Arduous Year Leaves BUSD Leader ‘Tired but Inspired’

Matt Hill

Many are glad to have the year 2020 in their rearview mirror, and Matt Hill shares the sentiment.
The Burbank Unified School District superintendent dealt with the defeat of a parcel tax proposal that led to layoffs of teachers and staff members, a pivot to distance learning after campuses were shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and difficult conversations with stakeholders about diversity, equity and inclusion.
“There was nothing in my education or training that could have prepared me for a year like this,” Hill told the Leader in a recent interview.
It certainly took a toll on the Burbank community, but the silver linings were enough to keep Hill optimistic going into the new year.

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Virus Surge Grows More Urgent as Cases Flood Hospitals

Photo courtesy USC-VHH
USC Verdugo Hills Hospital CEO Keith Hobbs recently received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as part of the first wave of inoculations for health-care workers. Officials are anxiously awaiting additional doses of the Moderna vaccine as coronavirus cases soar in L.A. County and continue to rise locally.

Los Angeles County continues to reel from people’s lack of adherence to health guidelines during the Thanksgiving holiday, as hospitals have become inundated with COVID-19 patients.
On Wednesday, the county Department of Public Health reported a record 8,023 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized, and officials expect that number to climb over the next few weeks. Coronavirus cases in the county doubled in just one month, from 400,000 to 800,000, and Public Health officials said one in five residents currently tested is infected.
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Sinnette: Teachers Have Raised Their Game Amid Pandemic

Superintendent Wendy Sinnette

There are many words one could use to define the difficult year that was 2020, but one in particular quickly came to mind for La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette.
“I guess you could say unprecedented,” she said recently. “It is overused, you know, because the challenges have been immense. But we’ve met them, and for the most part, have been successful. The amount of work is relentless because we care so much about our kids.”
Nearly 10 months in, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought incessant trials and tribulations to all, and the small city of La Cañada Flintridge hasn’t been immune to them.
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School Board Praises Departing Reynolds, Greets Weisberg

Government leaders and members of the Burbank community celebrated outgoing and incoming board of education members on Thursday at the panel’s final meeting of the year.
Departing board member Roberta Reynolds was thanked and commended for her 13 years of service by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, an aide to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Burbank Unified School District staff members and teachers, parents and Reynolds’ board colleagues.
“It’s almost like being able to participate in your own funeral,” Reynolds quipped, referring to the compliments. “That is amazing. My only goal in everything I do is to do a good job, and I just tried to do a good job. I tried to care and I try to take care of the things around me and I try to do what I can with everything that comes in front of me.”
Reynolds, who recently was defeated in her bid for reelection, assured the community that she will still be active, transitioning to a community role with the local parent teacher association.

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Burroughs Students Approve Search for New Mascot

With wide support from classmates, teachers and administrators, the John Burroughs High School Associated Student Body is officially in search of a new mascot.
Of the 1,540 votes from the student body, 63.7% supported a change. The Indian has been the mascot since JBHS was established in 1948.
“It was a large turnout of voters,” said Matt Hill, the Burbank Unified School District’s superintendent, who was pleased with the result. “It was great that a lot of students weighed in and got to vote.”
The process, spearheaded by ASB President Nadaly Jones, a senior, began in August with research performed by ASB members and a discussion amid concerns that the school symbol was racist and outdated. Of the 40 student government representatives, 37 voted to bring the issue to Burroughs students.

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State’s Order a New Hardship for Restaurateurs

Photo by Oscar Areliz / Outlook Valley Sun
Los Gringos Locos, a popular Mexican restaurant in La Cañada Flintridge, shuts down its outdoor setup after stay-at-home order from state officials banning in-person dining went into effect on Monday.

A longtime caterer for Los Gringos Locos was at the Plaza De La Cañada shopping center parking lot on Tuesday, disassembling the restaurant’s small outdoor dining setup.
“It’s just sad,” he said.
It’s a sentiment shared by just about everyone else who works in the restaurant industry, which was dealt yet another crushing blow on Monday when a state stay-at-home order that halts all in-person dining for three weeks went into effect. The directive supplanted the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health order from Nov. 25 that did the same in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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County Continues to Set Records for COVID-19 Cases

With Los Angeles County reporting record highs for daily new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, public health officials continue to urge residents to remain indoors as much as possible to combat the recent surge.
“Unfortunately, where we are and where we are headed is alarming,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said on Wednesday, adding that the positivity rate now stands at 12.5%. That figure was 3.5% in early November.
The county broke its record for daily new cases five times last week and has averaged nearly 8,700 the past three days, including 9,243 new cases on Wednesday. There had been 305 cases reported so far in La Cañada Flintridge as of Wednesday. The Department of Public Health reported 267 cases the previous week.

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As Virus Spreads Further, High School Sports Shut Down

Photo courtesy Adam Colman
The Burbank Unified School District suspended all on-campus athletic activities on Monday in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The Burbank High School football team had been conditioning on the field for about three weeks.

Concerned over the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County, Burbank Unified School District officials announced the suspension of all on-campus conditioning for the district’s high school athletes on Monday.
The county record for daily new coronavirus cases was broken for a second time this week with 7,854 reported cases on Thursday. The previous high (7,593) had been reported on Tuesday.
The student-athletes’ and coaches’ joy upon returning to campus for conditioning lasted only three weeks.

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CIF Delays Prep Sports’ Return, Awaits State Guidance

With reopening plans for schools and businesses hitting a snag due to a recent surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the California Interscholastic Federation announced Tuesday that state health officials will likely not release updated youth sports guidelines until after Jan. 1, postponing any education-based practices and competition scheduled for December.
“We believed that if we allowed the maximum amount of time possible to gain control of the situation, we could deliver to our student-athletes what we all want for them and give them what they deserve,” CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod said in a statement. “Since July, there clearly has not been any progress made toward gaining control of the pandemic. In fact, it has gotten worse, and here is where we are.”

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