Dr. Armond Aghakhanian is a parent and a teacher campaigning for one of three open seats on the Burbank School Board in the 2015 city elections. Dr. Aghakhanian has more than a decade of experience in education and business. He has an MBA and a Doctorate in Education. Aghakhanian is making a second run for the Burbank Board of Education. In 2013, he failed to get enough votes in the primary to qualify for the general election ballot.
Below are his answers to a series of questions I emailed out to all school board candidates, except Steve Ferguson who answered similar questions during a video interview last fall.
1. What are the biggest problems facing the Burbank school district? And what solutions do you have for those problems?
A. Decrease in the percentage of Burbank high school’s graduates enrolling in colleges and universities with sufficient workforce and entry-level career preparation and training.
- Together we must establish a seamless education program that will guarantee a pathway to college and university for all of our students. The program will help develop and create a college and university-bound culture with an expectation of success in achieving academic and career goals.
In order to achieve this, we must:
- Get students and parents involved early;
- Increase the number of counselors at our high schools and top two grades (currently we only have 5 for 2500 students);
- Increase partnerships with governmental and nongovernmental agencies, local businesses, non-profits, community groups and parents to promote college and university attendance;
- Identify projects, business partnerships, funding and fit;
- Create ongoing internships and network opportunities, to find professionals willing to mentor and employ our students;
- Create and promote year-round workshops to increase training opportunities;
- Proper implementation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs by adding Arts to learning, technology and manufacturing. The current pathways for public school students via the Verdugo Creative Technology Consortium is a great example of a collaborative program designed to develop pathway programs that prepare students for what the current workforce needs.
B. Budget shortfalls- Managing Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), Cost of implementation, and maintenance of the Common Core State Standards and aging infrastructure.
As cities all over California face steep cuts from Sacramento and a sluggish economy, our schools are facing many financial challenges. The new system promises more local control, greater transparency and fairness, involving parents in planning and decision making as well as in developing Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) requiring our school district to focus on the eight key areas. Although the new LCFF replaces California’s nearly half-century-old, state-controlled school finances system, it brings with it new challenges. The LCFF is a new system for redistributing funding, not a source of new funding. There is also no assurance that the additional supplemental and concentration dollars will result in improved student achievement. The current California Standards Tests have been replaced by computerized exams that can adapt immediately to a student’s performance. One of the biggest concerns with the change is the cost of technological integration into the learning of reading, writing, and training teachers regularly.
Burbank schools’ facilities quality and safety are in dire need of improvement. Classrooms need to be upgraded with new technology and computers. Aging portable classrooms, electrical systems, plumbing and sewer lines, site irrigation, gas lines, roofs and play areas need to be replaced.
- Community engagement is the key. I am extremely proud of the proactive role taken by parents, local businesses, school teachers, administrators, and the Burbank School Board in developing and implementing this plan. The efforts must continue to grow and develop.
- Implementation of Master Plans laying out actions and services designed to increase academic achievement in areas which need more focus from the district.
- A smart and conservative approach to implementing Common Core by focusing on teacher training and investing in our current infrastructure.
- Following the passage of Measure S Bond, the school district has been able to invest some of the funds in new technology and infrastructure using the bond money;
- We must use this funding wisely by converting our aging schools’ infrastructure into new and more sustainable infrastructure. This will keep the cost of maintenance down, while complying with all new standards. For example, we can convert all of our current auditoriums in to multi-use facilities with new HVAC systems and technology, (such as overhead projectors, computers, and internet access) providing additional functional space, which can be used for different purposes thus keeping our class sizes small.
- As a school board member, I will continue working with the committee and members of our community to make sure that we continue spending our limited funds wisely.
2. What are the skills and experience you have acquired that make you the best candidate for a seat on the Burbank School Board?
Like any other parent in Burbank, I want my three-year-old son to have the best opportunities available to him in the Burbank school system. There’s a reason why my wife, Dr. Gayane Gasamanyan, and I decided to make Burbank our home: to raise our family and to give back to the community because we believe in the city and its public school system. However, the public school system can only thrive if people like you and me roll up our sleeves and become actively involved.
The worldwide shift from manufacturing-based to knowledge-based economies requires a more educated and skilled workforce. In recent years, communities able to supply such a workforce have experienced considerable growth in wealth and prosperity; we can do the same in Burbank. As a teacher with real classroom experience and someone who has and continues to teach Business and Leadership courses to our students, and as someone who has worked both in the private and public sector, I know what it takes to prepare and educate such a workforce. In addition to teaching, I am an educational partnership specialist who works with high schools, colleges, and universities in the area, developing programs designed to help students with career technical education. I have over fifteen years of experience in the field of education and public service, serving on several local non-profit boards, commissions, and teaching.
Currently, I serve as a member of Burbank School Facilities Oversight Committee and Burbank Parks, Recreation and Community Services Board and I am a member of the Burbank Noon Kiwanis. I am a former member of Burbank’s Community Development Goals, Civic Pride Committee, and the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley.
3. Does your educational background and experience give you a unique insight or perspective?
Yes. I received my Doctorate in Education from Pepperdine University and my MBA from Woodbury University. I have extensive and diverse experience in the field of education and business, working for and with a myriad of governmental and non-governmental entities, non-profit organizations, and elected officials. I have taught management courses to our own Burbank High School Academy of Finance students. I continue to provide technical assistance and advice to people in the field of education and business. My educational background and work experience has prepared me to lead the district through these tough economic times with innovative and creative energy, while building consensus through effective partnerships between governmental and private sectors toward a unified goal.
The Burbank primary is February 24, 2015.
Q & A from other school board candidates