First published in the April 23 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
Nayiri Nahabedian pledged to continue leading the Glendale Unified School District on its everlasting quest for growth and delivering the best educational opportunities it can for the community.
The longtime Board of Education member was sworn in as the panel’s president this week, taking on the reins of the 20,000-student school district for the next year. She succeeds Shant Sahakian, who was board president for the first time this past year.
Nahabedian, who was first elected in 2007 and was most recently reelected in 2020, discussed the “collective responsibility” she felt that she and peers shared in shepherding students through their primary and secondary educations, as well as in working together with each other and holding themselves accountable.
“I look forward to continuing to work together on the achievement of academic success and also continue to create a culture of learning,” she said at Tuesday’s board meeting, following the formal rotation, “where our students are engaged, where our curriculum is relevant and rigorous and responsive to their needs, where our students know that they are included, that the curriculum reflects who they are and their histories … that they know that this school district and their schools really hold that in high regard.”
Nahabedian is a faculty member at California State University, Los Angeles. In discussing her new role this week, she extolled the importance of promoting the social and emotional health and strength of students on their academic journeys.
“Glendale Unified School District, like really any other entity, we are a growing entity,” she said. “We are not perfect, but we are flexible, we are open and we are willing, and we will continue to do the right thing. When we make errors, we will rise up and do the teaching and learning that is necessary to grow and develop. That’s what makes an excellent institution.”
Board members Jennifer Freemon and Greg Krikorian were selected as vice president and clerk, respectively.
Sahakian revisited his year as president, which began as GUSD had started to transition from a strict remote teaching model to a hybrid school day that brought voluntary students back into classrooms in groups. He also led the board in its commitment to kick off the current school year with a full return to an in-person schedule, complete with a variety of coronavirus-conscious policies in place.
This school year kicked off with bringing all secondary schools to a seven-period block schedule, emulating what Clark Magnet High School has operated under for years. The district had used this model to schedule out the week during remote learning and aimed to keep it in order to offer students more flexibility with their days and open up electives to them.
The district also expanded a number of partnerships with the city, local hospitals and Glendale Community College this past year, and implemented multiple policy and curriculum changes aimed at broadening the inclusivity of educational materials and perspectives. One of Sahakian’s signature campaign issues, to impose term limits on school board members, was also addressed this year when the board voted to place the item on June’s election ballots.
Sahakian, who will cruise to a second term in June after receiving no electoral challenges to his seat, also thanked “the heroes of GUSD” — educators, support staff, administrators and all other employees — for helping to power the district through the pandemic’s upheavals.
“They are the boots on the ground,” he said, “and we would not be able to operate without their dedication and commitment every single day.”
Perhaps his biggest highlight, Sahakian noted, was enrolling his son — the first of his children — in GUSD for the first time. Having grown up in the district, officially becoming a district parent and now overseeing the construction of the Armenian American Museum, Sahakian speculated that his involvement in local education will only continue to broaden.
“Looking forward, I have had many opportunities to reflect on the role of Glendale public schools on my life, as a former student, and also the role of public education in the future of our community,” he said.