Burbank Unified holds luncheon

AIRPORT DISTRICT — Burbank Unified School District officials and representatives from organizations that partner with them shared youth-oriented accomplishments from the past year with community members on Thursday at the sixth annual State of the Schools lunch.

The event, which was organized by the Burbank Chamber of Commerce and Burbank Business Partners, was held at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel & Convention Center.

Supt. Gregory Bowman gave an overview of the school district to the parents, educators, students and business people in attendance, sharing statistics that highlighted particular points of interest.

For instance, 70% of Burbank high school students went straight to two- or four-year colleges last year; on average, about 96% of Burbank public school students are attending school on any given day; and the district’s overall Academic Performance Index score — which summarizes student performance on state tests — has been approaching 800, which is the state’s target number, Bowman said.

“What we see is a trend of improved student learning,” Bowman said.

The school district is also well-positioned to weather potential state budget cuts to education next year, as the district has 6% of its budget set aside for economic uncertainties, Bowman said. That’s more money than the state requires school districts to reserve.

“When it comes to money, its nice to know we have money in the bank to run the district in the next year,” he said.

Deputy Supt. Joel Shapiro discussed a two-year-old district initiative to address the problem of childhood obesity by improving students’ eating habits and physical activity levels during the school day.

“We are promoting the health and well-being of children in the Burbank Unified School District,” Shapiro said.

The district now has guidelines for the kinds of food that can served at lunch or sold during the school day and the types of snacks that can be used as rewards in classrooms, among other things.

At first blush the focus on healthy eating may seem like a departure from the central role of schools, but the focus on health makes sense because students can’t learn as easily when they’re not well, Shapiro said.

Cherise Moore, the principal of the Burbank Adult School, gave an overview of her school’s services — from English as a Second Language instruction to career technical education classes — and explained that the school has experienced a rise in the number of older adults looking to stay engaged through continuing education. Some students from other Burbank schools take advantage of the adult school’s parenting classes, and classified employees from the school district have taken job training classes at the school, she said.

And Judith Sernas, a manager at the Verdugo Jobs Center, told the audience about the variety of job programs available to young people through the center.

“We have active youth in our program who want to make a difference,” she said.

Forest Lawn Memorial Parks and Mortuaries was honored as the 2008 Business Partner of the Year, for its sponsorship of a program that brings recreation specialists from the YMCA into some Burbank elementary schools to help teach physical education classes to students.

 ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angelahokanson@latimes.com.

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