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Glendale school board candidates talk diversity, funding and Armenian genocide

Glendale school board candidates talk diversity, funding and Armenian genocide
Participants listen to instructions before participating in a school board candidate forum, which took place K&M Karamanoukian Glendale Youth Center.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Glendale News-Press)

At the first Glendale Unified school board election forum of the season Wednesday night, candidates discussed districtwide diversity, language programs and commemorating the Armenian genocide.

About 20 people attended the event hosted and televised by the Glendale chapter of the Armenian National Committee.

All candidates said they supported making April 24 — the day commemorating the Armenian genocide — a non-instructional day, effectively giving students the day off while district staff and teachers work on professional development and other matters. Many students of Armenian descent already stay home from school that day to participate in commemoration activities.

School board President Christine Walters, who is running to keep her seat, said all days must be negotiated between the district and Glendale Teachers Assn. and classified staff.


“It’s something that we cannot do unilaterally, but I do understand the importance of April 24 to this community,” she said.

Incumbent Joylene Wagner added that she would like to see “more conversation” on the subject, saying she would “love it to be a staff development day.”

In tackling budget issues, school board candidates vowed to capture new revenue sources and keep class sizes at a minimum.

“There’s nothing more important in that child’s day than the relationship between what happens in that classroom with that teacher and that child,” said candidate and former teacher Jennifer Freemon.


Incumbent Greg Krikorian said he would seek more revenue, including from energy-saving projects.

“I don’t look at cutting. I look at creating revenue streams for our schools,” he said.

On the topic of diversity, Daniel Cabrera, a retired Glendale business owner and former Glendale High School teacher suggested that every educator receive cultural sensitivity training.

On language, all candidates supported expanding the already flourishing dual-immersion courses that produce multilingual students.

Armina Gharpetian urged all four high schools and all middle schools to adopt Armenian courses. Currently they are taught at Glendale and Hoover high schools and at two elementary schools.

Ali Sadri, meanwhile, declined to address his reason for his candidacy, instead latching onto how his security company — once employed by Glendale Unified — wasn’t awarded a bid by the district several years ago.

The school board recently rejected a claim Sadri filed in December in which he alleged unfair and discriminatory business practices when the district severed ties with his security firm, Armguard, in 2007 after 17 years.

School officials said they were unimpressed with Armguard’s responses during the interview process on how it would handle specific student safety scenarios.


At the forum, Sadri told voters that “if you want true change and real change, you need to get more involved.”


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan