Ensuring students’ mental and emotional health as part of their overall safety, allocating money from bond measures and retaining accreditation for La Cañada High School were key goals that gained the approval of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board on Tuesday night.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette, who presented the goals for the academic year, said she and the board had worked on them since July, adding that they incorporated ideas that came from subcommittees.
Such subcommittees tackle issues including campus security, parking and traffic; whether to open or close the LCHS campus during lunch; and how to communicate with the community.
The idea of campus security was linked with that of student wellness. Sinnette said a new student wellness center is expected to open in the 2019-20 school year.
The superintendent said she will work on the first issuance of bonds for elementary schools’ fencing that features a single entry; door lock upgrades for the high school; and security improvements with lights, public announcement systems and other security measures throughout the district. Additionally, Sinnette mentioned Palm Crest Elementary sewer hookups and modernization upgrades, and improvements to the high school’s cafeteria, band room and overall renovation of the pool.
Measure LCF, a general obligation bond approved by voters in 2017, will raise $149 million over 30 years.
LCHS’ accreditation status is up for review this year, and the district is gathering data and conducting a self-evaluation for the process, Sinnette said.
The district is set to complete the assessment by late January, and later it will be submitted to the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
A WASC team will come to the campus in early to mid-March to make an assessment, follow with recommendations and then decide on accreditation, Sinnette said.
The school board postponed a decision on district guidelines concerning students with dyslexia.
The board directed the district’s staff to look into structured reading programs that could be adopted by the district, said Kim Bergner, executive assistant to Sinnette.
A lengthy discussion about the guidelines involved school district officials and the audience members.
Pamela Cohen, the parent of a dyslexic son and a member of Decoding Dyslexia California, said she was glad the district complies with the guidelines from the California Department of Education but she wanted the board to look again at the reading intervention program.
“It’s not an evidence-based structure literacy program,” Cohen said. “I want to urge you to re-examine that.”
Currently, district teachers use research programs that contain phonics, spelling and word study systems and other programs.
Speakers included LCF resident Jimmy Kam, who discussed that his son, an elementary school student, has dyslexia.
Kam said his son was diagnosed at UC Irvine and he had spent the last three years in frustration in seeking an agreement with the district about an effective way to help his son.
“I think there should be one therapist in each school,” he said.
Kam’s wife, Doris Lee, added that her son’s condition was at first believed to be a speech issue when he couldn’t recognize words in the first and second grade.
“They thought he needed more time to mature in his age,” Lee said. “Our son was diagnosed in the second grade. In the third grade, a classmate asked if he was stupid because he was dyslexic. … We decided to hire our own tutor.”
FOUNDATION GETS GIFT
The La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, which offers continuing financial support to the district, on Tuesday provided a gift of more than $2.2 million.
An outsized check that the foundation presented to the school board was for $2,230,000.
“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the foundation,” Sinnette said.
Without the funding, the district would be forced to lay off employees, increase class sizes and eliminate art and other programs, Sinnette said.
Kevin Martin, a trustee and past president of the foundation, said the check was “a symbol of the kind of families and parents we have in this district and what we can accomplish when we have the resolve, the resources and, frankly, the family-first values that make this such a special community to live in.”