The mood at the recent Board of Education meeting was more cheerful than at the previous gathering, where the tough decision to .
Before the Board began its discussion of action and information items on the agenda at last Wednesday evening’s meeting, started the session with some positive news, something the Board has been lacking as of late with the recent budget deficit talks and possible teacher layoffs hanging over its head.
The Board and Shawn recognized Debbie Humpert, the office assistant at , as the 2011 Classified Employee of the Year. Shawn, who picks the classified employee of the year, said Humpert was “absolutely the easiest” choice.
Humpert, who has been working at the since 1988 joked about her decades of service saying, “it’s called old.”
Humpert has three children, all in their thirties, and is married to Ron Humpert. Her family was in attendance to see her recognized for this honor.
In Shawn’s recommendation letter sent to the California Department of Education, he called Humpert, “highly professional, warm, caring, and responsive.”
On her honor, Humpert told the Board that serving at AUSD has been the best 20 years of her life and thanked the Board and Shawn.
Other items on the agenda included an overview of the Thinking Maps program that many teachers in the district are taking advantage of, particularly at the elementary school level.
Thinking Maps is a program the AUSD implemented in 2006, which is a collection of visual teaching tools, created by Dr. David Hyerle, that foster and encourage lifelong learning.
Shawn was quick to say that these visual tools were not simply the same types of “graphic organizers” that he and many parents were taught in school, such as Venn diagrams and outlines.
“We’re teaching how to think,” by incorporating Thinking Maps, said Robert Leri, AUSD's Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.
Marsha Burkhalter, who prepared and presented an update on this program to the Board, estimated that 75 percent of elementary classrooms are actively using the Thinking Maps, which help students foster eight main cognitive skills, including comparing and contrasting as well as seeing analogies in all types of subjects, from math to social studies.
Burkhalter also noted that the “Multi-Flow” map, which analyzes cause and effect, is being used for behavioral issues with students. Board President Lori Phillipi was fond of this use and commended it.
All students have access to the Thinking Maps program via the student portal online.
Shawn said that though this program is not required, he hopes that by introducing and implementing it at the elementary school level, it will allow the students to use these cognitive skills at the middle and high school levels on their own, without teachers even asking them to.
Student Representative Michelle Kim, who is a student at Arcadia High School, admitted that Thinking Maps is rarely used at the high school level.
In other news, Vice President Janet Chew and board member Cung Nguyen reported on their recent Focused Board visit to . Both were impressed with the way students at Foothills are self-leaders, as they viewed the students’ ability to “respect and help each other,” without being asked.
Nguyen said it was a “great visit” and he enjoyed seeing the students in action.
Action items on the agenda included the Adoption of SELPA, the Special Education Local Area Plan, which moves the administration unit, the control of SELPA monies and funds, from the Los Angeles County Office of Registration, to a West San Gabriel SELPA comprised of 14 local school districts, including AUSD.
The Board also voted to approve the Alhambra Unified School District as being the new Administration Unit (AU), which would keep track of SELPA monies and distribution of these funds to the 14 districts.
Phillipi says the new AU headed by Alhambra will, “provide more transparency and give [the AUSD] more control of the SELPA money.”
Shawn said the plan is for the newly created West San Gabriel Valley SELPA to also take over not just SELPA money, but also to take over control special education programs and services in the next couple of years.
Another action item passed was the Board’s certification of the financial and budgetary condition of the district. Item number II. D, the Second Interim Financial Statement and Certificate of Solvency, was adopted to file certifications with the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Included in this financial statement was a three-year general fund projection spanning out to the 2012-2013 school year. These are merely projections and not budgets, since state funding for education is still up in the air.
Christina Aragon, Assistant Superintendent Business Services, said this newly updated district budget is to “certify that [AUSD] can meet our obligation,” and that the district has continued to budget the 2010-2011 year with wiggle room keeping in mind worst-case scenarios, including the possible reduction of $349 per student, should the state not pass Governor Jerry Brown's temporary tax increase.
Cherie Moreno, director of fiscal services, noted an increase of a half a million dollars in the general fund budget, as compared with the first interim statement made in December 2010.
This increase in general funds came from tightening the district salary budget as well as a hefty $275,000 savings by not holding a Board of Education election, since only for the 2011-2012 year, eliminating the need for an election.
Shawn closed the meeting on a sentimental note with the reading of , saying, “this [letter] sums it up,” regarding how the district can look in a positive direction and be proactive in bettering the budget situation.