La Cañada Unified School District’s superintendent Wendy Sinnette wants to see a district-wide implementation of Challenge Success to educate the community on the upcoming bond measure election, to reorganize the district’s administration and to focus on math instruction.
Sinnette focused on those items in her annual goal-setting presentation to the Governing Board on Tuesday. Board members were receptive to her plans, noting that most of the work has been ongoing.
They were especially enthusiastic about Sinnette’s embrace of Challenge Success, the Stanford-based program that provides data-driven tools to help schools encourage students to lead more balanced lives.
“Do you see the opportunity, in terms of key principles, of bringing that to students sooner than 7th or 8th grade?” board member Ellen Multari asked. “Like, not letting students sleep with the cell phone in their room, do you see opportunity to bring that down to the elementaries?”
That’s the plan, Sinnette said, suggesting the need for analysis of elementary school homework.
“I know we’re a high-performing community and there are those expectations,” she said. “So it’s having the dialogue with the parents and the staff. If we look at load vs. rigor, we’re really embracing rigor and not homework for homework’s sake. We have 4th-, 5th-, 6th-graders already thinking about college, and we want to celebrate that, that’s forward planning. But we also want to make sure they’re thinking about it in a healthy way.”
Sinnette also said she and her colleagues seek to inform the public about Measure LCF, the proposed $149-million bond that would be used to improve facilities on the district’s campuses.
“[If we’re] going to have the bond measure be a success, that would be very exciting,” Sinnette said. “We need to have a clearly articulated plan for what’s going to happen initially from our Facilities Master plan list.
“Conversely, if the bond isn’t passed … we have clearly known actions that need to be taken to improve teaching and learning in our district. We need to find opportunities to initiate action on some of those plans, but at a slower pace.”
Sinnette also mentioned maintaining positive relationships with the La Cañada Teachers Association and California School Employees Association groups: “It’s a priority, and it needs ongoing attention and care,” she said.
MONITORING DEVIL’S GATE
The Governing Board discussed the planned Devil’s Gate Sediment Removal project and what steps LCUSD might still take now that the comment period for the recirculated EIR has closed.
Sinnette said she’d already sent a copy of the board’s resolution to new L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, but that she’d be willing to send an updated resolution too, as board members consider revising it at their next meeting.
Superintendent Dan Jeffries, who sits on the La Cañada Flintridge Joint Use Committee, said he and city officials hope to have a way to report complaints once the project begins, perhaps in another year.
“The EIR lays out some very specific rules,” Jeffries said. “But there’s no teeth to enforce those rules. I’d like to see something in place so if contractors are not following rules, we have someone to turn to. I would like to work those channels out ahead of time.”
The project seeks to remove 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment from the reservoir in an attempt to maintain adequate downstream flood protection.
The plan is opposed by the Arroyo Seco Foundation and the Pasadena Audubon Society, which jointly filed a petition in court in 2014 challenging the Final Environmental Impact Report. In April, L.A. Superior Court Judge James Chalfant halted the project temporarily and ruled that the Department of Public Works needed to modify the EIR before it could move forward.
The judge required contractors to use only trucks that meet the EPA’s emissions standards for Model Year 2010 or later as they make as many as 400 daily trips along segments of Oak Grove and Berkshire drives while the project is underway.
HUMAN RESOURCE DUTIES
In light of the recent departure of Jeff Davis, who served as LCUSD’s assistant superintendent in charge of human resources, board members sought to publicly discuss the district’s ongoing agreement with Cathy McMullen, who for several years has worked as a HR consultant to the district, Sinnette said.
McMullen, whose services are $150 per hour, is available as necessary to lend support and expertise or to serve as an independent contractor in case of a possible conflict of interest.
When Davis left for a position with the Ventura Unified School District, Sinnette announced she would take over the bulk of Davis’ HR duties, with help from her other cabinet members.
“There were a couple things that immediately jumped up,” Board President Dan Jeffries said. “One, we didn’t want to overload you with work. Also, we wondered if there might be some situation where a district employee might not be comfortable discussing an HR matter with you, so it’s nice to have someone who is an outsider available.”
Paradise Canyon Elementary School office manager Debbie Pierce got a warm, tearful send-off Tuesday, as PCY Principal Debra Cradduck, Sinnette, Jeffries and several others told stories and wished her well. Pierce plans to retire after 35 years with the district, including 33 at the school.
Jeffries recalled his first time watching Pierce in action, dealing with frantic parents, directing lost children, answering the phone and doing it all calmly.
“I was so impressed,” Jeffries said. “I thought, ‘Wow, there’s someone who really knows what they’re doing.’”
Sinnette called Pierce the “heart and soul” of PCY’s campus; La Cañada Elementary School’s office manager Jenny Lee described Pierce as “unfailingly kind”; and former PCY Principal Donna Robinson said she was, “hands down, the best office manager I ever had.”