By Wendy Sinnette
Special to Outlook Valley Sun
The 2023-24 school year in the LCUSD is off to a great start. I wanted to share some key pieces of good news and featured programs that have been highlights of our first seven weeks of school.
On the heels of La Cañada High School being named by the U.S. News and World Report as one of the eight best high schools in the Los Angeles Metro area, and in the top 22 public high schools in California, LCHS also celebrated 13 National Merit Semifinalists.
The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarship. Annually, there are approximately 1.5 million student entrants, and by September only 16,000 students, or approximately one-third of the 50,00 high scorers are notified that they have qualified as a semifinalist — we are so proud of the academic excellence of our 13 semifinalists.
We are also hard at work continuing our tradition to deliver a world-class educational program. One example can be seen in LCUSD’s deep-dive into the importance of the science of reading and ensuring that our elementary teachers are up-to-date on related best practices. Last school year, an LCUSD reading study group conducted a thorough evaluation of our districtwide reading program. Based on its findings, the district committed to providing comprehensive structured literacy training facilitated by the Reading League. The Reading League is a nonprofit organization with the mission to advance awareness, understanding, and use of evidence-aligned reading instruction. All TK-3 grade classroom teachers, as well as special education, English language development and intervention specialists have been included in this training. This professional development emphasizes a systematic and explicit approach to reading, ensuring that all students, regardless of their abilities or backgrounds, receive the support they need to become proficient readers. The first cohort of teachers completed the three-day training in early August and the two remaining cohorts will complete their training by the end of October. Upon completion, all participating teachers will be able to use research-based strategies and techniques to teach reading effectively to all learners.
In its mission to ensure that every student succeeds and thrives — both academically and socially-emotionally, LCHS 7-12 is undergoing from Sept. 25 through Oct. 13, 2023, its pilot of an alternative daily bell schedule. This bell schedule was designed by an LCHS 7-12 Schedule Review Committee after their extensive analysis of research and data from Stanford’s Challenge Success organization, regarding what constitutes an optimal daily schedule for middle and high school students. Features of the bell schedule include three days of block schedule, longer passing periods and a single 7-12 lunch. We look forward to student, staff and parent feedback regarding the pilot experience.
Always determined to keep the district as a high-performance leader, the LCUSD Governing Board is set to hold a special meeting retreat on Oct. 6, when one of its agenda items will be to review, refine and adopt Board Priorities. These priorities, once adopted, will be calendared for annual review, with staff charged to provide data and evidence on progress, and the Board providing direction for strategic growth and development. Some of the priorities slated for review and potential adoption include: furthering academic excellence and innovation; implementing future-ready facilities; attracting and retaining exceptional educators and staff; demonstrating an unyielding commitment to safety, security and wellness; protecting financial health and stability; and ensuring a community-centric approach to education.
Thank you to our entire LCUSD community for your sustained feedback, support, and partnership, allowing us to move forward and progress on our goal of continuous improvement in our schools and for our students, staff, families and community at large.
First published in the September 28 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.