• A group of people meeting in a board room

      A screengrab from the PUSD Board meeting, Jan. 26, 2023 (Photo – KLRN)

      The PUSD board consists of Michelle Richardson Bailey, Kimberly Kenne, Jennifer Hall Lee, Patrick Cahalan, Patrice Marshall McKenzie, Tina Fredericks and Yarma Velazquez. All were in attendance with Superintendent Brian McDonald.

      By Billy Malone


      The meeting started with formal approval of two resolutions to recognize and honor February as National Black History month and to observe the Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on January 30, 2023, or the days surrounding it, and direct the superintendent, schools, and teachers, to recognize, celebrate, and commemorate them it with appropriate and meaningful activities.

      Public Comment

      Most public comments were in reference to teacher compensation. As its president, Jonathan Gardner, spoke for the teacher’s union, requesting the board to place more importance on wage increases and holiday considerations.

      Presentations (Information Items)

      There were three presentations.

      Academic Focus, on the district’s Expanded Learning Opportunities program. Program enrollment has increased from 1841 students in 20-21 to 2737 students in 22-23, an increase of almost 50%.  Highlights include over 50 teachers plus 200 other staff involved in after school tutoring.  Approximately 400 students are receiving after school tutoring.

      Under Academic Focus was an update by Principal Dr. Benita Scheckel on Altadena Eliot Arts school subtitled One School, Two Campuses K-8, Arts for All!  The presentation included a review of the school’s creation and the successful receipt of a new federal magnet grant to support the program at Eliot. Requests were made for board permission: 1) to begin the process of a name change for Eliot given its namesake’s participation in the eugenics movement, 2) for the plan to build after school programs called arts conservatories at the middle school, and 3) an acknowledgement that without such conservatories, middle school students are lost to an area charter school, which has such offerings.

      This was followed by good discussion from the board. Kimberly Kenne stated her concerns that the whole process was too quick and more time for outreach and community feedback should be taken. Jennifer Hall Lee mentioned that both schools had community connections, and she had reservations with the renaming portion. Overall the “one school two campuses” concept, with a continued focus on the arts and an added arts conservatory, seemed well received. There were still staff and others with reservations. In her positive style Dr. Scheckel showed she was up to the task to lead this vision.

      The third presentation, by Dr. Leslie Barnes, Chief Facilities and Operations Officer for the district, was a high-level overview of the Governor’s January 2023 proposal for the state’s 23 budget. This proposal and priorities of the legislature will be negotiated by the governor and legislature in the coming months to produce a budget that can be approved by June 15, 2023 per state regulations.  Consideration was taken for the current economy and inflation rates.

      Action Items

      After a highly professional presentation, the Facilities Master Plan website was launched. It will allow the public to be more engaged in the continued process and its changes. At a point in the board discussion of each site’s needs, Jennifer Hall Lee pointed out “that the principals are in charge of their sites, and they have ideas of what they need so we do have to listen to that.” Another action item showed that what would seem a simple construction project, such as shade installation, still requires approval from the California Division of State Architect (DSA). It also must have campus-wide federal law Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

      The meeting was concluded by the Consent Agenda, where many items are voted on as a block.

      Before the voting were two discussions stood out. One by Patrick Cahalan with three items pertaining to trips with overnight stays for students. He suggested that the board look at giving the superintendent the authority to approve such requests without having it come to the board. The second was a more colorful moment, in reference to the hiring of a past board member as a teacher. Dr. Yarma Velazquez stated “possible perception…improper or unethical…on behalf of the board…pull it aside so I can abstain.” Staff explained the hiring process, the shortage of teachers, and the qualifications of the teacher. Despite that explanation, the vote was separated from the rest of the consent agenda, and Dr. Velazquez still abstained in protest.

      One rare item also on the Consent Agenda was the authorization of establishing a committee to rename Andrew Jackson Elementary School to Mary W. Jackson STEAM Multilingual Magnet Elementary School. This effort was reported by ColoradoBoulevard.net here: Pasadena Unified School Proposes Name Change.

      President Michelle Richardson Bailey did a good job of moving the agenda forward in a timely fashion and keeping the board under control.

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

      > Watch the full meeting below:

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