Tag Archives: Burbank Unified School District

“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.”

Voters Approve Measure P, Measure QS Fails by Less Than 5 Percent

Burbank voters took to the polls on Tuesday with just two local issues on the line: a sales tax increase to help Burbank City services and a school parcel tax that would allow schools to keep some programs.

Measure P, which was named Burbank Infrastructure And Community Services Protection on the ballot would approve an ordinance establishing a 3/4¢ sales tax providing approximately $20,000,000 annually until ended by voters.

It passed by slightly over 60% with 16,039 votes with only 10, 685 opposed.

Measure P will increase the General Fund’s sales tax percentage share from 1.00% to 1.75%, which would use up the remaining sales tax potential of 0.75% and boost the local sales tax rate from 9.50% to the maximum 10.25%.

The General Fund’s sales tax revenues is estimated to increase by an estimated $20 million, from an estimated $34 million to $54 million. The City will use this additional $20 million to meet increased pension liability payments and to fund needed capital improvements within Burbank, including more street repaving.

The extra 0.75% in sales tax will take effect beginning April 1, 2019, and it will continue until ended by the voters. There’s no automatic sunset provision.

Measure QS which would have levied 10 cents per square foot of improved property annually, providing approximately $9,000,000 in annual local funding, actually was supported by a higher percentage than Measure P, but fell just short of its 65 % passage. Yes votes were 16,354, no 10,161, which gave the measure only 61.68%.

A press release was issued on Wednesday by the Burbank Unified School District:

Despite earning the support of almost 62% of voters in Tuesday’s election, Measure QS does not appear to be on track for passage as the County works to finalize its vote count over the next few weeks. Measure QS would have raised over $9 million a year to address the District’s structural deficit, recruit and retain employees, and maintain and expand supports for our students. 

While Measure QS did not attain the 66.7% threshold as required by law, we greatly appreciate the support of the nearly 62% of voters who were willing to increase their financial commitment to Burbank’s schools. This was by far the greatest demonstration of public support for Burbank’s schools that the District has ever seen with 16,354 votes and counting.

Over the next few months the District will be scheduling a series of listening sessions to solicit public feedback as the Board and District administration consider the cuts necessary to address the structural deficit of the District. Some of the areas that will be considered for reduction include professional development programs, campus administration and support personnel, elementary music, secondary arts, college and career programs, the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, and elementary physical education. 

While we know we face significant challenges ahead we remain committed to the fight for quality schools in Burbank. 

—The Burbank Board of Education and Superintendent Matt Hill 

Measure QS – A Complete Breakdown of the Measure for the Burbank Voter

Editor’s Note: Greg Simay worked for the City of Burbank for over 40 years and retired in 2009. He has written for myBurbank for a number of years as our Entertainment Reporter. He has a vast knowledge of the City of Burbank and its workings. We asked him to break down both the Measure P and Measure QS ballot measures on the November 6 ballot. – cs

In the upcoming November 6 election, the Board of Education of the Burbank Unified School District hopes voters will approve Measure QS, which would levy a qualified special tax on each parcel of taxable real property.  For each parcel, this annual “parcel tax” would be 10 cents per square foot of improvements.  To pass, Measure QS needs a two-thirds majority of the votes cast.

The parcel tax is expected to generate $9.0 million in annual revenues.  The additional funding would enable the District to maintain and improve the quality of education, eliminate a $2.5 million deficit, and provide a 3% increase in pay to its employees.

The parcel tax would be levied annually beginning November 1, 2019, and it would continue until ended by the voters.  There’s no automatic sunset provision.

Why does the District need $9.0 million in additional revenues?

In order to reduce its own share of pension expenses, the State of California has been, and continues to, unilaterally impose increasing pension liability payments upon California’s local school districts, including Burbank’s. 

  • Up through FY 2013-14, District employees paid 7% of their paycheck toward their retirement, the District chipped in 7% and the State of California took care of the rest.
  • Beginning in FY 2014-15, the State has been increasing the District’s percentage each year until it tops out at 20% in FY 2020-21, less than three years from now.
  • By then the District will be paying an extra $13.0 million per year compared to FY 2013-14 pension liability payments, before the yearly increases had begun.

Unlike the City of Burbank, the District has never had a legal option to forego its pension liability payments, even when the State’s pension funds were super funded.  And more importantly when it comes to understanding the why’s of Measure QS, the District can’t forego its pension obligations even when they are being raised without its input or consent.

So, pension payment increases have, of necessity, been factored into the three-year budget for FY 2018-19, FY 2019-20 and FY 2010-21. And without the estimated $9.0 million in revenues from Measure QS, these pension payments will continue come at the expense of important goals for both the District and the community it serves:

  • Retention of quality teachers and other District employees. Over the last three years, the District’s teacher salaries have been 45th out of 47 of unified school districts within Los Angeles County. Without Measure QS, the District can’t afford to give teachers and other District staff a cost-of-living raise.
  • Eliminating a structural deficit. In spite of not raising salaries, the District is still having to grapple with a $2.5 million structural deficit.  Injections of one-time funds have kept the deficit at bay so far.  But without Measure QS, the School Board would have to cut programs when they adopt the District’s next three-year budget in June of 2019.  On the chopping block: elementary school music programs, college and career courses, as well as reducing physical education instruction and professional development.
  • To improve or maintain quality schools, the District has either expanded successful programs or launched new education initiatives. But without Measure QS, that all stops. The District would be debating which programs to drop.

With the $9.0 million from measure QS, the District would:

  • Enable a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 3.0% for teachers and other District employees, starting in July of 2019. Cost: $3.6 million.
  • Permanently eliminate the structural deficit, thereby avoiding curtailments of existing programs. Cost: $2.5 million.
  • Implement several education initiatives that would preserve or expand the scope and quality of public school education. Cost: $2.9 million.

These education initiatives would include:

  • For kindergarten through third grade, maintain having only 24 students per class.
  • Expand a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program.
  • Provide additional supplies for Science, Technology, Engineering and mathematics (STEM) classes.
  • Increase mental health support programs
  • More funding to expand college and career programs, to increase arts education, and for more technology resources.

None of the funds would go for physical education and sports.  Parent booster groups would continue to shoulder the lion’s share of the funding.

Impacts of the parcel tax on the taxpayer, the District and the students.

The impacts of the parcel tax include those on the taxpayers, on the District and the students it serves.

Impacts on the taxpayer. 

There are zero impacts for those falling under either of two exemptions to the parcel tax:

  • Any parcel owned and occupied by a person 65 years or older would be exempt from the parcel tax. However, they would have to first submit some paperwork to the District. 
  • Any property otherwise exempt from ad valorem property taxes in a given tax year would also be exempt from the parcel tax in the same year. So, non-profits would be exempt.

Overall, residential parcels would provide about 35% of the $9.0 million; commercial property, about 48% and apartment building owners, about $17%.

  • For a single-family residence of 2,000 square feet, the parcel tax would add $200 yearly.
  • A commercial building owner with 50,000 taxable square feet would pay $5,000 yearly, which could be passed on to the commercial tenant as an increase in the monthly lease, depending on the terms of the lease agreement.
  • A major landlord owning 1,000 rental units, with an average of 1,200 taxable square feet per unit, would have 1,200,000 square feet subject to the parcel tax. At 10 cents per square foot, the tax liability would be $120,000 per year.

The example concerning rental units merits further discussion.  Each landlord would have to decide how much of the parcel tax to absorb, and how much to pass along to renters.  Note that Measure QS does not exempt senior citizen renters from increases due to the measure.

The values of rental properties depend importantly on the rates of return, which in turn depend on the extent to which rent revenues exceed expenses, both short-term and long-term.  If the landlord merely offsets the parcel tax with an increase in the monthly rents, it reduces the rate of return. To preserve a targeted rate of return, the rent increase must collect more than the parcel tax. 

For example, a 1,200 square foot apartment would represent a parcel tax liability of $120 per year, or $10 per month.  If the landlord chooses to protect a targeted rate of return of 10%, as well as to offset the parcel tax, then the renter of this apartment would pay $11 per month more, rather than $10 per month more.

As is often asserted, do the quality of Burbank schools and City services significantly boost property values?  For each of the 86 Los Angeles County communities surveyed, today’s residential real estate prices were compared to the previous, pre-Great Recession peak prices. (Note: the actual year of the previous peak varies slightly from community to community.)  Results: 30 communities are still below their previous peaks; nine have peaks up to 5% greater than their previous peaks; for 12, an increase of 5+% to 10%; and for 16, an increase of 10+% to 20%.

There were 19 communities whose current property values are more than 20% above their previous peaks.  With an increase of 26% over its pre-recession peak, Burbank is firmly within this last group.  It shares the spotlight with wealthy enclaves like Beverly Hills, San Marino, and South Pasadena; and with beach communities like Santa Monica and Hermosa Beach. 

Burbank is prosperous, but with a median income of around $66,000, it’s no Beverly Hills.  Nor would Pacific waves crash over Riverside Drive, even if all the ice were to melt.  That leaves the quality of schools and City services (with an assist from the housing/employment imbalance) as the likely driver of property values in Burbank.  While not necessarily relieving any cash flow challenges presented by property ownership, property appreciation does confer a long-term advantage that must be weighed against tax measures for purposes that tend to preserve that advantage.   

Impact on the District.  

As mentioned earlier, Measure QS would provide $9.0 million in additional revenue to the District, enabling it to provide a 3% cost-of-living pay increase, eliminate a structural deficit of $2.5 million (and that’s even if there were no pay increase), retain important educational programs, and launch others.

Along with the extra revenue would come requirements to ensure transparency and accountability to the public.   Under Measure QS the Board would have to:

  • Conduct annual, independent performance audits to assure that parcel tax proceeds are spent only for purposes authorized by the measure.
  • Appoint an independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee to further ensure that Measure QS proceeds are spent only as authorized in the measure.
  • Deposit parcel tax proceeds in a special account and conduct an annual independent financial audit.
  • Receive an annual written report that shows the amount of parcel tax funds collected and expended, as well as the status of projects funded by the parcel tax.

Arguably, Measure QS revenues could also be used to cover the impact of Measure QS spending on required reserve fund levels.  For example, if Measure QS leads to $8.0 million in additional expenditures, then at least 3% of this $8.0 million ($240,000) should be added to the reserve fund as a matter of prudence.  In this example, $760,000 of the revenues wouldn’t have been spent yet, and so would remain in a special District account.

Impact on the students.

Over 15,120 students are enrolled in the District, with priority given to Burbank residents, then backfilling as necessary with students of parents who work in Burbank, since State funding is based on seats filled. 

Preserving and expanding successful education programs (detailed earlier) would certainly benefit these students.  And to the degree it succeeds in retaining and attracting quality staff, the $3.6 million pay increase would arguably benefit students, if indirectly.

Evaluating Measure QS against alternative solutions

Measure QS is a response to less-than-adequate State funding especially in relation to the cost burdens it has been imposing on school districts statewide, especially when considering how it has greatly increased the pension funding burden at the school district level. The State, which accounts for about 95% of the District’s revenues, has only recently restored funding to the 2008 level, adjusted for inflation, but not adjusted for upping the District’s share of pension payments from 7% to 20%.  And note this: California used to be 5th in the nation in per-student funding; now it’s 41st.  

That being said, Measure QS is not the only possible alternative to addressing the District’s understandable budget concerns.  From most desirable to least desirable, there are three basic ways the BUSD can address this funding need:

  • Reduce costs in a manner that puts the District on a sound financial footing, but without taxes or reductions in the quality of education.
  • Increase revenues, such as by passing Measure QS.
  • Reduce costs by reducing the scope and quality of education programs, albeit by as little as possible and still remaining within state and federal standards.

These alternatives are discussed in reverse order, beginning with the least desirable alternative.

Cut costs by foregoing the pay increase or by cutting the scope and quality of education programs?

Recall that Measure QS funds are to be used to enable a cost-of-living a pay increase, to preserve and expand education programs, and to eliminate the $2.5 million deficit.

Should the District forego the pay increase?  If cost-of-living pay increases are delayed indefinitely, there’s the risk of losing quality teachers and other staff, to the detriment of the students.  This is especially true if the pay level is among the lowest in Los Angeles County, one of the highest cost-of-living areas in the country.  And the pay level for District’s employees is 45th out of 47 school districts within Los Angeles County.

But perhaps in times of budget crisis, there needs to be additional reasons for supporting a pay increase.  For example, teachers in neighboring Glendale have higher salaries, but they also have to handle larger classroom sizes as compared to Burbank.  Los Angeles teachers also have higher salaries, but many of them also have larger classroom sizes and face the challenge of teaching students from impoverished neighborhoods. 

So aside from market survey data, what might justify a COLA for Burbank teachers?

Two words:  quality schools. Every Burbank public school has received State recognition as a distinguished, Gold Ribbon school.  An estimated 6-to-11% of school aged Burbank children go to private schools; the low percentage is consistent with the excellent reputation, and performance, of Burbank’s public schools.  Achieving and maintaining high public regard not only requires a teacher with talent, but also a teacher with a willingness to devote many extra, uncompensated hours of going the extra mile in lesson preparation and professional development.  This level of dedication is needed from much of the support staff as well.

Arguably, then, COLAs at reasonable intervals make it easier for the District to retain the quality, dedicated employees it needs for continuing to have quality schools. 

Should the District forego expanding education programs?  At first blush, it appears that a significant percentage of Measure QS revenues would be used to increase the scope and quality of education programs. However, it’s been a truism in education that today’s enhancements often become tomorrow’s benchmarks for what constitutes a strong public school district.  The enviable reputation of the District today has come from embracing past education initiatives. 

A wider range of quality educational programs, besides benefitting students, is another factor besides pay that promotes retention of high-quality teachers who wish to grow professionally. 

Should the District cut education programs to eliminate the $2.5 million deficit?  Even if the District did not increase pay or expand programs, there would still loom the deficit, one that would require cutting programs in the absence of a revenue source. But a survey in March of this year confirmed what has been common knowledge:  Burbank citizens want its public schools to remain strong.  Education initiatives help the District to avoid a one-size-fits-all education experience, a failing that characterizes mediocre-and-worse school districts.

But for some, the issue is not putting the brakes on education initiatives. Rather it is whether the District has done a good enough job of fleshing out its education initiatives.  Do the initiatives require increased staffing? How much spending would be on supplies and equipment?   Some Measure QS proponents maintain that further fleshing out could take the initiative away from the citizens, which are intended by Measure QS to have an active role in program development.

Increase revenues by passing Measure QS and imposing a parcel tax?

Even in Burbank, there are a lot of people living paycheck-to-paycheck, with household budgets in worse shape than the District’s budget.   And a parcel tax is an arguably less desirable method of taxation than a bed tax or sales tax.  For example, one-third of the increased sales tax revenue from the City’s proposed Measure P would come from non-residents.  In contrast, over 1,300 students do not have parents living in Burbank, and these non-resident parents would not be subject to the parcel tax.

But by law, the District cannot raise the sales tax. A parcel tax is one of the few legal options available, though one requiring a higher level of voter approval (two-thirds) than a simple majority.  Proponents argue that the parcel tax, unlike revenue bonds, can be used to increase staffing or boost salaries, and that this is the best strategy for maintaining and improving the quality of education.

 A survey last March revealed that 58% of Burbank voters would “definitely” or “probably” vote for the parcel tax, as compared with the need for 67% of the voters to pass Measure QS. The survey also revealed that 29% would “definitely” not support the tax. That leaves 13% undecided, and most of those voters would need to be won over to provide the two-thirds majority for passage.

One argument in favor of the parcel tax is the assertion that it’s a local source of school funding that the State of California could not take away.  But others disagree, citing Sate actions (albeit decades ago) that took away local funding in an attempt to equalize per-pupil funding across economically unequal school districts.   They urge instead that the State be politically pressured into increasing school funding.  However, even after 10 years of investment, California is still ranked in the bottom 10 states in school funding.  It’s doubtful that the State would rescue California’s school districts any time soon.

There are also concerns whether or not the District budget as a whole is healthy enough for what may lie ahead: Even more State shifting of retirement funding responsibility to school districts? Boosting emergency reserves? Meeting future COLA increases? In this view, a measure that commits the District to implement additional educational programs may be premature, until the District’s budget is less vulnerable to various contingencies.  Proponents argue that Measure QS would address the most pressing budget problems, and there is no superior funding alternative on the horizon.

Can enough costs be cut in a manner that avoids imposing a parcel tax or cutting education programs?

Bear in mind that about 88% of the District’s budget is labor; only 12% is non-labor. Given that the District’s teachers are already among the least well-paid in Los Angeles County, and that the District wants to maintain smaller teacher-student ratios, cuts in compensation or staffing would be self-defeating, given that the public supports strong schools.

How about trimming administrative and other non-teaching staff positions?  Some administrative positions had recently been cut in a recent reorganization of senior management. Some fat may still be marbling the muscle, but $9.0 million worth?  Doubtful.

Several proven cost saving practices will continue. The District and the City will continue working together for their mutual benefit; City parks that use District school property is one notable example. The City provides some $1.9 million in annual support that would otherwise have to be covered by the District:  

  • School Resource Officers: $363,000
  • Joint-Use Agreement: $435,000
  • After-school Programs: $360,000
  • School-based counseling: $245,000
  • Crossing Guards: $466,000
  • Disabled student transportation to schools: $11,000
  • Public Works free recycle bins and pick-up service: $20,000

Additionally, the District takes advantage of a statewide contract and buys in bulk, with substantial annual savings over earlier purchasing practices.

Concluding remarks

The State of California has shifted the pension funding burden to local school districts, including Burbank’s. It would be nice if long-overdue fat trimming could solve the problem.  But the District has been putting its money into muscle; that’s one reason why Burbank schools are highly-regarded.  Moreover, there are good reasons to believe that Measure QS, aside from eliminating the deficit, would live up to its acronym and support Quality Schools.

So next Tuesday, Burbank voters will have to decide if the pain of a parcel tax is worth the real education benefits that it would confer on Burbank’s public schools.        

Eight Burbank Schools to Receive “Young Sheldon STEM Initiative” Grants

Release from the Burbank Unified School District:

Continuing its commitment to fund innovative efforts in STEM education, The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation (TCLFF) today announced the creation of a new grant program — THE YOUNG SHELDON STEM INITIATIVE — inspired by the hit comedy series Young Sheldon. The program was created to foster excitement for learning in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), specifically in support of our nation’s public schools, teachers and students. An announcement of the program can be viewed here.

Each of the winning schools will be acknowledged as a YOUNG SHELDON STEM INITIATIVE Grant Recipient and will receive a two-year grant from TCLFF, which is specifically to support each school’s STEM teachers and STEM educational programs within their existing in-class curriculum and/or after-school programs. In addition to the direct grant funding to each school, the YOUNG SHELDON STEM INITIATIVE will also fully fund all costs for an annual experiential opportunity for students and teachers in and outside the classroom. Each school will be eligible to submit for continuation grants at the end of the two-year period.

  • Items identified by the teachers to be funded include robotics kits, computers, iPads, Vernier probeware, lab tables, 3-D printers, LEGO Mindstorm educational kits, general lab equipment, curriculum development and teacher training.
  • Each school can apply for limited supplemental grants at the end of each year to fund school science and robotics competitions.
  • The initiative will launch to coincide with the beginning of the 2018–19 academic school year.

The eight Burbank schools selected to be YOUNG SHELDON STEM INITIATIVE grant recipients are:

  • Burbank High School (grades 9–12)
  • John Burroughs High School (9–12)
  • Monterey High School (10–12)
  • Burbank Community Day School (8–12)
  • Independent Learning Academy (7–12)
  • Luther Burbank Middle School (6–8)
  • David Starr Jordan Middle School (6–8)
  • John Muir Middle School (6–8)

The District thanks the Chuck Lorre Family Foundation and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., for their generous support of our schools.

Burbank Unified Students Head Back To School

Burbank Unified School District welcomed students to the first day of school on Monday, August 13. Approximately 12,000 students are enrolled in BUSD schools on 11 different campuses throughout the city.

The District partnered with the Burbank Police Department, the City of Burbank and the Automobile Club of Southern California/AAA at a safety awareness event on August 9 at David Starr Jordan Middle School.

burbank unified

Jordan fifth-grader Lexi Gainer, age 10, demonstrates the proper way to embark from a car along the curb – not from a doubled parked car in the middle of the street. ( Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Superintendent Matt Hill visited several schools throughout the District on the first day of classes. Principals and staff at each school site bustled to help students find their way around campus and begin the 2018-19 school year.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

BUSD and AAA released a list of safety advice for families, caregivers and students.

Driving safety tips:

  1. Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is much less likely to be killed than a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster. The difference between 25 mph and 35 mph can save a life.
  2. Eliminate distractions and put down the cell phone. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
  3. Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one-quarter of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.
  4. Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
  5. Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and    unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicycle. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.

Volunteer Linda Walmsley mans the stop sign showing kids the proper way to use a marked crosswalk. ( Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Distracted walking safety tips include:

  • Wait until you get to your destination before calling people, texting, or gaming. If you have to text or make a call while walking, stop and find a safe location.
  • Avoid using hands-free devices while walking – Hang up and walk!
  • Remove your headphones or turn down the volume of your music so you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • Keep watching out for cars while crossing the street. There are a lot of distracted drivers out there so keep looking all around you while in and around crosswalks.
  • Be a role model. Pay attention while you walk and if you see your friends and family distracted while they walk – speak up.

Music Is Instrumental Campaign Exceeds First-Year Goal

The Burbank Unified School District recognized the Music Is Instrumental campaign at the Burbank Board of Education meeting on Thursday, June 7, and lauded the work of its many supporters, which helped the campaign exceed its first-year goal.

Headed by Peggy Flynn, Arts and Career Technical Education Coordinator for BUSD, the Music Is Instrumental campaign and final concert utilized efforts from those in the Burbank and greater Los Angeles community to raise approximately $127,000 during the 2017-18 school year.

Since October 2017, Music Is Instrumental has been working to raise 1.2 million dollars, at a pace of $120,000 per year over 10 years, to repair and replace musical instruments used by students at the District’s three middle schools and two high schools.

music is instrumental

Burbank Unified All District Symphonic Orchestra and Choir and professional mentors from Musicians at Play Foundation amazed the audience at Burbank’s Wolfson Auditorium for the Music Is Instrumental fund-raising concert. (Photo By Ross Benson)

The campaign culminated in a powerful performance on Friday, May 11, combining the efforts of Burbank Unified’s vocal and instrumental high school music groups and their professional musician mentors from the Musicians At Play Foundation.

The performance set a standard for future collaborations between the high school students and their mentors.

“Between ticket sales, donations and auction items, the event by itself raised approximately $13,000,” explained Cindy Pease, Managing Director of Musicians at Play Foundation. “Some of that was donations made to directly purchase instruments.”

Michael Hastings, Peggy Flynn, April Williams, Don Williams, Roberta Reynolds, Matt Hill, Trena Pitchford, Linda Walmsley, Tom Vice and Cindy Pease. (Photo Courtesy Burbank Unified School District)

“Don and April [Williams, of Musicians At Play] spent many hours recruiting the musicians and coordinating the schedules, auditions and getting the music donated,” Pease added.

“With BUSD, MAP is establishing protocols and a working model to perpetuate this program in order to establish ongoing performances and to create sustainable revenue for music education in schools. This would include vocal programs and more training for middle schools that feed into high school.”

“Peggy Flynn from BUSD worked tirelessly to make this happen as she works nonstop to build career training programs in the arts to also include theater tech, film and animation,” Pease also said. “This partnership prepare students for careers in the entertainment industry which is a big part of the Burbank community.”

music is instrumental

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger presents a check for $25,000 for the Music Is Instrumental campaign to Burbank Board of Education President Dr. Roberta Reynolds and Burbank Unified Superintendent Dr. Matt Hill. (Photo Courtesy Burbank Unified School District)

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger donated $25,000 to the Music Is Instrumental campaign, which was also supported by the L.A. County Arts Commission and the Burbank Arts For All Foundation.

The 1000 for $100 Committee, led by teacher Linda Walmsley and local businessmen Michael Hastings and Michael Cusumano, raised a large amount of money through direct donations.

“I am once again in awe of the support we receive from our community for the arts,” commented Superintendent Dr. Matt Hill. “This campaign has shown the power of individuals working together to support our students.”

With a new school year beginning in a few short months, the Music Is Instrumental campaign is focused on the future and resetting anew for 2018-19.

Conductor Anthony Parnther leads the BUSD All District Orchestra in a rousing performance of music from film and television. (Photo By Ross Benson)

Burbank Adult School Holds Graduation Ceremonies

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

The Burbank Unified School District announced the following have graduated from their Adult School program in 2018.

Photographed by Ross A. Benson

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Cinthya Almeyda

Elizabeth Alvarado

Angeles Amado

Hakop Jack Arganyan

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Elise Bliss

Isaias Bonilla

Jaelan Bowlby

Gloria Bui

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Leticia Camarena

Alexandra Canaan

Andrew Cardiel

Erika Carnegie

Brandon Castro

William Clay

Devon Cobos

Marilyn Coss

Anapaula Cristerna

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Ricardo De La Torre

David Delgado

Victoria Delgado

Ricardo Duran

Lidia Duron

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Kevin Flores

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Ryan Garcia

Emin Ghahramanians

Danny Giaba

Aaron Gillett

Abel Gonzalez Urquiza

Juan Gutierrez

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Zachary Haas

Weston Hayes

Barbie Herrera

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Armen Injyan

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Ashlie Jones

Christopher Jones

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Cindy Lemus

Ruth Lira

Arlene Lopez

Olivia Lynn

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Taylor Maclachlan

Lianna Manukyan

Micaela McGuire

Ryan Monette

Eric Montalvo

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Najee Packard

Diego Perez

Jeremiah Pineda

Daisy Poschin

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Anthony Ramirez

Rosa Ramirez

Kasra Rashidian

Armando Robles

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Cristian Salinas

Paulina Silva

Eric Solorio

Daniel Sosa

Juan Sosa

Kyle St. Marie

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Christian Terranova

Aram Terteryan

Christopher Tilton

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Alyssa Urteaga

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Toribio Velasco

Nadia Vielma

Leslie Villegas

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Karolina Zepeda

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian


Superintendent Hosts BUSD Student Mental Health Forum For Parents

Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Matt Hill leads a presentation and panel discussion about support for the mental health needs of students in District schools on Thursday evening, May 31. The BUSD Student Mental Health Forum features an expert panel who will talk about “coping with anxiety, street and other mental health issues affecting our students,” according to a press release.

Image Courtesy Burbank Unified School District

“We encourage all parents to attend the forum to learn more about the resources we have available for parents and students,” commented Hill.

“We will also have a panel that will be able to answer questions that parents have about supporting their children.”

“This forum is geared towards adults so parents may not want to bring children, especially young ones,” added Kimberley Clark, Public Information Officer for Burbank Unified.

The BUSD Student Mental Health Forum begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Burbank Adult School Auditorium, located at 3811 W. Allan Avenue in Burbank.