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Pasadena School Board Bids ‘Farewell’ to Torres and Boulghourjian

Board also approves reduced Senior Defense grad requirements; approves Simultaneous Learning Model

Published on Friday, November 20, 2020 | 6:09 am

As their four-year terms wound to a close, longtime Pasadena   Unified Board members Lawrence Torres and Roy Boulghourjian were bid a fond farewell by the current board members at their Thursday monthly meeting.

“I commend you both for getting through some very difficult times,” said PUSD Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald, who continued, “Larry, I commend you for your leadership this past year, when we went through school closures and all those difficult issues, for your steady leadership and your decisiveness. You made a tremendous difference in how we navigated through those situations.”

“And Roy,” McDonald continued, “Thank you for your support, not only in public, but behind the scenes as well. It was a very productive relationship.”

Torres, in thanking the staff and Board, said, “I will miss the collegiality. This is work that we have to all do together. We are often in small rooms with people, and I am just thankful that we have all gotten along so well….you couldn’t ask for more than that.”

All of the board members present echoed McDonald’s sentiments.

Board Member Boulghourjian, who served on the PUSD board for five years, told Torres that he had recently seen “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” with Tom Hanks, and said, “As I watched, I couldn’t help thinking about you. You’re a good person. Thank you.”

In the regular Board proceedings, PUSD staff—represented by PUSD Assistant Superintendent Julliane Reynoso and Chief Academic Officer Elizabeth Blanco—said the District would temporarily amend graduation requirements BP 6161, for 2020-21 only,  due to COVID-19 residual effects.

“We expect all sites to continue to prepare all students in order to meet standard Senior Defense requirements,” said Reynoso.

According to PUSD spokesperson Hilda Ramirez Horvath, the Senior Defense presentations generally require students to compile a portfolio of exemplary samples of their coursework from their high school years, including a research project and then reflect on their learning, growth, and future plans. They present before a panel of teachers, administrators, community members, and civic leaders.

“The student defense presentations are a powerful platform for students to reflect on their learning and put their experience in context with the broader community and global issues,” said Horvath in an email communication.

In her presentation, Reynoso said that “All students need to prepare their portfolios in order to select their most proud items with the corresponding rubrics,” and offered three options—Option 1: Complete all requirements of the Senior Defense; Option 2: Submit artifacts that reflect any of the Graduate Profile skills gained, with no rubric grading requirement. Artifacts can be educationally or personally related, and a Graduate Defense presentation and reflection paper is still required; or Option 3: Complete only the Reflection portion with the rubric. Option 3 can be educationally or personally related.

For the 2021 presentations, there are also three options: Students will present within a “live” Webex with a live panel, to be graded live;  Option 2: Students will provide a pre-recorded presentation, will be graded by panel; or Option 3: Complete Presentation via an interactive padlet.

 The presentation rubric will still be utilized at 75% passing, according to the presentation. All defenses will still be graded by three panel members, and there will be a variety of site staff, community members, and other district personnel used as panelists.

Identified Student Groups will be supported through the process by their teachers and all accommodations and/modifications for these groups will be honored, said Reynoso, and any students who are challenged with using the appropriate tools will be considered on a case by case basis.

Also, according to the presentation, any students who have special circumstances due to unforeseen COVID-19 related events will be considered on a case-by-case basis and approved through site administration.

The PUSD Board also unanimously approved a Simultaneous Education model, to use as schools reopen for in-person instruction.

As noted in the staff report presented to the Board, utilizing “optimal engagement immersion pedagogy (OEIP),” teachers will remain with their current students and courses, and instruct students who attend both in-person and online simultaneously.

Also, the report said, “In order to create opportunities for optimal engagement of both student groups, teachers will be provided equipment that maximizes their audio-visual capacity.

“Simultaneous learning will allow for students and teachers to maintain their current class communities,” the report continued, “and support the relational and academic progress connections that are already established.

Additionally, the model allows PUSD to continue offering specialized programs and courses that would otherwise only be offered in one environment—either online or in-person.

“Approximately 50 teachers are piloting the equipment and configurations so we can best leverage OEIP, and providing daily feedback which will allow us to target training and communication to teachers and families,” said the report.

PUSD staff will continue to track unique costs and expenditures related to COVID-19, and will continue to seek “unique revenues” related to covering costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the report.

The approximate cost for the equipment needed for the model is $242,000.

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