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Piece of Mind: This controversy is understandable

Our new/old governor Jerry Brown generated a collective sigh of relief among public elementary and high-school educators earlier this week when he released a proposed state budget that spares their schools from further bleeding — at least for the time being.

That’s good news. We’ve watched our own district struggle with the fallout of the state’s decade-long budget quagmire, and while I think that overall, our district office and board of education have done a masterful job in keeping our schools going strong, it must be dispiriting — at best — to decide what to do without in order to keep from straying deep into the red zone.

One of the La Cañada programs to be pitched overboard this year was the summer school at La Cañada High School. The La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, which has long partnered with the district, offered to operate its own summer-school program on the high-school campus this year, saving the district $87,405. That is a drop in the bucket, when you consider the size of school budgets these days (our district’s is slightly more than $20 million annually), but it’s a quite an undertaking, and one for which the Foundation should be lauded. If the program turns a profit, the proceeds will be handed over to the school district.

Unfortunately, some understandable controversy came into play.


Parents who plan to send their LCHS students to Hillside Learning Center for summer-school classes learned the district was looking at adopting new standards for instructional hours and because Hillside summer-school courses don’t meet those standards, the credits would not transfer back to LCHS. Some became a little suspicious that the purpose of making and announcing this change this month, just as they were poised to enroll their teens in Hillside summer-school classes, was to divert them back to LCHS to keep the money in the district’s hands.

The new standards were put before the school board for consideration this week. The district says it has been studying the matter of instructional hours for some time and that it was pure coincidence that the recommendation was made now, the first year the LCFEF is taking over La Cañada’s summer-school program.

Whatever the case may be, a decision has been put off until the school board can consider other factors, such as Hillside students’ performance on standardized tests. I think this is a wise move. Hillside has much to offer, including smaller classes and an engaged staff. Many LCHS students have benefitted by taking some coursework there. It would be a shame if the LCUSD did anything to harm Hillside, whether or not it considers it a competitor for those dollars that are so hard to come by these days.