Larry Applebaum

Why are you running for School Board?

I am running for the School Board because I feel that the District currently lacks effective leadership. This has manifested itself in numerous ways, as witnessed by the number of Administrators who have left their assignments this year alone, the low morale among all our staff, certificated and classified alike, the lack of discussion of the need to have a comprehensive, funded (not from the General Fund) plan to address the long term needs of our facilities and technology refresh, and the “buzz” in education circles that Burbank schools are losing their stature around the State.

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

I know my leadership skills will help “right the ship”, by working collaboratively with the Superintendent and my Board colleagues to come to a consensus as to how to move our District forward and restore the “shine” to our institutions. Strong leadership is needed to stop the infighting and bickering that exists within the Board, both publicly and privately. With my previous tenure on the Board marked by building coalitions and consensus, I am confident I am the right person to take on this task.

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 believe that DEI has and should continue to be implemented by the classroom teacher at all grade levels. I support professional education to allow our teachers to learn how to integrate this curriculum into their existing lesson plans. I think that Board policy has dictated that we create curriculum with an eye toward diversity, equity and inclusion. With that being said, I believe that on the natural, we will be adopting textbooks and other instructional materials that reflect a move toward incorporating these principles, and with it we will be moving toward this goal. As textbook adoptions are cyclical, and curriculum change usually follows, I believe that we will not have to divert a lot of instructional material funding specifically to DEI curriculum. In the case of textbooks and course where there are not mandated changes, I think the best way to deal with this is to involve the teacher and DEI coordinator to look for course materials that incorporate the DEI principles to an acceptable level of all parties. I would be willing to fund these changes with one time instructional material funds that have been given to us to use for these types of changes and thereafter would support working with my colleagues to determine an acceptable level of funding that could be used on a year to year basis in the future after the one time money has been exhausted.

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?

I am proud of the efforts we made during my previous tenure on the Board to reduce or electrical consumption through the installation of LED lighting in all of the classrooms and solar projects at most of our school sites. Unfortunately, BWP would not pay for any excess power  generation that our solar projects created, making the planning process more difficult so that we did not generate any addition power that we couldn’t use on site that day. With battery technology progressing at the rate it is, I regret that we did not install more solar panels; the ability to store some of the generated power for later use is technology that didn’t exist at a reasonable price when we installed our projects previously.

Besides teaching our students about the need to reduce our carbon footprint and the importance of recycling, the biggest contribution they can make at the site level has to do with food waste. With the City now allowing food waste to be collected and taken to the landfill for composting, I think there is a great opportunity to involve our children in diverting left over food into City provided green bins that we should make available at all our sites. There will be some additional work for our custodians to dump the collected food in a separate bin that the City would collect, and we would need to be sure that no animals get into the food, but these are challenges we can overcome, I believe. We tried to collect food trays when I was on the Board previously, and were successful in training the children how to dump the leftovers and put the trays in a box we were than able to send to a recycler. Unfortunately, the program was not lucrative enough for the vendor to make a profit, and they cancelled the program. I use this as an example, however, to show we can train the children to collect the food waste in the same way we were able to train them to collect the trays.

Being a built out city, the real estate that our schools sit on is generally much smaller than it would be in a new community. For example, our high schools occupy 17.1 and 19.2 acres respectively. High Schools in a new developing, community in California have to have a minimum of 45 acres. With that said, we are fortunate to have the green space that have on our sites. In fact, the City counts the District’s green space when it reports their figures to the government, in order to meet the minimum green space requirements of the City. I would love to have more green space on our campuses, but that is not a reality in the foreseeable future.

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?

I believe that our current approach to bullying in our schools is terrible and has moved us to a place where the bullies feel free to do what they may whiteout fear of any consequences. When a stapler is thrown at a teacher, that is assaulted needs to be dealt with as a crime, especially when done by a middle or high schooler. Getting a slap on the wrist and being sent back to class is not working! Likewise, too many parents have related to me that when their child was bullied mercilessly, they were told to move their child to another school. This is wrong! We need to take our schools back and we need to have demonstrable consequences that send a message loud and clear that we will not stand back and let things continue as they are currently. I believe we need to create enforceable polices that let bullies know that their antics will no longer be tolerated and that they will be held accountable for their actions.

You need to have enforceable consequences that are progressive in nature but let kids know that bullying will not be tolerated. I would work with my colleagues on the Board, teachers and administrators to come up with workable solutions that keep the bullies in school, but take away their audience. Creating Opportunity Rooms in the middle and high schools is one idea that worked in the past and kept bullies out of their classrooms but kept them in school. I would like to see us pilot a program like this immediately.

I think bullied students need to know that there is someone they can talk to that understands the various feelings that come with being bullied and can be a sounding board for them to be able to share those feelings. This could be a counselor at the middle or high school level. At the elementary level, a teacher or classified staff person that has training in this area could be used to provide support, or escalate it to the site principal if need be.

[Cyberbullying] This is a hard question to answer, because social media is so pervasive in today’s culture and there are very few restrictions that can be placed on the content providers. Certainly within the school district, we can monitor the communications of people using our network. Unfortunately, with most older children carrying cell phones now, it is much harder to stay on top of text messages and social media content sent using the cellular network. I think the first line of defense is peer review and students talking with other students to report and comment on things they see.

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?

Unfortunately, I believe that Covid and it’s many variants are here to stay. The ebbs and flows of the disease will begin to mirror that of the flu or other viral contagions. I think we need to educate our parents to monitor their children daily and keep them home at the first sign of illness. This is good policy under any circumstances. I believe that the District policy needs to morph to a place where if there is a significant outbreak in a school community, determine if it is localized to one classroom or more, and then act accordingly depending on the findings of that inquiry. I would only quarantine a whole school if the outbreak was wide spread amongst several classrooms, and then, only so long as the government officials deem necessary (5 days currently, I believe).

I am not in favor of forcibly masking our children or teachers if there is a surge at school. Voluntary masking is fine. There are too many studies that show anything other than a N95 mask has no demonstrated benefit and the negative effects of wearing a mask for children far outweigh the benefits.

I believe that vaccine mandates are not enforceable and vaccine decisions should be made with informed consent of the risks and benefits of taking the vaccine. I feel we have unfairly punished many employees whom took a position that they did not want to take the Covid vaccine, for whatever reason. I am concerned about the litigation the District (and many other business entities) face for the blanket “my way or the highway” approach to getting vaccinated, no matter what other contraindication exists for an individual. I, like everyone else, await the judgement of the Courts.

We need to make sure that our technological resources are up to date and available for in home learning, in the event we have another pandemic. We also should have a suitable supply of N95 masks and other PPD on our campuses should the need arise. That being said, the most important thing we can do is provide professional development to our teachers to help prepare them to teach in a Zoom environment, so we can mitigate the learning deficits we saw during the Covid lockdown, as much as possible.

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?
Generally speaking, I am fine with the current curriculum that we are using to educate our children. Could it be better? Of Course. I support the work being done to integrate DEI into our curriculum to augment the overall classroom experience of all our kids. The most important job we have is to educate our children in the basic fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic. With those building blocks in place, we can then expand the reach and depth of the various topics of interest to our students and make them well rounded human beings. Other than including DEI teachings into all our curriculum, I would specifically want to see a mandatory course in Civics taught at the high school level, something that is being called for at the State level for the first time in years. I think we are doing the best we can when talking about developing curriculum. Ultimately, the teachers are the ones that work with District administrators to develop the goals, teaching strategies and texts that are used to educate our children. As they receive professional development to incorporate DEI issues into the programs they teach, I believe you will see a movement toward having discussions and assignments that embrace these important topics in a sensitive, inclusive manner. In keeping with the adopted current Board policy, I believe any updated curriculum must be developed using a lens of inclusivity and with the assistance of the District’s DEI coordinator, to make sure that we are respecting and celebrating the diversity of students we have in our schools.

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?

I believe in the collective bargaining process and recognize the give and take that is necessary to come to an agreement. That being said, I wish we could change the layoff provision to allow us to keep the BEST teachers, not the teachers with the most seniority. When we had to layoff teachers during the last recession, we unfortunately lost several great, young teachers that had a connection with kids and were outstanding classroom leaders. It pained me to see them picked up by administrators in other districts that recognized their talent. And, in a few cases, we kept teachers that had seniority, but had clearly lost some of the zest they had for teaching. Alas, this is a function of Education Code trumping the needs of the children in favor of protecting the adults, something that we as a Board and along with the BTA bargaining unit ultimately have no say over. Besides the obvious ones of sexual abuse of a minor, striking a child or abusing a child directly, et al. which allow for immediate suspension and ultimate dismissal, the termination process is an onerous ordeal that requires several unsatisfactory evaluations to start the process and then what I call the “12 Step” program to see it through. When I was on the Board previously, I found the whole process costly, cumbersome, lengthly, and one that could be overturned eventually by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. My colleagues and I implemented a program that called for our attorney to make a buy-out offer to an employee we wanted to remove. That provided the employee with an opportunity to work again in another district if they so chose, and our kids would have the benefit of getting the teacher out of the classroom almost immediately and being able to move on with a new instructor. What we paid out was usually much less than the cost of our attorney, litigation, discovery and other costs, as well as the pay for a substitute teacher while the process was ongoing (unless we felt it was in the best interest of the students to have the teacher remain teaching the class while the process continued). It is important to make the process fair to all parties, including the CHILDREN, and I believe that process we initiated when I was on the Board previously struck that important balance. 

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 would encourage the creation of clubs on campus celebrating diversity and dealing with issues that are unique to LBGTQ+ and BIPOC students. I would also encourage these students to take classes where they are free to explore and exercise their uniqueness to elevate their experience, such as band or choir in the middle and high schools. As a choir dad of my daughter for all her middle and high school years, I can say unequivocally that those classes had some of the most diverse student populations of any class my daughter took in school. And some of the friends she made from those communities are people she remains in contact with to this day in college. I am very supportive of the mental health services provided by Family Services of Burbank to our students. I am especially glad that they are moving to hire more diverse counselors for the program. I believe they have resources that they make available to students that involve other agencies, and I would support utilizing these other agencies on an as needed basis to bridge the gaps in support that we currently see from time to time in our schools.

School Resource Officers (SROs)

What are your thoughts on SROs in schools?

I am in favor of SRO’s in our schools. As someone who experienced first hand the implementation of the program as a student in the early 1970’s and saw the way the officer integrated into the student community and developed friendships and connections to students that provided a safe environment to share concerns, I know that the program can be successful and lead to prevention of incidents before they occur. I have seen the Police department waffle on providing the funding for  SRO’s over the last few years and believe that it is a good and proper use of the taxpayer funds. Ultimately, the Police will have to expend resources when crimes are committed after the fact anyway; much better to prevent an incident than have to respond to it, in my opinion.

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 was on the Board of Eduction when we decided to pull the charter for Options for Youth. When we looked at the program, we did not find that they had a better success record than our own programs did. In fact, we established the Independent Learning Academy as a result of ending Option’s program. The success of the Independent Learning Academy speaks to the need to have an alternative learning format, under District control. I do not support the instituting of Charter schools within our District. Our District continues to support innovation within the school sites, and I do not believe that creating a Charter school will provide anything more than we can do ourselves. With declining enrollment a reality for the next several years to come, any Charter opening would only take away already scare resources from our student base, something that I cannot in good conscience support.

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