Tag Archives: Burbank Board of Education

Board Of Education Hears Parent Concerns On Disney School Construction Delay, Approves Bond Refinancing For Taxpayer Savings

The Burbank Board of Education heard concerns from several Walt Disney Elementary School parents over the continued delay of construction at the school site, in addition to other comments and concerns from the community at the regular meeting held online on Thursday, September 17.

The Board of Education (BOE) also heard the Superintendent’s report on Distance Learning and approved a number of items, including a Bond Refunding and Refinancing Plan and the 2020-21 Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan.

The BOE meeting opened with reports from Student Board Representatives – Nadaly Jones (John Burroughs High School), Andrea Espinoza (Monterey High School) and Carmen Blanchard (Burbank High School) – on the latest activities in their school communities.

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

Former John Muir Middle School student, Chloe Bauer, who’s currently in ninth grade at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, communicated to the Board her concern about the possible removal of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry from seventh-grade English curriculum.

Tori Cuseo, a Spanish teacher at John Muir Middle School, talked about the goals and efforts of the new Burbank Teachers Association Justice and Equity Team (JET), which meets monthly.

The team is examining what it means to be an anti-racist educator and an advocate for all students, Cuseo said. “We want to do our best to make the community better for all students.”

Burbank Teachers Association President Diana Abasta made comments in support of JET and lauded the efforts of Burbank Unified staff and teachers engaged in Distance Learning.

Several parents of students at Walt Disney Elementary School decried the lack of communication and ongoing delays in beginning construction on the two-story remodel planned for the school site.

Disney was initially scheduled for construction remodel, to be paid for from Measure S Bond funds, in 2017. Redesign of the original plan to build a two-story wing instead of a one-story remodel delayed construction start, initially. But more recent ongoing delays to the construction start have many parents very upset and frustrated.

“When was the last time any of you walked on our campus before COVID?” asked parent Nicole Martin. “When was the last time you stepped into out library and computer room? Did you notice the bowed ceilings? Have you smelled when the AC comes on in the wing classrooms? See the tiles coming up?”

All Board members and Superintendent Matt Hill acknowledged that communication with parents, at Disney and District-wide, must be better.

Board member Steve Ferguson thanked the parents for escalating concerns over communication and construction delays and requested the Board perform an immediate site walk to see safety issues that may need to be addressed.

Board member Roberta Reynolds agreed with the parents that “delays have been extremely frustrating because [the construction] is so crucial.”

Board President Armond Aghakhanian expressed frustration with the continual lack of communication parents District-wide have been expressing over recent months and directed District administration to come up with a plan to improve communications with parents immediately.

Hill gave an update on Distance Learning to the Board, something the school board has requested for each of the regularly scheduled meetings, which are held every two weeks.

He noted a large jump in the number of meals picked up in the previous week – almost 10,000 more than from the week before, due to the implementation and announcement of free meals for all BUSD students regardless of income, funded by the USDA through the end of December 2020.

“The focus is to make sure families in need get the meals,” Hill said, as he addressed social media speculation that had been recently circulating. “These meals are intended for families who need them right now. You should not pick up the meals and distribute to others. It does not help retain jobs or our budget if you’re picking up meals.”

Hill also noted that overall attendance for synchronous learning remains at 98% and the number of disengaged students has dropped to 138, as BUSD continues intervention efforts, which he detailed to the Board. Asynchronous attendance in the afternoons is 77% overall and 71% on Fridays.

Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, Debbie Kukta, introduced a General Obligation Bond Refunding proposal, which was then presented in an overview by Khushroo Gheyara of CFW Advisory Services, who has worked with BUSD for more than 10 years.

The Board of Education went on to approve the proposal, which will bank approximately $5.7 million in interest savings for local taxpayers over time, because of current historically low interest rates in the bond market.

The video and complete agenda of the Burbank Board of Education meeting for September 17 can be found online here.

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

Burbank Board Of Education Swears In Student Members, Hears Reports On Distance Learning And The Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee

The Burbank Board of Education administered the Oath of Office to three Student Board Members and heard reports on Distance Learning and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee at their regular biweekly meeting held on Thursday, September 3.

The meeting began with a remembrance of Monterey High School teacher Keith Lang, who recently passed away. Board members and other speakers shared memories of the teacher throughout the more than three-hour-long meeting.

The three Student Board Members – Carmen Blanchard from Burbank High School, Nadaly Jones from John Burroughs High School and Andrea Espinoza from Monterey High School – each gave a report on the various efforts of their school’s Associated Student Body (ASB) and ongoing projects.

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

Four speakers addressed the Board during Public Comments.

Parent Libby Fortman expressed frustration with the mask mandate, remote learning and social distancing.

Parent Liz Bax expressed concerns over BUSD’s not always clear communications and requested more attention be paid to parental input, particularly with the development of the hybrid learning model and an eventual return to in person education. She also shared concerns about AP students not getting enough instruction time in order to prepare for Spring AP tests.

Senior Burbank High School student Sophie Peterson questioned why the AP French and French 3 classes were placed together in one remote learning class and was concerned she and other students aren’t getting enough instruction and class time to be prepared for the Spring AP test.

Burbank Teachers Association President and Burbank High School English teacher Diana Abasta addressed the Board, commenting on the hard work and progress teachers have made with remote learning. She lauded the efforts of all BUSD employees, particularly the classified workers.

Superintendent Matt Hill and each Board member responded to each commenter in turn.

Although Los Angeles County Public Health recently indicated schools may possibly be able to bring back small groups of students soon, starting with Special Education and English Learners, Hill said, the County is not yet offering waivers for elementary schools.

“We will continue to discuss hybrid learning,” he added, indicating an update on that model would be presented to the Board at the October 1 meeting, and directly after that BUSD would seek community dialogue.

Hill gave a report on the newly created Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He asked that any Burbank stakeholder who has an interest in joining a subcommittee email him for information.

The committee has been working with a California Teachers Association consultant, Reena Doyle, to look at BUSD K-12 education for systemic bias, adjust the curriculum and find ways to promote equity, diversity and inclusion.

Some classic English literature books that have been taught for many decades, including To Kill A Mockingbird, The Cay, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, have been identified as problematic for racist language and stereotypical depictions of Black people.

“This is not about censorship but about righting the wrongs of the past,” said Hill, as he also noted the efforts of the BUSD students of the Diversify Our Narrative campaign who have joined the work.

Hill also mentioned the committee was looking at Ethnic Studies pathways to add to the curriculum. The State of California has indicated an ethnic studies requirement for high school graduation will be mandated in the near future.

In Hill’s report on Distance Learning, he noted that for the period of August 27 through September 1, BUSD students averaged approximately 98% attendance for the live/synchronous learning. However, students from K-12 are averaging 74% attendance for asynchronous or independent learning attendance check ins.

Although a more complete report is forthcoming, Hill mentioned that more absences are being recorded in the asynchronous component for elementary age students. He also noted that tracking of asynchronous learning across all grades has been problematic.

This year, the State is not financially penalizing school districts for Average Daily Attendance drops, but school attendance is required, so school officials are working to sort out the reasons for the disparity.

Hill also emphasized that any student or family who is experiencing trouble connecting to the internet, to contact their school principal and request a hotspot and/or Chromebook. If students and families are having technical issues with their equipment, they should contact their school principal as well or check on the District website for troubleshooting tips.

As of August 27, BUSD has distributed 5614 Chromebooks and 1395 hotspots, utilizing Federal funds.

For the first week of school, BUSD distributed 10,890 meals, which dropped to 5830 meals the second week. However, 8830 meals have been distributed in the third week. Those with questions about the meal pickup process should contact the Food Services team.

BUSD can provide free meals (nutrition and lunch) to all of its 15,000 students, regardless of income, due to a recent expansion of the Summer Food Service Program.

The Board and Hill also discussed the Learning, Continuity and Attendance Plan which was provided to BUSD stakeholders in the form of videos on Wednesday, September 2. A link to those videos can be found on the District’s website here.

The videos discuss a possible return to in-person instruction. BUSD seeks comments from stakeholders and encourages people to email their comments to ReOpeningSchool@Burbankusd.org. Comments may also be made on the videos which also appear on the District’s Facebook page.

The Board of Education proclaimed September 2020 as PTA Membership Month.

Burbank Council PTA President Wendi Harvel gave a presentation on the efforts of the PTA at the State and local level. VP of Membership Lori Little highlighted easy membership signups on Council PTA’s website.

Erin Konstantine, VP of Legislation and Advocacy for Burbank Council PTA, also spoke in support of Proposition 15, which is on the ballot in November.

She quoted former California State PTA President Carol Kocivar, saying, “It doesn’t do a darn thing to your home. It doesn’t affect residential property at all. Prop 15 doesn’t hurt homeowners and it helps small businesses by eliminating their personal property tax. Prop 15 gets money by closing a tax loophole that has allowed billion dollar companies to evade millions in taxes that should be going to our schools and communities.”

Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, Debbie Kukta, emphasized that should Prop 15 pass, it will bring 9.1 million dollars to Burbank Unified.

Kukta then discussed the Unaudited Actuals report, a closing report on the budget for the prior fiscal year. She noted that the District’s financial situation is better than expected, particularly with the change in the State budget in June, as certain financial burdens were deferred by the Governor and Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) monies were restored by the State. She also went over Federal funding, particularly funds resulting from COVID-19 stimulus packages.

But, she warned, the structural deficits for 2021-22 and 2022-23 remain and must be prepared for.

Kukta also noted BUSD has received an A+ credit rating from Standard and Poor’s.

Because the HEROES act has stalled in the Senate, there is no additional Federal stimulus funding on the horizon currently.

Burbank Unified relies on State and Federal funding. The City of Burbank is financially separate and while they are a strong partner with certain types of support, Kukta noted, the City does not have a dedicated financial contribution to the District.

The Board approved the purchase of a one year contract for electronic high school Social Science textbooks, paid for by the Lottery Textbook Fund, thus providing current materials for high school classes.

“We are hoping by the end of the year to be able to adopt the textbook in full,” commented John Paramo, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.

The video and complete agenda of the Burbank Board of Education meeting for September 3 can be found online here.

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

Burbank Board Of Education Hears About Remote Learning, Classified Employee Adaptability

The Burbank Board of Education met online for their regular biweekly session on Thursday evening, August 20. After a few public comments, the Board heard about the first week of school and the transition to remote learning, the adaptability of classified workers to workplace changes, a report on the status of the Superintendent’s Fundraising Advisory Committee and approved a number of items.

Classified employees and members of the California School Employee Association (CSEA) negotiating team Roberto Villarta and President Joseph “Louis” Ayala addressed the Board during the public comments session to highlight the efforts BUSD’s classified employees have made to support the district’s remote learning approach. Ayala noted that many classified positions in child care, technology and environmental work have undergone changes across the district.

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

Burbank Unified’s classified employees are currently negotiating an update to their agreement with the school district, much as the teachers’ union, Burbank Teachers Association, recently did, to reflect their changing work roles with the onset and continued presence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Matt Hill also addressed the Board, noting that he missed being able to visit most of the BUSD school sites on the first day of school, as he has for the past five years, with myBurbank photographer Ross Benson. Burbank Unified students, teachers and staff headed back to school on Monday, August 17.

Hill talked about the efforts the community of Burbank Unified  – teachers, staff, parents, caregivers and students – has been making during the implementation of the 100% distance learning model focusing on technology and online interaction.

“We are working harder than ever before,” he said, while acknowledging the stresses these efforts can take on everyone. “We need to lean on each other and check in on each other… this pandemic is unrelenting.”

Burbank Unified continues to loan out Chromebooks and hotspots to students and families who need them. Technology challenges continue as well but the district tech staff is working with students and families to sort out issues that arise.

Hill also highlighted the importance of attendance – to keep in accord with County and State mandates – for students to check in during both live classes in the morning and afternoon at home work sessions.

He noted that school administrative teams, including counselors and intervention specialists, are working to connect and follow up with students who have not been in attendance online, to help sort out these challenges.

“Some may be having technology issues, others may be having issues at home. Some people may be out of work right now,” Hill said. “Connect with us. We want to help you. For all of the above, we have resources available that we can help you with that. Or put you in touch with the right individuals.”

District officials are thinking about how the transition back to in person instruction will be managed. The focus will be on a thoughtful plan that follows State and County Public Health guidelines, Hill emphasized, without rushing to bring people back, as many schools and universities have done throughout the country, only to have to shut down again.

“That’s not what we want to do here in Burbank,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent of Education Services John Paramo gave a report on the recently formed Superintendent’s Fundraising Advisory Committee, which is currently working on bylaws and is seeking guidance from the Board about BUSD’s fundraising priorities.

The Board approved several items, such as the 2019-2022 Negotiated Successor to the Agreement between the BUSD and BTA, School Attendance Review Board (SARB) Committee Members for 2020-2021 and the new bylaws for the School Facilities (Bond) Oversight Committee, which included a change from monthly to quarterly meetings.

The Board also proclaimed September as Attendance Awareness Month and named member Dr. Roberta Reynolds as their representative to the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association (LACSTA) for 2020-21.

Board members also accepted the recommended elimination of six and the reduction of four classified positions for lack of work.

Burbank Board of Education acknowledged the receipt of gifts to the District, including the second $10,000 donation by the Syrian Community of Burbank, to help with materials and supplies to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board also approved a number of additional legal, financial, logistical, personnel and other items, detailed in the August 20 agenda.

They recognized the retirements of classified employee Mary Hyman (who has worked for BUSD since 1992), Cathy Marcy (who’s taught at McKinley since 1985), McKinley teacher Rosanne Webb (who’s been there since 1978) and Annette Marino, an elementary school aide since 2016.

The video and agenda of the Burbank Board of Education meeting for August 20, can be found online here. The August 20 meeting, including public comments, runs for just over an hour. Past regular and special meetings are also available on the link.

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

Burbank Board Of Education Set To Discuss Reopening Plan, Budget Concerns

The Burbank Board of Education holds a virtual meeting on Thursday evening, July 16, to discuss the School Reopening Plan for the 2020-21 academic year, along with other policies, regulations and budgetary resolutions.

The school board meeting continues to follow social distancing measures and safety guidelines, and is viewable online here. The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m.

For a link to the agenda packet, please visit this webpage.

BUSD has received a few comments from stakeholders requesting to make their comments live, rather than having District personnel collect them ahead of time and read them to the Board. So, the Zoom application will be utilized to allow public speakers to speak directly to the Board for the July 16 meeting, according to Kimberley Clark, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent.

Those who wish to make a public comment via the Zoom app must follow specific directions:

  1. Public Speakers please email Kimberley Clark at kimberleyclark@burbankusd.org no later than 45 minutes prior to the start of the public meeting (before 6:15 p.m.) stating your full name and the topic you wish to speak about.
  2. Speakers are asked to log into the Board meeting virtually through the Zoom invitation no later than 6.45 p.m. The meeting will open at 6:00 p.m. and will be locked at 6:45 p.m. promptly. Please note that only those individuals who have emailed Kimberley Clark prior to 6:15 p.m. will be allowed to enter the Zoom meeting. Upon receipt of an email request, the Zoom meeting login details will be emailed to each individual speaker. Speakers should rename their Zoom profile to indicate their real name to expedite this process.
  3. When it is time for a speaker to address the Board, the speaker’s name will be called and the microphone on the Zoom account will be activated. Speakers must be present in the Zoom meeting when their name is called in order to be given an opportunity to address the Board. Speakers are also requested to state their name prior to addressing the Board.
  4. After a speaker completes their public comment or if the five-minute (5) time limit has been reached, the microphone for the speaker’s Zoom profile will be muted.
  5. The Zoom meeting will be closed following the Public Communications portion of the meeting.

For those who aren’t able to use the Zoom app to make a public comment to the Board, comments and questions may be mailed to the Reopening School Committee at Re-openingSchool@burbankusd.org.

According to a press release sent out by BUSD, the Board of Education meeting will discuss the following:

  • Report on School Reopening Plan for the 2020-2021 School Year (Please note that the Learning Model Selection deadline has been extended until Friday, July 17.)
  • First Reading of Proposed Revision of Selected Board Policies and Administrative Regulations (BP 0415, Equity, revised to include anti-racism policy language)
  • Adoption of Resolution 1 Approving Support for Funding for Schools and Communities Act
  • Adoption of Resolution 2 for the Elimination or Reduction of Services for Classified Positions
  • Adoption of Resolution 3 for the Elimination or Reduction of Services for Certificated Children’s Center Positions
  • Approval of Holding Fees for Horace Mann, Monterey Infant Center, and Around the Bell Child Care Programs
  • Consent Agenda

School Board Candidates Gather For Forum

Burbank Board Of Education Candidate Forum held Thursday at The Buena Vista Library. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Board Of Education Candidate Forum held Thursday at The Buena Vista Library. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Five candidates, running for two available seats on the Burbank Board Of Education, gathered in the auditorium of Buena Vista Library Thursday evening for a candidates forum put on by the Burbank Chamber of Commerce and Burbank Business Partners. The standing room only audience of attendees ranged from business professionals, to educators, teachers, and parents.

Business Leaders, Educators, Parents, interested citizens of Burbank. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Business Leaders, Educators, Parents, interested citizens of Burbank. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)


The evening’s master of ceremonies,  Chamber CEO Gary Olson, introduced candidates Armond Aghakhanian, Larry Applebaum, David Dobson, Steven Ferguson, and Charlene Tabet. The moderators for the evening, Elena Hubbell and Richard Raad, both former Burbank Board of Education members had plenty of questions for the candidates. One of the hot topics on which all the candidates voiced agreement on and supports for, is the upcoming bond issue that will be appearing on the ballot as Measure S.

Candidate Charlene Tabet. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Candidate Charlene Tabet. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Each of the candidates were given time to promote their candidacy prior to the start of the questions. They covered a large range but the common thread was the declining school budget, with each candidate having their ways to bolster it if elected.

At the conclusion of the forum the candidates lingered, speaking  to several in the audience who remained.


Burbank Board Of Education Candidate Forum held Thursday at The Buena Vista Library, pictured are candidates, hosts and moderators (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Board Of Education Candidate Forum held Thursday at The Buena Vista Library, pictured are candidates, hosts and moderators (Photo by Ross A. Benson)