By Mary O’KEEFE
Glendale district board members suggested closing Crescenta Valley High School campus as a deterrent against rising drug related expulsions.
At Tuesday’s school board meeting a discussion was held concerning the high rate of pre-expulsions related to drug issues. The audience and board viewed a Power Point presentation by Assistant Superintendent Richard Sheehan, which highlighted CVHS as the leader in expulsions.
“There were 19 drug related pre-expulsions at CVHS, six at Glendale High and Hoover High,” Sheehan said.
In addition there were three pre-expulsions from Daily High School and one from Rosemont Middle School. Pre-expulsion is when a student has violated student education code 48900, which pertains to possessing, using, furnishing or selling a controlled substance. Hank Paz, director of student services, investigates the incident and then either recommends or dismisses expulsion procedures.
In the school year 2008-09 at CVHS, according to Sheehan’s figures, 34 students were suspended for drug and alcohol related offenses, 23 had pre-expulsion hearings and nine were expelled. So far this year there were 23 drug and alcohol suspensions, 19 pre-expulsion hearings and 15 expulsions.
That dramatic rise has raised concerns in the district and the board. The rise was not a surprise to Nancy Stone, Howard Hakes or
Glendale Police Officer Matt Zakarian who were there representing the CV Drug and Alcohol Prevention Council. The organization began with Zakarian and a few parents who were concerned about their children abusing drugs.
“We are grateful to Officer Zakarian. He heard those parents,” Stone said.
The prevention council has now grown to include many community members as well as town council members, church representatives and other organizations.
“We have a sustainable organization that can battle this problem long term,” Stone said.
Hakes outlined the council’s plan of educating students and especially parents on the issue of drug and alcohol use. The group plans on starting a community center that will give students a place to go after school and on weekends. They are working on getting grants and will continue to reach out to those parents who are in need of personal counseling.
Zakarian explained that this was not just an issue of drugs at school but throughout the community.
“I am in community policing. My job is to look at long term problems,” he said.
Zakarian, a CVHS graduate, said that drugs had always been an issue at CV but when he saw there was a heroin problem in the community he knew he had to do something.
“It has gotten so bad that young teens are turning to robbery and even witness intimidation,” he said.
Principal Linda Evans told the board that she had been working with the newly formed drug council. It was Evans who found the grant money that the council has used for counseling parents. She told the board that she just found out that CVHS had been listed in U.S. News Report in the top three percent of high schools in the nation.
“There is so much right at the school and so many of our kids are making good decisions but we do have a problem,” she said.
She highlighted what the school resource officer, Deputy Scott Shinagawa, was doing with his outreach program. He takes students that are struggling in school and could be potentially leaning toward drug use. The students are introduced to a variety of career opportunities from architects to rock climbing with Montrose Search and Rescues members.
The district administration plans on working with the drug council and on implementing a drug testing pilot program.
“We have been working with Linda on the pilot program,” Sheehan said.
The program will be completely voluntary. Parents can sign their child up for the program which will choose students at random for testing. If the student refuses to be tested, the parent is notified. It is a confidential program where the parents receive the results. A summary report is given to the school once a month.
San Clemente High School has had the program in place with positive results, Evans said.
School board member Greg Krikorian was the first to mention closing the campus.
“CV is the only campus in the district that is open,” he said.
Other members of the board agreed that closing the campus should be an option with the strongest support coming from board president Mary Boger.
“I would encourage your community group to seek to have your campus close at lunch time. Too often when I have seen those [expulsion] cases it is following lunch,” Boger said.
Another issue is that this is the first year Rosemont Middle School has been without a full time school resource officer. Shinagawa now has to share his time between the high school and middle school. Glendale and Hoover High Schools have two SROs at each campus.
“We pulled the SROs from the middle schools,” Sheehan said.
That still leaves one at CVHS while the other high schools with closed campuses have two each.
“It all comes down to funding. The city of Glendale [helps] funds the officers. It’s a combination; we pay for part of Glendale and Hoover,” Sheehan explained.
Similar grants were accessed in the past to retain Deputy Steve Toley at Rosemont Middle School in addition to funds from Los Angeles Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office.
“The problem is those grants aren’t there [now],” Sheehan said.