By Odalis A. SUAREZ
In an effort to bring community concerns about the Glendale Unified School District budget crisis under one roof, GUSD board president Greg Krikorian, along with GUSD board member Christine Walters, organized the first “fireside chat” at the Verdugo Hills Boy Scout Council in Glendale this past Tuesday.
“This is not district sanctioned or union sanctioned,” stated Krikorian. “Each person is here because we care.”
After doing research on Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Depression for a project, Krikorian felt inspired to bring the concept of a “Fireside Chat” to the district community in order to give members an opportunity to ask questions and better understand the issues regarding the budget and the pending negotiations with the teachers union.
One of the clarifications made was of how open the school board is to contract negotiations.
“Our doors are still open for negotiations. People say it’s closed, but its not closed,” explained Krikorian.
Approximately 30 parents, teachers and community members attended the chat. Attendees sat down in a roundtable-like setting with the majority of attendees bringing pen and paper, eager to take down the detailed information provided. This included the status of the negotiations with the teachers.
“Currently we are fact finding and in [a] negotiation process. July 16 is the day that they call the hearing. [The challenge is] on June 30. We have to turn in our budget by then. We have to decide what our class size is going to be,” explained Krikorian.
The hearing on July 16, continued Krikorian, will consist of a three-person panel. These individuals include one person selected by the school district, another chosen by the union, and a third mutual party.
However, group discussion at the chat was not a two-way street. Parents, like mother of two Minette Garcia, was seeking answers as to why the teachers union refused to appear on June 10 for negotiations.
“We were baffled that they wouldn’t stop and look at the deal,” said Garcia.
Aside from negotiation concerns, parents wanted to understand the effects that the budget will have on the students and their academic atmosphere.
“I want to support the interests of the students and I’m worried that the students will get lost in all these things that are going on,” said concerned mother Annie Alwin. “My passion is to make sure we take care of the kids. [I] want to make sure we keep our counselors, they play such a key role.”
A meeting that was intended to end at 8:00 p.m lasted until 10:00 p.m. as questions were never scarce. Both Krikorian and Walters found the discussion beneficial for the community.
“I’m very encouraged. I thought the turn out was good. These people care and want to learn about the issues together,” stated Walters.
After the discussion, Krikorian was hopeful that the fireside chat would encourage community members to get involved.
“By doing this we have to share the responsibility and the sooner we can get back to the table we can save these jobs,” he said.
For concerned parents, teachers, and community members the fireside chat was not a one-time event. Krikorian and Walters will be holding two more of these discussions in different locations to encourage community members from other parts of the district to voice their opinions and ask questions.
The next fireside chat will be on June 24 at the Dad’s Club located at 1728 Cañada Blvd.