For the 19th year, the Glendale Educational Foundation hosted its State of the Schools event on Wednesday where community members gathered to celebrate the work of the Glendale Unified School District and heard district updates from the newly appointed Superintendent Darneika Watson.
“As I take over the task of superintendent, there are some goals that I have, which are aligned with our district vision goals,” Watson said during the event. “So they’re not just my goals, they become our goals, and it’s vital that we all work together to focus on these priorities.”
Identifying these priorities as educator collaboration and support, support for every student, family engagement and commitment to transparency, and student and employee safety, Watson touched on how the district is already making strides on each front.
Watson emphasized Glendale’s “diverse and dynamic district” of more than 25,000 students across 10 preschools, 20 elementary schools, four middle schools, four high schools, a continuation school, independent studies programs for students of all needs, seven dual language immersion programs, six magnet schools, 27 career and technical education pathways for students, and two innovative early college academies.
In addition to plans to expand arts education and visual and performing arts education, Watson announced the expansion of the district’s transitional kindergarten and implementing full day kindergarten in the 2024-25 school year.
In terms of family involvement with the district, Watson has been hosting coffee chats with parents from elementary schools and plans to expand this to middle and high school families as well. She also highlighted the recent curriculum nights where parents were invited to hear directly from teachers and curriculum experts to go through exactly what their students are being taught at every level in GUSD.
“We continuously expand our communications to reach more of our students’ families, and I love that our educators, administrators and district leaders encourage our families and community members to visit our school and ask all the questions [they] want,” Watson said.
“We definitely want to engage you,” she added. “Nothing is better than a system where our educators are in constant communication with our families.”
Watson also emphasized the importance of caring for both students’ and faculty’s mental and physical health. Expanded counseling services including telehealth options, the addition of wellness rooms throughout every high school and some middle schools, and collaboration with law enforcement on safety measures work to nurture students’ needs, said Watson.
“We have also updated our policies and procedures to address hate speech and promote kindness, empathy and cultural understanding to ensure every individual on our campus feels safe and welcomed,” Watson said. “We have a long way to go and we need your help and support.”
The superintendent also announced that GUSD is a finalist this year for a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association for its innovative Super Tutors program.
At the State of the Schools, GEF recognized the Educational Excellence Awardees: Narine Yapundjian, Teacher of the Year, Hrachik Sardarbegian, Classified Employee of the Year, and The Walt Disney Company, Community Partner of the Year.
Yapundjian has been teaching in GUSD for 11 years and currently teaches third grade at Balboa Elementary School. She has been a mentor teacher in GUSD for more than three years and has also run the Gifted and Talented program. For more than eight years, Yapundjian has coached Math Field Day and Invention Convention.
Sardarbegian is the clerk in charge of student services at Hoover High School and began working for Glendale Unified School District in 1989.
“The Hoover community is a safer and brighter place with Ms. Sardarbegian in it. She is the heart of everything our administrators, teachers and staff do for students, whether it’s communicating with families, helping to send out important information or assisting with major projects,” according to a statement from Hoover High staff.
“Disney is a proud sponsor of the Glendale Educational Foundation, helping to inspire Glendale’s youth to dream about their future by sparking an interest in storytelling and technology,” according to a statement from GEF. “Through Disney’s investments in the Digital Animation Academy and many other programs, Disney joins with GEF in our goal to build the skills students need to turn their dreams into reality.”
GEF President Robert Gordon also announced the foundation’s new partnership with Antaeus Theatre Company to further promote the arts throughout GUSD education.
First published in the October 28 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.