La Ballona Makes Academic Improvement

The progress of La Ballona Elementary School, and an energy analysis update were major topics at the Culver City School Board meeting Tuesday night.

It was a very crowded Board room, as this was the last meeting before the November 3 election for School Board members. Candidates Patricia Siever, Robert Zirgulis, Karlo Silbiger, and Alan Elmont were all in attendance, but Board president Jessica Beagles-Roos began the meeting with a caveat that everyone should respect the meeting as a meeting and not as a sounding board for campaigning.

La Ballona principal Christine Collins gave a PowerPoint presentation of La Ballona’s “good results” from various assessment tests over the past two years.

For the most part, La Ballona’s test scores indicate increased proficiency in English Language Skills, math, and 5th grade science. On the 2009 API (Academic Yearly Progress), the base API score (from 2008 to 2009) showed an increase of 24 points. However, on the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) in English Language Arts, the scores for English Learners were “under the line” for 2008 and were shown to have increased in 2009 to 43.6, which is still short of the 46.0 target score.

Collins said La Ballona’s improved scores can be attributed to the success of programs like Math Plus Music for Grades 2, 3, and 4, the Being a Writer writing workshop given throughout the school, and various interventions, teacher collaborations, and benchmark assessments. However, improvement is still needed, and more interventions and assessments will be used to bring up scores, especially for the English learners.

Following Collins’ presentation, Board members Scott Zeidman and Steven Gourley commented that the numerous assessment tests seemed like a waste of time. Dr. Dana Russell disagreed, noting that some kind of assessment tests are needed.

In Public Comment, Karlo Silbiger again brought up the subject of how to assess the optimum number of students who will fit in a classroom and why the District has not yet responded to his query.

Although the Board usually does not discuss public comments, this seemed to be a thorny issue. Siever again insisted that the Board look at the online Education Code to see the stats they were looking for. Beagles-Roos said that class size and actual student enrollment are two different issues. At any rate, she too, is waiting for the District to give the Board some figures.

Assistant Superintendent David El Fattal gave two presentations. The first was an update on Energy Analysis, a follow-up to the September 8 feasibility study presented by Chevron Energy Solutions (CES).

El Fattal’s intensive report had to be summed up quickly, with a series of slides shown and described. In brief, CES met with CCUSD staff to determine needs and goals for the District, conducted site walks to better understand those needs, completed an initial utility analysis, identified potential project savings, and investigated modernizing sites such as the Natatorium, the high school sports complex, and Robert Frost Auditorium. Slides depicted possible energy solutions ranging from light efficiency upgrades to solar PVs for schoolyards.

El Fattal said that Chevron will work with the District to develop a Comprehensive Energy Analysis (CEA) and a cancellation fee of 65,000 will be applied if the District does not move forward with implementation of the CEA.

The budget update reviewed the results of the May 19, 2009 special election in which a budget stabilization fund and other initiatives failed, but a restriction on elected officials’ salaries passed. After looking at various revenue sources, revenue losses, and flexibility options, El Fattal concluded that the state budget is in peril, with multiple lawsuits threatening to cancel out cuts already made in the budget. More mid-year cuts can be expected and more expenditure reductions in the near future.

On a happier note, the Board honored Culver City High School students Lynden and Linford Dawson, who are recipients of the Tavis Smiley Young Leaders of the Decade Award. The two students have committed time to public endeavors such as visiting senior centers, helping special needs students, filling picnic baskets, and giving up Saturday mornings to prepare charity Thanksgiving meals.

The Board also honored the late Bernice Barr with the presentation of a “Building Block,” a metal plaque that will be inserted into the wall of the Board building lobby. Barr’s daughter and co-workers were present to accept the award.

During the Student Rep reports, Evan Wilson of Culver City Middle School gave a report that everyone found entertaining, thanks to Wilson’s witty quips and dry delivery. Describing the school’s “Halloween-A-Grams,” pieces of paper with students’ names and candy inside, he noted “They’ll do anything to get money out of these kids.”


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