to serve as an upper elementary math specialist. She also suggested providing study team meetings for qualifying students.

SENIOR ACTIVITIES IN PLACE

Responding to rumors to the contrary on social media, Sinnette said all of the usual senior activities (dress-up day, scooter day, commitment day and others) will go on as always in the coming school year.
“There has been some discussion about ensuring student safety on scooter days, and additional activities that are more inclusive of the student body,” she said. “[But] all those activities remain intact. We have no plans to cancel those traditions.”

SOPHOMORE ATHLETES

Sinnette also addressed discussion about plans to require student athletes to enroll in 0 period to earn P.E. credit outside of their respective athletic seasons.
Administrators did discuss such a move, but it won’t be required, she said.
“Mandatory placement in 0 period flies in the face of the Challenge Success program,” she said. “An alternative solution within the school day that does not require 0 period is being finalized.”

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