The crowd was smaller than at the past few meetings, but the main topic remained the same — safety and security at school.
La Cañada Unified School District officials spent much of Tuesday’s Governing Board meeting, which had a large number of discussion topics, focused on security measures, from fencing to the formation of a task force.
Safety concerns were front of mind recently following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, and also some drug-related incidents at La Cañada High School that resulted in arrests or hospitalization.
LCUSD detailed plans to dedicate funds from the $149 million Measure LCF bond — the first $30 million issuance of which could be approved by the County Board of Supervisors on May 9 — to begin the process of installing perimeter fencing at its three elementary school sites.
Representatives from architecture firm LPA were on hand to offer board members a look at cursory fencing plans. They included new tube steel gates and chain link fencing, as well as other alterations that would help funnel visitors arriving on campus through administrative buildings.
Board members asked architects to be cognizant of all the joint-use and after-school use that happens at the campuses, and insisted that stakeholders at all of the schools be involved in decision making as the project advances.
The board also had a lengthy discussion about a community task force that is to focus on “safety, security and student well-being.”
Although the group’s goals are expected to involve community outreach and feedback, its specific purpose remains relatively “nebulous,” as Superintendent Wendy Sinnette described it.
Board members agreed that they’d help review task force applications — of which the district has received 40 from parents, about a dozen from students and close to 20 from staff. A group of 15 or 20 will be selected to serve the rest of this school year and for the 2018-19 calendar.
The Governing Board also approved a contract with a group named Chameleon Associates (for $19,880) to complete a threat, risk and vulnerability assessment of each school site. The assessment will include an evaluation of the physical location, identification of potential threats, a review of emergency plans and online and social media exposures and identification of training needs.
Also, the board voted 4-0 (board member Ellen Multari was not in attendance) to alter its search and seizure policy.
From now on, unless students specifically ask, they and their families will be informed of the fact that they’re legally permitted to bring their belongings with them when they leave the room during a K-9 search only at the start of the year — but no longer each time a dog begins to search a classroom.
THE SURVEYS SAY
As has become a springtime tradition dating back to 2012, Sinnette shared the results of this year’s Panorama Ed Survey of students, families and staff at the district’s campuses. In the wide-ranging polling, she found plenty for the district to work on, and much to be proud of as well.
She was bolstered by feedback from parents of elementary-aged students, 97% of whom indicated “my child and I understand the school rules.”
“That’s awesome,” Sinnette said. “If you have clarity about what the expectations are and what the rules are, you have fewer disciplinary problems.”
Among areas of concern was the fact that only 59% of 7th- through 12th-grade parents reported that their student has “a close relationship with at least one adult at the school.”
That response was similar to what it was the previous four years, when it fluctuated between 65% and 58%, to Sinnette’s chagrin.
“All the data and research indicates you’ll avoid risk-taking behavior … when you have an adult connection,” she said. “So 59% seems low.”
Board member Dan Jeffries repeated his concern that some parents might misunderstand the phrasing of the question and assume that “a close relationship” with an adult isn’t a good thing.
With Sinnette’s support, Director of Technology Jamie Lewsadder said she will try to evaluate how students, at least, are deciphering the Panorama Ed questions by forming a focus group.
Sinnette explained that the survey data will be posted online and emailed to families, as well as staff and administrators. She said she’d review the results with the rest of the leadership team, which will continue to tie the metrics to targets associated with the Local Control Accountability Plan and to help her establish her goals for the following year.
The Governing Board is considering whether to change its policy related to school-related sports trips, and whether parents who receive permission (at least 24 hours in advance) to drive their children as well as children who aren’t theirs to and from sporting events.
Currently, student-athletes are required to ride on buses with their team to and from contests unless a circumstance arises that warrants an exception. But those reasons have included everything from Youth and Government to school theater to tutoring — “and how do you say no to tutoring?” asked Kristina Kalb, dean of athletics at La Cañada High School.
After hearing a steady chorus of complaints from parents about the policy, Kalb investigated what other schools do and learned that most of them allow parents to transport student-athletes, if they have permission.
She said that makes sense, especially, say, for varsity athletes whose games don’t begin until after a junior varsity game ends, or at about 5 p.m., even though they all left school together around 3 p.m.
“That means our students are asked to do their homework in the bleachers or on the sideline, and for outdoor events, sometimes in the rain,” Kalb said. “All those types of things don’t really go super well with academics.
“I’m hoping that this will make students’ lives easier — and maybe we’ll get more people to go to games,” she added. “That’s a wonderful thing for our athletes to have their parents there, whether they only play for 30 seconds or they run a race for one minute because they’re super-fast. It’s huge to have parents there.”
Before voting on the matter, Governing Board members asked district administrators to investigate whether a renewed policy ought also to be applied to students participating in performing arts programs that travel. They also suggested that the district present a policy that will make sure all drivers are appropriately insured before they can drive a student to or from a school-sanctioned event.