In Revising Policies, BUSD Explicitly Rejects Racism

Photo by Charles Hirsch / Burbank Leader
The Burbank Unified School District Board of Education is asking for recommendations in the renaming of David Starr Jordan Middle School as it advances in the name change process. Jordan is widely considered a controversial academic who espoused eugenics, a racist genetic theory based on selective breeding.

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.

City Council Votes to Condemn Azerbaijani Aggression

Photo courtesy Armenian National Committee of America Burbank
Advocacy group Burbank for Armenia held a fundraiser to raise money for Armenia on Monday. Attendees included Burbank Unified School District Board President Armond Aghakhanian, Armenian National Committee of America’s Burbank chapter chairman Sarkis Simonian, city Councilman Timothy Murphy and other supporters.

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.

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Family Service Agency Gala Set for Oct. 24

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.”

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Rash of Arrests Reported for Alleged Unemployment Fraud

Photo courtesy Burbank Police Department
The Burbank Police Department reported arresting six people for alleged unemployment benefits fraud in one day in September, retrieving 40 unemployment benefit cards, more than $40,000 in cash and a loaded gun. The department made 20 arrests over the course of the month.

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.

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Distance Learning Expected to Continue Through Semester

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.

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Burroughs Student Body President Wants to See Mascot Changed

Photo by Charles Hirsch / Burbank Leader
The John Burroughs High School Associated Student Body is gathering information on whether to change the school mascot.

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.”

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Donations Surged for Council Candidate Herman

In the first six months of this year, City Council candidate Paul Herman had raised only $2,500 — a single loan he himself had given to his campaign.
Less than two months later, he had raised more than $36,000.
With that total, Herman became the candidate with the largest campaign coffers through Sept. 19, the most recent contribution reporting deadline, and surpassed Nick Schultz, the previous leader in contributions this year, who trailed at about $32,700. Close behind him was Konstantine Anthony, who had raised roughly $31,600.
Contributions totaling tens of thousands of dollars for the local election are nothing new; in 2015, current Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy’s campaign collected nearly $25,000. But records available on the city’s website, which go as far back as 2013, don’t show dollar figures as high as the ones seen in this year’s race.

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City Releases Report on Rent Regulation Measure

Authors of a recently released report on a local rent regulation measure said supporters and opponents of the proposal both could identify portions of the findings that justify their positions.
That was certainly true for the Burbank City Council, whose members insisted Tuesday the report was further evidence that Measure RC, which will be on the ballot in the Nov. 3 election, would hurt Burbank.
The report is available on the city’s website, in the council’s agenda for the Tuesday meeting.

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Boys & Girls Club Gets $1 Million Gift for New Home

Photo courtesy Cusumano family
The Cusumano family, pictured at the grand opening of its Talaria apartment complex, recently donated $1 million toward the local Boys & Girls Club’s new main clubhouse.

A family of developers recently donated $1 million to the local Boys & Girls Club chapter, putting the nonprofit closer to fully funding the purchase of a new main clubhouse.
The gift from the Cusumano family, which owns many major office and residential properties in Burbank, brings the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley to more than $3 million raised for its new building. The facility, on which the club is in escrow, has a price tag of about $5.3 million, not including rehabilitative and equipment costs.
The club has sought a new main clubhouse for nearly 12 years, according to CEO Shanna Warren. The organization previously planned to build a facility to accommodate a growing membership, but after hearing that the Salvation Army was selling a nearby building, decided to shift gears and announced it was moving forward with the purchase of the facility last month.

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Local Candidates Appeal to Voters in Forums

The League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank held a virtual forum for City Council hopefuls this week on the Burbank Channel on YouTube. Burbank Unified School District board and city treasurer candidates were also hosted.

With only a month until the Nov. 3 general election, local candidates have shifted into high gear, fighting for the prospect of a seat in City Hall or on the Burbank Unified School District board.
The candidates participated Wednesday in a series of forums, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank, allowing the contenders to answer major questions posed by the group as well as some submitted by local residents. The forums were streamed and are available on the Burbank Channel on YouTube.
Eight people are looking to nab one of two open seats on the City Council. New council members elected in November will have their positions for four years. Four people are vying to win one of three open BUSD Board of Education seats, also held for four years.
Each candidate previously submitted a statement to the Leader. These statements can be found at outlooknewspapers.com.
Here is an abridged overview of the topics the candidates were asked about. For the City Council candidate forum, each question was given to only some of the candidates, though all had the opportunity to respond to any question at the end of the forum.

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