The City of Glendale’s April 7 election will determine who fills the two available seats on the Glendale Unified School District board of education. A Thursday night forum at the La Crescenta Library hosted by the CV Town Council provided voters with an opportunity to meet the five candidates and hear their perspectives on the latest issues affecting local schools and how the district should address those topics.
Nayiri Nahabedian has served on the GUSD board since 2007 and teaches at California State University, Los Angeles School of Social Work, as well as serving on several educational councils including the California School Board Association and the Student Advisor Council, among others.
Nahabedian supported smaller class sizes, saying she was the GUSD board’s sole non-vote on increasing class sizes. Speaking on her teaching career, Nahabedian said, “I know the difference between having four more students and four less students. I can sense the impact on how it affects my teaching and it is even more so for K-12.”
She also supported “positive behavior intervention solutions” rather than simply suspending children who need mental health support, programs which promote kindness in order to reduce bullying and providing a “21st century education” through utilizing technological resources.
“Now, more than ever, we need a strong and experienced advocate for all our children. It would be my honor to keep serving on the board, bringing my experience and keeping a balance between competing interests,” she said.
Kevin Cordova-Brookey is the 1st Vice President of the Glendale Council PTA and also serves on the Glendale Educational Foundation board of directors and the GUSD Local Control Accountability Plan Committee.
Cordova-Brookey stressed communication and increased parental involvement, particularly regarding recent issues affecting the district such as Common Core Implementation and Measure S upgrades at the district’s various campuses.
Cordova-Brookey said that as a school board member, he would love to interact directly with schools much as he did in his time with the PTA as well as provide more programs to increase parent involvement.
“We have to be creating opportunities for them to get involved so that our students can be successful,” he said.
He also supported better student services, from mental health services to college prep, in order to make GUSD campuses “a safe haven for our kids to go to school each and every day.”
“I’ll make sure that our board of education stays accountable, stays transparent, and I’ll make sure that we communicate effectively with our stakeholders,” he said. “I’m committed to making sure that our students are receiving the best education possible so that they’ll have a successful future.”
Jennifer Freemon previously taught at Hoover High School and Toll Middle School and has served on the Glendale Council PTA and the board of governors at Occidental College. Freemon advocated a more thorough effort towards strengthening communication between parents, students and the district. Freemon recommended more outreach to get parents involved and informed, meeting with community groups to inform the board on public concerns, and getting input from members of student government.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to parents and heard them frustrated that they’ve gone to a district meeting to be given a presentation and to not really be in dialogue where they really felt they had that opportunity to have a voice,” she said.
Freemon said her experience as a teacher and a parent gave her firsthand knowledge of what teachers need to effectively educate and what parents are looking for in their children’s learning environment.
Freemon also said that better training of school staff was necessary to both help students and provide staff with the insight to know when to intervene on a troubled student’s behalf.
“There is a lot coming into our district that has to do with curriculum and instruction. I understand those things. That is my profession; that is what I do.” said Freemon. “I am passionately involved and passionately devoted to this school district.”
Todd Hunt has served on a number of educational committees and organizations such as the GUSD Superintendent’s Facilities Committee and the Glendale Educational Foundation, among others, and is the president of the Kiwanis Club of Glendale.
Hunt supported using technological advantages to reach out to students and parents as well as provide infrastructure in the classrooms, allowing teachers to “provide their instruction with a real technology component to it.”
Hunt also said that “the district does not exist in a vacuum” and reaching out to community groups could help students in need of outreach, be that mental health or financial support.
“My passion is to make sure that future generations of students in Glendale and La Crescenta get the education to get the opportunities they need to achieve greatness and to secure their future,” Hunt said.
Vahik Satoorian is a CPA and president of the D&M Educational Foundation. Satoorian was also a member of the GUSD Superintendent’s Facility Advisory Board on Measure S and a Glendale Educational Foundation board member.
Satoorian emphasized getting teachers and students the necessary resources for a proper educational experience, whether that be technology to analyze the needs of the district, or for implementation of Common Core in the classroom.
“We are a data-driven and information-driven society,” said Satoorian.
Satoorian said that there should be a “shared leadership” between the board members, teachers, parents and students and that the school district’s budget should be managed properly to avoid teacher layoffs and large class sizes.
Satoorian identified himself as having strong ties to the school district, saying, “I’ve been involved with the Glendale Unified School District for more than 15 years” as well having a son currently attending Clark Magnet High School and a daughter teaching at Rosemont Middle School.
Other issues covered at the forum included what direction GUSD should take regarding the Sagebrush negotiations with the La Cañada Unified School District. As consolation for the loss of students that would be transferring to LCUSD, part of the original territory transfer terms included LCUSD acquiring the park near Mountain Avenue. GUSD removed consideration of the park property and talks with LCUSD are ongoing.
The candidates uniformly agreed that the park should remain with GUSD. Hunt said that he would not do any kind of deal that would give the park to LCUSD, adding, “That park is vital to the safety of Mountain Avenue.”
Nahabedian reiterated the position of the GUSD board, saying, “I stand by the proposal we sent,” and that the board of education has been doing its due diligence to address any potential legal ramifications as a result of the territory transfer.
Satoorian said that the park should stay with GUSD and that the transfer would “bring about a financial burden for Glendale.”
Cordova-Brookey believed the park should stay with GUSD and said that negotiations should continue with LCUSD until “we find a decision that is a winning decision for everyone involved.”
Freemon said “Mountain Avenue is a fantastic community school and it needs to stay that way” and called it a “gem of the community.”
Candidates were also asked what they thought of the upcoming Measure E, also on the April 7 ballot. If approved, future elections of school district board members would be determined through voting districts, which some candidates saw as a way to improve representation of various ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
Cordova-Brookey said that “it’s important that every voice is heard” and thought that districts “would make our school board more effective.” However, Cordova-Brookey noted that because he lives in unincorporated La Crescenta, he does not have a vote on Measure E, but believed that the community should be involved in the district process, should Measure E be approved.
Nahabedian said there were benefits and drawbacks to districts, saying that whoever was elected needs “to carry themselves with that commitment of being responsible to everyone.” Nahabedian supported a “transparent” process of drawing up districts, which would allow for voter input and “not have that be a decision of just the board of education.”
Freemon also supported community input throughout the school district, saying, “It really becomes the responsibility of the entire board to make sure that discussion encompasses the entire district, because the board members do represent the entire district.”
Freemon advocated the creation of a citizens’ commission made up of residents living throughout the school district, from which feedback on voting district boundaries could be compiled.
Satoorian did not support districts, saying, “The school board must be responsible for the whole community.” Among the issues Satoorian described were parents having only one school board representative to interact with and representatives feeling beholden to their particular district more than the other districts.
Hunt said he was aware that certain areas of the district felt underrepresented and that boundaries would “have a positive impact that’s going to give everyone a voice in the district.”
Hunt supported an “open, transparent and inclusive” process of drawing up the boundaries.
Visit www.glendalevotes.org for more information on the candidates and the location of polling places.