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La Cañada Unified’s credit rating upgraded to AA+

A campaign sign for Measure LCF, a $149 million bond to renovate and rebuild La Cañada Unified schools.
Standard & Poors has upgraded the credit rating for LCUSD to AA+. The rating will allow the district to issue bonds and fund facilities at lower costs of bond. Measure LCF, a $149-million bond to renovate and rebuild school properties, gained voter approval in 2017.
(Photo by Sara Cardine)

The La Cañada Unified school board welcomed news of the district’s new AA+ credit rating and heard a report on a new transportation policy for La Cañada High School athletics during a brief meeting Tuesday night.

LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette announced the district’s credit rating was evaluated by S&P Global in June and upgraded from an AA rating to an AA+ rating “as a result of the district’s strong budgetary performance.”

About 7% of California school districts have ratings of AA+ or higher as of September 2018, according to Sinnette.

The improved rating will benefit taxpayers because it will “allow the district to issue bonds and fund facilities at lower costs of bond, just as higher credit scores translate to lower mortgage rates,” Sinnette stated in a news release issued Tuesday, just prior to the meeting. In it, she noted the LCUSD had also previously been given an Aa1 rating by Moody’s Investor Service.

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“The rating reflects our opinion of the district’s history of strong financial performance [and] good financial policies and practices,” S&P wrote in the bond rating report, which was read aloud by school board member Dan Jeffries.

In her superintendent’s report to the board, Sinnette also shared that enrollment numbers are “quite healthy” and have increased to 4,145 from 4,124 in 2018.

New LCHS transportation policy

Former LCUSD Athletic Director Kristina Kalb provided an update of transportation for La Cañada High athletic events after reviewing financial records from the past two years and collecting feedback from parents, students and coaches.

Board policy was updated last year to allow for parents to drive student-athletes at LCHS to and from off-site competitions instead of making riding the bus each way mandatory. Current policy encourages carpools and requires that parents notify coaches at least 24 hours in advance if they plan on driving their student to ensure everyone is accounted for.

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Kalb said there was a “4:1 ratio” of positive to negative feedback, meaning that roughly 80% of parents, student-athletes and coaches preferred the new policy. Students enjoy a better work-life balance and more free time to spend with family, on homework or sleeping, while many coaches prefer the flexibility of the new policy, Kalb said.

Despite “dramatic” cost increases of buses in California, in Kalb’s words, LCUSD’s expenditures on buses for LCHS athletics decreased from $91,062 in 2017-18 to $88,867 in 2018-19 — a savings of $2,195.

Communication from the athletic office to coaches, from coaches to families and from parents to coaches could be improved, Kalb said.

Also, Sinnette provided an update on the Devil’s Gate Reservoir Restoration Project, sharing that the school board sent a detailed, eight-page letter to L.A. County’s Supervisor Kathryn Barger on July 11 in an effort to reduce the project’s potential harm to student health and safety.

Ensuring appropriate air monitoring measures, employing truck verification testing, developing a community safety plan and upgrading the District’s air filtration system were components in the letter, Sinnette said. LCUSD has not yet heard back from Barger.

Also Tuesday, the school board:

· Approved entering a Teacher Education Internship Program Agreement with California State Polytechnic University, Pomona to provide local college students with practical classroom experience. The contract is effective through June 22, 2022.

· Approved a three-year contract extension for Chief Technology Officer Jamie Lewsadder through June 30, 2023.

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James Faris is a contributing writer to Times Community News.


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