Letters to the Editor

LCUSD Leaders ‘Clarify the Record’
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in our community about the school district’s work on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. We are grateful for the level of interest and appreciate all those who have offered their perspectives.
In addition to the many strong opinions expressed, however, there have also been many facts asserted or implied that we believe are at odds with reality in a way that might create confusion or even needless anxiety. We write today to help clarify the record, so that thoughtful and productive debate and community input can continue on solid, factual footing.
It is not accurate that the district is acting impulsively or superficially. Our current work on this topic has been underway since before the 2019-20 school year, and has involved public goal setting, workshops, surveys, focus groups and trainings. It is also far from done. The district will next create a committee that is broadly representative of the community to help identify top priorities for next steps. The board voted unanimously to incorporate this work into this school year’s superintendent’s goals to ensure that it continues with the highest degree of accountability and excellence.
It is also not accurate that the district is pursuing radical change to our educational program in reaction to some political or ideological agenda. In fact, the district has a long-standing commitment to ensuring that every child in LCUSD has access to a high-quality education that exposes them to diverse individuals and thought, and gives them the opportunity to thrive no matter their own background or identity. The most recent school board discussions and actions on this topic are the consequence of districtwide goals that were established well over a year ago in response to needs identified in our own local community along with our desire to build on our successful Challenge Success, health, wellness and safety initiatives.
We are firmly committed to creating a school culture and climate that celebrates and honors the humanity we all share. We understand that among those who share that goal, there is a wide spectrum of opinion on specific proposals aimed at achieving it. We welcome that diversity of perspectives. We will leverage it and the many other strengths of our community to continue this work in a thoughtful and inclusive way. And, most importantly, we will keep student success as our north star.

Wendy Sinnette,
LCUSD Superintendent

Joe Radabaugh,
LCUSD Governing Board President

‘Lots of Support’ for DEI Efforts
I am writing in response to last Thursday’s issue of the Outlook that featured the viewpoints of several men who are against the DEI efforts within the La Cañada schools. I fear that the presentation of these opinions in response to the pro-DEI roundtable featured the previous week creates the impression that there is a 50/50 split in opinion in La Cañada on this issue. However, I don’t believe that is the case.
I attended one of Christina Hale-Elliott’s DEI workshops at LCHS last year; it was the second of two, it was informative and thought-provoking, and it was well attended.
The LC Alumni for Anti-Racist Education Facebook group, populated by LC alums, students, parents and educators, has over 750 members, including me. There is lots of support in the community. It doesn’t necessarily result in letters to the editor, attendance at school board meetings, participation in roundtables, or loud declarations on social media by each individual supporter. People are busy, shy, uninvolved and/or unaware of opposing voices. That doesn’t mean they don’t care. I moved to La Cañada eight years ago from a great school district in Massachusetts and I have always been impressed by the dedication of the teachers and administrators in the school district to our kids’ education, well-being and preparation for the real world.
Addressing DEI in La Cañada schools, incorporating anti-racism into the curriculum, and making both a priority for the school board and the superintendent are not about “totalitarian ideology” or a “political agenda” or DEI being a “fashionable trend.” DEI is a concept and effort that is here to stay, and it will improve our kids’ education and well-being and prepare them for the real world. It’s as simple as that.

Jeanne Herring
La Cañada Flintridge

 

Keep Emphasis on Teaching the Basics
We read with interest the recent article in the Outlook, “LCUSD Diversity Ideas Prompt Dissent, Calls for Caution,” and the corresponding letters to the editor. As parents who have been blessed by the LCUSD education of our three boys and residents of La Cañada Flintridge for 25 years, we would add our voices to the caution expressed by many to the agenda of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion).
Adults can disagree on the issues of racial tension, inequities, disparities and their genesis, but putting our children in the middle of these disagreements is not to their benefit. There are very real differences of opinion regarding “white privilege,” racial disparities, etc. which need to be argued and vetted openly in our society at large. But placing this argument which is far from settled in the middle of educating our children will dilute their preparation for success after they move on from LCUSD. There are only 24 hours in a day and seven days in the week. Placing the DEI agenda in the LCUSD curriculum — whether you agree with it or not — will de facto take time away from teaching the basics: English/literature, mathematics and the sciences. Our children have benefited from the strong academics of LCUSD. Let’s not lessen the promise of an LCUSD education by chasing the latest cause du jour. Our children will thank us for it.

Fred A. Weaver
La Cañada Flintridge

 

Hiring Consultant Was ‘Necessary Action’
I am a Latinx woman, an alumna of LCUSD schools, and attended throughout all of my K-12 experience. I experienced numerous instances of overt racism while I was a student in LCUSD schools. The hiring of Christina Hale-Elliott as an equity and inclusion consultant was a necessary action in order to provide the district with resources to combat the ways in which racism manifests in La Cañada schools.
The incidents of racism began happening in elementary school. I was bullied for my skin color, for my mother’s accent, and assumptions about my citizenship status were hurled at me from a very young age. I am a teacher and graduate of UCLA’s Teacher Education Program, which specializes in social justice education. As an educator, the shortcomings of La Cañada’s curricula and teaching practices are evident and harmful to their students. DEI training for all teachers and staff would benefit the community at large.
I urge the LCUSD Governing Board to adopt and implement Hale-Elliott’s plan. It is imperative that the board contract with Hale-Elliot for the 2020-21 school year.
LCUSD needs to make DEI a priority; a failure to do so would be a disservice to its students.

Haley Herkert
LCHS class of 2011

DEI’s Real Agenda: Identity Politics
We are undeniably in the midst of a cultural war centered around identity politics. According to the theories of identity politics, everybody must be included in some identifiable group, whether they be feminists, black, homosexual, or whatever, and each takes on the role of victim.
This has become the most polarizing phenomenon in America today. It has also caused many of us to assemble into groups bringing about tribal mentalities. Identity politics is now being highly weaponized and extensively used as a political agenda aimed at destroying our culture. However, identity politics is not necessarily a bad thing; it depends on how it is executed.
Martin Luther King organized Black people into a large group and then said, “Look, some of our people are not being fairly treated, some are misrepresented, some are being abused, some are being taken advantage of, and many are marginalized.” His successes and his contributions to our nation are heralded by virtually all people throughout the entire world.
However, identity politics has now become a weapon to be used to advance a political agenda. Their leaders have assembled groups such as Antifa, Black Lives Matter and many others, whether they be transgenders, feminists, ethnic minorities or other identity groups. They then organize and unite them against all who disagree with them, saying that they’re the bad guys. It simply becomes “Common Enemy Politics.”
This is an all too prevalent condition in our society today, and it is clearly a very dangerous one as we see these groups heavily involved in rioting, looting, arson, property destruction, and even murder, all with an openly stated purpose of destroying our culture and heritage. Of course, we all know who the “bad guys” are to most of these organizations today; they are straight white males. To these groups, all straight white males are known for their systemic racism, xenophobia and intolerance, and are white supremacists. They are all born with it and are unable to overcome it.
So, to deal with these conditions, we introduce our La Cañada Flintridge school students to DEI (Diversity, Equality and Inclusion) training so that they all may feel comfortably included in our society. That is, of course, with the exception of the straight white males, the “bad guys,” who must be made to feel their white guilt. How do YOU define racism?
Let’s teach our young people how to think, not what to think, and stop this madness now.

Kermit Achterman
La Cañada Flintridge

 

Systemic Racism Now on Many Minds, Hearts
I strongly support the DEI initiative continuing, and leading to actions and policy changes. It is a first small step toward developing a habit of awareness, adaptability and resiliency that could really help us meet other challenges down the road. I was amazed to learn about the steps the city of Glendale is taking through its City Council to acknowledge racism in its own history, and using that to shape a new vision for the community that is more just and inclusive. It puts Glendale in a much better position to meet future challenges.
Solutions to systemic racism are being spoken about now by people who never thought about the issue before. We are becoming aware that the same prejudice and bigotry that shaped housing policy in the area that became LCF has directly resulted in the fact that Black people move through life differently, and have different experiences than white people. We are learning to take a walk in other peoples’ shoes. I came here from another country and thought that racism was not my issue. It took a long time, but I slowly realized that it’s everyone’s issue. My own attitudes, politics and my family history has nothing to do with my obligations. I am a beneficiary of white privilege because of the color of my skin.
Contrary to some local opinions, our wise real-estate investments do not depend on our suburban city staying exactly like it is, or aspiring to the ideal of a 1950’s suburban village that never existed. There are many people in this community, within one of the most dynamic, productive and vibrant regions in the world, who want a less stale vision of the place where they are living and raising their kids.
Carrying out the recommendations of the DEI initiative will help us become more adaptable, and think about our city’s role in the region. Forming the mental-habit of resiliency is necessary to meet the challenges of climate change and the closely related challenge of a housing shortage in our region. Like systemic racism, these are both real and not someone else’s problem. People need to be informed about the huge risks of doing nothing in the face of these issues. One small step: We need to allow more housing along Foothill Boulevard in the areas that are already zoned for it. It would be a wonderful investment opportunity for a developer and would increase the desirability of the city. The inclusionary component would allow less affluent families access to LCUSD. It could ultimately result in transit coming to our city, so we could move about the post-COVID region without relying on our cars.

Kati Rubinyi
La Cañada Flintridge

 

Don’t Retain Consultant
I don’t believe the DEI consultant should be retained. The studies have been done, and now it is up to the school district to implement programs that would address the findings in the report.
Something not mentioned in the summaries I have read is the family. I feel that is a glaring omission as the families should have more influence over their children than the schools. Typically children act out what the parents do, not say. Every family needs to examine how they act and discuss these issues with their children. Discussion should also include how their peers are acting and talking as well as what is acceptable in their own family.
Another thing I hear now is about the “Black talk” within the Black families of how to act if stopped by a sheriff or officer. My experience is that this is the “Teenage Talk” as it is the one I had with my sons many years ago. At the time there was a sheriff that harassed the teenage boys. I instructed my sons, if stopped, to be respectful, put their hands on the steering wheel, if they had to reach for their wallet to tell the officer what they were doing (obtaining their license), and follow his/her directions. They were stopped, and there were no adverse effects. Frankly, this is just good common sense for everyone at all times. We have to take responsibility for our own actions.

Cathy Wieland
La Cañada Flintridge

 

LCF Needs to Move Forward on DEI Issues
In early September, President Trump quietly released a memo to various government agencies, banning what the Republican administration had labeled “anti-American” diversity training, and other divisive “propaganda.”
A torrent of letters were recently published in this paper, arguing along similar lines: that DEI programs should not be included in school curricula on the basis that they are somehow antithetical to our community’s ideals.
Such arguments could not be more flagrant in their alliance of La Cañada Flintridge itself with whiteness. This should not come as a surprise given that the LCUSD was only founded to avoid policies of nationwide desegregation. At this point, it becomes good and necessary to ask ourselves what kind of community would willingly identify itself with erasure and obfuscation.
When we refuse to teach younger generations about the ways we as a nation have fallen short, we are begging the most grievous errors of the past to repeat themselves. It is easy to condemn racism or to denounce the institution of slavery in theory — imagining that for all of their horrors, these “concepts” are confined to the black and white of history. It is more difficult to confront the ways that the legacies of racism cannot be neatly reformed or conveniently rewritten.
Ultimately, all white folks benefit from racism. Ultimately, the prestige and success of this country, and indeed of western capitalism itself, are built upon the exploitation, torture and murder of enslaved peoples. Ultimately, structures of oppression are interlocking, so that what keeps one community marginalized, inhibits the freedoms and vivacity of all other groups. Ultimately, those at the intersections of marginalized groups (i.e. Black transgender women) are frequently the ones to sustain the most violence as a result. Now more than ever, these truths are ours to contend with.
I grew up in LC but on the best of days I have trouble calling it home. As an agender lesbian, I always felt like an outsider here, and that was in spite of the fact that I am white and straight passing. I ardently hope this will not be the case for subsequent generations.

Katie Elconin-Donoho
La Cañada Flintridge

 

In Support of Josh Epstein for School Board
While many issues are in play in the upcoming elections, perhaps none is more important to our local community than who we elect to the LCUSD Governing Board. Making tough decisions about curriculum, how to pay for all that our kids benefit from on a public school budget, and ensuring that each and every student has access to the tools they need to be successful — these are the difficult and important jobs that have always faced our school board. The job has only become more challenging and more complex in recent months. That is why it is of the utmost importance that we elect someone who is up to the task and can be effective on Day 1.
Josh Epstein is that person. For nearly 10 years now, Josh has raised funds for our schools at a district-wide level (first through his tenure as an LCFEF board member and president and more recently as a co-chair of both successful parcel tax and bond measure elections). He currently serves on the school reopening task force and the bond oversight committee. He understands the intricacies of the school district’s budget, education code and has extensive experience working with school site and district leadership.
With children at all three school levels, he understands that students have different needs at different stages in their education. As a university professor, he understands first-hand the challenges associated with distance-learning – for both students and teachers. But perhaps more important than all of these “resume” reasons to vote for Josh, I am casting my ballot for him because he is someone who is thoughtful, who considers diverse perspectives, who rolls up his sleeves and gets to work, and who will always work to put the needs of students first.

Deborah Weirick
La Cañada Flintridge

 

Let Residents Choose an Internet Provider
There is not just Spectrum Charter as internet provider but also AT&T, which some of us old-timers still use.
I use AT&T and lost my internet last week; when I called AT&T they sent out a technician who repaired the outside line.
In a conversation, he explained to me that the city of La Cañada Flintridge will not give AT&T permission to improve their lines, this according to information from the company that they are given. Which means all of us old-timers are forced to switch to Spectrum Charter. Now, according to your article “City Pushes Internet Provider to Improve Access,” Spectrum Charter has problems, too.
Why support only one internet provider? We should have a choice — after all, we have five garbage companies serving the city.

Barbara Paccone
La Cañada Flintridge

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