The Glendale Unified School District’s Board of Education voted to pass a resolution at its Jan. 16 meeting to recognize Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“It is important to teach our children, and future generations, that the individual and communal acts of heroism during the Holocaust serve as powerful examples of how our nation and its citizens can, and must, respond to acts of hatred and inhumanity,” read the Board report.
In addition to this resolution, GUSD organized presentations last week for middle and high school students to hear the life experiences of Holocaust survivors, including David Lenga, who survived Auschwitz among other concentration camps.
“It is important to make every effort to teach children tolerance so that such crimes are not repeated against any group,” the Board report stated. “The Holocaust demonstrates one of the greatest lessons about individual responsibility that each of us has the choice to act or not to act, and that there are consequences to our decisions.”
GUSD said it is as important as ever “to promote human dignity and confront hate” given the rise of antisemitism locally and nationally.
During the Jan. 16 meeting, the Board also passed another resolution “recognizing the rich culture, contributions, and value of our Black students and community members” following Martin Luther King Jr. Day and ahead of Black History Month.
“Schools should be placed for the practice of equity, for the building of understanding, for the promotion of social justice … and we encourage ongoing critical reflection and courageous conversations to affirm the right of Black and African American students to be treated with respect and dignity,” the Board report stated.
Brook Reynolds, the executive director of elementary instruction, provided the Board with updates on the district’s plan for implementing full-day kindergarten in the 2024-25 school year.
Equity predicates the decision to move forward with full-day kindergarten, said Reynolds, who noted that 80% of California school districts already offer this.
“When we look at Glendale, we have a population of students that is 45% socioeconomically disadvantaged and we have 31% of our kindergarteners who are English learners, and they deserve the same amount of access and support as the districts around us,” Reynolds said.
To propel this vision forward, Reynolds has been working alongside a committee comprising elementary school principals, teachers and teacher specialists, and Angelina Thomas, the leader of the Glendale Teachers Association.
The committee came up with a suggested standard kindergarten classroom supply list that would provide every GUSD kindergarten classroom with to ensure equal access across schools. Among other items, these supplies include a play kitchen, an imagination center with dress-up clothes, puzzles, art supplies and a 30-color square carpet.
Currently, the committee is taking inventory of what each kindergarten classroom already has to finalize a budget for these supplies. Reynolds noted that filling an empty classroom with the committee’s supplies list would cost $10,000.
With the current 24-to-1 ratio of GUSD kindergarteners to teachers, the committee is exploring the possibility of recommending educational assistants for kindergarten teachers. Additionally, the committee wants to provide teachers with professional development opportunities to better prepare them for the transition to full-day kindergarten.
Reynolds also discussed the academic, developmental and social-emotional benefits of having full-day kindergarten.
“Research shows that when we have a full-day kindergarten experience, we have fewer students who are showing learning loss or having struggles later on because they had that strong foundation,” Reynolds said, adding that this also allows for stronger bonds between students and teachers.
The schedule for full-day kindergarten will either be identical to grades one through three or will have a 10-20 minute gap between drop-off and dismissal to ease the flow of traffic on campuses.
Board member Nayiri Nahabedian thanked staff for the work they have done in putting together a plan for the implementation of full-day kindergarten.
“This is very promising and very exciting and will benefit our students greatly,” Nahabedian said. “I’m really pleased that we are moving forward with full-day kindergarten.”
Transitional kindergarten will continue to be offered districtwide as a half-day program.
Registration for the 2024-25 school year begins Feb. 20. Visit gusd.net/enroll for more information.
COLLEGE AND CAREER
Christin Molano, a coordinator for GUSD’s College and Career Division, went over statistics and information surrounding students’ academic performance, including GUSD’s 2023 graduation rate of 93.2%, compared to the statewide average of 86.4%.
Additionally, Molano reported that 82% of 2022 graduates enrolled in college during the first year after high school, with 73% enrolling in public universities and 9% enrolling in private. More than half of students enrolled in two-year colleges, while 30% enrolled in four-year colleges.
Through a partnership with Glendale Community College, GUSD offers 15 Dual Enrollment courses, where students can take free college classes online, hybrid or in-person and earn college and high school credit simultaneously. The number of 2023 graduates who completed and passed at least two semesters of Dual Enrollment courses increased by 8% from 2022, Molano said.
Molano also highlighted GUSD’s internship program with 106 students participating in an internship in the 2022-23 school year. Current GUSD internship business partners include Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital, Jet Propulsion Lab, Pacific BMW, Verdugo Crime Lab, The Bayha Group, Museum of Neon Art, Portos, Star Ford, Phonexa and California Credit Union.
GUSD’s Career & Technical Education programs provide 27 high school pathways across 12 industry sectors through partnerships with GCC, Pasadena City College, Mission College and Rio Hondo College. To successfully complete a pathway and earn college credit, a student must complete a full year of the high school course and earn a “B” or better in both semesters.
Since slightly more than half of the 2023 graduates who participated in a CTE pathway successfully completed the program, Molano said the district is exploring changing CTE pathways from three courses to two so more students can manage the courseload with their schedules.
JAPANESE DUAL LANGUAGE
During the public comment portion of the Board meeting, Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School parents and students collectively expressed their desire to have the sixth graders at Verdugo Woodlands who are enrolled in the Japanese Dual Language Immersion Program merge with Dunsmore Elementary School students enrolled in the same program as they go on to middle school.
With a class of just seven students in Verdugo Woodlands’ Japanese DLI program — all of whom attended the Board meeting — parents and students alike pled their case for the class to join Dunsmore.
A larger class size will allow students a more “rich, immersive experience,” parent Alane Parsons said.
“Without a healthy class size, it’s been hard for our one native Japanese speaker to push herself and fully excel and it’s hard for the nonnative speakers to progress as well without having a healthy number of native speakers to help encourage them.”
Andrew Hagelshaw, the father of a student in the Verdugo Woodlands Japanese DLI program, said it would be a missed opportunity for their small class to not merge with the 20-30 student class at Dunsmore, which has a more even ratio of native and non-native speakers.
The majority of those who spoke on this issue asked the Board to consider allowing students at Verdugo Woodlands to enroll in Rosemont Middle School rather than their pathway school, Woodrow Wilson Middle School. A few parents, however, said they did not care as much about which middle school their children attended as long as the two elementary school classes stayed together.
This issue will be brought back to the Board at its next meeting on Feb. 13.
First published in the January 27 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.