Glendale Unified hosts community meeting

GLENDALE — Parents at a special Glendale Unified community meeting said they support greater emphasis on teaching social skills, more career and technical education opportunities and more multi-use facilities.

School district officials held their first community meeting Monday, soliciting feedback from parents as they set goals for the next five years. The input will go to a 45-member planning committee, which will make recommendations to the Board of Education for the 2015 strategic plan in February, officials said.

"This committee is going to look at everything," school board President Greg Krikorian said. "It's important for us to get a grasp of what our stakeholders are feeling so we can make a more well-rounded and educated decision when the five of us move forward."

The strategic plan will need revamping after current seventh-graders graduate from high school. Supt. Dick Sheehan challenged everyone at the community meeting to think broadly and as if the state had not cut public education by $17 billion the last two years.

"We're in a crazy time if you look at education in general," he said. "As things change, we as a district have to be prepared to change."

E-mail, he noted, is outdated for many graduating seniors, who have now taken to Twitter and Facebook updates. But upgrading and maintaining technology resources at secondary schools will require $1.4 million more annually, he said.

Parents pitched internship and attendance reforms. Empowering parents and students to take responsibility for their academic achievement caught on in a breakout group on curriculum and instruction.

Myra Goethals, a mother of three at Valley View Elementary School, suggested district officials and teachers work for more specific and targeted professional development for challenging students.

If the district knows of teachers struggling to improve in certain areas, "Why aren't we helping them?" she said.

Special education is among the costliest sectors of public education, and Linda Campo, a mother of one such student at White Elementary School, said school officials should try to integrate students with special needs whenever possible.

"End the separation," she said. "It's too expensive for us."

Todd Hunt, a father of two students at Crescenta Valley High School, said the district would be wise to coordinate more with Glendale Community College and the city of Glendale.

"The district can't function like an island," he said. "The more we can connect the dots with [other groups]…that's a big deal and we can do better on that."

Parents also suggested holding some Board of Education meetings at school campuses.

And in the wake of tumultuous negotiations with district employee unions, transparency needs some restoration, said Molly Hwang, a parent of Valley View Elementary and Rosemont Middle School students.

"If there was something to be discussed, we could come to the table and discuss it and come away with something," she said. "I wish it wasn't so political."

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