By Lisa Paredes
With excitement and anticipation, children and families throughout Burbank begin their first day of school today. The Burbank Unified School District’s administrators, staff and teachers are also welcoming the 2013-2014 school year with some new and continuing programs like Spanish Dual Immersion, Transitional Kindergarten and the Homework Task Force. Current enrollment is over 15,100 students, just about the same as last year’s numbers.
Burbank Unified schools, along with all other California public schools, will also be preparing throughout the year for next year’s new national educational standards program, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS.)
According to BUSD Superintendent, Dr. Jan Britz, “The start of school is an exciting time, and with the introduction of Common Core and many Measure S improvement projects being implemented at our school sites, 2013-14 promises to bring many milestones and accomplishments.”
Spanish Dual Immersion The District’s first dual immersion Spanish language kindergarten class opens today, August 19, at Disney Elementary. The program serves 29 students and provides 80 percent of the school day in Spanish and 20 percent in English. A lottery was held to select participating students because interest in this program was so strong, with more than 50 families applying for entrance. BUSD plans to add a class per year, for the next six years, so that by the time these students from the inaugural class are in fifth grade, there will be a dual immersion class at every grade level.
Transitional Kindergarten The highly successful Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program, the first year of two-year kindergarten for five-year-olds, is in its second year at BUSD. The voluntary program offers children who turn five between September 2 and December 1 an extra year of developmentally-appropriate learning, before entering traditional kindergarten. Currently, 113 students are registered for TK, which has one classroom each at four school sites: Roosevelt Elementary, Harte Elementary, Jefferson Elementary and McKinley Elementary.
Common Core State Standards The school district and teachers will prepare for Common Core State Standards through professional development, instructional materials and technology. The passage of Measure S enables the District to address some of the technology needs so that more of the one-time funds allocated by the state for CCSS implementation can be dedicated to teacher training. Teachers will collaborate and develop lessons throughout the year so that by the time 2014-15 school year rolls around, they will be ready for the new standards.
Jordan Middle School “We are very excited about the new Common Core Standards. Our staff is passionate about teaching and creating a dynamic school where students are engaged and encouraged,” comments Mrs. Stacy Cashman, Jordan Middle School Principal.
“We are also excited to wear our new Blue and Gold spirit shirts. The ASB students did a great job on the design! Our ASB, under the leadership of Mrs. Hatch, leads our school spirit. They really know how to make Jordan fun!”
Jordan Middle School is also very proud of STOP IT!, their anti-bullying program. Assistant Principal, Mr. Leonidas Tarca, has helped create an atmosphere where students are empowered to stand up for themselves and others. His STOP IT! student leaders met over the summer to set new goals for the coming year, including community service.
Last year, Cartoon Network animated a short story, “You Are Special,” by Jordan student Sherryn Sim. This coming year, Jordan plans to meet with an organization to reduce trash at lunch and find greener ways of doing things around the school.
“I am also proud of Jordan’s emphasis on the arts. Cougar Vision, our student broadcast, won an award from the Burbank Business Partners, we have award-winning choir and band programs, and our culinary arts students participated in a CPK cooking competition last year,” adds Mrs. Cashman. “I am grateful for the family feeling we have at Jordan. We have so much support from staff, students, parents and business partners.”
“These weeks before school opens have been busy as we prepare,” Mrs. Cashman concludes. “I can’t begin to describe the thrill of the first day of school, the new shoes, the new outfits and the smiles on the faces of our new students!”
Roosevelt Elementary At Roosevelt Elementary, Principal Dr. Jennifer Meglemre points to the violin program as a source of pride. Last year, all first grade students had weekly violin lessons funded by the Roosevelt PTA and Boosters.
An unnamed donor gave the school 15 violins so that students could learn using school violins. The Leadership Burbank Class of 2013 recently donated 31 additional violins and 20 music stands to Roosevelt and Providencia Elementary Schools.
“This year we are able to expand our program so that both second and first graders will take weekly violin lessons, ” explains Dr. Meglemre. “Our goal is to grow an instrumental music program for all grade levels over the next few years.”
“I am most excited this year about the transition to the Common Core State Standards. The teachers and I have been to workshops this summer, learning about the new national standards,” Dr. Meglemre continues. “The focus of the CCSS is fewer and deeper. The teachers will be spending more time teaching fewer standards, so they will be able to emphasize the real world application and critical thinking skills.”
Adds Dr. Meglemre, “I feel so fortunate to work at a school with such dedicated teachers and supportive parents.”
Safety Committee and Homework Task Force Burbank Unified administrators also highlighted two other programs, the Safety Committee and the Homework Task Force. Comprised of parents, administrators, teachers and staff, the Safety Committee met throughout the past school year to discuss anti-bullying and to review and revise existing Board Policy. The committee drafted a policy clearly defining bullying and its signs and outlining BUSD’s commitment to providing a safe working and learning environment.
The Homework Task Force was created during the 2012-13 school year. Parents, teachers and administrators met and studied information about the purpose and amount of homework appropriate for various ages, ultimately suggesting guidelines per grade level about the amount of time children could be expected to participate in homework.
For more information on the ongoing activities in the Burbank Unified School District, please visit their website at www.burbankusd.org