Let’s Talk March 2016

Q: I recently was told that not all outside vendors for after school enrichment programs fingerprint/livescan their instructors.  While these vendors do carry insurance, has the district had any thought to making the fingerprinting/livescan mandatory if an entity is to come onto our sites and provide instruction or enrichment?

A: If the district contracts directly with an outside vendor, then they are required to be fingerprinted. If the outside vendor is only using our facilities via joint use, our current board policy and administrative regulations do not specify that fingerprinting is mandatory for vendors http://gamutonline.net/district/burbank/DisplayPolicy/943548/1. I will discuss this during the next policy review with the Board.

Q: Parents of secondary students are encouraged to check grades on the portal frequently.  Yet, this is ineffective because not all teachers enter the grades in a timely manner.  There is a specific case where the portal showed a High School student with a grade of F in a class. This is a parent who regularly checks the portal (at least weekly, sometimes daily).  The parent contacted the teacher on six different occasions by email, receiving only one response from the teacher to the initial email sent by the parent in October, asking for work during the student’s absence.  Grades were only entered every 5 weeks.  Not one phone call came from school to let the parent know that indeed their child was in danger of failing. This student did fail the semester and will now be attending summer school.  If teachers do not enter grades on a weekly basis, then parents who check the portal for grade updates do not know how their student is doing.  What looks like an F, with five weeks of un-entered grades, maybe an F, or if the student has made up missing work, maybe a B.  Is there a way to make the portal system consistent?

A: For this specific case, please schedule a meeting with the principal to discuss. Overall, the portal system is a tool that teachers can use with parents, but we do not mandate how often a teacher utilizes the tool. If you ever have a question about your son or daughter’s progress, please contact your teacher. If the teacher does not respond in a timely fashion, you may contact the principal for assistance.

Q:  How common is the practice of not returning graded exams to secondary students, particularly in math and science?  What is the rationale behind this practice?  Even if the teacher goes over the exam in class with students, it seems that students would benefit from having their exams returned to them, so that they can take them home and use them as a tool to guide their future study, particularly for finals. Parents and tutors who are trying to help struggling students would have a clearer idea of what their students are missing.

A: Teachers sometimes reuse some questions on an exam, that is why they do not return the exams. However, students may request an appointment to review the exam with a teacher.

Q: From the CPM website:

“CPM materials require a significant change in instructional practices from the traditional classroom. Because of this, CPM expects that teachers using the materials for the first time will attend three to four days of introductory workshops during the summer and three to five all-day meetings during the school year.”

Has the District provided this training to all the secondary math teachers who are teaching CPM for the first time this year?  If the Board does decide to adopt CPM, as seems likely, will the District ensure that teachers are trained well in this new method?

A: Teachers received during the summer an initial three-day professional development session. In addition, the CPM publishers have offered teachers four all day professional development workshops this school year. We will continue to provide additional support and professional development to teachers.

Q: Last month, it was suggested that a survey might be done to determine whether parents are needing to employ more math tutors or students were needing to get more online math help this year.  This information could be helpful to the Board in their decision on whether or not to adopt CPM textbooks. When will the Board make this decision?  Will the District seek feedback from parents and students, as well as teachers, before deciding to adopt CPM?

A: In 2014-2015 more than twenty district math teachers piloted math textbooks for the duration of the school year. The teachers determined at the end of the year that CPM is their textbook of choice. The decision was made overwhelmingly in favor of CPM. We are continuing to collect feedback from teachers. The decision to adopt CPM will be based on the feedback from teachers. We will utilize parent and student feedback to help teachers with professional development.

Q: Does the District plan on continuing to have 8th grade geometry classes with over 40 students in them.

A: This year was a unique situation at Muir, we don’t plan on having geometry classes with over 40 students in them.

Q: OpTerra’s original plan was to install solar panels over the teacher’s parking lot at Emerson.  Instead, the panels were installed on the upper yard, where they now interfere with playing at recess, particularly at the ball wall.  Why the change in location?  When will the mistake in the solar panel installation at Emerson be corrected?  Will OpTerra pay for the fix?

A:  The playground location was the best location for energy efficiency at that site. OpTerra will be paying for a new ball wall.

Q: Can we please include short-term objectives on a student’s annual goal?  BUSD used to include short-term objectives for all IEP students but IDEA 2004 didn’t require it for students who do not take alternate testing.  but this is such a disservice to parents who need to track the progress of their students.   For Example, if a goal has an identified percentage of success over a certain number of trials, then parents should know what the current percentage is over how many trails.  Merely stating: “good progress” or “some progress” doesn’t help.  Parents need objective data, not subjective statements.

A:  IEP teams are willing to write short-term objectives if a parent requests.

Q: In order to participate in extracurricular activities such as performing arts or sports, students are required to attend classes that day. Why are instructors allowed to set up situations that keep students out until 2 AM on a school night when they must be back at school by 7 or 8 am to be present that day so that they can perform again that night?

A: It is not our district practice to have students participate in a school activity into the late evening hours. However, for example, at one of our high schools, parents were notified in writing that their child could voluntarily participate in a choir opportunity after Pop Show. When these type of events occur we will stress that they are optional.

Q: Can you please explain the district short term and long term plan for the Transitional Kindergarten and Junior Kindergarten? I’m curious why some schools don’t have any TK  classes, yet at least 1 elementary school has 2 TK classes.  Another concern is that many of the students in Jefferson’s 2 TK classes (of 26 students per class) are not zoned for Jefferson, but will be granted permission to stay all the way through 5th grade if they wish.   This would not be a problem, except that even without TK, Jefferson is having to turn down families that do live in the Jefferson zone because the classes are full.   Is this a permanent situation — or a temporary one while working towards a larger TK/JK plan?

A: As the TK program has expanded, we have been looking for space at each school site to be able to offer the program on a neighborhood basis (based on enrollment demand). However, some schools have not (and may not) have space available to accommodate the program. For example, last year, space was not available at surrounding schools, so an additional TK classroom was added at Jefferson. We are looking to move one of the TK classroom from Jefferson to another school site. In addition, the Harte TK classroom was moved to Edison (due to construction at Mann). The Harte TK classroom will eventually move back. Disney, Providencia and Stevenson are the remaining three sites that do not currently have TK or JK right now given the space constraints at those sites.

Please note that Board Policy 6170.1 Transitional Kindergarten allows for students attending a regionalized TK to remain at that school through fifth grade.

Q: Which campuses are open [to the public] after school and on weekends and which ones are not?

A: The only sites that are not open are Magnolia Park,  ILA, Community Day School, Horace Mann, and Bret Harte (because the field/playground area cannot be seen from the street).