The La Cañada Flintridge Unified School District Governing Board voted on Wednesday to approve Cory Pak as the new principal at Palm Crest Elementary School.
Pak has worked in public education since 1997 and most recently has been an administrator in the Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita, serving as principal for three schools — Rosedell Elementary School from 2005-10, West Creek Academy from 2010-17 and Charles Helmers Elementary School since 2018.
At Palm Crest, he succeeds Karen Hurley, who recently was named the district’s director of programs and services. Pak, who earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and a master’s in special education from UC Riverside, was an elementary school teacher in the Riverside Unified School District from 1997-2001.
“He brings with him a wealth of experience as an elementary school principal and we are fortunate to have him joining our administrative team,” LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said in a statement. “The interview panel, which consisted of teachers, staff, parents, administrators and a Governing Board member, felt that he was an outstanding candidate whose skills, talents and leadership style would be an excellent complement to the PCR school community.”
The unanimous approval came during a special board meeting.
His annual salary will be $145,582, according to the district.
Pak’s start date will be Monday, July 29.
In a statement, Pak said he was excited to join the local school community.
“I feel truly blessed and humbled by this opportunity to lead and serve the Palm Crest community,” he said.
Earlier, at a regularly scheduled Governing Board meeting on Tuesday night, La Cañada High School Assistant Principal Kristina Kalb presented a report that explained what happened when a proposal adopted last year allowed families to transport their children to and from district athletic events in which they compete.
An old policy did not generally allow parents to transport their young athletes, Kalb said. The district decided to review that policy after families and coaches asked for more flexibility and the cost of buses increased.
Previously, students would regularly bring notes to the athletic office to seek permission for their parents to drive them to and from tournament games, she said. Some of the reasons included to the need remain in class to take a test when multiple games were being played, or to return promptly after a game to get to homework, tutoring, club sport practices or even to sleep.
Students said they dropped athletic activities because they could not balance the time demands, she said.
In spring 2018, the district decided to implement the new policy, beginning last August.
Parents can now drive their own children as long as a note is provided in advance if a bus is being ordered for an athletic event, Kalb said. No note is required if there is no bus.
Carpools are encouraged — previously, they were not — and coaches can choose carpools or bus travel for games instead of just buses, Kalb said.
The total spent on buses for athletes in 2018-19 was $88,867.16, with a total of 174 trips. In 2017-18, the amount was $91,062.19 for 201 bus trips.
Kalb said because bus companies’ rates have increased, it’s difficult to say fewer trips will make a financial difference.
With the new changes, benefits include more time for homework, students’ option not to give up club sports in favor of school athletics, and youths’ ability to spend more time with their families, she said.
Areas of improvement cited by Kalb include better preseason communication between the athletic office and coaches about getting district clearance for parent volunteers as drivers; increased communication between coaches and families for transportation needs; and training students on the etiquette of sharing a bus with another team.
Resident David Haxton said he liked the policy change but wondered if it was the coach and not the parent or student making the decision to travel via bus or a carpool.
“A year ago it was the parents and the students’ choice to get a ride. … I think this is something for the board to consider. Is this the policy you expected?”
Board President Brent Kuszyk asked if Kalb would conduct a survey of the policy.
Kalb said her intention was to create one next year after a full year of information was available.
“We wanted to have that data first,” Kalb said.
BIG DIG CONCERNS
At the Tuesday meeting, Sinnette spoke about a detailed letter the board sent on July 11 to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger explaining district concerns over the controversial Devil’s Gate Dam project, also known as the Big Dig.
Officials have said the Los Angeles County project, which began its first phase in late November, is expected to include 425 daily round trips by approximately 95 diesel trucks through the intersection of Berkshire Place and Oak Grove Drive and onto the 210 Freeway. Summer haul routes to remove sediment began on June 6 and are scheduled to end in mid-August, according to the county public works department website at dpw.lacounty.gov/swe/devilsgate.
“It was an attempt to reduce the project’s potentially adverse impacts to student health and safety,” Sinnette said of the letter.
The board decided to explain mitigation measures, including balancing the truck routes and schedule, ensuring appropriate air monitoring measures, employing truck verification testing, developing a community safety plan and upgrading the district’s air filtration system.
Sinnette said the district had not heard back from Barger’s office as of Tuesday night.
On April 2, the county Board of Supervisors agreed to retain a consultant to place air-quality monitoring devices at the site and evaluate the data publicly along with other actions.
Supervisors approved the project in November 2017 to remove 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dam at Hahamongna Watershed Park to increase flood protection and restore habitat within the Arroyo Seco Watershed.
A Superior Court judge made a tentative decision to halt the project, but work continues as the county, Arroyo Seco Foundation and Pasadena Audubon Society work to negotiate a settlement.
The board also unanimously voted to approve a contract amendment for district chief technology officer Jamie Lewsadder. Her contract was to expire on June 30, 2020, and the board voted to extend it to June 30, 2023.
Lewsadder’s salary for 2019-20 is $170,895, said Mark Evans, the district’s chief business and operations officer, in an email.
Before the vote, Governing Board member Dan Jeffries, said the district was fortunate to have a chief technology officer.
“You’ve done a phenomenal job,” Jeffries told Lewsadder. “We probably should ask to extend your contract by 30 years.”
Added board member Ellen Multari: “I’d also like to say thank you for raising our collective and individual IT [informational technology] IQ. We know so much more now than we did just a few years ago with you in this position.”