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As teen e-cig use is labeled an ‘epidemic,’ LCHS students are kind of over it

Drug paraphernalia display case
Drug paraphernalia on display at a Nov. 19 meeting of the LCUSD Governing Board accompanied a talk on the reported dangers of vaping and e-cigarette use, which is on the decline at La Cañada High School.
(Sara Cardine)

As the nation struggles to address what the U.S. Surgeon General has termed “epidemic” use of e-cigarettes among teens, La Cañada High School officials reported Tuesday they’re finally starting to see students’ use of the devices subside.

LCHS security head Tanya Wilson told members of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board what used to be a widespread problem among middle and high school students — amounting to multiple offenses daily for on-campus and in-class use — seems to have come under control as reports of the danger of electronic nicotine and marijuana devices become public.

Wilson joined Crescenta Valley Sheriff Station’s Eric Matejka and LCUSD nurse Chris Henry in a report on vaping, how it’s disciplined and what’s being done to educate the school community about the pulmonary injury and health risks associated with the devices.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recorded 805 vaping-related illnesses, while Los Angeles County Health officials have recorded 16 cases and one death. Wilson said while students tend to blame off-brand units and bad THC (the main psychoactive component in marijuana) for the illnesses, they’re nonetheless backing off.

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She thinks the recent hiring of additional security personnel who can monitor more campus corners may be aiding the fight.

“Beginning this year, there’s been a great reduction in the use of these on campus,” she said. “We haven’t found one seventh- or eighth-grader with a vape, and last year it was rampant.”

LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette said the district was looking into grants for programming and professional development and educating elementary students about vaping risks. District nurse Chris Henry encouraged parents to have frank conversations with their children.

“What we need to do if we want to have a positive effect on all of this is talk about it at home,” he said. “Talk about all of the things that are terrible about these products and why you wouldn’t want to do them and why it’s not cool.”

Substitute teacher pay gets a boost

To retain and keep high-quality subs in the classroom, board members unanimously approved increasing substitute teacher per diem pay from $142 to $150, effective Jan. 1.

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Executive Director of Personnel Services Debra Cradduck said the bump would bring LCUSD in line with nearby competing districts or, in some cases, make it “higher in the pack,” Cradduck said. Glendale Unified currently pays subs $165 daily, while San Marino pays $144. L.A. Unified tops the heap at $202.60 per day, while Temple City pays teachers $175.

Officials estimated the increase would cost the district an additional $10,000 to $15,000 through the 2019-20 school year, with the annual total increase estimated at $20,000 to $25,000.

“We have to look at what is the cost to the district of not having those subs,” said board member Dan Jeffries. “We can lose an instructional day if we don’t have a good substitute.”

Devil’s Gate report card due in December

LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette explained while County Public Works officials announced Friday the end of the first of four hauling seasons, the district will continue to monitor air quality and collect data between now and the start of the next season in spring.

“Throughout this past hauling season, we only had to bring P.E. indoors once, as well as we had to cancel one time after-school practices and athletic meets,” she said, recognizing the work of LCHS 7-12 administrators. “Their monitoring efforts have been time consuming and vigilant.”

At the board’s Dec. 10 meeting, Sinnette will deliver a quarterly report on air monitoring findings gathered by the district since hauling began in May. She estimates LCUSD has spent about $200,000 on air filters and environmental monitoring services, putting the cost of off-season continuance of such reporting at $35,000.

Also Tuesday, board members:

• heard a first interim budget report from Assistant Supt. Mark Evans, who reviewed changes in the district’s finances since adoption of the 2019-20 budget in June. An anticipated income of $48,833,365 in total revenue and $50,438,368 in expenditures leaves LCUSD with more than $1.6 million in deficit spending. He said an increase in employee salaries and benefits, amounting to an additional $772,031, played a role in the deficit which, right now, is projected to hold somewhat steady throughout the next two budget cycles.

• considered the effects of cashing in its next Measure LCF bond series in spring 2020, as opposed to spring of 2021, would have on the timeline of anticipated building projects funded by the measure. Consultant Harold Pierre explained moving up the timeline would help officials complete needed work at La Cañada High School earlier and potentially avoid an inevitable increase in construction costs. The move, he said, would also keep that work from conflicting with a campus renovation at Palm Crest Elementary School, scheduled for 2021.

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