La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board members have chosen their new leaders for the next year, electing Brent Kuszyk as president, Joe Radabaugh as vice president and Ellen Multari as clerk.
The changes were made at the board’s meeting last week and became effective immediately. Kuszyk, who has served on the board for three years, later said in an email his goal is for the district to continue offering an outstanding education to students and to work to continually improve their outcomes.
The role of the board president, Kuszyk said, is to facilitate conversation among school leaders and help the board offer guidance to Superintendent Wendy Sinnette. The president also presides over open-session meetings and attends many school and community events as a representative of the district, he noted.
Kuszyk and the other officers were unanimously selected by fellow board members at the meeting on Dec. 13. Previously, Kaitzer Puglia served as board president, Kuszyk was vice president and Radabaugh was clerk.
Puglia, who said that her term as president was busy but productive and that she worked closely with Sinnette and board members to make sure district business was taken care of, said Kuszyk was a strong choice for president.
“Brent is an amazing individual,” Puglia said. “He is caring and he is supportive, as are all of our board members.”
Board member Dan Jeffries nominated Kuszyk as president, Multari proposed Radabaugh as vice president and Jeffries recommended Multari as clerk.
After being selected, Multari said with a smile that she could “feel the power,” and Puglia noted jokingly that “there is lots of power here.”
Kuszyk, who later sat in Puglia’s chair at her request, said of his new position, “Thanks, I’m humbled and I really appreciate it.”
NEW DYSLEXIA PLAN APPROVED
Governing Board members approved a new plan for assisting students with dyslexia.
The plan, requested by the superintendent and board, includes early screenings for the learning disorder and the implementation of the Sonday System, a curriculum that will be used in the reading intervention program, said Tamara Jackson, executive director of special education, in an email after the meeting. She said the system covers the important areas of phonological awareness, phonics instruction, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. It offers structured, systematic, cumulative, multisensory intervention for readers through the 8th grade, Jackson said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dyslexia involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words. It affects areas of the brain that process language. People with dyslexia have normal intelligence, and most children with dyslexia can succeed in school with tutoring or a specialized education program, the clinic said.
Organizations including the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the International Dyslexia Association and Reading First have independently evaluated the Sonday System and found it contained the required elements for successful reading as identified by the National Reading Panel, Jackson told the board.
In October, during Dyslexia Awareness Month, the staff offered guidelines for the identification, assessment and instructional planning for students at risk for dyslexia, but the board postponed a decision. New measures were introduced at last Thursday’s meeting to strengthen the support for students.
As part of the teacher training, all K-6 general education teachers, counselors and special education staff will complete a dyslexia awareness webinar by January 2019.
Jackson told the board at the meeting that students who receive reading intervention but do not make progress will be referred to the Student Study Team. As part of the process, the school psychologist will use screening tests to gather more information and determine if a student is at risk for dyslexia, she said.
“Because these are very young students and we want to give them a chance to show us what they’ve learned,” Jackson said.
Jackson said progress is monitored in the Sonday System through an entry-level assessment and periodic assessments to show how the students are doing in skill areas.
Puglia asked Jackson what happens if a student comes into the school district in the 5th grade with dyslexia.
“That’s where our Student Study Team comes in,” Jackson said. The goal is to get students assistance as soon as possible, she said.
A number of people — including parents — commented and asked questions, but appeared pleased with the new guidelines.
“I’m just super excited for all the future kids,” said parent Debra Jeandron, who thanked Jackson.
Bardo Ramirez said his son has dyslexia but the diagnosis took some time because he was initially labeled as having a poor attention span.
“The screening has to be very specific,” Ramirez said.
Jackson said there was not an exact date for the new plan to be put into effect because the district has to order the new curriculum and train the teachers first.
UPGRADES AT PCR
The board listened to proposals for upgrades at aging Palm Crest Elementary before deciding to ask district staff members to come back in January with more financial and design information on the project.
The budget for the upgrades is approximately $27.5 million, most of which is from bonds, said Mark Evans, chief business and operations officer for the district. The intent is to reduce the number of portable classrooms and modernize other classrooms, among other things.
Board members said they wanted more information after Harold Pierre, the program manager from Irvine-based LPA Architects, said one of two proposed plans for the elementary school could cost $2 million more than another.
“There are pros and cons to both from a design standpoint and a cost standpoint,” Evans said to the board.
Pierre said the cost was preliminary and board member Radabaugh noted he’d rather invest the money to have safer classrooms, such as having two doors or other options if possible.
ASBESTOS AGREEMENT APPROVED
Board members agreed to allow a test for asbestos at the La Cañada High School cafeteria without much discussion.
Because the building is approximately 60 years old, Evans said it is likely that some of the materials used during the original construction contain asbestos or lead.
The district will enter into a time and materials agreement with Executive Environmental Services Corp. based in Arcadia, that is not to exceed $12,850, and funds will come from Measure LCF, according to a district statement. That measure is a $149 million general obligation bond that was passed by voters in November 2017.
FIRST INTERIM FINANCIAL
LCUSD’s first interim financial report of 2018-19 was approved, also with little discussion.
The report meets a positive certification, meaning that the school district, based on current projections, will meet its financial obligations for the current fiscal year and two subsequent fiscal years, according to a district statement.
Total revenues for the first interim report are $48,414,375 with expenditures of $47,550,006, according to the statement.
Anticipated Local Control Funding Formula revenues decreased by about $33,000 because of a slight decrease in average daily attendance, according to a district statement. According to the California Department of Education, LCFF establishes a variety of grants in place of previously existing K-12 funding streams including revenue limits and general purpose block grants. Federal revenues remained constant for 2018-19 and are expected to remain so in the upcoming two years. One-time revenues are budgeted at $747,408 with no future one-time revenues anticipated.
For expenditures, there was an increase in salaries to reflect updated numbers in California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System rates, according to a district statement. Additionally, health and welfare increases resulted from upticks in the cost-of-living adjustment in future years.