• kids sitting in the lap of their parents and a large crowd behind them

      Parents and students at the PUSD meeting on Thrusday, Sept. 26, 2019 (Photo – Garrett Rowlan)

      Another SRO crowd gathered in the PUSD Hickambottom Board Room prior to another chapter in the saga of the Incredible Shrinking School District.

      By Garrett Rowlan

      The mood of the overflow crowd seemed to be a mixture of anxiety, anger, and resignation. “They’re going to do it anyway,” one man was overheard to say, meaning that the fates of certain elementary schools, Roosevelt and Jefferson, among others, have already been decided. But final word would have to wait until later in the program.

      What followed after the 90-minute closed session suggested a tribunal. Pleading their case, each speaker representing an elementary school was backed by a phalanx of supporters. Only McKinley and San Rafael were off the table, in terms of possible closure.

      These advocates were bookended by two members of the City Council, Victor Gordo at the beginning, who urged a more public process, and Mayor Terry Tornek at the end, who observed that no process, public or private, could avoid a decision that would be painful. After Tornek’s short address, the Board had a short break before returning at 9:25.

      a woman wearing a t-shirt in support of Jefferson school and a man holding a sign that says: save jefferson

      Jefferson School supporters (Photo – Garrett Rowlan)

      After the break

      In contrast to the emotional nature of the previous two hours-plus, these deliberations were quiet, heartfelt. Patrick Cahalan spoke in support of the most drastic cuts, in lieu of having to return in a couple of years and do more cutting. Roy Boulghourjian compared the process to a kind of Sophie’s Choice, that is, sacrificing one of two beloved children. He amended the metaphor to that of bringing in a child to share a room. Kimberly Kenne cited the 2400 extra elementary seats in the District. Michelle Bailey spoke in defense of schools in the Northwest side of Pasadena. Scott Phelps looked weary.


      In the end, the Board voted to close three schools, Franklin, Roosevelt and Jefferson and rezone them, Jefferson students to Longfellow.  The three members of the boundaries subcommittee, Michelle Bailey (Dist. 3), Patrick Cahalan (Dist. 4) and Kimberly kenne (Dist. 1) voted against. The remaining four board members who were not in the subcommittee, Scott Phelps (Dist. 7), Elizabeth Pomeroy (Dist. 5), Lawrence Torres (Dist. 6), and Roy Boulghourjian (Dist. 2), voted yes.

      people overflowing to the hallway adjacent to the meeting

      Attendees overflow to the hallway (Photo – Garrett Rowlan)

      Noted reactions

      When the vote was done, Scott Phelps urged a top down approach to the problem of closing secondary schools, when that issue comes up soon, counting on the input of Superintendent McDonald, when he returns from leave. David Verdugo has acted as Interim Superintendent for this meeting. Patrick Cahalan said: ” I think we made a mistake tonight.”

      The Board will meet on Oct 19 for a Board retreat.

      The meeting was adjourned at 11:00 at night, after a seven-hour meeting.


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      1. Daniel Langill says:

        Developers are buying off our representatives. Pasadena whoring themselves to the highest bidder.

      2. Pete Fisher says:

        The board has a fiduciary responsibility to manage the school resources. We elected them to make the hard choices, which they have..

      3. Lacey Mode Walker says:

        Seven hour meeting?! Wow

      4. Jonathan Gardner says:

        We need to switch out 2-4 of our Board members.

      5. Ernest M. Saenz says:

        Do you think that the factors for the decline in the elementary age students may be the majority of city’s population is past the child rearing age and/or gentrification which inflated the cost of property ownership and rentals, ergo making living in Pasadena unattainable for many young couples?

      6. Roderick Spilman says:

        Hey, PUSD did it to itself with its rabid social engineering. You reap what you sow.

      7. Tammany Pearson Fields says:

        Who can afford to live there anymore? Our house in 73 was 26,000 and in 2004 it sold for 900,000 dollars when we sold in 82 we sold it for 105,000 Insane.

      8. Duran-Mullis Leonor says:

        People in Pasadena voted for a sales tax hike which would raise 21 million annually and Measure J stated the city was to give PUSD 33% of that…. WHERE IS THAT ADDITIONAL 6.9 MILLION GOING? obviously not to the schools that desperately need it. PUSD PARENTS YOU NEED TO START ASKING QUESTIONS!!!

      9. Michael Heather says:

        They should empty out the building on Del Mar Ave.

      10. Lauren Dinaro Veca says:

        This is extremely sad and disturbing. I moved here 11 years ago when my son was going into 4th grade. Our local elementary school was Loma Alta, now a private nursery school. My son had the most amazing teacher. PUSD let that amazing teacher go, and put someone in his place that should never have been in the classroom. I sat in that classroom and observed things that were totally unacceptable. We then moved to Willard Elementary, Eliot for middle school, before it became an ARTS Magnet and my son graduated from PHS. The point I am trying to make is that they seem to be targeting West Altadena Schools. I am curious why they would send these families to Longfellow when Altadena Elementary is closer for them. The PUSD system is very broken and needs lots of fixin. We have two charter schools here in Altadena, Aveson and Odyssey Elementary – which now has two campus’s. The system is so broken people are moving to other districts and enrolling their students in private schools. Heck – heck one of the board members kids both went to private schools. I’d like to know where all the money went!

      11. Grant Foodieking says:

        They should open the abandon schools to the homeless

      12. Rene Richard says:

        Pasadena has a very large selection of private schools.

        The attendance might be down in public, but in the rise in private.

        Has anyone studied that correlation?

        There are so many young families that have moved into the area. The enrollment may have just shifted.

      13. Nelson Diaz says:

        They are pushing Latinos and blacks out of the city.

      14. Monica Valentine says:

        They have to make room for more apartment buildings and hotels..

      15. Joe DesBarres says:

        A school board unable to think and act BOLDLY at a time when only BOLD ACTION will suffice

      16. Allyson Castle says:

        It’s too expensive for families to live in Pasadena, and those that can afford it, don’t have to deal with the issues of the school district because they have the mo eye to place their kids elsewhere.

      17. christopher nyerges says:

        What’s lacking in the story is the WHY? is this the result of charter schools? People with children moving away? Or what?

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