School Board Weighs Student Phone Use, Approves Hawthorne Turf Replacement

The July 25 Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) board meeting reviewed the student cell phone policy on the district’s campuses, approved a $408,000 construction project to replace playfield turf at Hawthorne Elementary School and introduced a career academy for high school students.

Continuing an ongoing, impassioned discussion on student cell phone use, the board heard and approved a first reading of a policy regarding smartphones and other mobile communication devices. Read out loud by Board Member Judy Manouchehri, the policy says that the district’s TK-8 students may not use cell phones, smartphones and other devices while on campus and their devices must be turned off throughout the day. For high school students in grades 9-12, students may use devices during non-instructional time.

The policy says that a student who commits a third repeated offense of the rules receives after-school detention. This, however, garnered some pushback.

“I’m not a fan of detention for these violations,” Board Chair Noah Margo said, addressing his colleagues on the six-member board as well as Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy.

Board Vice President Amanda Stern talked about innovative ways district teachers are employing cell phones in the classrooms, such as facilitating polls among students. She asked that language addressing acceptable cell phone uses be incorporated into the policy.

Bregy said changes will continue to be made to the language.

During the two-hour meeting, the board also approved an approximately $408,000 project to replace 28,149 square feet of synthetic turf on the north field at Hawthorne Elementary School. The artificial turf currently on the field failed to pass this year’s Gmax testing, which measures impact attenuation, or the ability of a playing surface to absorb the shock from a collision, such as a player failing to the surface of the field.

“There’s no intervention other than replacement at this time,” said Ken Haas, executive director of construction and facilities for the district.

The contractor, The Hellas Group, is working on a 30-day timeline to complete the turf replacement. There are also plans for turf replacement under another structure at the elementary school’s play area. The project is smaller in scope and will take less time than the replacement of turf on the north field.

The meeting also included a presentation by BHHS Co-Principal Drew Stewart and Career Education Coordinator Cindy Dubin on BHHS Career Academy, which provides the district’s high school students with business immersion experience and the opportunity to explore various careers, including business, marketing and event planning.

“One of the most important things we do for our students is preparing them for college and for careers,” Stewart said.

Dubin highlighted plans for student internship opportunities this fall in the hospitality sector. Students will get the chance to work at six of the city’s hotels, including Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, The Beverly Hilton and The Beverly Hills Hotel.

Additionally, the board discussed the district paying dues for membership in the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). Currently, BHUSD pays the membership for only the superintendent and assistant superintendents. They weighed the board’s approval of ACSA dues for directors, coordinators, principals and assistant principals, beginning in the upcoming school year. The fiscal impact would be approximately $31,500.

Membership in ACSA would support the district’s entire leadership team, including about 30 staff members.

“Professional development is very beneficial to them,” Bregy said, explaining his support for the ACSA membership. 

But Board Member Rachelle Marcus asked for more information before she could support the district paying more than $30,000 for ACSA membership.

Ultimately, the board withdrew the motion, then tabled it for future consideration.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Margo announced that BHUSD has been selected to lead a workshop at this year’s California School Boards Association’s AEC conference, taking place Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in San Francisco. The topic of the workshop will be board governance.

“We are thrilled,” Margo said, “because that is getting us back to where we want to be as far as our presence as a district.”

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 8.

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