HomeSchools & YouthBurbank School District Commits to ASL Program

Burbank School District Commits to ASL Program

By Jackson Tammariello
Burbank Leader

American Sign Language is not on the chopping block at Burbank Unified School District amid budget woes, and district officials said they are finishing up the process of hiring candidates for an ASL teacher position at Burbank High School.

Superintendent John Paramo said that BUSD has interviewed three candidates for the job, and the district will make its decision soon, quelling fears from the deaf and hard of hearing community that ASL language classes were being discontinued in the upcoming school year.

According to Paramo, the position previously went unfilled last summer until a substitute instructor was temporarily moved into the role for the 2023-24 school year. Concerns of a similar situation for the next school year led district officials to ask students about alternative language classes they would take, with their motivation being to have a backup choice “on file” in the event that the position was not filled.

“That’s where the miscommunication and all the rumors started that we were closing ASL, that we didn’t want ASL, when that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.

Paramo added that assumptions that upcoming budget cuts were affecting the program were also not true.

In recent years there have been issues finding qualified ASL instructors, Paramo said, noting that five years ago, BUSD had several ASL teachers at each school, and now only has one at each location.

Nearby community colleges have also had trouble finding teachers to fill their positions, according to the superintendent.

“This is a market where it’s really difficult to be able to find this type of teacher,” he said.

When counselors asked students about replacement classes, parents, students and community members were quick to speak up, concerned that this meant classes would not be offered at all next school year.

An email from Burbank High principal Narineh Barzegar on Monday, June 3, attempted to alleviate concerns over the program’s end.

News about a potential shutdown “spread like wildfire” in the deaf community, said Patty Ivankovic, a deaf and hard of hearing specialist at Burbank High, who gave public comments at a Board of Education meeting June 6.

Ivankovic, an educator for 35 years, said that the end of ASL programs would not only negatively impact deaf and hard of hearing students, but hearing students as well.

“It was just heartbreaking to know that it was potentially going to be taken away,” she said.

Ivankovic also said that the lack of transparency about the open position was frustrating, as it had not been posted internally or on the job site EdJoin, contrary to what BUSD said. She applauded Barzegar’s notice to Burbank High families but said that the community has lost trust in BUSD.

Sharon Ann Dror, a resident for 27 years, said that after learning her three children were deaf, her family moved to Burbank because of their extensive ASL programs. She spoke of the impact for her children and how they are crucial for other students going into higher education.

“I hope that Burbank High School will continue their strength in the ASL program, whether it’s a deaf teacher or a hearing teacher, as long as they are fluent in sign language, know the culture and they continue the program the way it has been,” Dror said.

Paramo reiterated that ASL courses are a priority for the district and that they will continue, but that it had been difficult getting qualified teachers.

Paramo said that the miscommunication stemmed from BUSD “trying to be proactive with students.” He thanked community members for their outpour of support, and that their efforts seem to have encouraged more potential applicants to inquire about the position. He later announced in the meeting that two candidates had been interviewed and a third was scheduled, which was met with some light applause.

“You have my commitment to keep the ASL program going,” he said.

First published in the June 8 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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