First published in the August 12 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The South Pasadena Unified School District is welcoming 50 new employees this school year, which began on Thursday, as announced at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.
The new hires come join the school in the second year of completely in-person learning since the COVID-19 pandemic derailed typical operations and forced the district to remote learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year and most of the 2020-21 year.
“It was a pleasure this morning to start the day with my colleague Karissa [Adams] welcoming new teachers who are starting with us here just this year,” said board member Patricia Martinez-Miller. “It looks like a wonderful, exciting new crop of people who will serve us well.”
Among the new faces were Jen Smith, who was introduced as the director of food and nutrition services at Tuesday’s meeting. She spent eight months working in the district before being promoted to the new position and also has experience working in the Upland and Covina school districts.
She said she’s looking forward to making an impact after spending most of her career in restaurants, specifically as the senior general manager at Old Spaghetti Factory and general manager of the test kitchen at Islands.
“I’ve worked with restaurants for a really long time. Late nights, and time away from my kids, but I did spend a lot of time volunteering at my kids’ school,” Smith said at the meeting. “I was like ‘OK, it’s time for a change. Time to do something that makes a difference.’”
With the transition from remote to in-person learning accomplished during the previous school year, board members and Superintendent Geoff Yantz shared Smith’s motivation to have a fresh, new, face-to-face year.
“I’m very optimistic and excited to see what’s happening with all the new programs going on this year at our schools,” Yantz said. “A lot of new things, a lot of play spaces. Everything for the students.”
SPUSD Power Outages Continue
Power outages of various lengths and volumes continue to affect SPUSD schools.
Yantz said at Tuesday’s school board meeting that South Pasadena Middle School had an outage on Aug. 4, which caused a work disruption.
Later, on Aug. 6, Monterey Hills Elementary School had a three-hour outage. Contractors who were doing work in the area were forced to leave due to the absence of electricity.
“The impact is significant,” Yantz said.
Yantz said that Edison requested to monitor the district’s equipment and was denied. The electric company thinks that the summer heat could be the cause, or that the district may have added too much new power — something Yantz said isn’t possible after the districtwide switch to LED.
“We’ve changed to all-LED infrastructure at all our school sites,” Yantz said, “so we’re encouraging them to continue to explore issues that they may be experiencing.”