Preparing for Parcel Tax Campaign Among Superintendent’s Top Goals

Paving the way for a parcel tax proposal to be placed on the March ballot is among La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette’s top goals for 2019-20, the administrator said Tuesday at a meeting of the schools’ Governing Board.
Other leading objectives that Sinnette cited included bolstering a district-wide social and emotional learning/wellness initiative and leading the response to the continuing Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project. Board members, who had asked Sinnette to submit what she considered the district’s priorities — an annual practice — approved the first reading of her six-item list during a meeting at the district’s offices.
Sinnette said the preparation for the parcel tax campaign is already underway.
The district has conducted polling to determine support for a renewal and found that about 73% of respondents favored a potential extension, she said. The superintendent added that the district is now building consensus before creating the ballot language.
To get the measure on the March ballot, a board-drafted resolution will have to be approved by Dec. 6, Sinnette said, and “at that point, the staff steps aside and works on the get-out-the-vote [effort].”
She said the current parcel tax, which expires in 2021, is a vital component of district programming and brings in $2.5 million annually.
The tax finances programs, whereas Measure LCF, a $149 million general obligation bond passed in 2017, funds facilities. Continuing to constructively use revenues from Measure LCF was also among Sinnette’s list of goals.
Governing Board members unanimously accepted the goals, which also dealt with organizational talent development and leading the school district’s response to the proposed Sagebrush territory transfer into LCUSD. The district has supported that proposal.
“Several years ago you had 18 goals,” said board member Ellen Multari. “We felt that’s a bit much. You’ve made progress … there’s a lot packed in those.”

DYSLEXIA INTERVENTION IS DISCUSSED

Coinciding with Dyslexia Awareness Month, an update on the district’s dyslexia intervention process was presented to the board.
During the 2018-19 school year, the board and Sinnette made reading intervention a priority, with an increased focus on students who might turn out to have the learning disorder, according to the district’s agenda packet for the meeting.
Tamara Jackson, the now retired executive director of special education and psychological services, researched the issue with psychologist Nicole Pilarski, the district said. They identified and initiated a dyslexia screening process, selected an intervention curriculum and trained teachers and administrators with a preliminary plan for this school year.
The district has spent $22,819 on Sonday System materials to help students with dyslexia and train staff.
Questionnaires to detect whether intervention was needed were available for parents to complete as part of the enrollment process for all K-3 students, with results available at the start of this school year, according to the district. Elementary school principals were consulted and a preliminary deployment plan developed as that school year began.
Derek Ihori, executive director of special education and psychological services, said seven students showed markers that might indicate dyslexia from among all people who had filled out the forms.
Board member Joe Radabaugh said he enjoyed seeing the progress of the process.
District parent Bardo Ramirez thanked the board for drawing attention to the issue and for the more structured approach, but noted his son, a 4th-grader, missed the cutoff.
“It’s always been a struggle,” Ramirez said. “The other big piece in a classroom is there’s not an awareness of things teachers can do to humiliate a child” by inadvertently calling attention to his or her struggles with reading.
He said his son’s 2nd-grade teacher had created a system in which kids chose books that had been separated into bins according to reading level, a source of embarrassment for his son.
“Educate teachers on what to do in the classroom,” Ramirez urged.

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