Eighty-one percent of students on the La Cañada High School and LCHS 7/8 campus report that bullying is unacceptable at their school. And 90% of 4th- through 6th-graders at La Cañada Unified’s three elementary schools say they feel safe on their campus.
“That’s wonderful, especially given all the safety and security issues we find in schools throughout the nation,” said Superintendent Wendy Sinnette in regard to that portion of data compiled by Panorama Education in a survey of students, parents and staff earlier this school year.
But the annual survey also revealed what Sinnette deemed “areas for growth.”
Only 48% of the elementary school students surveyed answered affirmatively when asked whether their “teacher knows when I understand and when I do not,” falling from 73% in 2012. Also, 72% of those students said their teacher “answers my questions,” as compared with 86% five years ago.
“I’m sure this has to do with the [increased common core] rigor,” Sinnette said during a presentation at Tuesday’s Governing Board meeting. “Still, those are the types of things we want kids to report more and more positively.”
Some of the most significant shifts of opinion this school year included data indicating that 10% fewer high school students reported feeling they are “kept well-informed about activities, events and opportunities at school” and that “school administration is visible and supportive.”
The major shifts at the middle school were more positive, with 9% more students saying discipline is handled fairly and that they can get an appointment with their counselor when they need it.
Though the survey also measures the opinion of staff members and families, Sinnette said student responses are key.
“It’s important to get data from all of our stakeholders, but the most reliable and valuable data comes from our students,” she said.
Highlights of the parents’ responses included that 77% of them consider school facilities clean and well-maintained (up from 60% in 2013) and that 79% of them think their child’s school does a good job preparing students for college (steady, as compared with 80% in 2013).
Also, only 58% of parents reported that their child has a close relationship with at least one adult, though Board President Dan Jeffries suggested they might see a different response if the question were posed differently: “They might not think it’s a positive thing, maybe it could be: ‘My student has someone to go talk to.’”
Sinnette also congratulated Jeffries and his colleagues for feedback showing that school staff feels increasingly good about the Governing Board: 61% of certificated staff said they are supported by the Governing Board (an increase of 14%) and 76% said that the board’s decisions reflect the best interests of students (up 16%).
Overall, 7% more of those certificated staff — or 60% — reported feeling that staff morale is high at their school site.
Sinnette said the district will post the survey results online and email a link to families. The data also will be reviewed by teachers and administrators and used to establish goals.
She said she also plans to call all of the respondents who provided additional comments and identified themselves “and even if you they didn’t attach a name, all the comments were read,” Sinnette said.
Sinnette informed the board that while most grade levels were maintaining their enrollment numbers, the district is expecting there might be a decline in kindergarten class size in the 2017-18 school year.
Palm Crest and Paradise Canyon Elementary School kindergartens are both down to two classes, about 44 students, she said.
“I don’t have any fear we won’t fill those spots,” Sinnette said. “We still have residents trickling in and we have permits on a waiting list. It’ll all work out.”
Nonetheless, the expected drop in enrollment caused the district, in what Sinnette called “an overabundance of caution,” to approve layoffs of six kindergarten aids and two other classroom aids. By law, the district must provide a 60-day notice about potential layoffs.
“These types of layoffs come about for lack of work or lack of funds, and in this case, it’s a little of both,” said Jeff Davis, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources. “Kindergarten enrollment being down across the district by pretty large numbers; if there aren’t students, there aren’t funds.”
Those cuts, if carried out, would account for $110,000-$115,000 savings.
Overall, 4,022 students are enrolled for the 2017-18 school year, Sinnette said, down by 115 students from this year. The district has received 225 permit requests, 58 of which are from the Sagebrush area of La Cañada Flintridge and 167 representing Allen Bill applicants.
The Governing Board unanimously approved two courses that add to second-year, foundational curriculum: LCTV 2, a filmmaking and video production class, and Project Lead the Way II, an applied STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Applied Arts and Math) course.