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La Cañada schools' leader earns high marks

District unveils results of its first-ever survey of students, parents, staff.

September 08, 2012|By Peter Day
  • Students rush off to class during the first day of the new school year at La Canada High School in La Canada Flintridge.
Students rush off to class during the first day of the new… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Survey says: The local schools superintendent has earned the faith of teachers, students and staff.

La Cañada Unified School District Supt. Wendy Sinnette, entering her second year on the job, earned high marks in a district survey taken this summer of students, parents, teachers and staffers.

The survey, the first in what will be an annual effort, included statements that were rated true or false on a scale of one to five, with one the lowest score and five the highest. Thousands of students, roughly 750 parents and more than 200 school teachers and staff participated.

Sinnette received scores of 4.5 to 4.8 from the different groups of participants on the statement that she “maintains professionalism and composure.”

“I think it is a great reflection on the fact that Wendy stepped into a position held by someone who was already very highly regarded,” school board member Susan Boyd said, referring to former Supt. Jim Stratton. “Not everyone would want to step into that role. She healed a lot of relationships that were a little rocky. Kudos to her. We're very happy that she scored as high as she did.”

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While Sinnette received some of the survey's highest marks, teacher morale was low. Teachers offered a 2.2 rating for the statement “staff morale is high at this school.”

Sinnette, who presented the survey findings at Tuesday's board of education meeting, said low teacher morale was likely the result of an especially challenging school year in 2011-12.

One of those challenges was a controversy involving math teacher Gabrielle Leko, who was publicly accused of calling a student a “Jew boy” during the 2010-11 school year.

The incident raised questions about Leko's conduct, the district's ability to discipline faculty and communication between parents, teachers and the district. After a nine-month process, the district and Leko forged a settlement in which she agreed to leave her post at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

La Cañada Teachers Assn. President Mandy Redfern, a kindergarten teacher at La Cañada Elementary School, pointed out that teachers offered positive responses to survey statements about how much they like their work and the quality of education students receive.

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