Tag Archives: BUSD

BUSD Heads Back To School

More than 15,000 students in grades TK – 12 headed back to school for the beginning of the Burbank United School District 2017-18 academic year on Monday, August 14. Superintendent Matt Hill visited several schools throughout the district to welcome students, teachers and staff.

MyBurbank Chief Photographer Ross Benson joined Hill on his travels throughout the school district.

Superintendent Matt Hill stops at Luther Middle School and talks with Principal Oscar Macias during Nutrition. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

BUSD is comprised of 11 elementary schools (Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Ralph Emerson, Bret Harte,Thomas Jefferson, William McKinley, Joaquin Miller, Providencia, Theodore Roosevelt, R.L. Stevenson and George Washington), three middle schools (Luther Burbank, John Muir and David Starr Jordan) and three high schools (Burbank, John Burroughs and Monterey.)

The Burbank Adult School and four alternative education schools (Arts For All, BUSD Career Technical Education, Community Day School and the Horace Mann Child Development Center) are also under the umbrella of BUSD.

Superintendent Matt Hill was joined by Burroughs Principal Deborah Madrigal in checking out a new Freshman class at Burroughs High School. ( Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

2016 BUSD Bond Projects Update (Part 2)

Since the voter passage of the Measure S Bond to support infrastructure fixes at Burbank Unified schools, a number of projects have already been completed and more are in the works. The $110 million dollar bond has been divided into three three-year issuances, with each bond issuance totaling about one-third of $110 million. Periodically, myBurbank.com reports on various aspects of BUSD Measure S Bond. (Part 2 of 2.) See Part 1 for more information on 2016 BUSD Bond projects.

Network Infrastructure & Air Conditioning

Network infrastructure projects have been substantially completed at John Burroughs High School and Luther Middle School, according to BUSD Measure S Bond Manager Gene Directo.

The projects included demolition of the existing cabling and network equipment, which was replaced by new fiber optic cabling, new cat6 cabling, new indoor and outdoor wireless access points, and new network backbone equipment, for more than 122 miles of cabling installed to date.

To support the technology upgrades, new air conditioning work for the Main Digital Frame (MDF) which serves as the school sites’ main connection to the Main Data Server Network has been started at McKinley, Washington, Roosevelt, Bret Harte, Stevenson, Emerson and Disney Elementary Schools.

Air conditioning in the Muir Middle School auditorium is up and running with the kitchen and cafeteria areas soon operational. New air conditioning at the Burroughs High School Gym is also working.

Interior of new permanent Modular Classroom at Emerson Elementary.(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Interior of new permanent Modular Classroom at Emerson Elementary.(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Master Clock, P/A, Fire Alarms & Artificial Turf

Replacement of the master clock, Public Address system and fire alarm are complete at Emerson, Harte, Jefferson, Miller and Washington Elementary Schools and Jordan Middle School. Staff training seminars are being scheduled.

Playground surfaces at the Kindergarten area at Jefferson and Washington Elementary Schools were replaced with artificial turf.

Grading operations have also begun at the upper and lower playgrounds of Jefferson Elementary School in preparation for the installation of new playground equipment.

New fencing at BUSD Adult School adjacent to Luther Middle. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

New fencing at BUSD Adult School adjacent to Luther Middle. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Asphalt Replacement & Fencing

Extensive replacement of deteriorating asphalt and restriping has been completed at Muir, Luther and Jordan Middle Schools, in addition to Emerson, Roosevelt and Providencia Elementary Schools.

Fencing is complete at Luther Middle School and Edison, Miller and Providencia Elementary Schools.

Upcoming Projects

Planning and assessment is underway for the replacement of relocatable classroom buildings with modular classroom buildings at Harte, Stevenson, Jefferson, Disney, Edison  and McKinley Elementary Schools, according to Directo.

New solar panels provide shade and savings for BUSD's Luther Middle School. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

New solar panels provide shade and savings for BUSD’s Luther Middle School. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Planning for asphalt replacement is underway at Stevenson, Jefferson and Edison Elementary Schools.

Replacement of the intramural field at Burbank High School will be issued for bidding in Fall 2016.

“The funds [from the Measure S Bond] will improve the quality and safety of Burbank school facilities and will upgrade classrooms, computer and technology, replace aging portable classrooms, electrical systems, plumbing and sewer lines, roofs and play areas including upgraded fire protection, increased energy efficiency and provide accessibility for students with disabilities,” he said.

Directo is also working on updating the 2016 BUSD Bond projects information on the District’s website. He encourages visitors to the site to select Measure-S for more information.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

BUSD Bond Projects Include Solar Panels, Modular Classrooms And Tech Upgrades

Since the voter passage of the Measure S Bond in March 2013 to support infrastructure fixes at Burbank Unified schools, a number of projects have already been completed and more are in the works. The $110 million dollar bond has been divided into three three-year issuances, with each bond issuance totaling about one-third of $110 million. Periodically, myBurbank.com reports on various aspects of BUSD Bond projects. (Part 1 of 2.)

Modular classrooms, solar panels and technology upgrades are just some of the BUSD Bond projects completed over the summer break of the 2016 school year. Asphalt and fencing replacement and air conditioning at several school sites have also been checked off the to-do list for 2016.

A comprehensive list of Facilities and technology projects completed over the past few years can be found at the highlighted links. Every year, District personnel report on completed projects; this article from 2015 notes last year’s progress.

“The District’s contractors and staff have been hard at work at various school sites continuing to install network infrastructure, air conditioning, fire alarm replacements and upgrades and other various projects,” said Rick Nolette, Chief Facilities and Information Technology Officer for Burbank Unified School District.

“We are also seeing the beginning of the benefits of energy savings programs with additional savings as other solar projects become operational,” he added.

Working solar panels provide shade and savings for BUSD's Jordan Middle School.(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Working solar panels provide shade and savings for BUSD’s Jordan Middle School. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Solar Structures

Solar structures have been installed at Emerson, Jefferson and Bret Harte Elementary Schools and at Luther and Muir Middle Schools with final connections being arranged with Burbank Water and Power, according to Gene Directo, an independent contractor from the Cordoba Corporation brought in as Bond Program Manager for BUSD.

“Solar structures at Washington Elementary School, Jordan Middle School and Burbank Adult School are operational and have generated a total of 78,545 Kilowatt hours of electricity with an estimated $11,302 of savings to date,” said Directo.

Modular Classrooms

Eighteen Modular Classroom buildings were installed throughout the District this summer. The permanent classrooms replace portable classroom buildings at Emerson, Roosevelt and Washington Elementary Schools. Four new classrooms at Emerson and six at Roosevelt, including one toilet module, are now in use.

At Washington Elementary School, eight new classrooms and one toilet module are nearing completion and should be available for use sometime in September.

New permanent modular classrooms replace portable bungalows at several BUSD elementary schools, including this one at Roosevelt Elementary. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

New permanent modular classrooms replace portable bungalows at several BUSD elementary schools including this one at Roosevelt Elementary. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Main Data Server Network

The Main Data Server Network at the District Service Center was also completed during the 2016 summer months.

“The District is in the process of consolidating servers previously located at school sites to be centrally located at the District Service Center (DSC) Data Center in a secure and temperature-controlled environment with back-up power,” explained Directo.

“The primary server rack consists of eight blade servers to replace the old servers. One new blade server is nearly equivalent to the previous complement of servers. By using server virtualization, the District is able to create hundreds of virtual servers on eight physical servers as a strategy to increase capacity.”

“The fiber connection provided through Burbank Water and Power dark fiber increased the capacity from one gigabit (1 Gb) to ten gigabit (10 Gb),” he added. “The school is connected to the DSC Data Center through the BPW-provided fiber. This has allowed the school sites capacity to increase in elementary schools from 10 megabit (10 Mb) to 10 Gb and middle schools and high schools from one hundred megabits (100 Mb) to 10 Gb.”

21st Century Classroom Technology

21st Century Classroom technology projects were started at Magnolia Park School, Monterey High School, Providencia Elementary School and Community Day School. Installation of 21st Century Classrooms have been started at Burroughs High School, Luther Middle School, Mann Elementary School, Bret Harte Elementary School, Emerson Elementary School and Roosevelt Elementary School and will continue through the fall.

Interior of new permanent Modular Classroom at Emerson Elementary.(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Interior of new permanent Modular Classroom at Emerson Elementary.(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“The 21st Century Classroom is instructional classroom technology installed as a standard consisting of wall or ceiling mounted projectors, wired network connectivity to the teacher’s workstation, dedicated wireless in every classroom, a document camera, video inputs installed along the wall, ceiling mounted speakers and a voice lift microphone system,” explained Directo.

“A multimedia control system is placed within the classroom which allows the teacher to change video inputs between their document camera and PC, raise/lower volume, mute and freeze the screen.”

“The control system is also connected to the network will eventually have the ability to monitor projector bulb life and report to staff when it’s time to buy a new projector bulb before it fails. The control systems are ADA-compliant and are consistent with universal design principles.”

Look for Part 2 of the 2016 BUSD Bond projects update for more information on completed projects and those in the works.

Burbank Unified First Day Of School Arrives

It was a hot first day of school for the more than 15,000 students in Burbank Unified School District as they started classes Monday, August 15, and temps neared 100 degrees by afternoon dismissal.

BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill visited the various school sites through town and welcomed students and staff back to school.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

“Today was a great day! Students, parents and teachers were very excited to be back at school,” Hill said on Monday. “Many commented on the great improvements they are seeing in facility and technology upgrades due to the Measure S investments we are making.”

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

“I am looking forward to working with all of our employees to build on our successes, especially in the areas of mental health and wellness and our goal of achieving a 100% graduation rate,” Hill added.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

The Burbank Unified School district includes 11 elementary schools, three middle and three high schools, along with a Transitional Kindergarten program, the Horace Mann Children’s Center, the Burbank Adult School, the Magnolia Park School, Community Day School and the Independent Learning Academy.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

CTE Days Expose BUSD Students To Careers, Courses

At the annual CTE Days event, Burbank and Burroughs High School students learned about high school classes and various career and college options. Held on February 18 and 19, the BUSD Career Technical Education (CTE) program connected students with representatives from a variety of careers to discuss their fields and interests.

The CTE Days event had “more of a school wide push with senior, junior, sophomore and freshman teachers having the opportunity to come to the event by grade level,” explained Diana Dysthe, CTE Counselor for the school district.

Photo By Lisa Paredes

Photo By Lisa Paredes

Dysthe pointed to dual enrollment courses with Glendale Community College, as a recent addition to the CTE program. BUSD offers six college classes – Art, Animation, Child Development, two levels of Armenian language and Speech – on the high school campuses after regular school hours. Students earn both high school and college credit for completing each semester-long class.

Spring semester career training classes in BUSD also available after regular school hours include Animal Care, Film/Video Production, Financial Occupations, Stagecraft Technology and Retail Marketing.

Photo By Lisa Paredes

Photo By Lisa Paredes

Other CTE classes available during the school day include Aircraft Engines, Automotive Engines, Business Finance, Computer Accounting and Digital Applications, Information Technology, Commercial Photography, Advanced Photo, Photoshop, Professional Film, Animation, Construction Technology, Computer Assisted Drafting and Digital Media.

The BUSD CTE program encourages students to try different classes and test their interest in an occupation. Dysthe provides career testing and accounting for the district’s high schools.

Photo By Lisa Paredes

Photo By Lisa Paredes

At CTE Days, BHS and Burroughs High School students talked with representatives from 321 Acting, Academy of Art, Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines, ROTC, American Career College, Annenberg School of Nursing, Arts Institute, Aveda Institute, Brand College, Brooks Institute, Burbank Fire & Police, Burbank YMCA, Burbank Youth Employment, BWP, Capstone College, Cinema Makeup & MUD, City of Burbank Recreation & Volunteers, City of Glendale Youth Employment, College of the Canyons, Columbia College, Concorde Career College, CSULA & CSUN Admissions, CSUN & Animation / Engineering Divsions, Culinary Institute of America & John Hopkins University, El Camino College, Electrical Training Institute, FAA Safety Team, Facey Medical Group, Fernandez Chiropractic, FIDM, GCC (Outreach, Admissions, Animation), Gnomon School of Visual Effects, ITT Technical Institute, Job Corps, Kids’ Community Dental Clinic, LA County Sheriff, LA Mission College, LA Trade Tech, LAVC, Local 250/HVAC/R, Los Angeles City College, Marinello School of Beauty, Mount Sierra College, Mt. Sac/ Interior Design program, Musicians Institute, New School of Architecture, NY Film Academy, Northwest College, Otis College, Paul Mitchell, PCC, Pierce College, Providence Hospital, Public Works Recycle Center, SMCC, Southwest Airlines, Syracuse University, UEI, UTI, Video Symphony, West Los Angeles College and Woodbury University.

Stevenson Elementary is the First Burbank School to Unveil Buddy Benches

Stevenson Elementary is the first campus in Burbank to adopt an idea shared by schools around the world to help all kids feel they belong.

It’s called the Buddy Bench program and the way it works is that benches are placed on the playground and when a child sits on the bench, it signals to other students and school personnel that the student needs a friend.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The PTA Kindness Committee at Stevenson Elementary School unveiled three Buddy Benches during a ceremony on Tuesday attended by Mayor Bob Frutos, Burbank Police Officer Joshua Kendrick and school district dignitaries. Frutos made a presentation to Student Council President Micaela Bowers, 10, a fifth-grader at Stevenson.

“It was really cool because I like the idea and I like that they are dedicated to our school and all that,” she said. “It was kind of thrilling to be standing up there to get the certificate in front of the school.”

Micaela believes the Buddy Benches allow students to make new friends on the playground.

“Sometimes your friends might be playing some other game that you don’t want to play and I think the benches will help because you can go there and there will be people to help you,” she said.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Micaela’s mother Luci Bowers is a third-grade teacher at Stevenson and believes the benches serve as a visual cue as to which students need intervention.

“Elementary school students are hesitant to come up to their teachers when there’s a problem,” she said. “They know how to tattle but they don’t know how to report or self-advocate very well so to look out and see a student on the Buddy Bench that tells me as a teacher that I might want to check in on them and make sure they are doing ok.”

Buddy Benches have been brought to campuses all over the United States to combat bullying and promote kindness. Stevenson Elementary has sparked the interest of other schools in the district to add Buddy Benches to their campuses. Providencia Elementary School will unveil its Buddy Bench on Feb. 5, Frutos said.

The project is important twofold, said Mayor Frutos.

“First, it’s really about the parents who worked together collaboratively and took the leadership role to benefit the children of that school for the common good,” he said.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Secondly, Frutos said, he has has learned through his experience as a police officer, working with children, the Buddy Bench is a good symbol elementary school children can use when they are facing the tough issues of growing up and need someone to listen.

“The important thing is to send a message to the children that they are not alone,” he said.

Burbank Police Officer Joshua Kendrick, who is assigned to perform community outreach functions, told Stevenson students about the importance of talking to their friends or an adult, no matter the issue.

The local Buddy Bench project was initiated by Estrella Penney after her daughter became a victim of bullying in kindergarten. It hit an especially raw nerve with Penney, she said, because she had been bullied when she was a child. After the situation was remedied, Penney set out to find ways to teach kindness at the school where she was already a volunteer.

PTA President Jennifer Moore asked Penney to chair the Kindness Committee and Penney has spent hours over the last two years researching ways to bring kindness activities to Stevenson to prevent bullying. Once a month the Kindness Committee, made up of parent volunteers, comes up with kindness activities in which students can participate. The goal is to build self-esteem, empathy and respect, she said.

Penney thought that creating an awareness in the children would help them to know how to recognize bullying and how to let an adult know it’s happening to them, she added. They would take that knowledge with them throughout their middle and high school years.

The benches were presented as a safe haven at Tuesday’s ceremony, Penney said.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“The Buddy Benches are there if a child doesn’t have the words to express how they are feeling and if other kids see a child sitting there by them self, it signals to them that maybe they need a friend, someone to talk to,” she said. “It also is an awareness for the adults on the school campuses that if a child is sitting there they need to go and see what the problem is.”

While doing research, Penney found that many schools in this country and other countries have Buddy Benches on their campuses, so she wrote a proposal to bring the program to Stevenson, and when Christina Desiderio became principal this year, Penney shared the proposal with her. By coincidence Desiderio’s previous school had a Buddy Bench — so the project received a green light, Penney said.

The one catch was that there was no money in the budget to pay for the benches, so Desiderio left it up Penney to work on getting the benches donated and the Do-It Center in Burbank, the Canny family and the Ishkhanian family stepped up to help. Each bench cost between $130 to $150, and they are in storage until the school district installs them.

There are 1,000 elementary schools on six continents that have adopted Buddy Benches on their campuses, according to the website tolerance.org.

The Buddy Bench idea started in the United States with Christian Bucks who attends Roundtown Elementary School in York, Penn., and you can read his story at: http://buddybench.org/us/christians-story.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

BUSD Superintendent Speaks About First Months On The Job, Future Goals (Part 2)

BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill sat down recently with myBurbank to talk about his first six months at the helm of Burbank public schools and goals for the future of Burbank Unified. (Part 2 of a two-part interview, see Part 1 here.)

Hill talked about the learning curve as he took the reins of the district’s top position, along with his initial impressions of Burbank Unified and the Burbank community.

“I quickly learned Burbank is definitely a strong community. Everyone says, it’s not a city, it’s a town. And, it definitely is a town and I love that,” Hill continued. “If we have challenges or successes,  I can quickly get out to the school site and be part of that.”

“I love that we have engaged parents, community members, teachers, students. A lot of people play multiple roles in the district – they’re former students, current teachers, they have kids in the schools,” he added. “I think that’s a major asset that we have that most districts don’t have.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“So that’s one thing I want to continue to build upon. I spent a lot of my first six months truly listening and learning and reflecting on what I hear and sharing what I hear. I’ve been trying to create more opportunities for us to share what is great and where we have opportunities to grow. That’s going to be probably a signature aspect of my leadership.”

“I’m not going to do what I did for just the first ninety days, first hundred days,” Hill went on to say. “That’s what I want to do throughout and that’s the culture of BUSD: us sharing what we’re seeing and experiencing in our schools and continually improving upon that.”

Hill focused on opportunities and goals for Burbank Unified in the coming months. Currently, BUSD sees 96% of its students graduate from high school within four years.

“I started this summer reaching out to the seniors that did not graduate. I truly do believe we can get to one hundred percent,” said Hill. “I know I’ve got criticism for saying that – they think it’s unrealistic.”

“I am happy to say that of the students that did not graduate, we are in contact with all but one. So there’s one student that’s missing one class and we’re still trying to connect with that child,” he explained. “And the others may need a couple more years in our adult school to get the credits they need. But we’re working with them.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“By modeling that with the senior class, I’m hoping to change the expectation,” Hill also said. “If you enroll in Burbank Unified, you will get a diploma. It may take you longer. You may take different routes. But we’re not going to give up on any child.”

As Hill aims for every student to receive a high school diploma, he points to the additional funding the district has received, which has provided additional counselors and intervention specialists.

“We can start much earlier in a child’s career… it’s not the seniors that we are trying to catch,” he continued. “It’s the eighth grader who’s thinking about dropping out, it’s the junior who’s having challenges in his or her life. We’re going to be able to connect with each of those students.”

“My number one goal is to get to that one hundred percent graduation rate and build the systems in place to do that.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Hill himself continues his pursuit of higher education, as he works towards a doctorate in Educational Leadership for Social Justice at Loyola Marymount University, which he expects to complete in 2018.

“I am a strong believer in lifelong learning and I was really impressed with LMU’s focus on social justice.”

“I’d like to reiterate, a high school diploma now is really just the starting line and we need to do a better job of expanding and deepening our career pathways,” Hill also emphasized. “Whether a student wants to go to a community college or a four year college or directly into the workforce, we need to make sure we’re providing more of those pathways.”

“That’s a lot of the focus I’ve been working with my secondary team. We have two pathways now – digital media and digital manufacturing. We want to partner with the city and the local businesses or look at what are other pathways that we need to embed into our schools as well as our adult school.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“The rest of the work really starts from early education all the way through graduation,” Hill said, mentioning a recent school climate survey the district just completed. The survey has provided data from parents, students, teachers and members of the community on successes in the schools, as well as aspects in need of improvement.

BUSD is beginning the budgeting process, the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which enters full work mode in the spring of 2016.

“We want to hear about where those opportunities are to strengthen the work,” he added. “We have working groups right now focused on mental health. We have a working group focused on our Gifted and Talented (GATE) students, with math and science.”

“There’s a lot that we’re working on in smaller groups to get feedback and we’re going to bring that all together. Unfortunately California doesn’t have enough funding to do everything I want to do, so we have to make some prioritization.”

“I really am excited and energized by the relationship I have with the school board, with our unions, with our teachers, with our principals,” Hill said. “I really feel that Burbank Unified is positioned to achieve amazing things. We’ve always been a strong school district. And I just see so much more potential. By working together we’re going to get there.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)


BUSD Superintendent Speaks About First Months On The Job, Future Goals

BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill sat down recently with myBurbank to talk about his first six months at the helm of Burbank public schools.

Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill has been a very visible head of the school district since stepping into the post on July 1 of this year. As BUSD Superintendent, Hill has connected with the many schools, personnel and elements of the school district with energy and enthusiasm.

He’s learned about food safety and lunch procedures in a middle school cafeteria, talked about his love of the arts at the Burbank Arts For All Foundation community meeting and tasted some of the treats prepared by students at the Community Day School.

For the first few months as superintendent, Hill emphasized a listening and learning approach, getting to know the people and groups that make up and partner with Burbank Unified.

New Burbank Superintendent Matt Hill. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

New Burbank Superintendent Matt Hill. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Early on, he reached out to the Burbank Teachers Association (BTA), which had expressed concern about the process during which Hill was selected as a candidate and hired.

“In hindsight, I would say the majority of the concerns were with process,” said Hill. “I’m definitely a nontraditional candidate and for the teachers’ union to hear about that a week before the official announcement… they didn’t have enough time to really get to know me and process through that.”

“As soon as I joined, July first, we sat down together and talked about our views and concerns and wishes for the district, and, we were very similar in our views,” added Hill. “My approach is listen first, share different perspectives, look at options. I’m very direct with my thinking and open minded to other people’s perspectives.”

“We worked through some challenges right through the summer. Some we agreed on, some we didn’t, but we both walked away with a high level of respect for each other.”

“From that moment we’ve continued that on and I really enjoyed working with our union leadership, classified teachers, certificated… it’s the approach I take with everyone,” he also said. “It’s an amazing district and it’s my job to help make it run smoother.”

Superintendent Matt Hill at the opening of the Community Day School new kitchen.(Photo by ©Ross A. Benson)

Superintendent Matt Hill at the opening of the Community Day School new kitchen.(Photo by ©Ross A. Benson)

“While it is still early to assess, Superintendent Hill, along with the new school board, has been working well with BTA by sharing more information and reaching out to us for input,” said BTA President Lori Adams. “We have settled some old conflicts and are working on some new ones.”

“Mr. Hill is very approachable and can see the struggles that teachers endure as we transition to new state standards, curriculum and assessments, changes in facilities and new technology.  It is nice that new money is coming into the district so we are able to replenish and improve upon the cuts that were made in the last decade.”

“My only remaining concern is Mr. Hill’s past association with the Broad Foundation and Eli Broad’s new plan to change 50% of LAUSD’s public schools to charter schools,” added Adams. “It is my hope that in the unfortunate event that we lose some key court cases, he will stay true to his word that he is not interested in bringing charter schools to Burbank. Keeping Burbank’s schools public and transparent will allow us to continue to use taxpayer dollars to provide an excellent education for all students.”

“All of Burbank Unified School District’s schools have been recognized as California Distinguished schools,” Hill said in response to Adams’ concern. “My role as superintendent is to continue to support our excellent schools so that there is no need for parents or teachers to want to form a charter school.”

Superintendent Matt Hill talks with BUSD elementary school kids on the first day of school, August 17, 2015.  (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Superintendent Matt Hill talks with BUSD elementary school kids on the first day of school, August 17, 2015. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

School safety has become a much-discussed issue in Burbank in recent months. Thefts at two elementary schools rattled parents and the community, although the alleged perpetrator has been arrested and charged by police. Another incident, in which an individual jumped over a school fence and was detained by school personnel until police arrived, also has raised community concerns.

“I would say our partnership with the Burbank Police Department has been very helpful,” Hill said. “They’ve always worked with the district for training. When we have incidents like this, I can pick up the phone and call. That’s one thing that I love about Burbank is that I can talk to the Chief of Police right away or his team.”

School safety is “not a one time thing that you do. It’s ongoing. We have had some reminders that we have to be very diligent about it.”

“Coming in as the new superintendent, I wanted to do an audit of where we are,” he explained. “Every year we do school safety plans. We do the Great Shakeout. We do lockdown drills.”

“We have procedures in place, we have training in place, but being brand new, I wanted fresh eyes to give me a third party objective look at everything. So that was something I recommended to the board that we put aside some of the one time funds we received from the state to do the audit.”

“We have to be overly diligent about approaching and welcoming,” said Hill. “I don’t want to be profiling or it to be a fear tactic when individuals come to our campuses, but we need to say hello and make sure people are properly identified when they’re on our campuses.”

Superintendent Matt Hill meets parents on the first day of school, August 17, 2015. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Superintendent Matt Hill meets parents on the first day of school, August 17, 2015. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“So in the short term, our schools are having conversations. Right now is the time when we update our school safety plans. So they’re taking the recent events in consideration as well as the annual process to look at how you strengthen safety on campuses. We’re looking at additional needs we may need to provide to schools and combine that with the findings of this school safety audit.”

The BUSD Board of Education approved the hiring of Nicole Miller & Associates to perform a district-wide school safety audit in November. Work began shortly after the approval and continues into January. Results from the audit should be available by February.

“After I receive the report, I will prioritize the recommendations with the firm and begin to recommend some improvements to the Board,” commented Hill. “We have set aside $100,000 in one time funds to begin some implementation this year.”

The cost for implementing safety improvement may be higher than the $100,000 already set aside by the Board.

“The firm has recommended not publishing the findings, since they highlight potential weaknesses in our safety protocols,” Hill went on to say. “I feel we have good safety procedures and protocols in place here at BUSD, but we can never be satisfied. We need to constantly review and upgrade our safety practices in order to ensure our students and employees are safe.”

More of the interview with BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill will be published in Part 2.

BAFA Donates More Than $30,000 Towards BUSD Arts Programs

Burbank Arts For All Foundation (BAFA) board members gathered on Thursday, November 5, to present a check to the Burbank Unified Board of Education for more than $30,000 towards BUSD arts programs as part of the Foundation’s Fall 2015 grant cycle.

“We see arts education – in its broadest term – as basic instruction for every student in the District and quite possibly a career pathway for our City’s future employees,” commented BAFA Executive Director Trena Pitchford.

“We are pleased to report that we were able to invest $30,473 for arts education programs. This is the second largest investment we have made in a single grant cycle,” continued Pitchford, in her address to the Board of Education.

“With this cycle, our funding is matched with $24,735.99 from the District’s Arts for All funds, a school site’s budget, parent driven booster clubs or PTA units. Together, that’s more than $55,208.99 given to our schools for arts education programming.”

Burbank Arts For All Foundation Board of Directors members and Executive Director present a check for $30,473 to the BUSD Board of Education. BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill, District Administrative staff, BUSD teachers, principals and parent leaders gather for the presentation on November 5, 2015. (Photo Courtesy Burbank Arts For All Foundation)

Burbank Arts For All Foundation Board of Directors members and Executive Director present a check for $30,473 to the BUSD Board of Education. BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill, District Administrative staff, BUSD teachers, principals and parent leaders gather for the presentation on November 5, 2015. (Photo Courtesy Burbank Arts For All Foundation)

“We are directly impacting 3,597 students this school year alone and we are hopeful that through the sustainability of these programs and equipment we will continue to impact generations to come.”

Several teachers and principals of school programs funded in the Fall 2015 BAFA grant cycle including Washington Elementary, Miller Elementary, Edison Elementary, Jordan Middle School, Burbank High School and Magnolia Park School also attended the school board meeting.

For the Foundation’s Fall grant cycle, 24 applications were submitted for funding, including submissions from six elementary schools, all three middle schools, both Burbank and Burroughs high schools and the Magnolia Park School for a total financial request of $65,198.61.

“This was the first cycle with our new grant application and guidelines, which allowed us to understand more of the academic goals of each grant request, the timeline of the project or program and samples of a teacher’s rubric or assessment tools,” Pitchford added.

The Foundation provided seed funding for new programs, including media arts at Miller Elementary with a green screen and equipment and integration of theater arts at Edison Elementary through an artist-in-residency.

BAFA continues funding for professional development for teachers in both elementary and secondary education, elementary school tile making, clay and visual arts, expansion of digital media arts at Jordan Middle School to incorporate 3D printing and robotics, musical instruments for all three middle school programs, expert coaches for high school instrumental music and artists-in-residency programs in songwriting and performing arts at Magnolia Park School.

Pitchford also noted BAFA’s efforts to increase or sustain equity for all students by investing in the growth of both high school dance programs through funding supplies for tap dance and investing in BUSD’s College and Career Pathways Animation program with funding for Cintiqs that will decrease the tablet to student ratio to 1:2.

She also commented that many of the BAFA-funded programs are in alignment with the recent funding that BUSD’s Board of Education has provided through the State of California’s one-time funds, the District’s LCAP priorities and goals stated in the District’s Arts for All plan.

“This is a huge celebration of our District’s Arts For All ‘eco-system’ and partnership with you and our parent and business community,” she said to school board members.

BAFA’s total funding since its inception in 2006 now stands at $344,555.01. The Foundation has funded 209 grants to all K-12 schools within Burbank Unified.

“There is certainly more to do to provide standards-based sequential arts education programming K-12, but all of us in our ecosystem should be very proud of what we continue to grow and sustain in Burbank Unified for the benefit of the thousands of students who have passed through its halls in 10 years,” she also said.


Security at Burbank Schools Examined After Incidents

A woman who climbed the fence at Walt Disney Elementary School on Monday was arrested for being under the influence of methamphetamine, police said.

While the incident does not appear to be related to thefts at Bret Harte Elementary and at Emerson Elementary that occurred on the same day in early October, it marks the third time in less than a month that someone threatens an elementary school campus.

Burbank Unified School District Public Information Officer Kimberely Clark on Monday referred questions about the thefts and school security to Superintendent Matt Hill, who was not immediately available to comment.

Hill replied to an email request to discuss the thefts and school safety after another call to his office on Tuesday, and referred to a written statement the district released about the thefts.

“The safety of our students and staff is of highest concern,” the statement said. “We will continue to work with the Burbank Police Department to ensure that we are taking every step to secure the campus for all students, staff, parents and guardians in our school community.”

Securing all entrances and greeting everyone on campus were among the actions the school sites would continue to take, according to the statement.

“Additionally, please know that in September prior to this occurrence, the District had been preparing for a safety audit by an outside organization,” the statement said. “Our schools are [sic] midst of working on the School Safety Plan and expect [sic] have that completed very soon. More information on both will follow soon.”

The woman police arrested Monday is 31-year-old Kristi Rodgers of North Hollywood.

“She was escorted off the grounds by school staff,” Police Sgt. Claudio Losacco said, adding “she was ultimately contacted by officers and arrested for being under the influence of drugs.”

Rodgers has no ties to school staff or teachers, Losacco said. Nothing was stolen and no injuries were reported.

On Tuesday afternoon, Losacco said Rodgers “pled [guilty] to possession of methamphetamine related to the incident [Monday]. She is on probation… [and] has also been ordered to stay away from all Burbank Public Schools as a condition of probation.”

The incident with Rodgers at Disney elementary comes almost a month after the Oct. 7 thefts at Bret Harte and Emerson elementary schools.

At Bret Harte, the theft occurred between 2:45 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., Losacco said, and the Emerson theft occurred on the same day, in the afternoon, after school was out.

Once on campus at Bret Harte, the suspect walked into an unoccupied classroom, police said, and allegedly stole a credit card and money from a teacher’s purse. The suspect later used the credit card to make purchases at stores in Glendale and Burbank.

Losacco declined to provide a more specific time for the Emerson theft, and police have said they believe the same person committed both alleged crimes.

“There are afterschool campus activities going on at both facilities into the afternoon and early evening,” Losacco said. He added that there are no recording surveillance cameras on either campus, but said one campus does have a CCTV monitor.

He referred additional questions to the school district.

An African American woman described as being 30 to 40 years old, wearing a white tank top, was seen on video footage, and police said the same woman is also considered a person of interest in similar crimes in La Crescenta and El Segundo.

On Oct. 28, a “person of interest” was arrested, and Burbank police said the individual arrested had an outstanding warrant out of Los Angeles for a similar crime.

“Burbank Police investigators booked her on the warrant,” police said, “but elected not to immediately charge her with the Burbank case.”

Police have yet to release the person’s name, and Losacco declined to discuss the matter in more detail.