By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
The sixth annual State of the Schools Breakfast, held on Thursday, Oct. 7 at the Pacific Community Center and Edison Elementary School in Glendale, started with a catered breakfast by Glendale High School Bistro and ended on a high note provided by the Crescenta Valley High School Marching Band.
But it was the in-between that the crowd of about 500 came to hear.
For Dr. Richard Sheehan, this was the first introduction many in the audience had of the newly appointed district superintendent. To facilitate that, the district had placemats made that detailed Sheehan’s career in education from student to superintendent.
Taking the microphone, Sheehan first thanked the board for his hiring.
“I want to express my appreciation to the GUSD board for this once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. He also noted the upward movement in API trends, spotlighting foothills schools Clark Magnet High School and Fremont and Lincoln elementary schools. Clark, with a population of 860 students, had an API of 889 in 2010, with growth points of 17. Fremont has 488 students and in 2010 its API was 913, up 39 points. Lincoln has 362 students and with an API of 910 it improved by 14 points. The entire Glendale Unified School District has a student population 19,296 and the growth points for the district is up 13 points to 842 comfortably over the minimum 800 that the state encourages.
On the contract front, Sheehan acknowledged the combined efforts to reach an agreement – which was ratified on Sept. 13 – by the Glendale Teachers Association, the California State Employees Association, the school board and the Glendale Schools Management Association.
Though the district is struggling financially, which Chief Business and Financial Officer Eva Lueck briefly alluded to, the focus of the morning was on preparing students for the workforce and spotlighting
the rapid leaps forward in
technology that they face. Outlining these challenges was the subject of a video produced by Clark Magnet High School teacher Matt Stroup. The video outlined the need to update existing technologies in the district including creating virtual labs but noted that it would take an estimated $1.4 million to just maintain current capabilities.
In his presentation, State Superintendent Jack O’Connell reiterated the need for today’s students to be better prepared for the future, stating that, “if California is to remain competitive, we must prepare our students.” He added that the “competition is coming from emerging, developing third would countries that don’t wish to remain so.”
But with unstable budgets there was no clear path laid out on how to achieve an edge in the marketplace of today much less tomorrow.
This point was driven home by school board president Greg Krikorian who reminded the audience that California has one of the highest teacher-to-student classroom ratios and is one of the lowest in the nation in providing funding for education. However, Krikorian added that the GUSD board is united in its desire and quest for answers. “We are, as a board, one,” he said.
However, it was support for possible future initiatives that Krikorian is hoping to find. “We need your help,” he said. “Our kids need a fighting chance.”