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Glendale school board members ponder how to raise community engagement

If a community forum takes place and no one attends, did it ever really happen?

The Glendale Unified school board is grappling with how best to engage the local community as the governing body finalizes plans for a series of events dedicated to highlighting the success of its students and schools.

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Kristine Nam, the district’s communications director, laid out proposals during a board meeting on Tuesday for community get-togethers at Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover high schools.

“We’re proposing to have three forums in the spring of 2019 as opposed to trying to squeeze one into the fall,” Nam said. “We just think by the time we finally make decisions and get things on the calendar, fall is rapidly going to move into holiday time and it will just get really busy.”

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Board members directed district staff to formulate a preliminary itinerary that would be more inclusive and inviting for the community.

Nam’s outline consisted of a one-hour forum in which 20 minutes would be dedicated to presentation and student performances by host high schools and feeder schools, 10 minutes for a district presentation and 30 minutes for a question-and-answer segment.

The forum would either be filmed or live streamed and open to all district stakeholders, though tailored mostly to the respective high school and feeder schools.

As for dates, one forum is listed to take place in February, a second in March and the final in April.

While forum plans were falling into place, there was plenty of debate about how best to get people to actually attend.

“I’m just going to throw this out there,” board member Armina Gharpetian said. “Do you think we can use a better term, a more exciting term rather than community forum?”

As board member Nayiri Nahabedian responded, “festival.” Gharpetian added, “Something that’s more interesting and it brings people in.”

Board president Greg Krikorian said he was disappointed with two sparsely attended forums in March.

“We had the committee meetings on safety with the police chief, the county there and superintendent there, and we had a handful of parents in the crowd,” he said.

Nahabedian countered that board priorities don’t always translate well to the community.

“What will get parents and kids to come out?” she asked. “Just because we want to tell them about how wonderful we’re doing doesn’t mean that that is enough incentive for them to make that effort to get out of their homes and leave work early and stop doing homework and come out.”

The main reason dates and times were not settled upon was because the board is tinkering with whether to have the forums on Wednesdays or Saturdays as well as whether it would be better to have them in the afternoon or evening.

Krikorian proposed one way to encourage engagement is to have groups such as the Glendale Educational Foundation and the Parent Teacher Assn. involved. He added there should be tables for athletics and activities, and perhaps organizations, such as the Hoover band, should perform.

“We, as a board, can pick topics and have a dozen people there,” Krikorian said. “We want to do something different and to get people there and have more community engagement.”

Nahabedian advised a more narrow focus.

“Write out for ourselves what is the goal of this forum, festival or whatever,” she said. “If we don’t or are not clear about what the goal is or the goals are, then it’s going to be difficult.”

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