School funding task force formed

La Cañada parents put words into action at the La Cañada Unified School District's Governing Board meeting on Tuesday, responding to the alarm they sounded Oct. 7 at Palm Crest Elementary's PTA meeting.

A district task force, comprised of parents, district board members and other community members, was created on Tuesday, to educate the community and help close the gap on the millions of dollars the district is shortchanged by the state of California each year.

Continued budget cuts from Sacramento forced La Cañada Unified to make tough decisions to make ends meet. An increase in class size at the district's elementary schools is one example. Parents are motivated to do all they can after witnessing this increase in the beginning of the school year.

"We do have a fire and we need to figure out how to put it out," said school board member Susan Boyd. "We would all love to get our classes back to what they were two or three years ago."

A mass e-mail from Craig Mazin, a parent of two students at Palm Crest, helped spark the birth of this task force. The e-mail, which generated hundreds of responses, notified the La Cañada community of the district's financial situation and called them to change the town's culture of donating, or see class sizes continue to rise.

"The good news is that I believe we are in the middle of a revival," said Mazin, who stood in front of the board as a representative of more than 200 La Cañada resident families.

Paul Murray, the executive vice president of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, expressed the Foundation's support for the new task force. Joel Peterson, a governing board member, said he was also pleased with this development.

"It is in fact true that we cannot contain the level of our program if the budget cuts continue," Peterson said. "We would have to make some very difficult decisions. It will certainly be helpful to have more resources."

Mazin thanked the school board for hearing what the parents had to say.

"On behalf of all the parents, I would like to thank [the school board] but especially Supt. [Jim] Stratton for doing such an incredible job shielding us from the pain the state has been inflicting for so long," Mazin said. "We now know it is our part to help you and we are ready to do our part."

Educational Foundation's Summer School Program

La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation is broadening its job description to included administering summer school.

The school board unanimously approved the Foundation's contract to use district sites and materials to run a summer-school program. La Cañada Unified eliminated its summer program for 2011 to save $85,000.

Governing Board President Jeanne Broberg offered hundreds of thank yous to the Foundation.

"We can't thank them enough," Broberg said.

No opposition was heard on this matter from the La Cañada Teachers Association, although their President, Rick Jordan, was in attendance.

"I think this is a win-win situation for everyone," Stratton said. "It's a win for the students who know have an option for summer school, a win for the Foundation as a possible revenue generator and a win for teachers who will now have somewhere to work in the summer."

Construction returns to La Cañada High School

More than $1.5 million in leftover bond funds has given the district leeway to begin some minor-construction projects to improve La Cañada High School's campus.

The remaining money will be spent on 10 different projects, including repairing and updating the upstairs and downstairs north gym restrooms, the physical education offices and storage rooms, restoring and replacing the boys and girl's locker rooms and improving the acoustics in the south gym.

Projections show all 10 projects will cost just more than $1.4 million, leaving the district with $700,000 leftover for possible construction in the future.

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