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.
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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.
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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.”
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LCUSD Names Saks as High School Athletic Director

Carrie Saks

The La Cañada Unified School District has selected Carrie Saks as La Cañada High School 7-12 athletic director for the 2020-21 school year, and the hiring was approved last week by the district’s Governing Board, the school said in a statement.
Saks, who will assume the position at LCHS in late summer of 2020, has five years of experience teaching in public education. She started her career in the Westminster and Santa Monica/Malibu school districts and transitioned to LCUSD in 2014-15. Saks taught reading intervention at La Cañada Elementary School, and then joined the boys and girls volleyball coaching staff at LCHS 7/8 that same year. Her service and dedication to the district was honored in 2017 when Saks received the LCHS 7/8 PTA Founders’ Day Award. In 2016, she took on the role of LCHS 7/8 athletic director.
As part of her new position, Saks will oversee athletics for the entire campus, grades 7-12.
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City Hears of ‘Big Dig’ Resuming Amid Pandemic Concerns

Trucks are expected to begin hauling dirt and debris from the Devil’s Gate Dam once again Tuesday, with the controversial “Big Dig” project entering its second year of sediment removal, La Cañada Flintridge City Council members were informed this week.
La Cañada Flintridge 4 Healthy Air co-founder Elizabeth Krider gave the update and applauded councilmembers for their attentiveness to residents’ concerns about how diesel exhaust and dust from the trucks would affect air quality, though she cautioned that work is still needed to be done to ensure standards are enforced and followed.
The project, which aims to remove 1.7 million cubic yards of dirt from behind the dam at Hahamongna Watershed Park in phases across four years to increase flood protection and restore the habitat, sparked concerns from local residents after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved it in November 2017.
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Longtime Palm Crest Teacher Dies from COVID-19

Palm Crest Elementary School staff, students and family received heartbreaking news this week that beloved 3rd-grade teacher Terese Chiames Caire died of complications from the COVID-19 virus on April 28.
Caire taught 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and, most recently, 3rd grade in her 27-year tenure at PCR.
“Mrs. Caire has been a valued member of our LCUSD community for 27 years and has developed many deep and lasting relationships with students, families and colleagues,” La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette wrote in a letter to the LCUSD community. “Mrs. Caire will be missed.”
PCR Principal Cory Pak informed the staff last week and they are “actively preparing to provide support services to help their students, families and each other cope” with the loss, according to Sinnette.
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Assistance League Donates Chromebooks to LCUSD

The Assistance League of Flintridge (ALF) recently donated 50 Chromebook tablets to the La Cañada Unified School District. These are loaned to students to replace nonfunctioning ones that cannot be repaired, and are provided to students in need, according to an ALF spokesperson.
“While ALF donates Chromebooks to LCUSD on an ongoing basis, this particular large donation takes place at an especially critical time since students and teachers are depending on electronic communication to complete assignments,” an ALF statement said.
Chromebooks are used by students in grades 5 through 12.
Two other updates regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting ALF:
• Bargain Box Thrift Shop has temporarily closed and donations cannot be accepted.
• ALF has “regretfully concluded that it will not be able to offer Summer School this year; it is only the second time in its 42-year history that it has not taken place,” according to a spokesperson.
For current information regarding Assistance League of Flintridge, its programs and membership, visit ALFlintridge.org.

Superintendent Updates Community on School District’s Plans

By Wendy Sinnette
Special to The Outlook

Wendy Sinnette

I hope this letter finds you managing as well as possible the requirements of the “Safer at Home” order as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of our families and community. I am so proud of everyone’s efforts and the spirit of civic responsibility and unity that has emerged during these unprecedented times. On behalf of the La Cañada Unified School District, I want to thank you for stepping up and staying strong in your response to flattening the coronavirus infection curve.
Our district schools have had to face more rapid-fire transformative change in response to the school facility closures than perhaps in the history of our district – definitively more than anytime within my 9 years as superintendent. On the heels of the Governing Board’s decision to close our school campuses effective March 13, 2020, our teachers immediately pivoted and began to engage students in distance learning. For the first three-week period, lessons were delivered digitally to students and these lessons were encouraged but optional, focusing on enrichment, remediation, and reinforcement of the curriculum.
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LCUSD Extends School Closures Through May 5

Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
The La Cañada Unified School District board and staff members met virtually on March 31 at a special meeting that included Anais Wenn (front, from left), Dan Jeffries and Brent Kuszyk. Middle: Mark Evans, Ellen Multari and Kaitzer Puglia. Back: Joe Radabaugh, Jamie Lewsadder and Wendy Sinnette.

The La Cañada Unified School District board voted to extend school closures through Tuesday, May 5, at a Tuesday night special virtual meeting, and acknowledged that the timeline could be further pushed back.
The vote took into account the recommended May 5 date put forth by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. The meeting featured governing board members attending virtually, or via video conferencing site Zoom, and was broadcast live on YouTube.
Before voting, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette spoke of the statement from the California Department of Education, sent earlier on Tuesday, which said it “currently appears” students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year.
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