Burbank Elementary Neighbors On Tonight's Meeting

PUSD officials are hosting one more community meeting about the future of the Burbank Elementary site just one night before the school board votes on the reconfiguration plan

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 6/27/2011

As promised, officials are hosting a second neighborhood meeting at the school site at 7 p.m. Monday, following a very contentious and hastily put together about the district's reconfiguration plan for the site starting in August.
That plan, the latest version of which is attached to this article and so far is the only one being considered by PUSD, includes utilizing existing buildings and facilities for a multi-use educational and administrative setup, with a couple different preschools and PUSD-related offices operating there, as well as a construction project that could cost up to $200,000.
That project includes renovating some rooms and buildings, converting most of the grass field to asphalt for a parking lot that could fit 75 to 80 spaces and building a preschool playground area and equipment.
The majority of the audience members, which totaled about 100 people, at that first meeting were very upset about the way the meeting was organized, announced and carried out; the lack of public input on the plan; the lack of transparency regarding the plan; the closure of Burbank Elementary in the first place; and several of the specific recommended changes in the plan.
They had concerns about street parking, traffic, noise, the and therefore the loss of green open space, the planned access route to the proposed lot, and the hours of operation of the various administrative and educational functions that the plan calls for, among other issues.
Patch sat down with Beverly and Albert "Tootie" Heath, who are next door neighbors to the school on Minoru Street and attended the first meeting, to get their perspective on the proposed plan.
"The idea sucks, period," said Tootie, a famous jazz musician who has played with all the greats from Miles Davis to Thelonious Monk and many more. He and his wife Beverly have lived next door to the school for 30 years and have seen the neighborhood go through many stages.
"I don't know if it's a bad idea," Beverly stated.
"I do," Tootie said. "It sucks."
"But I do know that I don't trust PUSD or their plans for the school site," Beverly continued. "The whole notion of being a good neighbor has gone out the window. As for this second meeting, I absolutely do not think it will change anything. I don't think they care what we think one way or the other. The school board has already made up their minds."
"The whole thing was done without the neighborhood's input," said Tootie. "It's going to be very different."
"We are directly affected," said Beverly. "We enjoyed the school being there, but now a new group of folks will be coming and going. They could have done a much better job by being better neighbors, talking to the people who will be most affected by this. It's the way they did it that makes you not trust them."
At the first meeting, PUSD's Chief Facilities Officer David Azcarraga gave a brief presentation about which programs have been assigned space in the reconfiguration plan, while constantly being interrupted by angry Altadenans who felt left out of the process.
The programs include LA UP, a special education preschool currently located at (which was also along with Burbank Elementary last November), the existing Burbank Preschool, Hodges Children Center preschool program (which is currently located at 136 W. Peoria St. in Pasadena), office space for PUSD's Mental Health program (which is currently located at McKinley and operates at 11 schools in the area), and Professional Development offices for staff training of teachers, principals and administrative staff.
Another program, the Elementary Academy for Success, is also being considered to occupy space but has not been officially confirmed, according to Azcarraga.
"As far as I know, this will not be a stop-gap reconfiguration," said Azcarraga at the time. "This plan will not be temporary. Unless enrollment increases in PUSD, this will be a permanent setup, as far as I've been told."
The reconfiguration plan is on the school board's agenda for Tuesday night as an action item, which means the board could vote to approve the plan. Many Altadenans at the last meeting suggested that the public input meetings will do nothing to change PUSD's mind and that the plan will be approved without the Altadena community's public input.
As one woman put it during the first meeting, "This plan is just awful. Altadenans have not been treated fairly throughout this whole process."
Monica Hubbard, a long-time Altadena activist, sent out a mass email that implied there still might be a chance for public input.
"Before sending a flurry of individual e-mails to school board members, would it be helpful first to hear what the revised proposal is this Monday evening?" she wrote. "Perhaps those of us who are able could stay after the meeting at Burbank School this Monday evening to discuss what we learned at the meeting and see if we can quickly reach some common talking points we'd like to present to the board Tuesday night. The public is usually limited to two or three minutes during public comment so if we had all our points outlined, individuals could each take one point to make sure all are presented. It would also be good if we could address the board using a commendation/recommendation format."
Following the June 13 meeting Hubbard sent three general concerns to Azcarraga. She wrote:
"We look forward to seeing a revised plan for Burbank School that: 1) Is purposeful rather than just filling the available space with random programs serving pre-school, children, youth and adults; 2) Brings together like-programs so that economies and efficiencies can be realized and synergy can occur; 3) Is mindful of student safety, health and well-being (protection of green/open space; thoughtful drop-off and parking plans)."