BHUSD Board Considers Varied Agenda

Agenda items at the March 28 Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) ranged from shade structures to computer science programs to teacher salaries and classroom instructional time.

A 94-page audit report was also a topic of discussion.

According to auditors from the firm Christy White, the district did not meet a minimum of 55% of expenses allocated toward teacher salaries in 2021-2022. There was a $2 million deficiency due to the district receiving COVID-related funds, which increased the total pool of funds used in the calculation.

Additionally, because of a change in start time in the school day, there was a slight shortage of instructional minutes in the 2021-2022 school year. The district had a total of 64,082 instructional minutes, short 718 minutes. 

Neither infraction was serious enough to warrant a fine or any kind of penalty, however. In both circumstances, a waiver would explain the reasons behind the deficiencies. 

The three-hour meeting began with brief remarks and a moment of silence dedicated to the six victims of the Nashville, Tennessee school shooting, the latest incident of gun violence to affect the nation’s schools. 

“At some point, we as a country may actually answer a question which we already know has an answer at zero–and that is, how many children have to die before we take action,” BHUSD Board President Noah Margo said.

During the teacher/student spotlight portion of the meeting, Beverly Hills High School math teacher Jennifer Hegley, an educator in the district for the past 15 years, delivered a presentation spotlighting student achievement in computer science classes, where skills including HTML and JavaScript are taught. 

High school students Ohad Levi, Jordan Meller, Gaddiel Noveck, Timmy Munkhbat, Joseph Kim, Dylan Van Rossum, and Akira Carey joined Hegley to share the positive experiences they’ve had this school year learning programming and coding skills while designing websites, developing side-scroller games and creating complex algorithms. 

Acknowledging March is Women’s History Month, Hegley said 20 out of 76 coding students this year were women, “which is something to celebrate, absolutely!” she said. 

“We’re especially proud being two girls in a typically male-dominated field,” one of these women, high school senior Dylan Van Rossum, said at the meeting, referring to herself and Akira Carey. “And it’s been really nice to have a female teacher to look up to.”

To wrap up the presentation, board members took a picture with Hegley and her students. 

While everyone agreed the achievements in coding were praiseworthy, Margo spotlighted another kind of technology less enviable. The board president spoke of the “Wait Until 8th” movement, which urges parents not to succumb to outside pressure to provide their children will cell phones before they’re ready. The movement calls for no cell phones until eighth grade. 

Those on hand also spoke about recent district programs, including a well-attended “Parent Ed Night” as well as the high school’s recent theatrical production of “Mean Girls”–which debuted on March 23 at the Saban Theatre and was an overwhelming success, those involved said.

“It’s a production we can really be proud of as a school district and as a high school,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy, who was one of several school officials to have a role in the production, said.

Board President Margo also appeared in the show. He added it was the rare instance when students in a Beverly Hills High School theater production were portraying characters their own age.

Pointing to Bregy’s appearance in the show, “I’m sitting next to star-power here,” Margo said. 

The meeting also included discussion of Measures E and BH, which each authorize the school district to issue general obligation bonds in amounts around $350 million for the purpose of modernizing the district’s school facilities. A performance audit for fiscal year 2021-2022 found the district had taken steps to address two out of six issues that had arisen with previous management of the bonds, including payment procedures. 

Board member Mary Wells has in the past been critical of previous management of the bond program. She was supportive when in 2022, a new company, Fonder-Salari, took over for the bond’s management. After hearing the latest performance audit, she expressed confidence in the new team that had been assembled to oversee the bonds. 

“We can already see the difference,” she said. 

Other features included a pre-taped episodic segment, “Now Noah Knows,” with Hawthorne kindergarten teacher Jocelyn Bresnick and Margo. 

The lengthiest portion of the evening was a proposal to add more shade structures to Horace Mann. Representatives of the school’s PTA said the school, post-modernization, is equipped with two shade structures. A review of the students’ needs has suggested additional shade structures are needed. The three proposed structures would cost $139,000, $245,500, and $69,500, respectively.

Additional participants in the meeting included members of the Associated Student Body, which recently held elections for the 2023-2024 school year. Student Body President Ashley Jourabchi introduced the new ASB members. 

While Jourabchi in remarks sounded ready to pass the torch, Bregy reminded Jourabchi and other current ABS members their work wasn’t quite done yet. 

“We still have a long way to go,” Bregy said. “We’re not closing out the year yet.”