Tag Archives: Burbank Unified School District

Walk and Bike to School Day is Wednesday

Walk Bike to School Day at Jefferson in 2018 (Photo by Ross A Benson)

Motorists are encouraged to be on the lookout for an increased number of pedestrians and bicyclists this coming Wednesday, October 2, as Burbank schools take part in the annual Walk and Bike to School Day.

According to the Burbank Unified School District, several thousand students from schools throughout the District will be walking and biking to school Wednesday morning along with parents, teachers, and community members.

BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill created a video:


Walk & Bike to School Day events raise awareness of the need to create safer routes for walking and bicycling, and emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, and concern for the environment. The events build connections between families, schools, and the broader community.


Burbank Unified Administrators Discuss Need For More Funding, Successful Arts Programs

Burbank Unified Superintendent Matt Hill and Arts & CTE Coordinator Peggy Flynn were the featured speakers at the Fall 2019 Burbank Arts For All Foundation Community Exchange. They spoke about the need for additional funding to retain programs the district has supported in recent years, and highlighted the growth of music, digital media and drama/musical theater programs at three schools.

Hosted by L.A. Castle Studios, the event was attended by teachers, principals and school district officials, along with parents, members of the local community, business owners and board members of the Burbank Arts For All Foundation.

Burbank Arts For All Foundation held the Fall 2019 Community Exchange to highlight financial challenges faced by Burbank Unified School District and arts-related programs that have grown at the school in the past decade. (Photo By Ross Benson)

The focus of the Community Exchange was the need for increased funding for the Burbank Unified School District, which needs to cut $1 – 3 million dollars annually for the foreseeable future, due to rising pension, benefits and other costs.

Burbank Unified cut several administrative positions at the district office and at some of the schools, in an attempt to meet the 2019-20 budget $3 million dollar shortfall. The elementary school music program, which had been on the chopping block, was saved for the current school year by donations raised in large part by the Burbank Arts For All Foundation and local business partners.

Hill decried the lack of funding per pupil from the State of California, noting that California spends half the amount many states, such as New Jersey, spend per pupil. California will pay local school districts $11,993 per student for 2019-20, ranking 41st in spending per pupil out of 50 states.

Burbank Unified Superintendent Matt Hill talks about school funding crisis at the Burbank Arts For All Foundation Community Exchange. (Photo By Ross Benson)

The solution to the budget shortfall as Hill and many BUSD officials see it, is a March 2020 parcel tax initiative that aims to raise approximately $9 million dollars annually if passed.

A parcel tax on the November 2018 ballot failed to pass by less than 1000 votes and Hill believes more voters in Burbank can be convinced to support the March 2020 measure which includes a 12-year sunset clause and options for those over 65 to opt out of paying the additional tax.

Hill said the average cost for homeowners in Burbank would amount to $14/per month, if the parcel tax passes in March.

Hill emphasized he is willing to talk to anyone about the reasons for the parcel tax and encouraged attendees and community members to ask questions and discuss the parcel tax initiative often in the coming weeks.

Flynn highlighted three programs that have been nurtured and developed over the past decade: the music program at Providencia Elementary, the digital media program at John Muir Middle School and the drama and musical theater program at John Burroughs High School.

Burbank Unified Arts & CTE Coordinator Peggy Flynn talks about successful music, digital media and theater programs at BUSD schools. (Photo By Ross Benson)

She also noted that in the past decade, the Burbank Board of Education’s support and funding of arts program increased from 1% of the budget to 5%.

Providencia Elementary was able to partner with Education Through Music – Los Angeles to bring an in-school and after school orchestra program to every fourth- and fifth-grader at the school, while expanding the weekly regular music classes to include more grades at the school. Typically, BUSD has supported a weekly music class for grades 2-5 at its elementary schools, and only a few schools have a string orchestra program.

“It’s a beacon of our school,” commented Providencia Principal Jen Culbertson, who highlighted that student excitement for participating in the string orchestra and learning to play a violin, viola or cello was extremely high.

Muir’s digital media program started with one class period and has grown to have its own dedicated teacher and an ongoing mentoring partnership with Nickelodeon Animation Studio. Currently, all three Burbank Unified middle schools have digital media programs with dedicated teachers.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

Muir Principal Greg Miller talked about the growth of the program and noted the three middle schools get together annually for a Tri-School Film Festival at which the students share their films.

Burroughs’ drama and musical theater program has grown as well, from a few class periods daily to support a full day of classes including Drama 1, Drama 2, Play Production and Musical Theater. Flynn noted that Warner Bros. was an early and strong supporter of the program as it grew and changed when teacher Guy Myers took over the drama program several years ago.

Myers, who is the 2019 Burbank Teacher of the Year, spoke about the positive impact participating in drama and musical theater has had on his students, reading some of their poignant comments aloud for the audience.

“I can’t think of a single reason to be open about who you are in high school. It must seem a bit of a played-out trope, hating high school. But it’s a trope I’m guilty of,” wrote one of Myers’ students. “I felt I had to put on an armor every day to get through the day. The armor held all the parts of me that made me individual.”

“I don’t know how Mr. Myers did it. He created a space freeing in a place that is anything but. He nurtured creativity, honesty, self-expression of his students in his classes. He created a space where young people felt safe to try out who they were for an hour of the day. My education comes from the experience of being open in the sight of others.”

(Photo By Ross Benson)

The program concluded with Foundation Community Outreach Chair Brenda Etterbeek and Arts Advocacy Leaders Jennie Ford and Erin Clendenin discussing effective ways for parents to get involved at their respective school sites, by engaging with the school’s PTA, Principal and School Site Council.

A video recording of the 2019 Community Exchange is available for viewing via the Burbank Arts For All Foundation’s Facebook page here.

More information on how California’s education system works and is funded can be found on the Ed 100 site. Hill encouraged all Burbank community members to visit the website to learn more.


Burbank High Welcomes Dr. Tom Crowther to Top Job

Burbank High School’s new principal, Dr. Thomas Crowther, former Principal of Toll Middle School in Glendale, is ready to take the helm.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

As a former Burbank High School Assistant Principal, it was always a passion of his to return to Burbank High School, so when the opportunity presented itself he readily applied for the position. His children currently attend Burbank schools and he is also happy that they will have the same schedule as the rest of his family. He is also a product of the Burbank school system.

As a previous classroom teacher for ten years and working in school administration for nine years, Dr. Crowther is more than qualified to be Burbank High’s Principal. He said the biggest initial challenge he has at Burbank High School is getting to know the faces of 2500+ students as well as the 100+ staff and faculty and to form a more cohesive family atmosphere.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Burbank High School just underwent a WASC Accreditation process and received amazing test results which are very exciting news. He is proud of the caliber of the Burbank High teaching staff and administrators and looks forward to working closely with them.

When asked of the growing concern about drugs and vaping, Dr. Crowther said he plans to meet with all authorities concerned to eliminate misinformation and educate parents and students of the legitimate dangers of vape products to curb or reduce usage. “We will work with BPD School Resource Officer Dustin Rodriguez, the District Office, the Director of Student Services, faculty and staff to develop consistent messaging and consequences when students make bad decisions, as well as getting support for those already hooked who want to stop but don’t know how to.”

In a perfect world, social media and cell phones would have their place and not occupy the majority of students free time although he understands how difficult that would be. Addiction is not too strong a word for this usage. Also, students should know that once you put it out there on social media it remains there forever.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Burbank High School has an excellent sports record and Dr. Crowther, being a big sports fan, expressed the importance of being visible and supportive of the school’s sports programs.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

He was pleased to note that we are already competing for CIF every year. He was also pleased to note that Steven Hubbell (Assistant Principal, Athletics & Activities) is supporting their hard-working coaches. Bruce Breeden and Patrick McMenamin (The Schools Athletic Directors) are also working to support the students

Dr. Crowther expressed the importance of every student making the most of their time at Burbank High School, making every day count, and leaving with a goal, understanding that there is a whole world at their fingertips.

Disney Fêtes Burbank Arts For All Foundation Supporters

The Walt Disney Studios hosted a celebratory event on Thursday, July 11, for donors, sponsors, partners, board members and city and school officials who supported the Burbank Arts For All Foundation’s Give Instead Gala. The Give Instead Gala, held from April 12 through May 10, raised funds for the Foundation’s efforts to support arts education in Burbank public schools.

Approximately 150 people attended the summer fête on the Disney studios lot in Burbank. Joan McCarthy, Director, Enterprise Community Engagement for The Walt Disney Company, welcomed the attendees to the evening event, which also included a silent auction.

burbank arts for all foundation

Burbank Arts For All Foundation supporters celebrate the success of the Give Instead Gala 2019: (from left to right) Suzanne Weerts, Kevin McCarney, Karen Volpei-Gussow, Lili Rossi, Freddy Jarjour, Joan McCarthy, Alexandra Helfrich, Barbara Beckley, Jill Vander Borght, Tom Vice, Carrie Brown, Bob Mohler, Brenda Etterbeek, Trena Pitchford, Cathy Stevens. (Photo By Ross Benson)

“The Foundation is very grateful to The Walt Disney Company for hosting this celebratory evening,” commented Burbank Arts For All Foundation Executive Director Trena Pitchford. “We are also extremely grateful to the community of Burbank for believing in the Foundation’s work, investing in our mission and volunteering to join us in support BUSD’s Arts for All plan.”

“All funds raised from our Give Instead Gala will be put to work through our Fall grant cycle and community outreach efforts in the 2019-2020 school year!” she added. “Everyone is invited to become involved.”

Tom Vice and Jill Vander Borght, co-chairs of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, also spoke at the event.

“Because of your donations to the Give Instead Gala, we are looking forward to providing even more funding for arts education programs through our upcoming Fall Grant Cycle,” Vice said as he addressed the crowd. “We will continue to support teachers who need critical supplies or to help mitigate any additional cuts to current arts education programs at the school site level.”

“The Foundation will also continue our community outreach programs and advocacy work. These programs help parents as they learn how to be solution partners and advocates at their school site,” he said. “We also inform and engage the community about the critical needs facing public education right here in Burbank today.”

burbank arts for all foundation

The Walt Disney Company’s Director, Enterprise Community Engagement, Joan McCarthy welcomes Burbank Arts For All Foundation’s Give Instead Gala supporters to a celebration on the studio lot in Burbank. (Photo By Ross Benson)

“The Give Instead Gala was a new way to allow the Foundation to respond to BUSD’s increased need for funding and advocacy support,” commented Vander Borght. “We greatly appreciate everyone’s support in giving to this campaign.”

“We especially want to thank our Presenting [and] Premiere Sponsors: The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, NBCUniversal, along with the many other sponsors and donors who are here with us tonight,” she added.

The Give Instead Gala was a new concept for 2019 to replace the Foundation’s annual fundraising event, which had a lot of overhead and systemic expenses. Instead of throwing a costly party and in order to give more money to programs in the Burbank Unified School District, the Foundation asked for direct donations for their campaign and marshalled an army of supporters to spread the word.

While the Give Instead Gala grossed more than $155,000 this year and the Foundation’s Party on the Plaza events grossed over $200,000 in previous years, the Foundation sees the direct donation approach as the more effective.

Although she didn’t answer a query about the actual financial net gain from each event, Pitchford responded, “because we were able to save on our expenses, we have been able to net more [via the Give Instead Gala] and those funds will be put to work this next school year through our grant giving and community outreach programs.”

The Disney-hosted celebration Thursday evening was dotted with poster boards detailing some of the recent projects and programs the Burbank Arts For All Foundation has supported through its semi-annual grant cycle.

“Art in school has the power to change a child’s life and in changing a child’s life we will change the world,” added Vice. “The Foundation believes the arts transform the lives of our students, not just those who elect to study music or theater, but also students who study science or history, those for whom English is a second language and those students who learn best with alternative structures.”

“On this celebratory evening, we honor the ecosystem of parents, civic and community leaders, corporations and small business owners, who believe in our work and join with us to support creativity and innovation in Burbank’s local public schools,” Pitchford said to the audience.

She outlined some of the upcoming Burbank Arts For All Foundation efforts, including the Fall grant application deadline of September 16 and the Autumn Community Exchange. The Community Exchange is a free event the Foundation puts on twice a year and “provide[s] critical updates, round table discussions and ideas to support our local educators and students.”

More information on the Burbank Arts For All Foundation and their mission to support arts education in Burbank public schools can be found online here.


City Launches Campaign On Youth Vaping

Society is battling many social problems that have become front and center such as the homeless problem and the battle that many have with opioids. Both are important issues but a large issue floating under the radar is teenage vaping and the use of e-cigarettes.

Photo by ShutterStock

Last week, Burbank officials started their campaign to educate and hopefully stem the use of e-cigarettes and vaping among our younger population.  The campaign is a result of a grant that the Community Development Department in the City of Burbank received in 2018. The Building & Safety division oversees administration of the grant.

According to Carol-Ann Coates, Building Administration Manager for the City of Burbank, “The California Department of Justice awarded the City the $104,335 grant in 2018 to support the City’s efforts toward combating the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors. The City applied for this grant because it aligns with goals to educate the community on the dangers of tobacco use by youth and to combat the illegal sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to minors.”

“The City has several program initiatives that will be carried out.  During the two-year term of the grant, the Police Department (PD) will conduct two Shoulder Tap and two Decoy operations.”

Burbank Police Sergeant Derek Green said that the department will be overseeing the decoy operation.

“New laws are focused more on cracking down on retailers selling/furnishing tobacco to people under 21, in hopes of stopping at the source the growing epidemic of tobacco use by our youth,” explained Green. “Anyone who furnishes a minor/person under 21 with tobacco products could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor in addition to other penalties.”

“Vaping and the use of nicotine falls under new tobacco laws effective in 2016, which raises the age to 21 to purchase tobacco products, including vaping cartridges. The only exception is active U.S. Military, which is 18 years of age,” according to Green.

Vaping or -cigarettes take on so many different looks

While selling the products to anyone under 21 has severe consequences for retailers, there is not much teeth for the police when it comes to possession of e-cigarettes, vapers, cartridges or just lighters and regular cigarettes. Police officers have their hands tied to a point about enforcement.

When asked if a police officer can confiscate any items from a minor if they are in possession, Green stated, “Mere possession of a vaping device (without cartridge) is not illegal. Tobacco products in possession of a minor could be confiscated by officers as evidence, depending on the circumstances.”

It would be up to the City to come up with an ordinance to assist police.

Beverly Hills is trying to stem the problem by outright banning all tobacco products, not just those in possession of minors. This does not mean minors can not possess products or smoking is illegal by adults but it makes it harder to get tobacco products unless they drive to a different city.

Burbank City Councilmember Jess Talamantes is a strong supporter of limiting Burbank’s youth from vaping and smoking in general. “The state has recognized that there is a problem, by first classifying e-cigarettes as tobacco products and than raising the legal age to 21, they are on the right track.”

“The Beverly Hills city council went one step further by banning the sale of almost all tobacco products within city limits. At this point, I’m not certain that a total ban is right for Burbank, but I would like to meet with our City Attorney, Police Chief, Chamber of Commerce and PTA Council to identify the potential benefits and pitfalls of such an ordinance for Burbank.”

Of course he also recognizes that you can draft all the laws and ordinances that you want, but then they will need to be enforced, which will take additional manpower and resources.

“Let’s not forget a vital aspect of the existing laws and any future ordinances In Burbank, is enforcement! I have no doubt that Burbank P.D. is ready to enforce the laws already in place and any potential ordinance in the future, but we have to make sure the PD staffing levels will allow for it,” Talamantes added. “After all, as the Beverly Hills city council said ‘that any potential revenue lost by local businesses is outweighed by the public health benefits.'”

There is already an ordinance in Burbank banning any type of smoking, including vaping, in the Burbank Downtown area. Police are responsible for enforcement.

“Under Business & Professions Codes, vaping falls under California’s Smoke Free Laws and makes vaping illegal anywhere that smoking is prohibited. Under our local smoking ordinances in Burbank (e.g., Downtown Burbank no-smoking), vaping would be prohibited as well,” according to Green.

According to Coates, another part of the grant allowed the City and Burbank Police Department to work together on an educational campaign, “Our Police Department and our Public Information Office (PIO) recently released an educational video on social media targeted to youth and retailers on the dangers and illegality of purchasing e-cigarettes. Community Development is working with PD and PIO on outreach and licensing of tobacco retailers. The City Attorney Office provides legal support as necessary.”

In the video, Know the Risks – E-Cigarettes & Youth, which features Green discussing e-cigarettes and vaping, he states that according to the National Youth Tobacco survey in 2018 tobacco use is up 78% among high school students. He also said that 21% of high school students are using e-cigarettes regularly as well as 5% of middle school students.  No mention was made of elementary students but no doubt as younger kids see their older siblings using vapers, they will follow.

With one vape pod equaling the same amount on nicotine as a pack of traditional cigarettes, it is important to not only work on enforcement, but on the education.

Dr. Matt Hill, Superintendent Burbank Unified School District, is also quite concerned about this epidemic overtaking the youth of this country, “The BUSD takes this epidemic seriously. We are working closely with students, parents, the City, BPD, and the community to educate individuals about the harms of vaping. We all need to work together to protect our youth. On July 18, 2019, the BUSD will be discussing this topic at their Board meeting.”

They can not just come out with a blanket uniform education or enforcement because students range from 5 to 19 years old so many factors need to be taken into consideration. When it comes to discipline, Dr. Hill reiterated, “Regarding discipline  – it depends on the situation (possessing, using, how many times, etc.) The discipline can range from suspension, to in school suspension, Saturday school, parent conference, etc.”

Obtaining the grant the City is using is only a first step to helping parents in this fight.

It is up to parents to monitor their kids. Vaping is not only done by fringe students, but some of the best and smartest. By having so many flavors available, it has become a social thing for kids to try different flavors and share with their friends. Vaping instruments have also been designed to sometimes look like computer jump drives and other routine items.

Parents need to be on the lookout not only for these devices, but also their children’s spending habits. Some of these cartridges can run $30 and $40 dollars each besides the delivery system, the e-cigarette, which can also be expensive.

It is going to be up to the Burbank City Council down the line when it comes to the laws and how they will be enforced. At this point most of the laws only really apply to the retailer or supplier of the tobacco products and not the user, no matter the age. While the grant was a great first step, “one of the program initiatives is to evaluate our existing regulations and policies. The results of that study will be presented to Council in the future. The subject of smoking and vaping by minors is a concern to the City,” said Coates.

Talamantes put it best when he said, “The health and well-being of Burbank residents and more importantly our youth, is a priority for this Councilmember!”

_________     ____________     ___________

Editor’s Notes:
Here is a link to the tobacco law amendment voted in during 2016.

Here is the video produced by the City and the Burbank Police Department. PLEASE watch it, watch it twice, talk to your kids. This will only get worse unless everyone takes a stance to make it better!

Burbank Unified Kicks Off Budget Cuts Awareness Campaign

The Burbank Unified School District kicked off an awareness campaign on Saturday, April 27, about current budget cuts the District faces. Volunteers showed up at Burbank High School in the morning to pick up stacks of informational flyers, with the goal to deliver one to every household in Burbank.

Most flyers were handed out or left at residences throughout the city last weekend, with the rest of the flyers being distributed this coming weekend, May 4-5.

BUSD faces a 3.5 million dollar structural deficit for the 2019-20 school year. Officials have been working to address the problem for the upcoming budget, which meant eliminating and reducing a few positions, along with other cuts.

“We are not receiving enough revenue to cover rising costs (utilities, retirement, healthcare),” Burbank Unified Superintendent Matt Hill explained. “Also, we were not collecting enough fees to cover the rising cost of Horace Mann (part of our budget balancing solution is to raise fees at Horace Mann.)”

(Photo By Ross Benson)

This structural deficit looks to continue indefinitely.

“It is going to increase as we try to keep up with Cost of Living increases and the State is pushing more pension costs down on us,” continued Hill. “We are forecasting that we will need to cut $2-3 million per year if we want to give any sort of Cost of Living Adjustment to our employees.”

Burbank Unified’s budget awareness campaign aims to explain this situation to City and community stakeholders. People can learn about California’s education system and how its schools are funded at this link.

Despite having the fifth-largest economy in the world, California ranks in the bottom 10 states for per pupil funding. The California School Boards Association has set up a website at this link for more information on ways California could increase per pupil funding.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

After adjusting for inflation, public schools in California are receiving the same amount of funds per student that they were getting in 2008 before the recession.

Burbank Unified officials have been advocating for increased State funding for education.

“We have been meeting with elected officials to discuss our needs,” said Hill. “We will also join the California School Board Association and California Teacher Association when they meet with elected officials in Sacramento and have a joint rally on May 22.”

While every Burbank public school has received a California Distinguished School award, the rising costs are forcing the District to make cuts in order to comply with the directive for a balanced budget. Concern is mounting over the effect these cuts will have on the quality of Burbank public school education.

Burbank Unified Superintendent of Schools Matt Hill speaks to BUSD budget awareness attendees. (Photo By Ross Benson)

Burbank Unified officials note that one-time funds are not a fix for their ongoing budget problems. They see a parcel tax measure as the only way to get needed ongoing funds for the Burbank school district.

From the BUSD budget awareness flyer: “While the State of California continues to look for ways to get more money to schools that will get us to 2019 levels, the only way the school district can get needed ongoing funds is through a local measure for neighborhood schools. The City of Burbank is a supportive partner to the Burbank Unified School District. However, our schools are not funded by the City of Burbank. We do not receive any of the sales tax revenue the city collects. 100% of the funds collected through a local measure would go directly to the Burbank Unified School District. These funds will significantly reduce the burden to the school district and allow BUSD to keep providing equity and excellence for our students.”

State Senator Anthony Portantino talks with the crowd at the Burbank Unified budget awareness rally. (Photo By Ross Benson)

School officials are currently polling the community and school stakeholders via phone call and email about the idea of another parcel tax measure for the 2020 ballot. The most recent parcel tax, Measure QS, narrowly failed to pass the required 2/3 approval.

Hill encourages people to contact him with questions at MattHill@BurbankUSD.org.

Whether the 2019-20 State budget will boost spending per pupil in public schools is not yet clear.

The Governor releases his revisions to the State budget on May 10 and then the California State Legislature has until June 15 to submit a final budget to the Governor.

People may wish to contact their State representatives Anthony Portantino, Laura Friedman and Robert Hertzberg, in addition to Governor Gavin Newsom, to advocate for increased per pupil funding for public schools.

More information on California’s public education spending can be found on this webpage authored by the California Budget and Policy Center.

More information on the Burbank Unified School District budget can be found here.

“Give Instead Gala” Kicks Off Fundraising Efforts For Burbank Public Schools

The Burbank Arts For All Foundation kicks off the Give Instead Gala, a month-long campaign to raise funds to support Burbank Unified School District’s arts programs, on Friday, April 12.

While the Foundation’s annual Party on the Plaza spring gala has earned a reputation as a stylish and entertaining evening to raise funds, its costly overhead takes a big bite out of donations and sponsorships for the event, reducing the amount the Foundation is able to donate to BUSD.

Image Courtesy Burbank Arts For All Foundation

In order to boost the amount of funding they can provide Burbank Unified in the face of the district’s mounting financial need, Burbank Arts For All Foundation has put forth the “black tie optional, pajamas preferred” month-long fundraising effort, calling it the Give Instead Gala.

“On behalf of our Board of Directors and staff, Burbank Arts for All Foundation is excited to engage the community in support of our mission to further creativity in the classroom for all of BUSD’s students,” commented Board of Directors Co-Chairs, Jill Vander Borght and Tom Vice. “With so many increased funding needs in the local schools, we could not justify spending money on our fancy night out this year.”

In February, we were thrilled to grant $100,000 to help save an elementary music teacher, but we know there is more work to do,” they added. “Help the Foundation to spend less this gala season, so we can give more throughout 2019. We invite the community to join us, to link arms and to give in support of the arts.”

Burbank Arts For ALl Foundation Donates $100,000 to help save a Burbank Unified elementary music teacher’s job. Pictured: Burbank Unified School District Board of Education Clerk Steve Frintner, Burbank Unified School District Board of Education member Charlene Tabet, Burbank Unified School District Board of Education President Dr. Roberta Reynolds, Superintendent Dr. Matt Hill, Jill Vander Borght and Tom Vice (Co-Chairs, Board of Directors of Burbank Arts for All Foundation), Foundation Executive Director Trena Pitchford and members of the Burbank Arts for All Foundation Board of Directors: Brenda Etterbeek, Bob Mohler, Joan McCarthy, Lili Rossi, Cathy Stevens, Suzanne Weerts, Barbara Beckley, Caroline Solberg, Art St. Germain. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

The Give Instead Gala campaign suggests those who would usually spend money on tickets (which were typically $150 each), donations and sponsorships for the Party on the Plaza event, instead spend that amount in a direct donation to the Burbank Arts For All Foundation.

The campaign also suggests individuals or organizations could host a fundraising gathering on their own, create and promote a fundraising team online or make bids on the online auction which begins Friday, April 26. Items available for the online auction can be found here.

“We invite all of Burbank and those who care about Burbank students to become involved,” commented Foundation Executive Director Trena Pitchford. “With so much need, the Foundation wants to increase our impact, making it possible for even more students to experience the joy, creativity, and confidence that comes from learning through the arts!”

Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Matt Hill, Burbank Board of Education President Dr. Roberta Reynolds, Burbank Arts for All Foundation Co-Chairs Jill Vander Borght and Tom Vice during an announcement that they are donating $100,000 to aid the elementary school music program. ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

“We are counting on the more than 400 of Burbank’s local business and entertainment industry leaders, School District and City officials, celebrities, local arts supporters and educators who would normally attend our Party for the Arts gala, to get creative, party in your pajamas and share why you support the arts!” she added.

All proceeds from the Give Instead Gala benefits the Burbank Arts for All Foundation. Over the past 12 years, the Foundation has been able to fund 298 grants totaling more than $662,000 for BUSD arts education programs.

The Burbank Arts For All Foundation also hosts regular community engagement exchanges and forums to boost parent involvement and support student growth in the arts and arts-related careers, including the popular Creative Circles forum. The most recent Creative Circles Forum was held in October 2018 and experts talked about “The Art of Stagecraft.”

Panelists KayDee Lavorin Friel (two-time Emmy nominated set decorator), Jim Bissell (award-winning art director and production designer), Karen Broderick (Stage Craft Technology teacher at Burbank High School), Lily LaRocco (Vice President of Technical Services for Warner Bros. Studio Facilities) and Tim Pipher (producer and owner of L.A. Castle Studios) sat on a green screen set for “The Art of Stagecraft” educational Creative Circles forum presented by the Burbank Arts For All Foundation. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

Current Give Instead Gala sponsors include The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, NBCUniversal, Nickelodeon, Logix Federal Credit Union, Providence Saint Joseph, FotoKem, House America Financial, and Woodbury University.

The Give Instead Gala is co-chaired by Joan McCarthy (The Walt Disney Company), Karen Volpei (Volpei-Gussow Real Estate), Carrie Brown ( The Walt Disney Company), Writer/Producer Suzanne Weerts and Cathy Stevens {Real Value Properties, Inc.)

More information on the Give Instead Gala can be found on the Foundation’s website here. Digital advertising and other sponsorship opportunities are available, with more information on the fundraising announcement and effort found here.

The Give Instead Gala runs through Friday, May 10.

Burbank Unified Students Attend Private “Shazam!” Screening

Seven hundred students with improved or perfect attendance from Burbank Unified School District’s John Burroughs High, Burbank High, Monterey High, the Independent Learning Academy, FACTS Program, Jordan Middle School, John Muir Middle School and Luther Middle School attended a private screening of the recently-released Shazam! movie as guests of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Another 100 BUSD administrators and teachers also joined the students to watch the movie, which ended up in first place at the box office with a reported opening weekend take of $53.5 million.


(Photo By Ross Benson)

Students received congratulatory letters and emails with an invitation to the Saturday, April 6, early morning screening at the AMC Burbank 16 theaters. Warner Bros. booked two large theaters at the complex and provided refreshments and a DC Shazam! comic book for everyone.

Mary Elizabeth Michaels, Director of Community Affairs for Warner Bros. and Tom DiMascio, DC Entertainment Director of Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management, Special Events and Logistics were on hand to usher and congratulate the students.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

Warner Bros. Entertainment has long been a partner with the Burbank Unified School District, supporting programs and projects at various school sites and district-wide for many years.

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Assessment Sharon Cuseo suggested the reward of a movie screening in August 2018. Cuseo and Instructional Technology Coordinator Bob Martin compiled the list of qualifying students.

Michaels, DiMascio and Vice President of Community Engagement Sally Chan worked with Cuseo, Martin and BUSD Arts & CTE Coordinator Peggy Flynn on invitations and event logistics.

“Research shows that by ninth grade, regular and high attendance is a better predictor of graduation rates than eighth grade test scores,” said Cuseo. “We are so fortunate to have engaged, committed partners like Warner Bros. who share in our work to provide the best possible foundations for our community’s young people.”

Increasing daily attendance rates has been an ongoing goal of the District, as well as the California Department of Education (CDE.) Research has shown that regular attendance correlates to improved student achievement.

School and district reported average daily attendance is used by CDE to determine annual funding for California public schools. Recently, the CDE launched a new grant program to provide more funding to districts showing improvement in chronic absenteeism.

“We are thrilled that Warner Bros. has provided this opportunity to celebrate our high school students who are making daily attendance a priority and we hope will be an inspiration for others who work to be invited to attend future events like this, “ said Cuseo.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

Burbank Business Leaders Try Out “Principal For A Day”

Members of the Burbank business community took a turn as “Principal for a Day,” spending the morning of Wednesday, January 30, at each of the three high schools, three middle schools, 11 elementary schools and Community Day School in the Burbank Unified School District.

BUSD partnered with Burbank Business Partners to revive the Principal for a Day program, which last occurred during the 1990s.

“The goal of the program today, as it was then, is to allow community leaders to better understand the educational accomplishments and challenges in our schools,” commented volunteer program coordinator and retired BUSD teacher Linda Walmsley.

“Creating opportunities for collaboration to enhance all aspects of how the school district serves the youth and the community as a whole can serve to strengthen the educational programs that support the development of productive citizens in Burbank.”

principal for a day

Principal Martha Walters from Bret Harte Elementary, Natalie Worsham of Logix Credit Union, Mary Ann Barroso-Castanon from IKEA, Principal Liz Costello of McKinley Elementary, Principal Matt Osmond from Roosevelt Elementary and Michael DeLeon of the Burbank Town Center mall (from left to right.) (Photo By Ross Benson)

Guest principals performed their duties at the school sites from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. All the participants then gathered at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library for a celebration luncheon, provided by Whole Foods and hosted by Superintendent Dr. Matt Hill and the Board of Education.

“The event was better than I could have imagined,” added Walmsley. “I was touched by the energy that each participant had for the time they were at the school sites.”

“The fact that everyone saw that the BUSD has quality programs and staff that work tirelessly to serve the children of Burbank supports the goal of the event to involve community leaders in solving financial problems that face the district and in supporting the continued excellence our schools have always had.”

“I have had lots of feedback from the participants,” Walmsley added. “Most have thanked me and have indicated that they want to become partners with the school they visited or with the district as a whole.

Burbank Superintendent Matt Hill addresses the Principals and Principals for a Day during lunch. ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

“Spending the morning with Principal Molly Hwang and her amazing team over at Walt Disney Elementary School was an absolute delight,” commented Anita Hutchinson, Chief Marketing Officer at UMe Credit Union. “They have a culture of joy and kindness and inclusion that shined through in all my interactions with both the staff and students alike.”

“One of my favorite take-aways was when one of the students explained their use of ‘I respectfully disagree’ when having a difference of opinion on something. What a beautiful way to teach our youth about how to have a conversation that might otherwise be difficult or negative. We can all learn to ‘respectfully disagree’ with one another.”

“Furthermore, I have made a personal pledge to get involved with Disney Elementary as a chaperone on field trips or when they need community members to come assist with reading to classes, etc.,” Hutchinson added.

Natalie Worsham of Logix Credit Union who was Principal of the Day at Bret Harte tells of her experience. ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

“The visit to Emerson was absolutely illuminating,” said Kevin McCarney, founder and President of Poquito Mas. “I was so impressed by the commitment to communication techniques for our youngest students.”

“Hats off to Jennifer [Kaitz, Principal], and her team for creating a culture of cooperation that will last a lifetime,” he also said. “I believe that when you see the work being done at the schools you have to walk away with a sense of ‘how can I help.’ Truly remarkable achievements. I can’t wait to go back.”

“My time at Burroughs was absolutely fantastic!” commented Carol Granados, Director of Hospitality Services at Providence St Joseph Medical Center. “[Principal] Deborah Madrigal shared her amazing vision for education and showed me the wonderful programs that have been developed to encourage growth of students in the arts, technology and so many other fields.”

Emerson Elementary Principal Jennifer Kaitz introduces Principal for a Day Kevin McCarney, founder and President of Poquito Mas. (Photo By Ross Benson)

“The students were so respectful and engaged, truly wanting to be there to learn. I walked away so inspired by the work that is being done at this great school and look forward to my next opportunity to interact with Burbank school district.”

Leo Divinsky, Asset Manager for Worthe Real Estate Group said he had “an incredible time” at John Muir Middle School.

“In a short span of time, I was able to help kickoff a tri-school basketball tournament, witness children learning engineering and programming, performances from the show choir and music classes, exposure to a class focused on Japanese culture, a Shakespearean rehearsal, a meeting with the student body president and an opportunity to judge a pizza making contest.”

“I was extremely impressed by [Principal] Dr. Miller’s focus on continual improvement, a passionate faculty member in each class I visited along with a student body that looked both happy and engaged,” Divinsky added. “Furthermore, the use of vocabulary words on the back of P.E. uniforms and a collection of murals coupled with inspirational quotes from important historical figures bound at each end of a hall by a mural of young John Muir looking at an older version of himself at the opposite end was extremely innovative.”

Anita Hutchinson from UMe Credit Union talks about her experiences as Principal for a Day at Disney Elementary. ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

“I also enjoyed seeing numerous murals of John Muir’s travels that beautify the campus along with an incredible outdoor classroom. I have always heard great things about Burbank schools, but my experience at John Muir exceeded all expectations. It was a great way to see the nexus of great teachers, innovative facilities and bright young minds at one of Burbank’s finest academic institutions.”

“My morning at Edison Elementary was a wonderful and eye opening experience,” commented Dave Aebersold, Store Team Leader at Whole Foods Market Burbank. “The hospitality of Principal Laura Flosi, her staff and student body was heartwarming.”

“I was given my personal parking space and welcomed to the school by the Edison Student Body Presidents. I was so impressed by their maturity, enthusiasm and passion for their school.  I was also impressed how respectful the entire student body was and how they were all so engaged in the class room with their teachers.”

Talking about being Principals for a day are Anita Hutchinson UME Credit Union, Principal Molly Hwang of Disney Elementary, Judy Hession and Vicki Fenton of Nickelodeon (from left to right._ ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

“My biggest take-away and enlightenment was how Laura’s job as a principal is very much like mine running a business,” Aebersold also said. “From being creative to make ends meet with such little support from the State, motivating and mentoring her wonderful staff, overseeing nearly 600 students and dealing with the parents of those students is an amazing feat that Laura clearly does extremely well. I was very honored to be a part of this day and hope to participate in the future.”

Lily LaRocco, VP of Technical Services at Warner Bros. Studio Facilities took some time to reflect on her experience at Monterey High School and Magnolia Park High School, two schools on the same site.

“I learned that Monterey is a second chance for most of the students and Magnolia Park is for troubled teens who suffer with depression, anxiety and other issues,” LaRocco explained. “I so enjoyed meeting the school Principal Ann Brooks, and the Assistant Principal David Guyer. They welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to speak to all of the individual classrooms.”

“I walked around to maybe 11 classrooms and told my story which was similar to what these kids are going through, but I was able to share my success,” she continued. “I felt I was able to connect, identify and reach some of the students.”

Burbank Superintendent Matt Hill addresses the Principals and Principals for a Day during lunch. ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

“As I toured the campus I was very impressed with how clean, organized, welcoming and nurturing this school was. The teachers are fantastic with the kids. I noticed a lot of productivity in each classroom.”

“There were some really great programs like a preschool on campus where some of the teen moms have children attending. I also noticed that they had a class which teaches them life skills. This is essential because most of these kids are probably not considering college, they’re going to go right out into the workforce.”

“It was awesome to see that they teach yoga classes and have a nice garden on campus. I also got to see the students working on calligraphy in art class. I found this really interesting, and the students were really good at it.”

“Overall this was such a rewarding experience and I’m very honored to be a part of ‘Principal for a Day.'” LaRocco added. “I certainly hope programs like this continue, and I will do my best to give back to the Burbank school community and spread the word to other industry professionals, so together we can make a difference.”