By Jason KUROSU
The last GUSD board of education meeting of 2010 was kicked off in holiday fashion Tuesday. The boardroom was adorned with wreaths and Christmas lights and the meeting began with a caroling performance by the Crescenta Valley High Charismatics.
The holiday spirit was furthered appropriately by a series of gifts. School board members Mary Boger, Greg Krikorian, Joylene Wagner and Christine Walters were awarded a certificate from the California School Board Association, congratulating them for completing the CSBA’s Masters in Governance Program. After that, a $50,000 donation from Pacific BMW to the Glendale Educational Foundation was presented.
Once the public communications portion of the meeting took place, things quickly got back down to business, and the meeting came to revolve around a theme present in many past school board meetings and around the district in general: finances, and specifically the new General Obligation Bond titled the Quality Schools Protection Act that many hope to see on the ballot at the upcoming April election.
Speakers addressed the board with their perspectives on the bond measure. Many of the speakers were, as expected, parents of children in the district, but most of them were also teachers. Much of the teacher’s support for the bond measure is due to the funds from the measure being allocated towards improving school facilities and acquiring more advanced equipment and technology for the classrooms.
Carolyn Williams, a first grade teacher at Mark Keppel Elementary, spoke of the measure helping the school attain top quality classroom facilities, rather than having to teach in bungalows, as she does.
“Mark Keppel fully supports the school board in approving this bond,” Williams said. “It will improve schools and keep class sizes down. The upgrade would improve the quality of education for all of our students.”
Ryan Hobbs, a special education teacher at Toll Middle School, impressed upon the board that better technology in the classrooms is not only good for replacing outdated equipment, but better engages the students in lessons. He detailed the advantages of technology such as Smart Boards, interactive whiteboards that work like large touchpads, and which Hobbs uses in his class.
“These are necessary tools to increase student engagement and prepare students for a future in which advanced technology of this nature will be an essential part of their lives,” said Hobbs.
Almost all the speakers, including the members of the school board, expressed their support for putting the bond measure on the ballot.
However, Glendale Teacher’s Union President Tami Carlson, while understanding the teachers’ optimism, expressed some wariness over the bond measure.
“Teachers should realize that they won’t have a say in what’s done with the money [from the bond measure],” Carlson said. While some of the teachers spoke of noticeable improvements to their classrooms and schools after the passing of Measure K, Carlson made reference to teachers who saw improvements to the main buildings of their schools, but were themselves removed to bungalows to teach their classes.
“Who makes the decisions with the money? I don’t know, but it’s not the teachers.”
Carlson also said that the measure would necessitate a tax hike.
“I am loath to tell the taxpayers to support a tax hike, especially when we are in an economic crisis,”she said.
However, GUSD representatives have stated numerous times that the bond measure would not create a tax hike, and that property rates would remain the same.
In the end the board unanimously voted to place the measure on the April 5 ballot. If approved the Act will generate about $270 million to repair and upgrade district schools without increasing tax rates beyond the fiscal year 2009-10. The entire cost is deductible on state and federal taxes, according to district officials.