Students in Special Categories May Soon Return to Campus

Nearly 60 schools notified Los Angeles County of their intent to reopen this week at limited capacity, and the La Cañada Unified School District isn’t far from doing the same.
Public Health announced earlier this month that schools could reopen small classes for students with individual education plans, students in special education and English-language learners beginning Sept. 14.
In an email to the Outlook Valley Sun, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said she anticipates “the first few cohorts of [LCUSD] students may return to campuses at the end of September or early October.”
“We are in the process of bargaining the effects of working conditions with [teachers and employees associations] to allow this to happen,” Sinnette said. “The cohort restrictions are strict and once a teacher joins an in-person cohort, they are prohibited from delivering in-person instruction or assessments to any student outside the cohort. So our first priority will be to bring back to campus cohorts of our highest at-risk, highest-level-of-need students.
Continue reading “Students in Special Categories May Soon Return to Campus”

Letters to the Editor

Opinion About Advocates
It appears that those advocating the diversity plan in our schools are more interested in teaching kids what to think rather than how to think.

Trent Sanders
La Cañada Flintridge


DEI Consultant Thanks Community for Its Support
I am writing to express my sincere gratitude for the many members of the greater La Cañada Unified School District community who have extended their support over the past several weeks — support for me, but more importantly, for the critical work of cultivating equitable spaces for learning where every student is seen, supported and feels a sense of belonging. Through the letters to the editor, comments during school board meetings and direct emails, students, parents, staff, alumni and community members have raised their voices in support of a humanizing approach to education, Continue reading “Letters to the Editor”

LCUSD Grapples With Approach to Diversity Plan

One month after diversity, equity and inclusion consultant Christina Hale-Elliott presented her findings — collected over a year — to the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board, that panel on Tuesday returned to a discussion of the matter and took what it considered a step toward achieving DEI goals.
During a virtual meeting, the board decided to include progress on DEI as one of Superintendent Wendy Sinnette’s objectives for this school year, to help the district sketch a “road map to a road map,” according to board President Joe Radabaugh.
“I am supportive of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Radabaugh, who will partner with board member Kaitzer Puglia to work with Sinnette in framing the specifics of the DEI goals of creating a welcoming environment for all stakeholders regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or other factors. “It really fits with our historic focus on the whole child, not just academic excellence but making them good people and preparing them for the future, especially staging them for success in an ever increasingly diverse world.”
Board member Dan Jeffries noted it’s a tradition for the LCUSD to place issues that “we consider to be very important” on the superintendent’s short list of goals. Sinnette did not provide details about the next step but acknowledged the importance of Hale-Elliott’s three-year implementation plan, which “identifies clear actions, strategies and deliverables” each year, helping staff members determine the effectiveness of actions and services in meeting the goals. Any plans will be reviewed and voted on by the board.
Continue reading “LCUSD Grapples With Approach to Diversity Plan”

Diversity Plan’s Future Worries Some LCUSD Stakeholders

Outlook Valley Sun photo
Christina Hale-Elliott, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, is shown at one of her workshops during the 2019-2020 school year.

It was “Back to School Night” last week for the La Cañada Unified School District, and parents like Vanessa Rosas hunkered down Thursday evening to take in what was going to be a virtual presentation of the annual event, this year’s program emphasizing the distance learning platform that has gripped the community in the age of the coronavirus pandemic.
She felt wary, as most parents do by now, of the way remote learning is affecting the morale and academic effectiveness of her youngsters, but when La Cañada High School 7/8 representatives dug in with a high-energy virtual presentation to help animate students and parents, she perked up.
Then her spirits crashed.
Continue reading “Diversity Plan’s Future Worries Some LCUSD Stakeholders”

Unusual School Year Opens to ‘Positive’ Feedback

It wasn’t the first day of school anyone envisioned for the 2020-21 academic year before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said it was a positive one for the La Cañada Unified School District.
Despite some technical difficulties, Sinnette said she received some encouraging feedback from parents and students as distance learning commenced on Monday.
“It’s definitely unprecedented, but we have had positive emails from parents,” she said. “Families are appreciating the live instruction and that both elementary and secondary levels are following a daily bell schedule.”
The district has sought to develop different schedules for elementary and secondary schools that would not only give students a daily routine but also help schools transition into a hybrid model when Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials allow it. The elementary level is ready for the next phase, but grades 7-12 do not yet have a schedule that would support a hybrid model.
Continue reading “Unusual School Year Opens to ‘Positive’ Feedback”

LCUSD Commits to ‘Quality’ Distance Learning to Start Year

The La Cañada Unified School District has mulled over scheduling and instruction for the upcoming school year for the past eight weeks, but its governing board’s disclosure this week that the district is going with distance learning simply confirmed an earlier decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The governor announced new guidelines last Friday that would prevent California schools, public and private, in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list — which monitors trends in infections and test positivity and hospitalization rates — from providing in-person instruction when the academic year begins.
“Learning is non-negotiable,” Newsom said. “The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. In California, health data will determine when a school can physically open — and when it must close — but learning should never stop.”
In a special meeting Tuesday, the LCUSD announced it will open the school year with distance learning at all levels, but officials are hopeful of returning students to campus when it is safe to do so. Details of those plans, whether at half or full capacity, have not yet been finalized.
For the district’s schools to reopen, Los Angeles County must be taken off the watch list, which can happen only if coronavirus cases drop for 14 consecutive days. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases made California the state with the most confirmed infections in the nation, surpassing New York.
“The good news about our virtual academy is that it’s much better than it was before,” LCUSD board President Joe Radabaugh said by phone. “It’s going to be quality education.”
Continue reading “LCUSD Commits to ‘Quality’ Distance Learning to Start Year”

LCUSD Board Chooses Former Member to Fill Seat

Andrew Blumenfeld

After reversing its decision to keep the seat vacant, the governing board for the La Cañada Unified School District selected former board member Andrew Blumenfeld to join its ranks.
Blumenfeld, a Princeton University alumnus who served on the board from 2011-15, was chosen unanimously on July 8 and sworn in on Tuesday. In a written statement that was submitted with his application, he said he would not run for election in November, which means he will only hold the position for about four months.
“I believe the vacancy should be filled by someone who can hit the ground running and add immediate value during this consequential time, while not further adding to the plate of the superintendent with the task of onboarding a new member,” he said in the statement.
Continue reading “LCUSD Board Chooses Former Member to Fill Seat”

LCUSD Changes Course, Will Appoint New Board Member

A temporary position on the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board is up for grabs after the four-member panel voted in favor of appointing one of 10 applicants who had previously interviewed for the position, reversing its June 17 decision to leave the seat vacant and allow voters to choose a new member in the November election.
“To me, the decision not to fill was the best outcome at that time,” board President Joe Radabaugh said during Tuesday’s virtual meeting in an effort to clarify what transpired during the previous session. “I did have regrets that we surprised applicants and others with the decision.
“But [after the meeting], I listened to feedback from the community. I know people didn’t have the full story. I realize fair points were being made. In closing, we value the trust and support of the community. Because of that, we felt it was important to agendize this item for more discussion and allow folks to weigh in.”
Most people who commented Tuesday expressed a preference for appointing a temporary board member. The position would still be permanently filled in the November election.
Continue reading “LCUSD Changes Course, Will Appoint New Board Member”

School Officials Introduce Initial Reopening Plans

Photo courtesy LCUSD
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette provided a photo showing how a classroom may look in the coming school year, in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

The La Cañada Unified School District’s plan to reopen schools is becoming clearer despite the uncertainty that lies ahead because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette previewed plans from the reopening committee — consisting of district board members, staff members, educators and parents — and addressed concerns from stakeholders during a virtual LCUSD Governing Board meeting on Tuesday.
More details of the committee’s plans will be presented at a meeting on July 14 so that the board can approve them. Sinnette preferred to show a plan early to allow parents and personnel to better prepare for the 2020-21 school year scheduled to begin on Aug. 17.
Continue reading “School Officials Introduce Initial Reopening Plans”

LCUSD Deficit Narrows, but Official Issues Warning

With the 2019-20 school year having ended last week, the La Cañada Unified School District has shifted its focus to the future — most notably the upcoming budget and instruction in the fall.
Mark Evans, associate superintendent of business and administrative services, presented to the LCUSD Governing Board on Tuesday a first draft that included estimates for the current year and forecast a bleak future based on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May revision of the state budget — a proposal of $203.3 billion that would significantly cut school funding due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s great work being done in La Cañada and we want to keep that going,” Evans said during a virtual meeting. “The May revise is going to make that a challenge. Our budget is facing some uphill battles.”
The deficit for this year came in at $827,071, far better than anticipated in March, when Evans estimated it at $2.4 million.
“This puts us in a good state as we head into this economic situation,” he said. “It will help us weather that storm.”
Continue reading “LCUSD Deficit Narrows, but Official Issues Warning”