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Updated: Dozens of Parents Attend Board Meeting to Object to Pupil-Free Days

Carrying yellow signs with blue writing that read "LCUSD Give our kids back their 4 Days!'' parents turned out Tuesday night to address the La Cañada Unified School District's scheduled professional development time.

For almost two hours Tuesday night, parents who object to the school district's paring of four student days from the 2011/12 school year, volleyed questions and complaints at board members.

The four days will be used for teacher collaboration, where instructors will hone skills and work together to see what lessons are working and which areas need improvement in the classroom.

Holding a sign that read, "LCUSD Give Our Kids Back Their Four Days,'' Parent Richard Asher said the board made a mistake when they voted unanimously in February to add four pupil-free days to the school year. It complicates schedules and "is not good for us,'' he said.

Board president Susan Boyd addressed the group before anyone took the podium, to answer 11 questions regarding the most common complaints she's heard about the decision to set aside the days. While several parents complained that the process was handled without their input, teachers, who are on summer break, pointed out that the four days equate to longer school days for them, without additional pay.

As for the board, Boyd and member Scott Tracy admitted there should have been better communication with the parents.

"We have been charged with running the district to the best of our ability. We never know when decisions we make are going to cause a problem and upset peoeple in large numbers. We try to be as transparent as possible.''

The board chose the pupil-free days that didn't bookend a weekend to cut down on no-shows. The days are Sept. 13, Oct. 19, Feb. 1 and Mar. 15. The board is trying the pupil-free days as a one-year trial for 2011-12. Members pointed out other high-caliber schools in Los Angeles, including Crescenta Valley High School, also "bank'' minutes for teacher collaboration.

Asking for a show of audience members' hands, one parent pointed out it's the concentration of four days that most folks have the main problem with, not the fact that teachers need collaboration time.

Board member Jeanne Broberg said the board carefully picked through the district's calendar to choose the least disruptive days to academic goings-on in the various schools.

By 9 p.m., parents and teachers had tossed out heaps of questions and complaints at the podium, and from the audience. Ninety minutes into the meeting, the discussion of collaboration days had been the only agenda item discussed.

Please check back on LCF Patch Wednesday for comprehensive coverage of Tuesday's meeting.

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