Guest opinion: Thoughts on instructional minutes

At Tuesday night's school-board meeting, one of the agenda items concerned the adoption of a 6,960 instructional-minute standard for summer-school classes. Dr. Jackie Luzak, Principal at LCHS, presented her findings of a study of similar schools regarding summer-school instructional minutes.

There were many supporters of the 3,480 current Hillside School and Learning Center's instructional minute standard at the meeting. Parents stated that they send their children to Hillside so that their students' school-year schedule will better accommodate electives and extra-curricular activities, or so that accelerated classes could be taken with the reduced hours offered at Hillside for a much-needed break from the pressure at LCHS. Two Hillside administrators assured board members that the reduced instructional minutes did not detract from a quality program that included small class sizes and "pure instruction time."

I would like to set the record straight regarding the Foundation's position and role in regards to this issue.

The Foundation's mission is to raise funds for the school district and to support programs that benefit all our children. Upon learning that the district could no longer fund a summer-school program, the Foundation saw an opportunity to academically assist the children of our community and to provide a new source of funding to the district. We contacted several similar foundations that also run summer-school programs to determine the feasibility of initiating and running a program at LCHS.

Instructional hours became an issue when our committee was told that the Foundation summer school would need to provide the same instructional hours and curriculum that had been provided by the district summer school in order for our classes to be accepted for credit. It became apparent that the Hillside instructional-minute standard was not consistent with the standards of other summer school programs. A year ago the committee presented this information to the district and suggested a review of the discrepancy to consider establishing an instructional-minute standard for courses taken outside of LCUSD to be accepted toward graduation.

Because the Foundation is in the business of raising funds for LCUSD, it cannot be placed in jeopardy of losing money merely to provide a summer-school option.

Thus, it was with this understanding that the committee initiated an audit of the instructional-minute standards for all summer-school programs in the area, public and private. This study was initiated and completed more than a year ago. We find it unacceptable that these critical issues are only now being addressed. The Foundation shares Hillside's outrage as we urge the district to quickly address this issue. It is unfortunate that the Foundation has been set up to be the fall guy for the community ire that has arisen from this situation. It is quite honestly, not a fair shake.

If the school district ultimately decides that a summer-school provider can provide a quality program that covers the required information and curriculum in less than four hours a day, then the Foundation summer school would be willing to comply, providing greater options and healthy competition. In this difficult financial climate, the Foundation sought only to provide a service to the community and a new source of funding to the district, not to create problems.

The Foundation board will meet soon to discuss and vote on whether to proceed with a 2011 summer school program in light of recent LCUSD board action. We will notify you of our decision. As always, thank you for support.


Valerie Aenlle-Rocha is president of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation.

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