Jamie Lewsadder, La Cañada Unified School District’s chief technology officer, said she learned recently that a relative’s school in Porterville was locked down when a LCUSD intern told her. He’d seen it on Twitter before Lewsadder or any of her family members learned of the situation, she said.
“So I really experienced that panic first-hand,” she said during Tuesday’s Governing Board meeting, at which she introduced a first draft of board policy revisions to improve LCUSD’s communication plan.
“We need to create a plan that allows us to have fast and reliable communication,” Lewsadder said. “News travels so fast; we have to be prepared for it.”
That means having a strategy to share information swiftly by using every avenue available, including text message (if users opt in, per federal rules), social media, phone and email, she said.
The plan should be designed to address crisis situations and, she said, to “tell the story of our district.”
“Food services has done amazing work this past year,” Lewsadder said, as an example. “We hear from kids they like the food. And then we’ll be in a parent meeting and someone will say, ‘Oh, the food’s so bad.’ There’s an opportunity there to tell these positive stories that we need to reinforce.”
“The community wants reliable communication they know they can trust,” said Lewsadder. “We have to make the district the master voice.”
That’s especially important, board member Ellen Multari said, because of the increased role social media has in spreading information, including, she said, “a lot of bad information.”
“Facebook has become an entity in and of itself in this town,” Multari said. “The different pages are all ostensibly a community recourse, but some are and some aren’t.”
Mark Evans, assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, told the Governing Board that the district operated basically on budget this past school year, with less than 1% variance compared with what he’d anticipated earlier in the year.
The actual expenditures came in at $47.1 million while revenues totaled $46.5 million, he said Tuesday.
With help from Director of Fiscal Services Gretchen Bergstrom, Evans also outlined the next two years, when CalSTRS and CalPERS retirement costs will continue to rise and that operational costs will outpace revenue.
PARCEL TAX UPDATE
LC Parcel Tax Oversight Committee member Carl Husfeld delivered a positive report on the $2.5 million generated by the tax. He said 48% of those funds were spent at the district’s elementary schools while 36% went to La Cañada High School, 13% to technology and 3% to LCHS 7/8.
Husfeld listed some of the programs that benefited from the funding, including science, social science, history, English, music, art and language arts. He said the money also was spent on student support services, such as librarians and counselors, as well as allowing the district keep to keep class size from kindergarten through 3rd grade at 22 students or fewer, he said.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette bid adieu to Lindi Dreibelbis and Bergstrom, thanking them both for their work.
After 20 years with LCUSD, Dreibelbis will retire June 29 as its longest tenured administrator. She also had its longest title, Sinnette noted, having served as the Chief Director of Assessment, Research, Consolidated Programs and CalPADS.
Bergstrom will become the assistant superintendent of business services for the Sulphur Springs Union School District in the Santa Clarita Valley.
TEACHER OF THE YEAR
Gayle Nicholls-Ali was recognized as the district’s Teacher of the Year by her peers within the La Cañada Teachers Association at the end-of-the-year teacher’s breakfast.
As a career technical education arts media and entertainment teacher, Nicholls-Ali works with students from 7th-12th-grade on a host of subjects and also is dedicated to peer development, creating career tech lesson plans that are used throughout the state.
This year, Nicholls-Ali also was selected as a member of the state’s Computer Science Strategic Implementation Advisory Panel.
She said she was surprised to be honored: “It means all the work that I’ve been doing, somebody’s noticing. I don’t do it to get noticed, but because it’s the right thing and I want to move our district forward.”