BUSD Students to Return to Campuses on Monday

This article was originally published in the Burbank Leader on Aug. 14

The past 17 months have been anything but ordinary for California students and teachers who dealt with distance learning and, later, limited in-person instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the Burbank Unified School District is ready for a semblance of normal life with a return to a full five-day, in-person schedule on Monday, Aug. 16.
“I am very excited,” said BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill in an interview on Thursday. “Last year’s school opening just wasn’t the same. To have our teachers and employees back on campus — I can’t wait. The energy we got in the fall from hybrid learning and full in-person [instruction] for the summer was a good start, and I feel comfortable with the safety measures we’ve been putting in place.”

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Teacher of Year Praised as ‘Amazing,’ ‘Beloved’

Amelia Cheatum

Amelia Cheatum is always happy to receive recognition for her work, but earning the Burbank Unified School District teacher of the year honor was extra special for the John Muir Middle School history teacher after seven challenging months of distance learning necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every teacher I work with, even at the other [BUSD] schools, everyone worked so hard, and I think this year we were forced to try new things,” said Cheatum, who teaches 7th- and 8th-graders. “Some things worked, some definitely didn’t, but I think this year was special because when I go back to the classroom in a few weeks, I have all of these digital tools that I plan on using that I never would have used before.”

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Local Student Among Top Debaters in Nation

Photo courtesy Burbank High School speech and debate team
Burbank High School’s speech and debate team includes (front row, from left) Sungjoo Yoon and Areg Hovhannisyan. Second row: Sean Cuevas, Aviah Priestley, Liliana Martirosyan, Mihika Chechi and Kacey Fifield. Back: assistant coach Brandon Batham, coach Jason Lohr, Vahe Tovmasian, Alexis Bell, Emma Robert-Larkin and Mane Moravia.

A Burbank High School student has been ranked second in California by the National Speech and Debate Association, and also scored highly in the recent countrywide tournament.

After making it to the final round in a category known as congressional debate in the NSDA tournament last week, rising junior Sungjoo Yoon also achieved a ranking of 48th nationally in that type of event. He ranked 14th nationally for all event types, having performed well in parliamentary debate. In California, the NSDA ranks Yoon second overall and seventh for congressional debate.

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BUSD Budget Gets Boost From Federal Stimulus

One year ago, the Burbank Unified School District celebrated an agreement between Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers on a state budget that avoided drastic cuts in school funding.

The local district breathed another collective sigh of relief this week with its most recently proposed budget, which was bolstered by federal stimulus and gave BUSD higher-than-expected revenue this year and next. The Board of Education unanimously approved the adoption of the proposed budget in a virtual special meeting on Wednesday. 

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Former Burroughs Student to Lead His Alma Matter

Photo courtesy BUSD
Matt Chambers replaces Deborah Madrigal as John Burroughs High School principal. The JBHS graduate has served as an assistant principal for the school since 2013.

The Burbank Unified School District introduced Matt Chambers as the new principal of John Burroughs High School during a virtual Board of Education meeting on Thursday.

Chambers, who has served as assistant principal of instruction at Burroughs since 2016, replaces Deborah Madrigal, who retired after nearly 40 years of working in education and was hired as JBHS principal in the fall of 2014.

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BUSD Bolsters Policy Against Racial Slurs in School Materials

After two readings and hours of discussion, the Board of Education approved on Thursday the revision to selected board policies that bans the N-word from any instructional materials that are mandated for all Burbank Unified School District students to read. 

The five-member board unanimously approved the new policy with an amendment that states supplemental material given by teachers that includes offensive language or racial slurs must be approved by Superintendent Matt Hill.

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Students’ Stress Rose in 2020, Survey Finds

Burbank high schoolers and district employees felt more stress and anxiety in 2020 than in previous years, according to a survey presented during a Board of Education meeting last week.

John Paramo, Burbank Unified School District assistant superintendent of education services, unveiled the findings of a survey of 1,323 staff and students from Burbank and Burroughs high schools that was administered by Hanover Research between September and November. The number of participants was less than half compared to the previous year. 

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School District Grapples With a Derogatory Word

A proposed revision to policy could change instruction and materials used by teachers in the Burbank Unified School District.

While no decision was made, board member engaged in a lengthy discussion on the revision. Sharon Cuseo, assistant superintendent of instructional services, presented to the Board of Education a first reading of a draft policy that would prohibit the N-word from being said or read aloud in any class. Any instructional material, such as novels or textbooks, that use the derogatory word would be accepted only if it fit specific criteria.

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