School Board Hears Jam-Packed Agenda And Discusses Adding More Elementary Teachers

By On January 17, 2014

From reports on the Bilingual Dual Immersion program and the Eight-Year Plan for Class Size Reduction to public comments and a number of other items, the Burbank Unified School Board considered a very full agenda in a meeting that took almost five hours on Thursday evening, January 16, at City Hall. Student representatives from Burbank and Burroughs High Schools spoke to the Board about upcoming activities at their respective high schools. District personnel, parents and the members from the community addressed the Board as well.

Dr. Tom Kissinger, Director of Elementary Education and Categorical Programs for the district, outlined the addition of 23.5 elementary teachers over the coming eight years, in a plan to reduce class sizes in grades K-3. While the plan will be adjusted from year to year as conditions change, BUSD expects to achieve a 24:1 student to teacher ratio by 2019, one year ahead of the State’s mandate on class size for primary grades. Currently, Kindergarten classes are at a 28:1 ratio throughout the district and first through third grade classes have 30 students for every teacher.

The Spanish Dual Immersion Kindergarten program at Disney Elementary was profiled in detail by Kissinger. The success of the program was also celebrated and talk turned to expansion of the program in coming years.

“We have to offer more options for our students,” commented Superintendent Dr. Jan Britz. “We have a lot of different kinds of parent interest and student interest as well and we want to be the district that provides these options for our students.”

The week of February 3 to 7, 2014, was proclaimed School Counseling Week, in recognition of the services school counselors provide to students. The nationally recognized week is promoted by the American Association of School Counselors. Board Member Larry Applebaum read the resolution and expressed his strong support and deep gratitude for the work school counselors do in the district.

“I know how much we value the work of our school counselors and not only are they academic advisors but they really help assist our students throughout the district with life challenges and the pressures of being adolescents in today’s society,” also commented Anita Shackman, Director of Human Resources for BUSD, as she introduced the resolution.

Dr. Emilio Urioste, Director of Secondary Education, introduced the new textbook Burbank and Burroughs High School teachers want to use for AP Spanish classes and discussed its attributes. The high school World Language program teachers considered several texts and chose Temas, which means “themes,” because it most closely aligned with the new Common Core standards and recent changes to the College Board’s AP Spanish test. Students would also be able to access the book online at home and use included programs to respond to teacher questions and communicate with other students.

The Board ratified the addition of an English teacher for the spring semester at Burroughs High School, using funds for class size reduction from the Local Control Funding Formula. Additional classes were added to both Burbank and Burroughs High Schools for the spring semester, as reported earlier in January on myburbank.com.

After some discussion, the Board approved 5-0 the proposed YMCA operation of a five-week 2014 summer school enrichment program, including remedial programs for second and third graders and a short term language immersion program for fourth and fifth graders. For the first year of the summer program, the YMCA would get a discounted non-profit rate of $8000 for use of two classrooms and some facilities, with the rate and conditions subject to change as needs would change, according to Kissinger.

Edison Elementary is the planned site for the program. The YMCA would also offer childcare from 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. during the summer program. Board Member Dr. Roberta Reynolds expressed her support for the program, seeing it as a win-win for all involved.

Board Member Charlene Tabet expressed her appreciation for the large numbers of people who attended the special meeting on January 9 at the District Office to voice their needs and desires for BUSD spending in the future.

“So many people came out to begin talking about where we’re going to start restoring projects and people to the district and our schools,” Tabet commented. “I was so appreciative to see a lot of people come out… I wish that would happen more often.”

The next School Board meeting is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. at City Hall on Thursday, February 6. Agendas for upcoming meetings can usually be found online several days before scheduled meetings on the district’s website.

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