Burbank Board Of Education Discusses Reopening, Facilities Projects, Extending Athlete Probation

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Burbank Unified School District office. (Photo By Ross Benson)

The Burbank Board of Education and Burbank Unified administrators discussed reopening schools, approved a number of Facilities projects, extended probationary periods for student athletes and covered a lot of issues at the regular meeting held on Thursday, April 15.

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It was the first time members of the Board convened in the the District office boardroom, wearing masks and remaining distanced. Other BUSD staff normally present at meetings linked in via Zoom from their offices.

The meeting began recognizing John Burroughs High School student Gabrielle Mathis who won first place in the Poetry Out Loud competition at JBHS and for BUSD. A first time entrant, Mathis went on to represent Burbank Unified in the County level of the competition.

Director of Facilities Larry Cross introduced recently hired Kevin Hale, who becomes the new Supervisor of Custodial Services for the District, a position that had been frozen due to budget concerns but was able to fulfilled due to an infusion of COVID funds.

A fair amount of discussion regarding the District’s recent return to a limited hybrid reopening was held, as the first day back for students who opted-in to the afternoon classes was Monday, April 12.

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“A building without students and staff is not a school,” commented Superintendent Matt Hill to the Board. “And we finally have our school and our community starting to come back to life.”

“We’ve done so much on screens and we’ve been able to focus on instruction and learning with our students in distance learning. To bring back that energy in those buildings, those buildings are coming to life.”

“Our staff makes it look so easy, from custodial staff to our teachers, office managers, principals, every job description in this District,” Hill continued. “I don’t want to miss that, how hard this has been for everybody. We’ve pivoted so many different times this past year, closing schools, trying new learning models, hybrids.”

“We’ve had 15 different iterations of how many reopening plans we could have. It’s the next step. I know it’s not the end, but the next step of coming back to new normal and having students back on campus. It was seamless this week and we had some small glitches and hiccups we’re going to work out.”

“We want to learn over the next six weeks what we can do so we can have a very robust summer school and then go back to a full reopening in the fall,” Hill also said. “We’re well on our way so I just want to thank everyone. I want to acknowledge the hard work of all our employees. Greatly appreciate on behalf of the Board and me and all of staff.”

“My excitement level is at a 10. My exhaustion level is at a 10.” quipped Hill. “A lot of us are feeling that. I think this energy we’re going to have from our students back on campus will keep us going.”

“And for the students that it’s not the right time to come back on campus, we still have this stable model to keep you with your teachers and classmates. I really like the model that we have. It’s not perfect but it’s the best in the middle of a pandemic and to make the best of a bad situation.”

“I am looking forward to learning, over the next few weeks, along with staff, how to build a better BUSD and work together,” Hill also said.

Board Clerk Steve Ferguson thanked Hill and staff for “keeping tone and temperament” throughout the ongoing pandemic challenges.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” added Board Member Armond Aghakhanian, as he also expressed happiness that his young son was able to return in person in the afternoons.

Burbank Unified staff held a first reading of Selected Board Policy Update and Administrative Regulations, with language Hill described as fairly standard and guided by the California School Board Association’s recommendations to satisfy legislative updates.

Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Debbie Kukta reported on a number of Facilities projects on the Board’s consent agenda. A number of the items were related to the last major Measure S Bond project, a two-story expansion at Walt Disney Elementary School, which broke ground on Wednesday, April 14.

The Board reappointed School Facilities Oversight Committee members Janet Diel and Joe Marando and appointed Shaun Hasas and Michelle Wolloff to the nine-person group. The SFOC oversees that Measure S Bond funds are spent in accordance with rules of the measure.

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, John Paramo, brought a proposal to extend the probationary period for student athletes to the Board, in alignment with State Assembly Bill 908 which allows Boards of Education to do so for the current Spring semester. Extending the probation period would allow student athletes to continue to participate in sports through the end of the 2020 – 21 school year.

Student athletes are required to maintain a 2.0 GPA in order to participate in school sports.

Burbank Unified has 1363 student athletes in total attending Burbank and John Burroughs High School. Currently, 168 are ineligible and on probation due to their GPAs falling below 2.0, according to Paramo. Of the 168, 37 have one F, 38 have two Fs and 93 have three or more Fs. Approximately 18 seniors have one or two Fs, Paramo said.

The last “normal” Spring was in 2019, Paramo said, and out of 1348 student athletes between BHS and JBHS at that time, 90 were ineligible.

Low attendance was cited as a major contributing factor for the student athletes with failing grades. Students don’t receive academic credit for a class that they fail and are required to make up the class, typically during summer school, to recover the credit and be able to graduate.

“We have been offering intervention,” Hill also said, noting teachers, intervention specialists, counselors and school administrators had been working to support athletes and all students struggling to pass their classes over the 2020 – 21 school year.

After much discussion between Board members and staff, the proposal to extend the probationary period for all student athletes was amended to include “site specific reviews for those with more than one F.”

“There’s six weeks left in this semester,” said Board Vice President Charlene Tabet. “They can still turn it around.”

The video and complete agenda of the Burbank Board of Education meeting for April 15 can be found online here.

The Burbank Board of Education is comprised of President Steve Frintner, Vice President Charlene Tabet, Clerk Steve Ferguson and members Dr. Armond Aghakhanian and Dr. Emily Weisberg. More information on the Board can be found online on their webpage.