The Burbank City Council voted this week to condemn Azerbaijani aggression in the mostly Armenian region of Artsakh, a disputed area over which Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have clashed. Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, includes the Hadrut province, with which Burbank declared a friendship in 2014. Reported violence by Azerbaijani forces in Artsakh has been the focus of widespread protests and rallies recently, with the Armenian flag becoming a not-uncommon sight in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The panel’s unanimous vote also directed city staff members to send a letter of support from the council for a potential U.S. House of Representatives resolution, House Resolution 1165, that would condemn Azerbaijan’s military’s actions in Artsakh. The resolution’s authors include Reps. Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman, who represent Burbank.
With the blessing from several community members who spoke during a virtual meeting on Thursday, the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved the proposed revision of BUSD policies and administrative regulations that now include language rejecting “all forms of racism as destructive to the district’s mission, vision, values and goals.” The majority of public comments — lasting one hour, 49 minutes — at the meeting supported the district for its first steps in addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Teachers, parents and community members shared personal stories involving racism, and board members appeared moved by what they heard. “For us to be able to have that opportunity to listen and learn and create that dialogue so many people talk about, that is the start of this work,” said BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill. “Some of this work has been happening in individual classrooms, with individuals at the district level and board level. “But for us as the Burbank Unified School District to come out with a statement saying we are unified, we acknowledge our past, we acknowledge we aren’t perfect, we acknowledge that we need to move forward, that’s powerful. And it creates a space so we can have these conversations, that we can open our hearts and open our minds and continue the work.” That work involved understanding the system, structures and policies that hold the district back “from ensuring that all of our students thrive in our school district,” Hill added. Prior to the meeting, the district announced the launching of a website — at burbankusd.org/dei — that details BUSD’s journey to becoming more diverse and inclusive. There’s an introductory video in which Hill shared how he, coming from a working-class family, learned that the “American dream is not the same for everyone.” “It took my journey into education and my doctoral studies of social justice to really look at my life [and learn] my life is not the same as others’,” he said in the video. “There are barriers, systems, rules, regulations, processes that prevent many of our students of color and families of color to be successful. We must hear these stories; we must share our own stories and see how they’re different.”
RENAMING JORDAN MIDDLE SCHOOL
The district’s work during the past year to create a more diverse and inclusive environment for stakeholders has included an effort to rename David Starr Jordan Middle School. Assistant Superintendent John Paramo updated the board on the process, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said a committee tasked with renaming the school is “actually a very hard-working group” that is prepared to move forward. Jordan — the founding president of Stanford University — was a controversial academic who advocated in favor of eugenics, a movement that set out to improve the genetic composition of humankind by way of selective breeding and is now widely viewed as racist. The district sent out a survey in the form of a Google document on Friday that asks stakeholders to suggest a name and explain their choice. Suggestions will be taken through Nov. 13, and then the committee will bring three to five names to the board in February 2021. Board member Steve Ferguson recommended that the committee name the school after a woman. “I think that’s important, and while I don’t want to tie the committee’s hands extensively on searching for this, I think one school is a bare minimum and frankly should be a factor of consideration,” Ferguson said.
In mid- and late-March, the entertainment industry — like many — shut down in the face of a growing coronavirus pandemic. Productions shuddered to a halt. Award shows went virtual. Planned summer blockbusters had their releases postponed, or were pushed online. And amid it all, many of the people working on the movies, television shows and events found themselves joining millions of Americans filing for unemployment. “Work literally … with some exceptions, ended,” said Bob Beitcher, president and CEO of the Motion Picture & Television Fund. The Calabasas-based charity has given aid to workers in the entertainment industry for nearly a century. But the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused need to skyrocket. Some MPTF members, Beitcher explained recently by phone, haven’t worked for six or seven months.
The Family Service Agency of Burbank’s annual “Imagine a City” gala, which will honor City Manager Justin Hess and state Sen. Anthony Portantino, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Olive Ball Fields at Izay Park. The mission of Family Service Agency is to offer quality mental health counseling, care, education and advocacy at low or no cost. FSA has dramatically changed and saved the lives of local individuals, couples and families as well as active and veteran members of the armed forces by providing housing, crisis intervention, legal guidance, safety in the face of domestic violence and hope for those in the grip of mental illness and substance addiction. Former City Manager Mary Alvord, who is serving as co-chair of the event along with Terry Stein, said the gala had to be “reimagined to adhere to county safety protocols.”
Officers from the Burbank Police Department arrested 20 people on suspicion of unemployment benefits fraud in September, making several of the arrests at a local Bank of America branch. Unemployment fraud has become more frequent since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to BPD spokesman Sgt. Derek Green. Cards from the California Employment Development Department are sent to people receiving unemployment benefits, but the BPD has reported that some are getting the cards through fraudulent means, using them to withdraw cash. In some cases, the department made multiple arrests related to alleged EDD fraud in one day.
Though daily numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are better than those of the summer, they are not good enough for Los Angeles County to consider reopening nonessential businesses and schools. So Superintendent Matt Hill recommended Thursday to the local board of education that Burbank Unified School District campuses continue exclusively with distance learning for the wide majority of students through the fall semester. The move will give the district staff more time to work on protocols to be better prepared to reintroduce students and teachers to campus when the time comes.
Following a recent decision by the Burbank City Council, face covering requirements are now enforced with a fine. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has released guidance for the use of cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also affirmed that cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19, and that face coverings could reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when used universally within communities. Since the emergence of COVID-19, according to the city, Burbank and its police department have sought to gain compliance with face covering requirements with an emphasis on education.
In the east wing of Burbank City Hall, just off the rotunda, you’ll find a portrait gallery. The gallery isn’t exactly a big draw for tourists visiting Southern California. In fact, it’s probably fair to assume that most Burbankers don’t even know it exists. If you are ever in City Hall, you may want to check out the gallery, which will give you a gander at the official portraits of the 62 men and women who have served as the city’s mayor.
Every weekday morning, Joaquin Miller Elementary School teacher Ericca Dent greets her 2nd-graders by name and checks in on their emotional state by asking them to use their thumbs to express how they are feeling. “Most students are thumbs up, but there are times it’s sideways or thumbs down,” she said. Dent does the same to let the students know how she’s feeling and certainly had her thumb up on Friday, Oct. 2, after being congratulated by her class for being one of 10 educators named 2020-21 Teacher of the Year by Los Angeles County. “A number of them congratulated me, and that was really sweet,” Dent said. “It definitely is an amazing feeling. Looking back at so much of the hard work I’ve done and the work with my students and being recognized, I’m honored and humbled for sure. It’s a great feeling.” The L.A. County Office of Education held a virtual ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 1, to honor the winners. Dent will receive a $1,000 cash gift from the California Credit Union and a $350 gift certificate for school supplies.
During her freshman year, Nadaly Jones recalled the then-Associated Student Body president was “gung-ho” about discussing the possibility of changing the John Burroughs High School mascot, the Indian. She has since taken that mantle and is determined to accomplish what her predecessors could not. “I want to change it,” Jones said. “It’s about time. I had teachers last year who were also trying to change it. I wanted to get the ball rolling again.” Jones has done just that as ASB representatives, and after much deliberation, recently voted in favor of continuing the discussion by presenting the issue to the student body. “The first night was interesting, but it was also hard because it was online,” Jones said. “A lot of people were iffy speaking up to it, but we did have really good discussions and brought up both sides of the topic.”