How Burbank USD Develops Informed School Communities with Ed100

by Jeff Camp | August 12, 2019 | 3 Comments
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One at a Time

School districts are bigger, more complex organizations than people generally realize. For example, there are more students in Los Angeles Unified than employees at Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple combined. Even a small school district involves more people and more money than most businesses do, with a tangled web of stakeholder relationships.

School organizations are complex. It's difficult for parents, teachers, administrators, student leaders and community members to develop a well-informed understanding of the challenges facing their schools. It's obvious that school districts have the job of educating children; less obviously, they also must earn the trust and support of voters. Community support is essential for the school system.

Burbank: Preparing Parents on Purpose

Matt Hill, Superintendent of Burbank Unified School District, is an Ed100 graduate. He encourages faculty, staff and parent leaders to earn their Ed100 graduate certificate, too.

Burbank Unified School District (BUSD) is a K-12 district in Los Angeles County where over 15,000 students learn with the support of about 600 teachers, 500 other adults, and thousands of families.

The stresses that face Burbank resemble those in many other California districts, including low funding, rising pension costs and rising housing costs. Burbank community leaders, determined to support teaching and learning, put a parcel tax measure on the ballot in 2018 to improve annual funding by about $600 per student. The measure fell short by only a few hundred votes.

Since then, community leaders in Burbank have redoubled their efforts. While seeking to make ends meet with fundraising efforts, they are also using the moment to build informed leadership throughout the community.

Leading by Example

Ed100 has been a key resource for the strategy. To help spur participation in the Ed100 course, Matt Hill, the district Superintendent, has led by example. He earned his certificate as an Ed100 graduate, and has encouraged others in the district to do the same.

“Over 25 parents, family members, and District staff have completed the Ed100 course so far," said Superintendent Hill. "All have reported an increased understanding of how public education works. The Board of Education recognizes graduates twice a month, which brings more awareness of the program.”

School districts hold a lot of clout in California's education system. The state constitution delegates many powers to districts, including fiscal responsibility — they handle most of the money. School districts are overseen by school boards; you can think of them as the local lawmakers, making sure everything is run properly. On a practical level, the leadership of a school district lies in the hands of the Superintendent, who serves as the CEO.

Less officially, the heart of community support for each school tends to lie with its PTA.

Using Ed100 to Develop District-PTA Partnership

"I've always been an involved parent," said Cathy Biermann, PTA President at Emerson Elementary in Burbank Unified, pictured above with her Ed100 Graduate Certificate. "I joined PTA to keep an eye on my own kids. I never thought I would be the parent who cared so much about what's going on with our entire state. But it's important to know what we are up against. I'm so glad Ed100 gave me information about the CA education system I wouldn't have known otherwise."

“Completing the Ed100 program is one of the best things I’ve done to help Burbank schools," said Jen Lorigo, a parent at Edison Elementary. "I’m now truly informed about how our California public education system works. I better understand the budgeting challenges BUSD faces, and can speak thoughtfully and with conviction about what needs to be done to improve our schools. I had no idea how out of line our class sizes are with much of the rest of the country. California can do better in so many ways for our schools."

The PTA organization in Burbank has used Ed100 to support the district's vision of well-informed and engaged school communities. Dr. Roberta Reynolds, President of the school board, says she originally learned about Ed100 through a District PTA meeting. She encourages staff and parents to sign up for Ed100 and complete the course. "It helps them increase their knowledge of the system so that they can be stronger advocates for their children."

"I considered myself very engaged with and informed about California public schools, but this course taught me so much — and has lit a fire under me to do more," said Jen Lorigo. "I like that the lessons are self-paced and divided by chapter topics. You can go through it a little at a time, which is perfect for busy parents!”

Questions & Comments

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Judy Crivelli August 14, 2019 at 8:49 pm
Ed100 has been an eye opener for how California's education system works. I agree with all the comments in the blog. I have a better understanding of how the budget affects us all and inspires me to advocate even more for our kids. Thank you Ed100!

Judy Crivelli
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Caryn December 12, 2019 at 11:57 am
Thanks for your kind words, Judy. I am so glad to have you as a part of our Ed100 community. It's wonderful to know we've inspired you to be an even more dedicated advocate for children!
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Wendi Harvel August 12, 2019 at 6:13 pm
Thank You Ed100 for featuring Burbank in your recent article. Our hard-working PTAs, Superintendent and School Board continue to spread the word to our parents and community. We appreciate the flexible and easy option that helps to educate all interested parties about California public education and the funding of our schools.

-Wendi Harvel
Burbank Council PTA
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