BUSD Taking Cautious Approach in Return to Campus

Public health officials gave Los Angeles County elementary schools the green light to reopen for students in transitional kindergarten through 6th grade due to a decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
The announcement, however, doesn’t change the Burbank Unified School District’s plans of reopening schools for the majority of its students the safest way possible, which can happen only with time and planning, according to Superintendent Matt Hill.
“Just because some announcement happens and says we hit this metric, [we] reopen the next day,” Hill said during a virtual board of education meeting on Thursday. “We’re not going to do it that way. We’re going to make sure that we have plenty of time to make that transition and we’re going to work with everyone to get there. I am very optimistic we will get there, and we will get there in a thoughtful manner.”
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Discussion of Police Officer Presence at Schools Continues

In response to a recent joint Burbank City Council and Police Commission meeting that included a discussion about law enforcement presence in schools, the Burbank Unified School District invited Sgt. Stephen Turner to explain the roles of school resource officers in a board of education meeting on Thursday.
Turner, who works in juvenile detail for the Burbank Police Department, provided an update on the SRO program and informed the board of education that the officers respond to high-risk or criminal activity in or around schools. Most of their time is spent investigating suspected child abuse reports and performing student wellness checks. SROs are also cognizant of bullying, victimization and students with suicidal or homicidal tendencies, and work closely with staff and mental health professionals to resolve each situation.
“I want to be clear: we’re not armed sentries at every campus,” Turner said. “We wear many hats as an SRO.”
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Burbank Teachers Push for Diversity, Inclusivity Through New Group

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The Burbank Unified School District is dedicated to its diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, and it is not alone in its crusade.
It has earned support from the community, most notably a small group of teachers who call themselves the Justice and Equity Team, and they’re ready to assist their fellow colleagues in providing a more diverse, inclusive environment for all students.
“We thought of several names but decided on JET,” said Victoria Cuseo, a Spanish teacher at John Muir Middle School. “It was snappy, and we really liked it.”
Cuseo spearheads the group along with Mojgahn Emamjomeh of Burbank High School and Ericca Dent, a 2nd-grade teacher who was one of 10 educators named 2020-21 Teacher of the Year by Los Angeles County in October.
After attending several California Teachers Association racial and equity committee meetings last summer, Cuseo said she felt it was time to form a similar group in her community and was later given the go-ahead by Burbank Teachers Association President Diana Abasta.
“During this pandemic, we’ve seen gaps in equity and struggles with teachers and students,” she said. “I was feeling like we really needed it, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement. It really highlighted all the ways that we can be doing better, to be more equitable and more focused on social justice in schools.”
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BUSD Focus Is on COVID-19 Vaccinations

It may be a new year, but the concerns remain the same for the Burbank Unified School District. In the first official Board of Education meeting of 2021, Superintendent Matt Hill on Thursday apprised stakeholders and board members of a challenging road ahead in regard to planning for the current and following school year and the projected budget deficit.
Responding to public comments about the possible reopening of schools for in-person instruction, Hill said he does not anticipate it happening during the current academic year because of the COVID-19 case rate in Los Angeles County and the slow rollout of vaccines.
“The state requirement, as stated, is cases must be below 25 per 100,000 people [for campuses] to be allowed to reopen, and L.A. County is triple that right now,” Hill informed the board and community members. “As far as potential for reopening schools to the fullest extent this year, that is very unlikely in L.A. County.”

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Arduous Year Leaves BUSD Leader ‘Tired but Inspired’

Matt Hill

Many are glad to have the year 2020 in their rearview mirror, and Matt Hill shares the sentiment.
The Burbank Unified School District superintendent dealt with the defeat of a parcel tax proposal that led to layoffs of teachers and staff members, a pivot to distance learning after campuses were shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and difficult conversations with stakeholders about diversity, equity and inclusion.
“There was nothing in my education or training that could have prepared me for a year like this,” Hill told the Leader in a recent interview.
It certainly took a toll on the Burbank community, but the silver linings were enough to keep Hill optimistic going into the new year.

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Burroughs Students Approve Search for New Mascot

With wide support from classmates, teachers and administrators, the John Burroughs High School Associated Student Body is officially in search of a new mascot.
Of the 1,540 votes from the student body, 63.7% supported a change. The Indian has been the mascot since JBHS was established in 1948.
“It was a large turnout of voters,” said Matt Hill, the Burbank Unified School District’s superintendent, who was pleased with the result. “It was great that a lot of students weighed in and got to vote.”
The process, spearheaded by ASB President Nadaly Jones, a senior, began in August with research performed by ASB members and a discussion amid concerns that the school symbol was racist and outdated. Of the 40 student government representatives, 37 voted to bring the issue to Burroughs students.

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As Virus Spreads Further, High School Sports Shut Down

Photo courtesy Adam Colman
The Burbank Unified School District suspended all on-campus athletic activities on Monday in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The Burbank High School football team had been conditioning on the field for about three weeks.

Concerned over the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County, Burbank Unified School District officials announced the suspension of all on-campus conditioning for the district’s high school athletes on Monday.
The county record for daily new coronavirus cases was broken for a second time this week with 7,854 reported cases on Thursday. The previous high (7,593) had been reported on Tuesday.
The student-athletes’ and coaches’ joy upon returning to campus for conditioning lasted only three weeks.

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Konstantine, Schultz Win Council Seats

Nearly a month after Election Day, the final ballot results from Los Angeles County are in: Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz are expected to join the Burbank City Council in December.

Anthony soared into first place early in the ballot count process, with 17,529 votes as of Monday, Nov. 30 — when the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk certified the results. Schultz maintained a consistent lead for the second open council seat, with 13,105 voters having cast a ballot for him. The pair will be sworn in to the City Council at a reorganization meeting on Dec. 14.

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BUSD Receives Support in Book Controversy

Parents and students came to the defense of the Burbank Unified School District during a virtual Board of Education meeting on Thursday, supporting its decision not to allow teachers to include several books in their lesson plans for the year as it reevaluates its core curriculum.
Over the past two months, a slew of teachers, students and parents have voiced their disapproval over the district’s exclusion of “To Kill a Mockingbird, “The Cay,” “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Of Mice of Men.” Though they are not part of the curriculum at the moment, the books, which have racially oriented content, are available to all students at each school library.

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Challengers Lead in Council, School Board Races

Anthony Surges, Second City Seat Contested

Days after the election, Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz continued late this week to be the front-runners for two seats on the Burbank City Council, though Tamala Takahashi added suspense to the race by hovering in third place.
Anthony’s expected presence on the council would be only the latest development in his complicated relationship with the city: If he clinches victory, the disability services provider will have gone from suing Burbank this year to joining its lead panel in December.
As of the most recent update from Los Angeles County on Thursday evening, Anthony had 15,222 votes, or 20.7% of the total of votes counted, while Schultz had 11,328 votes, or 15.4%. If their leads hold, the two will sit on the council for the next four years.
Takahashi was not far behind, however, nabbing 10,862 votes, or 14.77%, in the Tuesday election in which eight candidates vied.

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