For years, while the Glendale Unified School District and other Jewel City public entities have observed Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day every April 24, Glendale Community College has remained open because of financial constraints.
That’s about to change, however, as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 568 into law Tuesday evening, which allows the roughly 27,000-student community college to close its doors on April 24 without costing the school state funding.
The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge).
“Two years ago, I was honored to have been asked by GCC board members to help offset the cost of closing on April 24,” Portantino said in a statement released Tuesday evening.
“Today, I am very proud to have sent a bill to the governor to help our Armenian community, greater community, the faculty, administrators, and students of GCC solemnly and appropriately commemorate the Armenian Genocide without unnecessary financial pressure,” he added.
Glendale College board member Armine Hacopian was a key advocate in starting the process.
“When I first approached Sen. Portantino several years ago about this issue, he made a commitment to see it through as he appreciated its value for our students and employees to commemorate April 24th without causing loss of funding to GCC,” Hacopian said.
Prior to the bill, Glendale Community College held classes on April 24 because shutting down the campus would have cost approximately $500,000, according to school estimates.
“GCC will use this legal day of remembrance, and other opportunities throughout the year, to educate our students and communities about the Armenian Genocide to assure such atrocities never happen again,” said David Viar, superintendent/president of Glendale Community College, who spoke to lawmakers in Sacramento in June.
An important day in Glendale, April 24 is annually dedicated worldwide to commemorate the 1.5 million Armenians murdered by the Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1923.
No other state in the country has a larger portion of the Armenian diaspora, with many calling Glendale home.
Approximately 37% of Glendale Community College‘s credit students and 49% of non-credit students are of Armenian heritage, according to staff reports, which is higher than the 39% of city residents and 36% of Glendale Unified students who are of Armenian descent.
“April 24 is of great significance to our student body and to know that our community leaders recognize this is of great importance to us,” said Sune Aghakian, Associated Student Body president at Glendale Community College, after Newsom’s approval of the measure.
“Acknowledging April 24th as a day of remembrance will allow us to educate and recognize the historic and significant perseverance of our Armenian-American community,” Aghakian added.
Portantino’s bill provides Glendale Community College with the same flexibility afforded the Glendale Unified School District.
Glendale Unified has recognized Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day since the 2013-14 school year as the California Education Code has allowed the district to swap the day of schooling with a holiday as long as the district completes 180 instructional service days.
Glendale Community College has a lower threshold and can now exchange the day as long as the institution completes a minimum of 175 instructional service days. Last school year, Glendale Community College totaled 178 days.
Glendale Unified’s board wasn’t passive, however, in its support of the change at the local college and mailed a letter to state Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), chair of the senate education committee, in favor for SB 568 in August.
“We are extremely grateful that the senator championed this issue and enabled us to commemorate the Armenian Genocide by closing our campuses without incurring a financial penalty,” said Vahe Peroomian, Glendale Community College board president, in a statement released Tuesday evening.