Alhambra schools superintendent seeks community input on new funding

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), a new school funding law, will provide billions of dollars to California’s school districts. To receive the money, the Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD), along with all K-12 school districts and charter schools in the state, is required to develop a plan for distributing the funds and reach out to teachers, students, parents, and community members for input.

Presiding over this process is AUSD Superintendent Dr. Laura Tellez-Gagliano. Tellez-Gagliano took the district’s top position in 2012 after 26 years in teaching and administration at the Los Angeles Unified and Garvey school districts. She oversees AUSD’s 17 schools and 18,000 students, and over the next few years will be guiding the implementation of LCFF funds and the state’s new Common Core standards.

Alhambra Source’s Reporter Corps sat down with Tellez-Gagliano to talk about the new budget package and how community members can get involved in deciding how those new funds are distributed.

As part of an accountability measure in the LCFF, the district is currently collecting information from community members about which education goals they would like to see prioritized in the new budget. You have held two parent informational meetings and conducted an online survey in three languages. How else can community members voice their opinion about their education priorities?

Community members attend the district's LCFF informational meeting. | Photo by Alfred Dicioco

We need to hear from everyone as we are planning this and we are strategizing how we will be using the new money coming into the district. Every school board meeting, people can come and speak to the school board and voice their opinion. It is everyone’s right. I do encourage parents to contact us. I have parents emailing me and calling me.

This is the community’s school district, and if they have issues our doors are open. I know I speak for the school board; they are always willing to talk to parents.

California public schools are required to implement new Common Core standards, which set a consistent curriculum in all 45 states that have adopted them, by the next school year. The new standards emphasize language arts, math, and technology, and include new student assessments. Is AUSD ready?

We are in the process of training our teachers in the new Common Core standards. Common Core, our new teaching model, means that if you are in the ninth grade at Alhambra High School and your parents move to New York, you go into a school there and the standards will be the same. The teachers are teaching the same thing.

Although there have been budget cuts in recent years, AUSD’s Academic Performance Index (API) scores have increased dramatically. How has the district delivered these results?

It was very difficult because we had to do more with less. We had fewer personnel and less supplies. But we have a wonderful staff here in Alhambra, and our job is to teach the students. The focus stayed on the kids and the teachers worked very hard to make sure the kids were progressing every year. I think that we kept that as our vision even though it was tough those five or six years having to cut resources.

Alhambra High School's AVID program in 2009.

Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) was one of those resources that was cut. The college preparatory program is designed to help students in the middle academic achievement range improve school performance. What support is now offered to students who need that extra help?

We implement intervention strategies for students who struggle a little more and need extra help. We provide them with an hourly teacher. Our mental health program, Gateway to Success, also offers services to students, because a lot of times the reasons why students may not be achieving do not always have to do with academics. They also has to do with what is going on at home, with friends, or other things.

Also, the tenets of AVID have never gone away. We may not have AVID but we’ve kept the foundation of it in Alhambra for those students who need the extra support and help. At Alhambra High School, we have a class where a teacher will help and support students just like AVID. We just created a program without the AVID name to give those students extra help and counseling if they need it.

How does the district reach out to immigrant parents who may not understand the American education system?

The first thing I say to parents when I meet with them is that my job as superintendent is not the most important job I have held. It is being a parent. That is the most important job an adult can have.

Graduates of Gateway to Success's Parent University program. | Photo courtesy of Gateway to Success

I have found that we work very well with the parents in this community, even though the education systems from their countries are different than ours. We embrace our parents and the doors are always open to them. The Gateway to Success program offers support for the family and gives them tools to deal with issues they face. We do things on bullying, internet control, and much more.

Is there any thing else you would like to add?

We are developing a plan for the LCFF. It is an interesting time; we have a lot going on. While student achievement and student safety is the most important focus for the new funding, this is the time that we need everyone’s input. The board is listening to everyone to see the top priorities for the community.

The next AUSD School Board meetings will take place on April 1 and April 22 at 6 p.m. at 1515 W. Mission Rd., Alhambra, Calif., 91803.

This interview was edited and condensed. This story is part of a Reporter Corps series on the Local Control Funding Formula and its impact on Alhambra students, teachers, parents, and community. Learn more.

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