LCUSD Approves New Turf at High School

The La Cañada High School Spartans — and every other user group that runs, jumps and tackles on the field at the school — is a step closer to having new turf. The La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a $728,697 project to replace the field and the padding beneath it.
The 13-year-old turf currently in place at the stadium is worn out, an inch lower than the two inches it was when it was installed, according to Rachel Adams, managing principal at Architects of Education.
It will be replaced this summer by AstroTurf GameDay Grass, a product composed of ZeoFill and Silica Sand.
“It feels like you’re walking on grass,” said Dan Jeffries, the Governing Board’s vice president who was a member of the Field Replacement Committee that’s been studying the issue since December. “If you’re there on a hot day, it feels very natural. You don’t have a lot of heat coming off it. But it also doesn’t require nearly as much maintenance as some of the other options and it doesn’t require watering.”
It doesn’t include any of the rubber that has caused health concerns recently, said Mark Evans, the district’s chief business and operations officer. He told the board that the turf is the same type that was installed recently at the heavily used Ferraro Fields by Griffith Park.
The district also will place a one-inch impact pad made of scientifically based styrofoam that’s expected to help prevent concussions, said Adams, who added that the pad is expected to last 25 years.
“The beauty of the one-inch pad is you can now lift your turf and infield up to three times before you have to replace the pad,” she said.
Evans said the project — which will incorporate graphic elements such as “LA CAñADA” and “SPARTANS” in the end zones — will occur between May 30 and Aug. 1.
The funding for the project comes from Fund 40, money set aside for capital-improvement projects.
The track surrounding the field also is to be resurfaced, but that will be a separate project, Evans said.

TEACHER PAY AT ISSUE
Teachers, in their recognizable blue LCTA T-shirts and again wielding brightly colored signs, were joined by parents, students and community members in appealing to the Governing Board to negotiate a pay increase for instructors. LCUSD staffers received pay raises totaling 10% over the past three years, but no raise for teachers has been scheduled for the current school year.
LCHS English teacher Tracey Calhoun, a member of the La Cañada Teachers Association’s bargaining team, announced that recent negotiations felt promising.
The sentiment was echoed by LCHS 7/8 Principal Jarrett Gold, who also has been involved in the process — and who thanked the board for that day approving a 4% retroactive raise for the 2015-16 school year for the 19 members of the district’s Classified Managerial Secretarial Administrative Association.
“We’re proud of the work we have done,” Calhoun said. “We’ve made some great strides and we believe we are close to identifying a mutually agreeable option.”
According to a joint communique on the LCTA’s website, the sides made progress toward achieving lifetime earnings relative to comparable districts during bargaining earlier this week, with a plan to meet again Monday.
“The teams have drafted a restructured salary schedule that benefits from being strategic and intentional,” the statement reads. “It offers a foundation for continued work. Pending ratification the new schedule will take effect in 2016-­17 and an increase for 2015­-16 will be in the form of retroactive pay based on the 2014­-15 salary schedule.”
Still, the teachers and their supporters filling the board room kept the pressure on with an hour’s worth of testimony during the public comment period, when board members are not legally permitted to respond.
Justin Valassidis, an English teacher at LCHS, delivered an impassioned speech likely familiar to those who’ve studied in his classroom, including the children of three board members whom he mentioned.
He told the board that after a decade at the school he has an interview lined up next week at another school “that respects and empowers their teachers, fosters innovation and creativity, is closer to where I reside and pays nearly $10,000 more per year.”
He said he and his colleagues have grown weary of the district’s promises.
“You can continue to speak to us in staff meetings and board meetings, in the press and even online, about family and respect, about the fervent desire you have to pay the teachers what they deserve,” he said. “Or you can simply act in congruity with your speech.”
He continued: “Did you consider the impact on morale when you placed testing and benchmarks before the teachers? Did you recognize the optics when you raised the salaries and compensation of district administration before the teachers? Did you think about the implications before you spent millions of dollars on painting the school or purchasing shiny new technology before valuing the teachers?”

SURVEY SAYS
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette guided the board through the results of the fifth annual Panorama Education surveys, which gauge feedback from students, staff and parents on a variety of issues ranging from bullying to homework.
The number of families who consider school facilities to be clean and well-maintained rose 16% to 76% overall. Also, 8% more than those responding last year found the recently revamped website easier to navigate.
Among students, 5% fewer reported seeing their principal around school often, or said they believed their teacher controls the classroom and 7% more said afterschool activities didn’t permit them enough time to finish their homework.
In January, when the survey was administered, certified staff reported a 22% increase — to 53% — among those who felt staff morale was high. “It might not be that way now,” Sinnette acknowledged, drawing a nod from Valassidis in the audience.

COURSE UPDATES
The board voted unanimously to introduce Korean 4 honors and an interdisciplinary engineering-related course titled Introduction to Design at the high school.
Based on an evaluation of student need, board members also approved the reinstatement of culinary arts teacher Karen Stattler and the reduction of hours for ceramics teacher Robin Serr, said Jeff Davis, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources.

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