By Eliza Partika
Glendale Unified School District’s Superintendent Vivian Ekchian announced her retirement at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, in addition to providing plans for the upcoming school year and information about summer school.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the students, families and employees of GUSD for the past four years,” Ekchian said. “Together, we have weathered challenges, celebrated milestones, challenged ourselves to be creative in addressing the needs of our students and created a vibrant educational community that we can all be proud of.”
Taking effect on June 30, her retirement will bring to a close her 38-year career in public education. At GUSD, Ekchian served as the first female and first Armenian American superintendent for the district.
During her tenure, she built partnerships with outside organizations to close the digital divide, provided dual college enrollment and internship opportunities for students, opened health and wellness centers at every high school, and expanded the district’s before and after-school childcare program. In 2022, Ekchian was named Los Angeles County Superintendent of the Year.
Board President Nayiri Nahabedian said Ekchian, through her dedication as superintendent, leaves behind a lasting legacy.
“Dr. Ekchian will be greatly missed in Glendale Unified,” Nahabedian said. “Her focus on equity and student success has significantly impacted how we meet student needs. She has served as a powerful role model for our students and adults alike. On behalf of the Board, we wish her the best in retirement and look forward to her continued presence in the community.”
Darneika Watson, chief human resources and operations officer, will serve as interim superintendent while the Board determines next steps.
In her final meeting as superintendent, Ekchian explored what the Board plans to do next in the 2023-2024 school year, beginning with how the district can apply lessons learned from GUSD’s 2023 Summer Leadership Summit, where teachers, principals and other specialists from each school site will come together to discuss and plan programs for the coming year.
The focus will be on literacy, problem solving and looking at how to better welcome new students and families to schools by connecting them throughout the school year, not just at the beginning of the year.
Teachers also discussed assessments to track English learner student progress and alternative testing methods that are more relevant to individual students. Student voice panels and student conferences are also being used to assess student needs.
“Even when our needs change, we have to be the ones who are flexible and agile and practice differently, rather than expecting our students to conform to what may have worked before but doesn’t necessarily work now,” Ekchian said.
The discussion shifted to summer school, which is available for students who are looking to catch up to grade level or accelerate their math learning. Harbor Freight is offering a Tools for Schools mobile lesson in skilled trades at Roosevelt and Wilson middle schools. As of the June 20 meeting, 900 students are enrolled in summer school for the middle school level and more than 3,000 students are enrolled in high school courses. Nearly 500 students are enrolled in the extended school year program for children with special needs.
Plans for the upcoming school year include the implementation of a full-day kindergarten schedule, kindergarten and general education readiness programs for special needs students, culture and wellness classes, newcomer student support, expansion of child care services and the transformation of all school sites into “community schools” — focused on family communication, integrated student support and extended learning time, and more collaborative practices from school administration.
“It is critical work for us to welcome and integrate the families and students and give them all that is available for them to pick and choose. I appreciate the broad opportunities that are available transitioning from this school year to the next school year,” said Nahabedian.
APPROVAL OF LCAP AND BUDGET
GUSD approved the proposed budget for 2023-24 school year, with an expected $373 million revenue and $364 million expenditures for the upcoming year. The Board also approved the budget for the Local Control Accountability Plan for 2023-24, a three-year plan outlining the Board’s goals and specific actions and services needed to achieve those goals.
The LCAP draft report, which was approved at Tuesday’s meeting, shows the district’s planned expenditures for those three years and how funds will support actions and services, including data on test scores, graduation rates and campus climate and safety, plus a review and annual update of district expenditures and engagement with educational partners. The plan requires that the district improve access to services for English language learners, students with individual education plans and low-income students.
The data for test scores and graduation rates are still being processed, Stepan Mekhitarian, director of innovation, instruction, assessment and accountability for GUSD, said in a statement to the Glendale News-Press. Test scores will be completed in July and graduation rates will be released after the test scores.
POTENTIAL CHANGES TO GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS
The Board also discussed changes to California high school graduation requirements based on recommendations from the California School Board Association, and the addition of a pilot ethnic studies and health combined course for all ninth graders, beginning in the 2023-24 school year. California law is also changing to allow special education students to receive a diploma rather than a certificate of completion upon the completion of testing and graduation requirements.
Previous high school graduation requirements mandated both visual performing arts and foreign language classes. Proposed changes would include allowing students to choose 10 credits in either a foreign language or visual performing arts. A-G requirements to get into a four-year university or California state school would still require both visual performing arts and a foreign language.
First published in the June 24 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.