Our Readers Write: Dismayed by union's stance on summer school

On Sept. 30, an article titled "Teachers challenge summer school," was published stating that the La Cañada Teachers Association is blocking the efforts of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation to host a summer school program at La Cañada High School.

As a teacher in this district, I am a member of this union. However, I had no idea that this action had been taken. I was dismayed to see this, particularly in the economic climate in the state of California.

Our administrative team and elected school board have been fiscally responsible while giving the teachers here a supportive, quality environment in which to work. We love our students and our jobs. It was my mistaken assumption that our LC Teachers Association would do everything within its power to work as a team with school administrators to keep programs in tact.

A summer school program run by the Educational Foundation would give the school district access to additional monies to add to the general fund. The LCF Educational Foundation has been profitable for years, while providing for many programs which have been discontinued in many of our neighboring public school districts.

Without exception, more money coming through the foundation for the district is positive for the entire school population: students, support staff, and certificated teachers.

I am sadly disappointed by the action taken by our union president. If the Association is successful in its efforts to block the LCF Educational Foundation summer school, the district will not run a summer school for any students (other than special education students who have extended school your provisions in their IEP's). The end result will be no employment opportunities for teachers and no educational opportunities for students.

This teacher supports the Governing Board in its vote on Tuesday night to approve the contract with LCF Educational Foundation to run a private summer school at La Cañada High School

Lindsay Bozzani

La Cañada High School


Documentary prompts an inward look

Last week, my wife and I were among over 400 La Cañada residents who saw the documentary "Race to Nowhere." We haven't stopped thinking or talking about it since. We owe a big "thank you" to Kathy Hernandez and the other parents who made this screening happen and the La Cañada Presbyterian Church for providing a terrific venue.

"Race to Nowhere" looks at the incredible stress we place on our children with the hours of sports practices, tutoring, and extra curricular activities — on top of several more hours of daily homework — all to build a suitable resume for entrance to a top university. Meanwhile, learning is joyless and short-term with no critical thinking or creativity involved. Pass the test, get the grade and move on.

The film shows young students getting only a few hours of sleep every night, fueled by stimulants and fear of failure. One unfortunate young girl tragically committed suicide after she received a B in a math class, convinced she had lost her chance to get into a good college.

My sons are only 6, so I don't pretend to have the answers when it comes to parenting. But "Race to Nowhere" prompted my wife and me to look in the mirror and really think about whether we are allowing our children to have, well, a childhood.

You may agree or disagree with the point of view expressed in this provocative film, but you won't forget it. This is the true mark of what makes a great documentary. I would urge all parents to see "Race to Nowhere."

Joe Mealey

La Cañada


Film creates opportunity for dialogue

Last week I watched a documentary called "Race to Nowhere" for the second time. It was shown here in town at La Cañada Presbyterian Church. As a teacher in the Parent Education program, and a La Cañada school parent, I was so happy that our community had a chance to view this very important film.

The movie addresses the current state of education in our country, which through good intentions has raised the bar for children's academic involvement. Through interviews with children, teachers, parents and experts in the field it delves into the stress and pressure to perform felt by our children, often from third grade into high school. The film's director creator Vicki Abeles saw the physical effects of stress on her own children including headaches, stomach aches and depression — and neighboring communities' children's suicides. Along with making changes in her children's lives, she began her documentary. Through her movie, she has created the opportunity for a wonderful dialogue to begin.

Two of my children graduated from LCHS and one is currently a freshman. The stress my daughters experienced and their lack of sleep will be two things I remember about their high school experience. Sure there were fun assemblies, wonderful choir concerts and dances. Each of these "fun" times was always tempered by the amount of homework looming into the night or over the weekend. The fun always had its price with late nights and loss of sleep.

Some kids may thrive in the AP classes and even may need them to feel fulfilled in their studies. But too many have joined the bandwagon because they feel they have to in order to get into a "good college." Let's remind them that there are 2,500+ colleges in our country and lots of opportunities for finding a "good college, good for them — or maybe another path altogether!? College isn't always for everyone and being defined by SAT scores and GPAs can be limiting!

While the documentary's depiction is one-sided to her point that too much is asked of our children, I value the extreme presentation for its stir to start discussions around the country and in our community. For parents to ask, "What is right for my child?"

For discussions to begin between parents and their children about goals, and happiness, and "What is valued in our family?" And to evaluate the present classes and the toll they may be taking; to draw the line in the sand if its too much.

Not everyone will agree that there is a problem. But for someone like me who values family times and remembers growing up in the '60s and '70s with a childhood of carefree moments without huge amounts of homework, I am happy that it's being talked about and there is a chance for change.

Mary Van Amringe

La Cañada


Columnist Brenner veers off-course

Anita Susan Brenner's attempt to encourage increased parental involvement in their children's schooling took a wrong turn in her latest column (online headline: "About Class Size", Oct. 14) with several statements that are misleading or inaccurate.

First, Brenner stated that "the [La Cañada] school board needs to offer permits to all families in the Sagebrush area."

Unfortunately, attorney Brenner fails to recognize that the La Cañada school board does not have the unilateral authority to grant permits to Sagebrush students. These families reside within the boundaries of the Glendale Unified School District and Glendale alone has the power to release its students, with the exception of transfers under the Allen Bill.

Surely, Brenner recalls Glendale's unwavering defense of its boundaries throughout the nine-year legal battle over this precise issue that was resolved in Glendale's favor in 2000. There is no evidence that Glendale's position has changed.

Separately, the Allen Bill recently adopted by La Cañada does not require a release from the student's home district. However, the Allen Bill is restricted to situations in which families want their children to attend schools in the same district in which they are employed on a full-time basis. The bill does not allow us to apply its provisions to specific geographic areas like Sagebrush.

Second, the idea that permit-families "run scared" and "don't have the freedom to rock the boat because they want the permit renewed for the next year" is not relevant to students admitted under the Allen Bill. Once accepted to La Cañada schools under the Allen Bill, no renewal is necessary; enrollment is subject only to continued full-time parental or guardian employment within district boundaries and student adherence to the discipline code.

Certainly, Brenner is aware that Sagebrush remains a highly-charged and deeply emotional issue for many in the community. To point fingers at La Cañada schools is simply wrong.

Scott Tracy

La Cañada

The writer is vice president of the La Cañada Unified Governing Board.


Schools need more financial support

On behalf of the board of directors of the LCFEF, I extend my gratitude to our generous contributors for your donations to the Foundation this school year. To provide greater funding to the district, we have chosen to suspend the annual Major Donor reception this fall. Instead, this year's "Spirit of Outstanding Service" Award recipient, Rose Chan, will be honored at our Gala on March 19. We hope you will join us in honoring her and recognize her outstanding service record.

The Foundation is supporting two measures that were brought before the school board on Tuesday. As the district could no longer afford to fund a 9-12 summer school program, the board has approved a contract to implement a Foundation-sponsored summer school program. The summer school committee will move forward with hiring an academic coordinator, who will begin taking steps to design and create the summer school program.

Additionally, the Foundation supports the formation of a joint committee, composed of district, school board, Foundation, and community members. As approved by the board, this committee will be tasked with drafting and implementing measures designed to enhance, clarify, and publicize the true state of district funding and its detrimental effect on class size and staffing.

In addition to increased class sizes in K-3, we have experienced a dramatic increase in the number of students in critical high school subjects, including many upper level and AP classes. There is little doubt that class sizes at those levels will adversely impact the learning processes of students and the capability of even the most effective teachers.

As only increased revenue can reduce these ratios, the Foundation must intensify its fund-raising efforts. At Back-To-School Night, an unprecedented number of school families answered our call and became Platinum Partner members, pledging annual contributions of $2,500 or more. Still, we hope to persuade all present and past school families and community members to reach a higher level of giving this year.

As it has for the past 30 years, the Foundation will remain the principal institution in our community through which funds are raised and donated for the benefit of all students throughout the school district. Only through the Foundation, in partnership with the district, the school board, and our community, can the effects of statewide budget cuts be mitigated. We hope the reality of larger class sizes, which is now impacting each of our campuses, will energize our school families and community to an unprecedented level of philanthropy! As ambassadors for our children, each school family plays a critical role in educating your neighbors about the challenges our schools face. I hope you will join us in this effort.

Valerie Aenlle-Rocha

La Cañada Flintridge

The writer is president of the LCF Educational Foundation.


Vote for Day, retire Portantino

I strongly recommend that you cast your vote for Alvaro Day, Republican candidate for the state Assembly in the 44th Assembly District.

It has been my great pleasure to meet with Mr. Day and to discuss his political philosophy and his understanding of California government. Because I was a former primary election candidate for this office, he sought my observations and advice, which I offered enthusiastically. I have found him to be a very quick study and he is certainly well qualified to hold the office.

Most importantly, Day is a committed fiscal conservative who fully understands the destructive nature of the nanny-state power seekers in the California Legislature like Anthony Portantino.

Portantino hasn't a clue about fiscal discipline, which makes him a darling of the unions. Yet, he describes himself as a "moderate" Democrat. This is absurd because he has an even worse record of voting for job-killing bills than his predecessor, Carol Liu.

Many Republicans buy Portantino's line about fiscal conservativism and vote for him. City Council members like Dave Spence and Steve DelGuercio, for example, heap praise on Portantino.

California's future is on the line in this election. If you care about our state and our Assembly District, please vote for Alvaro Day and send Portantino to an early retirement.

David C. Wilcox

La Cañada

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