• a board listening to a person on a podium

      PUSD Board meeting, March 23, 2023 (Photo – Screengrab, KLRN)

      Pasadena Unified School Board meeting for the month of March, started at 4:00 pm and ended at around 11:30 pm, which made for a very long evening.

      By Billy Malone

      The problem with such long meetings is how one can follow the whole meeting with the attention it deserves. However, I have to say that even though these meetings may be long they are chock full of information for all those who have an interest in our public schools, and it usually offers something for everyone. It always has interesting moments that will show the individual characteristics of each school board member.

      The PUSD Board consists of, Michelle Richardson Bailey, Kimberly Kenne, Jennifer Lee Hall, Patrick Cahalan, Patrice Marshall McKenzie, Tina Fredericks, and Yarma Velázquez. All in attendance along with Deputy Superintendent Elizabeth Blanco.

      The meeting started on time, on March 23 with three resolutions that all passed:

      1. March 31st as Cesar Chavez – Dolores Huerta Day.
      2. Support of inclusion of Armenian as a check box in 2030 census.
      3. April as the month to memorialize the Armenian genocide.

      It is noted that Dolores Huerta along with Byllye Avery were also the keynote speakers the night before at PUSD’s 6th annual Women’s History Month Event held at Marshal Fundamental. Before the meeting went to closed session, there was a presentation by the Peer Advocates of Planned Parenthood, a program that includes students from many different schools in the area including PUSD, charter, and private. They gave a rundown of their program regarding youth and reproductive rights. As one student from the program explained, “one thing that’s important is the fact we interviewed those who worked at the schools and a lot of them were misinformed about information regarding youth rights to reproductive health care services especially abortion.

      Closed session lasted close to two hours, but once back it was full steam ahead. Public comments started with Chris Sulzbach promoting the Robotics team competing in Lancaster, Antelope Valley, starting March 30th.  The Labor Unions UTP’s Jonathan Gardner spoke about class sizes and issues with outstanding reimbursements.

      We were then treated to a PUSD Math and Literacy update. This presentation focused on the four main points:  1) High Quality Instruction, 2) Quality Curriculum, 3) Screening and Assessment, and 4) Attentiveness to Student needs. There is the need to identify students below level, establish data points, and target those needs.

      This was followed by The International Academy at Blair, who gave an exciting overview of their hard work. The Main speaker was Maria Garcia, who is a lead teacher at the International Academy. She was part of the original team that designed this newcomer program from the ground up. She stated, “Our students represent what immigrants have always represented in this country, hope, a fresh start, and a chance to live the American dream. We say, ‘learning together in a new place headed towards a better future.’”

      The international academy started many years ago helping to graduate one or two students but now it has an incredible success rate and sees more than 30 students graduate annually and growing. Students have come from many counties including the Congo. The following is a chart supplied by Maria Garcia showing countries of origin that the international academy has serviced.


      One of the more interesting topics of conversation discussed by the board (and makes for a really good example of why these meetings can become entrenched in time) was Action item 4) the issue of a raise for APSA employees (Association of Public School Administrators). It was complex but interesting to see how differently the board members viewed employee compensation. (See Discussion of Salaries for Pasadena Unified Administrators).

      Consent Agenda

      At the end of the meeting, when rushed for time, the board reached the Consent Agenda where several items were pulled for individual discussion and voting. This included Consent Agenda item 6) e) Approval of Job Classification for coordinators I and II. This is was to eliminate the different categories of coordinators and simplify them into one.

      Blanco explained the reason for the change was that the previous classifications and descriptions have only led to confusion as they could not find any distinguishing characteristics between the jobs. She said that change has been needed for a long time. However, this item did not pass and was voted against by board members: Cahalan, Fredericks, Velazquez and Kenne.

      After the vote President Bailey requested and stressed several times to the board members who voted no “What do we need to ask staff to provide, so we can move forward with this next meeting?”  But the confusing thing was that none of the board members, who voted it down, gave a response as to what was needed or what they were looking for in response to their vote.  Meeting was adjourned at 11:30 pm.

      > Watch the full meeting below:

      Billy Malone is a PUSD parent and an Altadena Town Councilmember.

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