Brian Smith

Why are you running for School Board?

I'm running for school board because I have a vision and a desire for our school district. I believe the city of Burbank should have the best public school system in Los Angeles County. The schools are good, better than most, but I think we should have the best. We should have the best maintained classrooms, buildings, and technology. We should have the best curricular programs, with rigorous academic discipline at all levels. We should retain and recruit the highest quality professionals. All this, while demonstrating sound administrative discipline though policy and practice transparency and regular budget performance reports on all funding and expenditures.

What will you add to the School Board that is needed?

If elected, I promise to ensure that every board action ties back directly to our mission to educate students, and champion a disciplined approach to instruction on school sites. I will ask  questions, actively listen, lead by example, stay true to my convictions, and challenge the existing norms. I will seek partnerships with all stakeholders of the local community to support the fiscal lift necessary to be the best.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

What is your view on how students should be taught DEI – should it be a curriculum designed and implemented by a specialized DEI instructor or should teachers receive special training and compensation to teach this curriculum? What do you see as the present and future of DEI curriculum in BUSD? What is the budget amount that you would support that would be put toward DEI curriculum
I would prefer to see teachers receive the training they need to apply DEI curriculum to their classrooms, rather than having it come from a single source. No one knows their students better than the individual teachers, and they should be allowed the opportunity to form lesson plans that best fit their class (provided it meets the district’s policies and parameters). I believe that the implementation of an effective DEI program comes in at least two parts. The first is the addition of training and awareness for teachers, staff and administration. The second is action. The increase of a diverse workforce that more accurately mirrors the student population that we serve. Creating a learning environment that promotes inclusivity, wellness and safety. $150,000 per year, reviewed, like every program should be, for effectiveness annually.

Climate Action in Schools

What is your assessment of current sustainability programs being implemented at the school
and administrative levels?
How would you promote student involvement in BUSD sustainability and climate action
Do you think that BUSD is properly addressing food waste? If not, what programs would you
implement to reduce food waste district wide?
Do you feel that our schools have adequate green spaces for our students?

We have a lot of work ahead of us in this area. I’m excited that the district now has a sustainability committee, however I don’t believe that there is currently a district-wide recycling plan in place. If you attend a football game at Memorial Stadium, there are no recycling or compost bins available. The same situation exists at Burbank High for Viking football games on Saturdays, or for BHS practices. On most campuses, it is difficult for students to find bins in which to place their recyclables. Obviously, all of these things need to be addressed as soon as possible. Multi-use trash receptacles should be in place at the stadiums, auditoriums, cafeterias and lunch shelters. If the district doesn’t have the money for this in their budget, we should be reaching out to the Burbank Recycling Center, to the Chamber of Commerce for assistance in finding businesses that would sponsor them, or writing grant applications to cover the cost. In 2022, there is no excuse to not be recycling and  composting wherever possible. Student involvement will be essential for any programs to work. Eco or sustainability clubs at each site can man waste disposal sites at games, events, and even at lunch. They can provide assistance to custodial staff so there isn’t a large burden placed on top of their current workload. They can educate their fellow students on best practices and come up with their own ideas and events to serve their school site. I would also like to see these types of activities highlighted and celebrated at our school board meetings. This is another large issue to tackle, and again we don’t want to put the onus only on the custodial staff to manage it. With the state providing free meals to all students, more kids are getting food but maybe not eating everything. I believe most sites have a “share” table where students can put the items they’re not eating so someone else can enjoy it, which is a great help. Now that the city is accepting far more food waste in their green bins, we need to greatly increase our composting as well. Again, student groups can be a huge help with this at lunch time, and PTA or booster  associations can help tackle it at after-school events to provide back up to our support staff. Most school sites have “adequate” green space, but we should strive for better than that. As we’ve seen recently, temperatures are only getting hotter in Southern California, and asphalt and rubber surfaces get far hotter than grass. I promote creating a facilities master plan that shows us exactly where we stand at each school site, and that must include outdoor spaces. Almost every site has access to reclaimed wastewater from the city, it’s just a matter of planning and capital expense to plumb that water to the new green spaces. We  should partner with area nurseries to get discounted mature tress to plant and those nurseries can take a tax deduction for the margin between retail cost and what the district pays. I believe the city still has a free tree  program, we could partner with them as well. From there we can determine where we can add grass and trees to provide the best natural environment for our students, or shade structures where grass won’t work. I would also like to see school gardens implemented at any sites that don’t currently have them. At the middle and high school level, these can be tied to the culinary arts programs so they can supply their own organic herbs and produce.

Policy for Continuing and Future Pandemics

How would you prepare BUSD for Covid surges? How would you communicate that plan so that parents, teachers and students feel fully prepared for how the District will respond?

What is your view of a masking policy if there is a surge during the school year?

What is your view on vaccine mandates for teachers, staff and students?

What steps does BUSD need to take to be prepared for possible new pandemics?

There probably wasn’t a school district in the country that was adequately prepared for Covid, so I don’t call out Burbank as being behind in that area. However, now that we’re aware of the possibility and the consequences, we absolutely need a district policy in place for how to respond in the future. But that doesn’t apply just to Covid. We need an emergency plan that addresses earthquakes, rolling blackouts, fires, floods, etc. How do we respond if an individual site becomes unusable? Is our server room adequately backed up by generators to ensure no loss of data? Can we continue functioning if we need to return to remote learning? There are many questions to be answered. The final plan should be easily viewable on the district’s website, with hard copies at all of our sites. Parents should be given a handout at the beginning of the year (in case power is down and they can’t access it online), detailing what to do in an emergency, and where and how their child can be retrieved. There will always be parents, staff, and students who feel we are masking too much or not enough. The best policy is to follow the advice of health care professionals and the LA County Department of Health. Hopefully parents will get their children vaccinated for their safety, but if there is a large surge of a strain that is particularly dangerous and the County recommends returning to masks, I am in favor of following that recommendation. Students currently need to be vaccinated against a number of diseases in order to attend school in California. The Covid-19 vaccines have been proven safe and reliable and are no longer limited to emergency use approval by the FDA, so I would not be opposed to it being added to the list. However, that is not a school board decision, it is a state decision, and we will follow the guidance provided. Likewise for teachers and staff. The school district should continue to closely monitor health information provided by the CDC and the LA County Department of Health and other credible resources. Perhaps there is an added responsibility we can add to one of the RN positions within the district with corresponding compensation bump to act as our Health Officer and report regularly to the board on potential threats that may be emerging.

Controlling Bullying

What is your assessment of the current programs in place to address bullying? Are they successful? How would you change the programs?

What can BUSD do district wide to address and change a widespread culture of bullying?

What specific outreach do you think would be beneficial to students who are bullied?

Describe a program that you would create to address cyberbullying by and against students. How would it be implemented?

The PBIS program is a good one, I believe, but only to the extent that it is implemented and followed. Much like academic lessons must be reiterated and reinforced over time, so do behavioral lessons. We need to confirm that all sites are hewing to district policy, and that consequences for bullying are enforced, along with as much positive reinforcement as possible for correct behavior. This question assumes that there is currently is a widespread culture of bullying, which I am not sure is the case, I’ll look into that further. There are incidents, of course, but I believe the overall culture is one that absolutely does not condone bullying. The teachers and administrators at all our sites are good, compassionate people who don’t want to see any students hurting. Again though, while there is a policy of consequences for bullying, I don’t think it’s always applied consistently. It needs to be made clear that such activity will never be tolerated, and that actions have  ramifications. Where possible, I am a proponent of Restorative Justice. If the students involved on both sides have an opportunity to see their “opponent” as a human being, flaws and all, and have a chance for sincere contrition and redemption, it benefits them both. We have staff throughout the district who are trained to foster this, but I would like to see it expanded. Cyberbullying is probably a bigger problem today for our older students than in-person bullying, because of the anonymity and because of the ubiquity of phones and social media. The administration and teachers need to make it clear that such activity is unacceptable, and school-wide assemblies should address the issue. However, intolerance of cyberbullying by peers will likely have more of an impact among our tweens and teens than what adults have to say. Empowering our ASB students, Link Crew members and other student leaders to address and condemn this type of activity can have a strong impact. It is also important to raise parent awareness of just how serious this problem is and how damaging and dangerous it can become if unchecked.

Updating Curriculum

What is your opinion on the current curriculum in a general view? What specific areas need to be updated to a more modern curriculum? Do you think that BUSD is using modern techniques and current best practices? What criteria would you use to update any curriculum?
This is a really broad question. I am not an educator by trade, so I can only rely on what I know from what my kids, currently enrolled in the school district, are learning and what resources they are provided. I am energized by the programs that I know of, dual immersion, CTE, ASL students mainstreamed into the classroom, hands-on technical partnerships with local businesses, etc. I would like to see more of this and better promotion of our fantastic programs around the district. Since I am not a teacher or education professional, I am not qualified to provide specific guidance, but I would instead rely on input from all of our stakeholders, students, parents, administration and most importantly, our teachers. The pandemic did actually help us in moving toward a more modern learning paradigm. The Chrome Books, while certainly not perfect, have helped students who miss school stay up to date, have drastically cut down on paper use, and have allowed for greater communication between students, parents and staff. There are always better programs available, and our job is to research them and find the best options for our students. Similar to above, the board should rely on input from all of our stakeholders, students, parents, administration and most importantly, our teachers when updating curriculum.

Contract with Teachers' Union

What is missing from the contract and what would you like to see added?
What are the current grounds for teacher termination and what do think should be added or deleted from that list?

While I have looked at the current contract, I have no comment on what may or may not be missing or should or shouldn’t be added. The Board of Education retains the right to terminate employees to the fullest extent of the law. Additional review is necessary to answer this question  properly.

Protecting LBGTQ+ Kids and Kids of Color

Beyond addressing bullying, what would you do as a member of the School Board to create an atmosphere in our schools of acceptance and understanding towards LBGTQ+ and BIPOC children? What actions would you take to create a safe space for children who are not white and cis-gender? How would you create more resources for mental health for all children and especially for the children who are dealing with unique culturally diverse issues?
I think the school district’s partnership with the family service agency is an effective way to support all of our students. Leaning into that relationship to further those efforts seems like a good direction. Protecting the learning environments of our students is one of my campaign promises, however as it relates to these issues I know I will need to rely on input from stakeholders and professionals to gain insight and find the right support solutions. The methodology and implementation will need evolve to address the changing needs of the students and their families going forward, it’s not static and one size does not fit all.

School Resource Officers (SROs)

What are your thoughts on SROs in schools?

I realize this is a hot-button topic, but I think in our  district, SROs can be a valuable tool to protect the learning environments of our students. Obviously, the right officers must be carefully selected for this position. I believe that every opportunity our students have for a positive encounter with law  enforcement in a safe environment is beneficial. It would help them see the police as a trusted partner, not an enemy or someone to avoid or fear, and encourage them to reach out if they should ever find themselves a victim of, or witness to, a crime. In addition, we want the fastest possible response from the police if, God forbid, there is ever an instance of violence on any of our campuses. Having officers who are intimately familiar with the school sites is beneficial.

Charter Schools

There currently are no Charter schools in Burbank. What is your position about bringing Charter schools to Burbank? What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of Charter schools? If one or more Charter schools are opened here, how do you foresee that affecting the entire BUSD budget?
I do not think that Charter schools are needed or have a place in the Burbank community. Charter schools have been a benefit in some communities, but I don’t think Burbank is one of them. There are private partnerships that have been beneficial like the one currently in place with West Coast Customs, to provide apprenticeship opportunities to those hoping to go into various trades, and I do encourage that. Our focus should be on recruiting and retaining the best people and programs possible. Losing students and funding to a Charter school would have a negative impact on every student in the district.

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