Michael Morgan

Why are you running for School Board?

To bring much needed change to the Burbank School Board through extensive political experience and a productive and successful educational and academic career spanning almost two decades across both public and private educational institutions

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

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.

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 both teacher training and direct specialized DEI instruction needs to be implemented within BUSD. To begin this, a summer session could cover anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and also specific inclusion programs relating to immigrant and multilingual households that impart the value of immigrants, indigenous peoples, and multi-ethnic contributions to the United States past, present, and future. While the value of DEI training continues to be scientifically affirmed and proven, Social Emotional Learning research as far back as 2016 proves that teachers with stronger social and emotional competencies report less burnout and have more positive relationships with students (Psychology in Schools). A budget for DEI would include sponsorship through California state grants and funding, Los Angeles county-based grants and funding, and also local funding through the entertainment and media industries around us as well as other supportive Burbank businesses to help subsidize for teachers that are enthusiastic about DEI learning. This would enable teachers to have individual campus or even classroom budgets to implement DEI learning tools and training within their spheres of influence. Other school districts require diversity training and there may be cross-over options (Glendale, Pasadena, etc.) where local Burbank teachers can participate in other school districts DEI trainings and benefit from our neighbor's wealth of DEI resources while taking that information back into our school district and saving on cost. These are two options to support both the teacher training model as well as the specialized DEI instructor model through our own and through other school districts. DEI training is incredibly important, especially knowing that Burbank used to be a "Sundown" city. Glendale's reckoning with this history paved the way for Burbank and South Pasadena to do the same and we as a community still have much more progress to make.

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  ( 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. 

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 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. ( 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 ( 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. 

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?

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.

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?
The current curriculum is out of date. As the banned book controversy showed, the process with which our district decides how to make major decisions like banning books is also out of date. We need better ways to reach out to parents and to have parents and teachers work together to guide curriculum development. As a curriculum developer myself, I have spent a lot of time working with the California Common Core standard curriculums for ELA and Mathematics that were developed almost a decade ago (and they are still considered top-notch). I developed a curriculum involving new media literacy and esports tied to existing California state standards. The California Department of Education’s standards are still incredibly relevant and are probably the strongest standards in all of the United States. Some of the lesser known aspects of curriculum released by the California Department of Education (CDE) include standards for K-12 California Career Technical Education (CTE), Business and Finance, Computer Science Education, Arts, Media, and Entertainment Industry Senior Pathways and more. According to the CDE website, the Arts, Media and Entertainment sector requires the greatest cross-disciplinary interaction and independent and interdependent management skills for career success. The woodshop and metalwork classes of the 21st century are animation, graphic design, and visual/commercial art today. Based on a review of the existing BUSD K-12 curriculum, BUSD is not using best practices and is not adequately tapped into the Arts, Media and Entertainment Industry options (especially for calling itself the Media Entertainment Capital of the World). There needs to be more direct communication between BUSD and local movie studios and video game companies (of which there are plenty) in order to create a pipeline for students to go from classes in public school to internships and eventual employment.The criteria I would use would be whether our local studios, game companies, and successful business executives and HR management neighbors would approve the curriculum and would hire our students based on their knowledge and expertise. I would also take our existing curriculum and compare it to school districts such as Alhambra, Pasadena, Compton, Anaheim, Santa Monica, Irvine and see whether or not we are missing or lacking anything based on the comparisons with these other districts. Lastly, we should open direct communication with local Universities and Colleges including UCLA, UC Irvine, USC, Loyola Marymount, and even Woodbury University right here in Burbank and ask them what they think of our existing curriculum and get feedback and proposed changes.The relationships between local districts and the department of Education in Sacramento is vital to progressive change. There should be more of an intentional willingness for local Burbank officials to interface more with Sacramento in policy decisions which will lend nicely to learning more about curriculum access points, grants, funding, and progressive support for district-wide curriculum development across Burbank. This will be especially helpful in STEM subjects, CTE, computer programming, and other subjects that are traditionally missed or ignored under outdated curriculum and frameworks like Burbank's.

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?

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,, 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.

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?
This is probably the largest and most challenging of issues directly facing the Burbank Unified School District. The number of BIPOC students in particular is so low in Burbank compared to other local districts in our region that the protections they request and require are not often appreciated or understood by those who make the decisions. Research shows that 23% of allegations of bullying in school districts across the nation involved harassment based on race, 16% based on sexual orientation, 11% based on disability and 8% involved religious identity. There needs to be an advisory committee on BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disability and religious issues that can draw from teachers, staff, parents, and local experts in the Burbank community to make recommendations for policy changes and over curriculum choices that support and strengthen our ties to minority groups within Burbank. When I first announced my candidacy for school board I was approached by a Burbank resident and mom who is Muslim. She was wearing her hijab and in broad daylight, on the streets of Burbank while holding the hand of her daughter, she was assaulted by a random stranger who tried to light her on fire. She was taken to the hospital and has since recovered, but her daughter, a student in the Burbank School District, has continued to face harassment and bullying since this incident. We must not let these acts of cruelty continue in our community. I told that woman I would share her story and would raise a voice for hers and I sincerely hope you take seriously my speaking up and holding firm to equal rights across the entire spectrum of identities in our community. Mental Health is also a serious issue (statistics show that 15% of US school-aged students suffer from depression while over 50% of college-aged students struggle with depression). There needs to be a mental health advisory board for each level of education in BUSD (elementary, middle school and high school) that can speak to what is not being done and what should be done across campuses for the mental health of our students in Burbank. These advisory boards should have opportunities to speak during School Board meetings and each should have a liaison who is a School Board Member (I would love to serve on supporting the Mental Health advisory board) in order to see their plans of action implemented at the district level. There should also be BIPOC/ LGTBQ+/ persons with impairments/religious minorities who can find representatives on the School Board to give voice to their issues and everyone should have the opportunity to speak out about their concerns at every School Board meeting. A great example of educational support for progressive policies including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ groups come in many shapes and sizes. The Dolores Huerta Foundation’s “Central Valley LGBTQ+ Guide” is a simple yet effective list of resources to build community and support regionally for equality. Oakland School’s “Reparations for Black Students” resolution came from a campaign by the “Justice for Oakland Students Coalition” which occured over a series of meetings that brought the Oakland-based “Black Organizing Project” and “Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network” together with other concerned citizens which raised the profile of educational issues to the whole community. We need these types of activities happening on a greater scale in Burbank!

School Resource Officers (SROs)

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 ( 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.

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?
Charter Schools can be beneficial to ertain communities - but with great power comes great responsibility. The greatest need for Burbank before we begin opening charter schools is to make sure there is a system in place to oversee how charter schools are run and an examination of our current magnet school systems already in place. Public Magnet Schools and programs, in many school districts, are perceived as an alternative solution to charter schools. Before Burbank begins to allows Charters, we need to talk about our Magnet School students, staff, and how the data from these schools compares to other campuses across BUSD. The magnet program at Franklin, the NAF engineering Academy at Burroughs (which just lost its NAF coordinator to La Cañada), and the Burbank HS BAS Program for Agricultural Science need more support and resources. We also need to look at our greatest strengths and assess the current weaknesses of our district that charter schools may be able to help with. The obvious strength of a charter is that it gives power back to parents and to the tax payers who stand the most to gain (and lose) from schooling in their community. The weakness is that Charter schools are often run by private businesses and profit and money-making becomes the focus of schooling. The NAACP has called for a moratorium order until proper accountability measures can be placed on existing charter schools. They have specified they are not against Charter schools, but they do require accountability. We also need to make sure the right accountability measures and metrics are in place, assessment teams and consultants can be brought on board by both the District and proposed Charter schools, and we can work together to make sure that corruption doesn’t sneak in the door. If Charter schools are going to compromise our existing common core curriculum and strong showings in state and national testing then that should be discussed. We need to think of our existing students first rather than just bring a bunch of new stakeholders in without the proper structures to measure, assess, and hold them accountable. Dan Shalvey, Reed Hastings, and Steve Barr worked together for years to figure out how to crack the charter school code in California. It literally took over a decade to do this and now both Aspire Schools and Green Dot are two of the largest charter networks in California. In recognition of all of the time that was spent strategically figuring out how to make room for Charters in California, school district leaders in Burbank should at least admit that they have a lot to learn. All possible school, teacher, corporate, student, parent and local government stakeholders should be involved in these discussions and they need to happen sooner than later. The number one concern about charter schools continues to be issues of corruption and greed amongst charter school operators. Many charter schools benefit from a 39% tax credit on contributions over a 7 year period established during the Clinton administration which also allows them to collect interest on donations and contributions. This allows funds for charter schools to double investments and to combine these tax breaks with other benefits to compound interest in a way that makes charter schools strong investment vehicles for many of their supporters while taking away top students and tax money away from existing public schools. harters also find more teacher turnover and teacher burnout and a less nurturing environment overall. While not wanting to come across as harsh in a rejection of charters, there needs to be extensive research, assessment, measurement, and accountability structures put into place before an educated decision is made by our city about charters. Based on the fact that a charter school manager and director is running for School Board this year, we may be pushed into that decision sooner than many had expected or hoped. As these conversations begin, we need to make sure there are level-headed, properly informed and mature perspectives being shared from the Board of Education on this topic.

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