Global experience, diversity training, experience teaching in BUSD and experience as a student in BUSD, SEL experience, technological experience, 21st century curriculum development experience, and more.
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?
The existing implementation of sustainability programs within BUSD is unacceptable. Like many school districts, even across California, energy use, waste levels, and a lack of progressive options and solutions is a serious problem.There is no greater proof of corporate greed run amok than through climate issues. Having traveled to over 41 countries around the world including China, Kenya, Pakistan, India, and many others, I have seen the pristine beauty of Mother Nature and how it naturally expresses itself when uninhibited by human intervention. What we have in Los Angeles County and in the city of Burbank is not what Mother Nature intends for us. The one bright spot in Burbank is its wonderful resource in the local recycling plant. Having visited recycling plants across Los Angeles, Burbank schools have at their disposal one of the best and most extensive electronic recycling programs in Los Angeles County. I have done what I can do as an individual citizen to link the resources of the local recycling plant into local educational institutions as well as local schools - but there is still so much more work to be done. We could work with the local recycling plant to create several small decentralized plants on the campuses of local schools including Burbank High School, John Burroughs High School, and Luther Burbank Middle School, Providencia or Bret Harte Elementary which would allow for the very centralized recycling resources at 500 S. Flower to be more evenly distributed throughout our city. CalRecycle (calrecycle.ca.gov) has been providing resources, research, surveys, and publications to help California schools since 1994. How much are we doing in BUSD? What can we further implement and adopt? These locations on different campuses could then become training grounds for more student and parent run sustainability and climate action programs based on CalRecycle policies and approaches. Out of college I started a non-profit called "Citizens of the World" that helped build and launch climate and environmental action programs at schools around the world including Kenya, Pakistan, India, Israel, and more. I still have access to the curriculums we used with students, parents and teachers and it would be wonderful to see these (and programs like them) implemented within Burbank USD. Burbank USD, like so much of our country, has a serious waste problem. School districts throw away thousands of pounds of food each year and this is due to a mismanagement and an incorrect implementation of free breakfast & lunch programs among many other issues. Part of this is the lack of healthy and diverse options within the breakfast & lunch programs. I helped to start a vegan free lunch program with a local restaurant owner in Northridge and worked to bring healthy, vegan Mexican food and healthy cuisine education into LAUSD starting at Pre-K on up. It was an incredibly difficult journey and I learned how the standards for free lunch programs have been legislated to progress, but many school districts and purveyors of free lunch programs do not choose to evolve them. We drafted our healthy community charters for students and parents to bring to their schools focusing on clean water, clean food, and moral/ethical and cruelty-free solutions to school food programs. As a vegan and practitioner of cruelty-free eating since fifteen years old, and someome who went through BUSD in the early 2000's as a vegan, I know firsthand how difficult it was to navigate the public school system as a vegan student. We could implement these same programs within BUSD. What does this look like? School breakfast programs are operated on a reimbursement basis where agencies are paid on the number of meals served. Agencies submit a monthly reimbursement claim through the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS). Across the United States, in the year 2018, 2.4 billion breakfasts were served to children nationwide. Furthermore, the Food and Nutrition Service now allows yogurt and non-dairy yogurt to function as a meat/meat alternative for all meals and snacks. Also, non-dairy milks, as long as they meet the necessary requirements of having enough calcium, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and potassium as regular milks included, are now allowed and eligible for food programs and reimbursement. Our plan was to substitute the usual dairy-based and meat-based breakfasts for plant-based smoothies and plant-based alternatives. We would work to implement this same program throughout the Burbank Unified School District between 2022 and 2025. There are currently inadequate green spaces on our BUSD campuses. We need to create those and bring architecture and design based on the LEED rating system and aim to have our school campuses brought up to LEED certification level, if possible.
The best programs in place within BUSD to address bullying have been through the libraries and librarians on school campuses including Julie Greene at John Burroughs. Other than that, much is lacking throughout BUSD. The most consistent and prevalent extracurricular programs I remember during middle school were D.A.R.E. programs. There should be an equivalent of the D.A.R.E. program for anti-bullying (both physical and digital) that could benefit from national and state grant funding that could be developed locally here in Burbank for Burbank students. I was the victim of bullying in middle school here in Burbank, but never figured out where to get help for the bullying I was facing. There needs to be value placed on anti-bullying campaigns and programs and that value should be reflected in the high quality of the programs and also recognized and touted by students, parents, teachers and staff alike. The statistics on bullying in US Schools speak for themselves: 1 in 7 students in grades K – 12 are either a bully or have been a victim of bullying. An estimated 160,000 U.S. children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other
students. Nearly 70% of students think schools respond poorly to bullying. (www.RMCCharity.org) When I was experiencing bullying at David Starr Jordan Middle School, I sought help from teachers and counselors but they couldn’t stop the bullying. When I later experienced bullying at John Burroughs High School it was the same thing - condolences but no action. The solution for me in 9th grade was for my parents to remove me from John Burroughs and enroll me in Options for Youth (Independent Study) locally in Burbank. When I returned back in 10th grade, I attempted to escape the bullying again, but it still happened. Finally, by 11th grade when I was enrolled in mostly AP and honors classes, I was able to escape the shadow of bullying that had followed me since arriving as a new student in 7th grade. I was one of the 10% of students all over the country who drop out of school because of the severity of bullying and I will take a stand to stop it. BUSD should implement programs based on the best anti-bullying curriculum to date (Dove's Self-Esteem Program, Inner Body, Second Step, KiVa, etc.) and also new media literacy training to begin to introduce
strategies to stopping cyber bullying. Cyberbullying is a space I have an expertise in since we include anti-bullying in the new media literacy curriculums we’ve developed through USC. The most up-to-date research on cyber bullying shows that people on social media are often unsupportive of cyberbullying victims who have shared highly personal feelings. This is one of the reasons we say that new media literacy courses and programs are foundational for stopping cyber bullying and help students understand the difference between private content and public content, private feelings and public feelings. As more and more media companies and businesses turn to digital and “metaverse” strategies and presence, Burbank can be on the cutting edge of consumer protection by aligning with the California Consumer Protection Act (CPPA) supported by California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office to protect students and adults from big tech bullying. Statistics about Meta’s Instagram platform show 60% of teenagers have experienced some form of cyberbullying and 87% of young people have seen cyberbullying occurring online (ditchthelabel.org). Educating local parents how to request the Attorney General's Office to have their private data and their children's private data across social media platforms removed is a really important step in moving forward with taking back our power in the digital realm. There is no excuse for bullying or cyber bullying and having School Board members who are knowledgeable and experienced with digital rights, digital platforms, and digital development like myself (my first venture funded startup was an app company) is really important since no current members of the School Board have that type of background. I have started multiple tech companies as well as one of the most popular camps at Burning Man (supporting physical and mental wellness) and have worked with Twitter, Apple and VRChat as a consultant. It is so important for School Boards to have an understanding of the complexities of digital worlds, games, and the expansion of social engagement through the internet. Implementing new policies and. having someone on the Board with an expertise in technological spaces including the Metaverse (or Megaverse as I prefer to call it since doing so doesn't give Meta [Facebook] free advertising) is imperative for helping the healthy development of young minds in the 21st century.
A larger public health crisis is bound to happen sooner or later and the best way to prepare for this is to stick with the science and what we know works. We know that masking works. We know that vaccines work. We know that, unfortunately, masking mandates and vaccine mandates create backlash. There needs to be far better ways of communicating with our parents and students about the facts and the science and giving voice to the most vulnerable within our public institutions of learning. As someone who is vaccinated, and someone who knows that BUSD lost several teachers and staff because they were not willing to be vaccinated, the reality is that vaccine mandates for staff and teachers are the easiest way to ensure public safety. Students and parents have other options including removing themselves from public school campuses, but public schools require adherence to public safety policies and regulations. BUSD can be better prepared for the next pandemic by ensuring that students and parents understand the difference between schooling options including private, charter, public, home, etc. The highest risk of these four choices are public schools therefore public schools must be most cautious and should adopt mandates. It seems as if the toxic and caustic backlash came from students and parents who did not need to attend public schools, but felt privileged and even entitled to enjoy access to these public institutions of learning without wanting to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable within public education. Helping parents and students who are extremely resistant to vaccines and mask mandates to transition into other institutions through education, coaching, support, and even resources if necessary, will help to keep the peace within public education. The Burbank City Council totally botched our last pandemic by giving up their authority and putting everything on the back of the City Manager. All this did was spur a sense of worry and anxiety in residents and school children and parents. There never was a discussion on how harmful that was to our collective sense of safety and it had a reverberating impact through every one of our schools. The School Board should help City Hall to mitigate problematic issues with leadership on public health. As a city, we need to be able to mandate essential protections for our city offices, buildings and schools in the case of future pandemics and not be thwarted by bad actors (no offense to all of the actors here in Burbank). There needs to be a stronger authority taken by city officials on issues of public health and members of the School Board must be willing to agree with and work together with city officials to make sure that the policies and messaging are stable between City Hall, the School Board and other publicly trusted institutions such as the Fire Department and Police Department in a timely and direct manner so we don't experience a paralysis and let down like we did in 2020.
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?
Obviously, the biggest items missing from teacher’s contracts are salary raises and bonuses nationwide. However, Burbank is unique. After talking with many local BUSD teachers there is a consensus that it is not difficult to retain traditional and non-diverse teachers in BUSD. This is because of the prestige of our School District. What is more difficult, however, is attracting and retaining diverse talent. Many diverse teacher candidates are being lured away by Charter schools and private schools in the surrounding areas. BUSD, hands down, needs to work with the teachers union to retain top talent that comes from BIPOC communities including our Hispanic/Latino & Jewish teachers. The current grounds for teacher termination are standard order. But the grounds for eliminating part-time staff and substitute teachers is exponentially more strict. This creates a “sub-class” of workers within our school district and it would be more equitable across the board if there was a healthier balance between part-time staff protections and full-time staff protections. Research shows that achievement gaps are smaller in California schools where contracts increase in restrictiveness in class size and larger where contracts increase in restrictiveness in teacher evaluation and teacher leave policies. Contract changes prove to most benefit diverse teachers and educationally disadvantaged students. Simply put, when teachers unions are unwilling to negotiate changes in contracts,
teachers and students of diverse and economically disadvantaged backgrounds suffer the most (Bradley Marianno, doi.org, 2021). If LAUSD teachers are getting a 20% salary increase over two years, what are Burbank teachers getting? Programs like Vote 4 Power and other partners of the Progressive Voters Guide by Courage California show the incredible success of mobilizing activities for progressive causes through and alongside school systems and elected officials and we need the same in Burbank.
What are your thoughts on SROs in schools?
The existing staffing for SROs in Burbank Unified School District seems sufficient, but a review of budget, resources, student response, surveying of parents and staff, and an examination of results and data should be on the table because it may reveal a deficiency or an over-saturation across our campuses. What we know for sure needs to be changed is the number of social workers and those with social work certification who are on our campuses. If we do not have a budget to bring on new employees with these qualifications, we should be willing to support existing staff and administration to get social work credentials, certifications and qualifications so that there are at least as many social workers and those qualified with social work credentials on our campuses as SROs. The largest and most comprehensive research done on SROs in schools across the USA came from a multisite study over a decade and it found in its nearly 500 page report that the most successful programs were simple: focus on reducing crime and disorder in schools through deterrence, creating a culture of civility in schools, and providing good role models for students (https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/209271.pdf). Why couldn't social workers help to accomplish these same goals?
With a balancing of these same intentions between law enforcement, social workers, and other trusted members of the community, Burbank can continue to lift its campuses up as examples of some of the safest schools in our region and across California and the nation.