LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner toured nine schools in the district on Aug. 20 to witness the first day of classes and to better understand the concerns of teachers, parents and students and address them in this upcoming year, he said.
One concern that’s prominent among parents is family engagement and ways to reduce bureaucracy to make it more accessible for families to volunteer. Prior to this, volunteers were required to be fingerprinted and pay a $56 fee in order to volunteer. Now, there’s no fee, so parents who volunteer over 16 hours are only required to be fingerprinted.
During Beutner’s fifth stop at Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in Los Angeles, students demonstrated the need to continue to integrate arts and music in education.
“Choir gave me a voice to be more confident,” Kaylee Rodriguez, 15, said.
She said when she performed “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” she was nervous to sing in front of Beutner, but being part of choir has allowed her to be more confident.
The Culinary Arts program at Dodson Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes, demonstrated the need for students to learn culinary skills. Students in this program learn how to cook healthy meals and create their own recipes as well as growing their own vegetables.
Diego Arzola, a youth participating in the program, said he wants to pursue a culinary arts degree since he has a passion for cooking. For Beutner’s tour, he helped prepare the continental breakfast and said cooking is what he is passionate about. He came in on his last day of summer vacation on Friday to help prepare these meals.
Brian Howe, the culinary arts teacher at Dodson, said he wants to prepare these kids for life and to have the necessary skills to succeed. He hopes Beutner expands the program and continues to fund it.
“I feel culinary arts is a life skill — just like learning how to write an essay, you need to learn how to be self sufficient,” Howe said.
In an attempt to create diverse opportunities for students, Beutner visited STEAM High School at Legacy Complex in South Gate, which teaches engineering and alternative fuel energies to their students. This opened in 2012 in hopes of embedding critical thinking and preparing students for STEAM careers.
These students entered in Horizon Grand Prix Champions and designed a car that would run for 50 miles on hydrogen fuel cells. They won first and third place at World Championship in Prague.
Miguel Guzman, 17, who is a youth involved with the program, started three years ago and wants to become a mechanical engineer. This program pushes him in the right direction to develop the skills necessary to become a mechanical engineer.
“When we got to Europe, being able to talk to people in different languages … was a memorable experience of the program,” Guzman said.
Through these interactions with parents, teachers and students, Beutner better understands their concerns.
Beutner said touring the schools was exciting.
“The doors of opportunity are opening and that’s what school is about,” Beutner said. “I’m here to welcome them back in this safe environment.”