SMUSD Names Panel on Capital Projects, Reviews Lockdown

Moving forward, the San Marino Unified School District plans to make use of its new Facilities Advisory Committee — whose members were formally sworn in at a meeting last week — to help make big decisions regarding capital projects and upgrades to district buildings.
The board of education — in the wake of a precautionary lockdown at San Marino High School this month — also heard a presentation on how the district plans to improve the way it communicates with parents during future emergencies. The lockdown followed an alleged text-message threat that city police now believe was a joke taken too far.
Board member Corey Barberie introduced advisory committee members last week, having participated in recruiting them, and nominated Jeanie Caldwell as the panel’s chair. Caldwell, a banker, previously served two terms on the school board and helped campaign for a bond issue that voters passed.
“She comes with an understanding for the district and a real heart for the district,” said board President Lisa Link.
The committee includes Jim Barger, Michael Berger, Jose Caire, Paul Callahan, Paul Chan, David Duong, Marla Felber, Jesse Hong, Bob Horgan, Joan Huang, Chris Maling, Jeff Morris, Tony Poneck, Hal Suetsugu, Tommy Tang and San Marino High School student Justin Wang.
“It really does represent a cross section of our community,” Barberie said, pointing out the diversity of backgrounds and professions among committee members. “The district has collected a lot of different studies on various aspects of our facilities, and we’ll be taking a look at those.”
The new committee represents one of the prominent parts of Link’s agenda as board president this year and is likely the result of public conversations throughout the previous year regarding proposed capital projects at the schools, the district’s facilities master plan and the possibility of a bond issue to pay for a lot of it. The bond issue eventually was shelved.
In a lockdown-related presentation, Chief Technology Officer Stephen Choi went through the district’s procedures and protocols on communication during emergencies, with an eye toward enhancing its performance in the future.
One of the principal criticisms arising from the March 4 shutdown appeared rooted in the delay between the district locking down SMHS and informing parents of the situation. It resulted in the spread of a variety of rumors that continued even after the district assured parents in an email bulletin that there was no active shooter on campus and that the lockdown was strictly precautionary. In a previous interview, interim Superintendent Loren Kleinrock acknowledged the shortcoming.
“We were juggling a lot of things and we were vetting information that wasn’t necessarily accurate,” said Assistant Superintendent Linda de la Torre last week. “As good as it gets, we can do better and we will do better and we are working on that every day.”
Choi said the district would work on developing avenues through which to get information to families, including having an “in case of emergency” page on its website, using existing software like Blackboard for emergency communications, identifying a centralized location where parents can congregate and adding student cellphone numbers to the district’s databases.
Student board member Alyssa Escamilla said she was “very dissatisfied” with communication on the morning of the lockdown and explained how the propagation of rumors by her peers through social media added to the confusion. The district’s use of its app was ineffective, she said, because it depended on people actively checking it and factors affecting how quickly emails arrive to inboxes.
“I know that we’re making a lot of changes and we’re trying to implement a lot of things that will improve the communication between faculty and parents, but I think it’s important to also remember the students,” she said.

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