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Plenty of special meetings on tap for Burbank Unified officials, community

Plenty of special meetings on tap for Burbank Unified officials, community
The possible renaming of David Starr Jordan Middle School headlines one of a handful of Burbank Unified special meetings taking this place this month. (Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

January looks to be a busy and important month for the Burbank Unified School District in terms of meetings, with topics including budget deficits, a school modernization project and a potential school name change.

While the school board will hold only one regular meeting this month — on Jan. 17 — there will be several special meetings, forums and town halls dealing with hot-button issues beginning on Jan. 23.

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On that day, residents can express their opinions about whether they support or oppose a potential name change to David Starr Jordan Middle School during a forum at 6 p.m. on the school’s campus, 420 S. Mariposa St.

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Burbank Unified’s facilities-naming committee will hold a second forum on the issue after a low turnout at the first meeting on Dec. 13.

The forum will center on whether the middle school, christened after David Starr Jordan in 1948, should drop its namesake.

Though Jordan, who died in 1931, was a renowned scientist, educator and founding father of Stanford University, he was also a supporter of eugenics, a system of controlled breeding that aimed to improve the chances of so-called desirable heritable characteristics.

The philosophy of eugenics led to roughly 20,000 forced sterilizations in California up until 1964. The ideology was adopted and espoused by the Nazis and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.

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The facilities-naming committee may make a recommendation for a specific action to the school board based on input given that night.

“If it’s important to Ms. Community Member or Mr. Community Member, they’ll make the effort to come to the next meeting and speak up,” said Burbank Unified board member Charlene Tabet, who is also a naming committee member.

The next day, school officials will hold a budget study session at 7 p.m. in the district’s headquarters, 1900 W. Olive Ave.

Burbank Unified is currently operating with a $1.14-million structural deficit expected to grow to $2.5 million by the close of the 2018-19 school year.

The defeat on Nov. 6 of Measure QS, a parcel tax that would have generated a little more than $9 million annually for the district, means it’s likely Burbank Unified officials will have to make cuts to some programs — potentially music, art and gifted-student education — while increasing classroom sizes and potentially laying off teachers.

“It’s more of a study session to talk about how we’re going to balance the budget for next year,” Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill said. “At that point, we’ll have a high-level overview of [Gov. Gavin Newsom’s] budget … We’re going to start proposing recommendations on how to balance the budget.”

On Jan. 29, the district will hold a follow-up special town hall meeting at Walt Disney Elementary, 1220 W. Orange Ave., regarding the school’s next steps in a modernization project.

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Board members and district staff ran into a hail of criticism during a special meeting on Nov. 13, where Disney parents sounded off over their frustration about delays and changes to plans.

Parents had expected to see blueprints for a two-story structure to be built on campus and were instead presented a plan with two portable buildings.

“Since that last meeting, I had a smaller working session to get some ideas with parents and staff at Disney, and I’ve been working with the facilities to look at options,” Hill said. “I’m trying to see if there’s any way to do two stories.”

Hill added, “If that’s a possibility, great. If not, then we’ll have to explain why and move on.”

The price tag for two portables fell n line with the district’s $6.4-million budget for the project, while a two-story structure will most likely require more money.

Hill also said he district will probably add another special meeting sometime this month to address the possibility of moving Burbank High’s graduation off campus, likely to rival Burroughs High.

Currently, it costs more than double to host the graduation ceremony at Burbank High than at Burroughs.

“I don’t have a date yet, but there will also be a meeting toward the end of the month for Burbank High on the graduation site,” Hill said. “It will be a parent meeting ... at Burbank High but open to the public.”

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