Burbank school board hears educators' wish lists

Burbank educators approached the school board Thursday night to discuss what they believe should be restored in the district as local school officials look to bring back some programs and staff positions that were affected by years of state budget cuts.

In a special study session, Roosevelt Elementary Principal Jennifer Meglemre requested the school district add a curriculum specialist at her school and other sites. Currently, there are six curriculum specialists, the majority of whom are shared among 11 elementary schools in the district.

Looking back on the 89 school days so far this year, Meglemre said she has participated in 48 Individualized Education Program meetings, 34 parent meetings, 18 off-campus principal meetings and dozens of PTA meetings, school tours and district Common Core curriculum meetings, among other commitments.

"And I've unplugged two toilets," she said, adding that a curriculum specialist would help free her up so she is more available to students, parents and teachers, who often come by and find she's gone, she said.

In a preliminary plan presented Thursday night, the district would have a full-time curriculum specialist at all elementary schools beginning in 2014.

Bret Harte Elementary Principal Sheari Taylor was one of a few educators who insisted the district also provide nurses, alongside Burbank Unified's head nurse, Lenora Aguilera, who said the existing six nurses serving about 15,200 students were too few, partly because students at the majority of Burbank's schools deal with Type 1 diabetes.

Other students, she said, suffer from epilepsy, asthma and other ailments. At Burroughs High, Aguilera said she can see at least 60 students in a single day.

"I enjoy my job… but the needs of our students have increased," she said.

To reduce class sizes, the school district may hire 23 additional teachers during the next eight years.

Also, Burbank Unified employees could finally see pay raises, which haven't been approved since 2007.

"We have a responsibility to take some of the money and pay them," said school board member Larry Applebaum. "And thank them for staying here."

Thursday's meeting was the beginning of what will likely be several planning sessions as district officials determine how much ongoing and one-time monies they will receive from the state.

School officials also want to establish an educational foundation and world language classes at all middle schools. It may also expand its fledgling dual-language immersion program that started at the beginning of this school year, where students spend most of their day speaking and learning in Spanish.

The district may begin offering an Armenian dual-immersion program by next fall.

"What we want to do is listen [to the needs]," said school board President Dave Kemp. "We're kind of getting the pulse of the community."