School Board Begins Discussion of Year’s Priorities

Photo courtesy GUSD
Roosevelt 8th-grade student Izel Aguayo (left) receives her Chromebook from office clerk Andrea Trana and science teacher John Carroll.

Following what can probably be categorized as the most volatile six months in its history, the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education discussed its list of priorities for the 2020-21 school year at its meeting Tuesday evening.
And, not surprisingly, making sure that distance learning works for all GUSD students amid the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the discourse.
Following tradition, the board first analyzed the set of guidelines that were adopted a year ago and include maximizing student achievement, creating a culture of learning, increasing engagement and maintaining district solvency and financial responsibility. Then Superintendent Vivian Ekchian pushed the discussion — which will continue in future meetings — toward major focus areas for the current academic year.
“This is the time to speak up,” Ekchian quipped, introducing the free-form conversation that followed.

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A Laptop for Every GUSD Middle-Schooler

Photo courtesy Anderson Family
Shabazz Anderson, a 6th-grader at Toll Middle School, uses the new Chromebook that she received at the start of the school year.

The educational community at the Glendale Unified School District’s three middle schools received quite the welcome-back boost when more than 3,000 Samsung Chromebooks — one for each student and teacher — were delivered recently to kick off the 2020-21 school year.
The schools were selected earlier this year to join Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, an educational initiative sponsored by Verizon that targets under-resourced middle schools across the country. As part of the program, Roosevelt, Toll and Wilson Middle Schools have been provided with a comprehensive education package that includes a Chromebook for every student and teacher, a data plan for up to four years on each device, access to curricula that provides a personalized learning experience for students and professional development for teachers. A full-time technology coach in each school, partially funded through Verizon Innovative Learning, partners with teachers to provide ongoing support to integrate the technology in classroom instruction. The program is also made possible by Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization originated by the U.S. Congress in 2008 to improve technology in education.

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Life of Storyteller, 100, Is Quite a Tale

Photo courtesy Battison family
Cy Battison, seated, with daughters Terry Oelrich, left, and Gayle Landstrom at his drive-by 100th birthday party on July 19. Battison served in several capacities for a remarkable 63 years at the YMCA of Glendale’s Camp Fox on Catalina Island.

Even by current coronavirus-era standards, it’s rare that a 100th birthday party is acknowledged with a drive-thru ceremony and a Zoom meeting, but the term “rare” certainly applies to Cy Battison.
Scores drove their cars past Battison’s home on July 19 and, later in the evening, visited his living room virtually to pay homage to a man who has positively affected the lives of thousands during his century on Earth. Hundreds more have responded to Battison on a Facebook page dedicated to “Growing Up in Glendale in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.”
For it is that generation which is especially fond of Battison, who invested a remarkable 63 years in one capacity or another at the YMCA of Glendale and its idyllic camping facility on Catalina Island, Camp Fox, before stepping away a decade ago.
Battison, who long served as an educator, spent literally hundreds of weeks at Camp Fox, which teems with young people eager to get away from the city for a few days of hiking in the hills, splashing in the ocean and meeting new friends. The camp holds about 400 campers, counselors and fellow directors per session, and Battison was renowned for doing his best to meet each of them.

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School District Panel Will Seek to Fight Bias on Many Fronts

Vivian Ekchian, is superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District.

The Glendale Unified School District has announced that it is convening a working group that will focus on providing a culturally relevant and responsive education for all students.
The group will be made up of students, teachers, school and district administrators, staff members, community members and parents and guardians. Some of the areas of focus will include eliminating bias in curriculums and educational materials; providing professional development to ensure culturally competent leadership; actively recruiting a more diverse workforce; monitoring student discipline data to ensure students of color are not disproportionately penalized; and continuing the use of practices to build community, strengthen school culture, and repair relationships.
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GUSD Passes Budget With $20 Million Deficit

The Glendale Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday adopted its budget for the 2020-21 school year “begrudgingly,” in the words of board member Greg Krikorian, who nevertheless had no other options given the state’s bleak financial situation.
The general fund portion of the budget is used to educate the district’s 26,000 students and includes a little over $289 million in revenues and more than $309 million in expenditures. The $20.3 million deficit is caused by the 10% cut to public education funding in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent May Revise budget proposal due to the COVID-19 health and financial crisis. The GUSD had until June 30 to submit a budget to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, or LACOE, a tenet that was satisfied by the unanimous vote.
As bad as it may appear, things could have been even direr.
Worst-case scenarios explained by Steve Dickinson, the district’s chief business and financial officer, projected deficits as high as $53 million for the upcoming school year. This week, however, the state legislature passed a budget bill that does not include any reductions to public education funding, but instead relies heavily on assumptions of California receiving billions of dollars in federal relief funds. Until the final state budget act is approved, GUSD and all school districts in the state will be planning for large budget reductions in the coming years. Continue reading “GUSD Passes Budget With $20 Million Deficit”

District Researching Options for Upcoming School Year

Hagop Eulmessekian, the GUSD’s director of student support services, offered a presentation on behalf of the district’s Return to School Task Force at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Local schools find themselves in the annual pause between graduation and the start of the next academic year, but Tuesday’s meeting of the Glendale Unified School District defied the typical tone of summer vacation that characterizes assemblies held this time of year.
The topic was pedestrian enough — a presentation by the district’s Return to School Task Force — but with less than two months remaining until the first day, the overwhelming sense of the unknown was palpable.
With a little time to plan, unlike the almost immediate shuttering of school facilities that took place in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset, board members nevertheless found themselves with at least as many questions as answers when it came to plotting a course for the upcoming 2021-21 school year.
“We will take the framework and the guidelines and vet them with board priorities to get a plan and bring it back to the board for approval,” said Hagop Eulmessekian, the GUSD’s director of student support services, who provided the task force’s report. Continue reading “District Researching Options for Upcoming School Year”

College Success Fund ‘Planting Seeds of Hope’

This Glendale 1st-grader hopes to use the $50 from the Student Success Fund to attend college and become a veterinarian, saying, “When I make animals feel better, I feel happy.”

Amid the requisite challenging financial news that accompanies every meeting in the COVID-19 era, the Glendale Unified School District launched a truly uplifting program on Thursday evening that pierced through the typical report of budget deficits and dwindling reserves.
It’s called the College Success Fund, a long-awaited new initiative that will provide each 1st-grader within GUSD with a $50 savings account to begin the long financial road toward post-secondary education.
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Board Discusses Schools’ Bleak Financial Forecast

Photo by Zane Hill / Glendale News-Press
A Glendale Unified School District maintenance worker places a congratulatory banner for the Class of 2020 on the GUSD Administrative Building, one of many remote acknowledgements thanks to the pandemic. The GUSD Board of Education this week had a sobering discussion on the fiscal fallout of the global crisis.

There is probably not a single meeting of a public agency in the nation that doesn’t include the inevitable grim financial forecast, and Tuesday’s Glendale Unified School District Board of Education session was no different, as historic budget shortfalls were discussed.
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Huntington Hospital Offers COVID-19 Antibody Testing

Dr. Kimberly Shriner is an infectious disease specialist at Huntington Hospital.

Huntington Hospital recently began a serologic testing program to identify individuals who have been exposed to – or recovered from – the coronavirus infection and may have developed potentially protective antibodies.
Protective antibody infusions are a well-established method to treat a variety of infections and current studies are showing the benefit for critically ill patients with COVID-19.
Huntington Hospital in Pasadena is an expanded access site for investigational therapies to treat coronavirus, including the use of convalescent plasma (CP) for the sickest patients.
Like many factors associated with the pandemic, there is a shortage of CP available for use.
“That is our rallying cry,” said Dr. Kimberly Shriner, an infectious disease specialist at Huntington Hospital. “If you had coronavirus or the antibodies, we are asking you to donate plasma through the Red Cross. Hopefully, there is something we can use.”
Shriner is part of a team that treats the between 60-70 COVID-19 patients who are currently hospitalized at Huntington, a number she said “is plateauing, but starting to go down.”
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GUSD High Schools Ranked Among Nation’s Best by U.S. News & World Report

Vivian Ekchian
Glendale Unified Superintendent

All four of the Glendale Unified School District’s comprehensive high schools rank among the nation’s best, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best High Schools ranking. Each ranked in the top 16% of the more than 24,000 schools that were evaluated.Clark Magnet High was the top GUSD representative, ranking in the top 2% nationally. Crescenta Valley High was in the top 4%, Hoover High ranked among the top 10%, and Glendale High was in the top 16%.
“The highest-ranked schools are those whose students excelled on state tests and performed beyond expectations; participated in and passed a variety of college-level exams; and graduated in high proportions,” according to U.S. News & World Report rankings methodology.
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