Jamie Lewsadder’s dream job got even better Tuesday, when the Governing Board welcomed her, unanimously, into her role as La Cañada Unified School District’s first chief technology officer.
Lewsadder’s LCUSD tenure began as an English teacher before she jumped at the chance to work as a technology teacher on special assignment and then, most recently, as director of the technology department.
In her new district cabinet-level position, approved at Tuesday’s board meeting with a 4-0 vote, Lewsadder will have more authority in steering the district’s technological advancements. (Board member Ellen Multari was not in attendance.)
In the coming school year, the district will employ a one-to-one student-to-computing device ratio for those in grades 5 through 8, according to Superintendent Wendy Sinnette, who said the district anticipates that same ratio will be in effect for students in grades 5-12 in the 2017-18 school year.
Lewsadder will continue to help implement that, including offering important input during the forthcoming facilities master planning process to ensure the district has enough technological infrastructure to support so many devices.
“Technology is certainly essential to what we’re doing,” board President David Sagal told Lewsadder on Tuesday. “And we certainly have the right person for the job, and we’re very grateful for your hard work. You’re really pulling us through to the modern age.”
Lewsadder, whose reputation for always being on-call was mentioned a few times Tuesday, has no formal technological training, but she said she grew up building computers with her grandfather. That longtime interest in tech combined with her passion for teaching teachers makes her a good fit for the new position, which she said also exists in districts such as San Marino and Manhattan Beach.
“Jamie did not major in IT in college, but she has continued to learn,” parent Belinda Randolph said. “She had the tools from college to learn, but she has continued to teach herself. I think that’s an incredible role model for our students in the district.”
Said Lewsadder: “I love the art of teaching. I love teaching teachers. And [in her role] you get to be a little bit of a misfit, right? It’s like, ‘Have you tried this really cool teaching strategy?’ That’s what I love and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Sinnette said that the district will host 4,157 students, 77 more students than it did a year ago, a total that she said she expects to increase before the school year begins on Aug. 16. She said the district will have 295 students attending on permits, including 71 from the Sagebrush area in western La Cañada Flintridge.
Breaking it down by campus, Sinnette said La Cañada Elementary’s enrollment is 662, Paradise Canyon’s is 722 and Palm Crest Elementary’s is 636.
LCHS 7/8 currently has 713 students signed up and the high school has 1,413. (Eleven students are on home instruction or in independent schools.)
There are only four open slots district-wide in 4th grade and only five in 5th grade, said Sinnette, adding that new residents with students in those grades might not be able to attend their closest school.
“We see an uptick, which will really help on the revenue side of the house,” she said.
The Governing Board voted to approve a deal to offer Middlebury Interactive Digital world language courses in an online environment to students in kindergarten through 6th grade.
The classes, which are all voluntary, will be offered in Chinese and German and will utlize interactive media to introduce students to basic expressions and vocabulary.
Board Vice President Dan Jeffries said he considers the program “a pilot as we foray into a possible online learning experience for our students.” Still, he sought to assure teachers that the online curriculum is not a threat, an assessment with which Sinnette agreed, pointing to research proving that even the most advanced levels of online education benefits from a blended learning environment.