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School board starts its meeting in the dark, discusses safety task force and budget shortfall

A power outage Tuesday night that struck the area around the La Cañada Unified School District office did not stop the school board from starting its regular meeting, as board members heard an update from the three subcommittees of the Safety and Security Task Force.

Board member Dan Jeffries called into the meeting and was placed on speakerphone.

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Kim Bergner, executive assistant to Supt. Wendy Sinnette, reported that two of the five total subcommittees of the task force will meet once the school year gets underway. The 35-member panel comprises La Cañada Unified School District officials, teachers and staff, students and parents, security and law enforcement and experts in substance abuse. The task force is focusing on five areas: student and staff training; traffic and parking; campus security; wellness; communication and outreach.

Plans are in place for staff training, Bergner said, and site assessments have taken place. There is also visioning about traffic flow at the schools. Along with committee meetings, district staff have attended training on threat assessment and simulations hosted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI in order to improve policies and procedures related to campus safety.

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Bergner said the high school is studying the concept of a closed or open campus for lunch. The school board has not yet had a chance to review the threat assessment report, but it is expected to be on the next meeting agenda. She said several companies have been vetted for providing consultation for the threat assessment.

“Highlights of categories were broken up for examination, such as perimeters, protocols and standard operating procedures, such as visitor check-ins,” Bergner said. “It has to be a very holistic approach for staff training and student wellness.”

Emergency procedures are also under review, she said. Principals are working on-site crisis plans to prepare for parent presentations. There will be class-by-class assemblies to outline the plans as well.

Bergner added the school district received a demonstration of a potential technology communications solution to cut down response times of public safety personnel.

“So if we’re in an event, this communications tool will help us have an accurate record of what students are with us, and you can check what student is missing and not missing,” she said. “It would go to a central screen.”

After the meeting went about 45 minutes without electricity, including air conditioning or microphones for board members, power returned.

In a budgeting agenda item, Mark Evans, assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, reported adjustments that needed to be made to the Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget. Adopted during a June 26 meeting, the budget was based off Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision figures.

Due to the timing of reporting deadlines, Evans explained LCUSD’s budget was a “placeholder” and required adjustment as the state’s own budget was finalized.

Gov. Brown signed California’s $201 billion 2018-19 budget on June 28, and figures from the state indicate La Cañada Unified will see a reduction in one-time revenues from the state in the amount of $649,920 for the current fiscal year.

Evans explained the loss in anticipated funding will be offset slightly by an increase in revenues from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, the primary vehicle of state funding for school districts, in the amount of $231,007.

Board members approved an adjustment downward of $418,913.

Also on Tuesday night, the board unanimously approved a $116,355 contract with Pasadena-based Gonzalez Goodale Architects for first phase work on a new outdoor pool at the high school, as outlined in the Facilities Master Plan. The first phase of work includes site investigation, scope development, programming and conceptual design.

Resident David Haxton spoke to register his concern about the district’s budgeted plan for a 33-meter pool as opposed to a 50-meter pool.

“I sent email last night to approximately 200 people who’ve been involved in swimming and water polo programs for the last several years as long as I’ve been involved,” Haxton said. “I received copies of what they were sending to superintendent’s office. Unanimously, what I saw, is that everyone’s in favor of a 50-meter pool.”

A former swim team member also spoke in favor of a larger pool because a 33-meter pool would not adequately split up practice space for the girls and boys teams.

Board member Ellen Multari said she thought the board budgeted for a 33-meter pool because that was the maximum amount of funding available, not because the board had taken a position in favor of a smaller pool. She added they hope the community can support fundraising efforts for a 50-meter pool.

Also on Tuesday, the board unanimously approved an estimated $1.78-million contract for Irvine-based LPA Inc. for projects at Palm Crest Elementary School. The Measure LCF bond projects planned for the school include a new two-story classroom addition, site utility improvements, safety and security improvements, interim housing, modernization of buildings and the library, a parking lot drop-off improvement and technology upgrades.

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