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Message from the Superintendent

First published in the Aug. 20 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

By Vivian Ekchian
Special to the Glendale News-Press

Our Glendale Unified Board of Education, administrators, teachers, and staff were excited to welcome students back to campuses this week. As we embark on this new school year, my fourth as GUSD’s superintendent, we remain relentlessly committed to providing welcoming and healthy learning environments where our students can thrive.
The following four priority areas combine to deliver a holistic approach to providing rich learning and personal growth opportunities for students:
Individual learning support — While we have worked tirelessly the last two years to ensure every Glendale Unified student received instruction aligned to grade level standards, we know many struggled with the challenges presented by changing COVID policies. Individualized support will ensure students understand important concepts critical to mastering new learning. This year, we have increased intervention and support opportunities for all students, including our “Super Tutors” peer tutoring program. We are implementing a new, universal screening test to identify students for Gifted and Talented Education programs. Our middle and high schools offer a block schedule and 7-period day to allow deeper engagement and more opportunities for students to participate in electives.
Equitable access to resources — We are committed to addressing the individual needs of all students, including students with special needs, English learners, foster/unhoused youth, and historically under-resourced and under-represented student groups. This year, we are allocating $12 million in funds directly to school sites for them to use as they see fit to address specific student needs. We continue to provide learning technology to close the digital divide. Additionally, we have expanded child care opportunities to serve more families and we are pleased to offer free meals for every child.
Social-emotional wellness — We are proud to offer new and improved mental health services for students and families, and increased professional development and social-emotional support for our educators and staff. This includes one-on-one counseling, schoolwide wellness campaigns, and training for stress management and positive school culture. This year, we are excited to open Student Wellness Centers at every high school, with support from the Adventist Health Glendale Foundation, where students can meet with a counselor, find resources, or simply take a moment to decompress.
Health and safety — We continuously update and refine our school safety plans in collaboration with local law enforcement. This year, we are launching a new, centralized emergency management system to more efficiently track and respond to incidents on our campuses. Every school site will have new tools to help administrators track visitors, manage volunteers and quickly respond to emergencies when needed. We have expanded health and safety training opportunities, including providing CPR training for students and employees, in partnership with the American Heart Association and our local hospitals. We continue to implement layers of protection to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses, including offering three COVID-19 testing clinics and making at-home rapid test kits available for every student and employee.
As we look forward to a wonderful new school year, we remain focused on elevating student voices, supporting our educators and staff, and partnering with our families and community to offer dynamic learning opportunities for every child. We are excelling together to prepare our youth for success in college, career and life.

Vivian Ekchian is superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District.

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