Not Just Another ‘Burb in the Valley

by Jennifer L. Hughes, BUSD Parent 

“Well OK, but if we move back to LA, we have to be able to walk to school and work. And since you just got a job at Disney, I guess that means Burbank. But I don’t want the kids to go to LA Unified, it’s too big. That’s one of the reasons we left in the first place.”

At the time, I didn’t know Burbank was a separate city with its own school district and police, fire and city services, separate from Los Angeles. I thought it was just another ‘burb in the Valley. I’ll admit it, I did the happy dance. I did it with gusto. Looking into the Burbank public schools, I found out they weren’t just good, they were great. Whew! No private school necessary. I can put that $15K a year toward the college fund and not Kindergarten! Another happy dance with some disco moves thrown in this time. And I didn’t even care who was watching. But I knew school wasn’t like when I was a kid, where everyone took driver’s ed because it’s a good idea to teach kids to drive, or when everyone was asked to choose an instrument in the fourth grade for the music program that all of us were automatically in because it was required.  It was part of a well-rounded education.

I chose the trumpet because it looked the easiest. Clarinet? Too many keys. Flute? Way too complicated. Trumpet? Hmmm, only three buttons. Done! Simple pimple, by the rationale of a 9-year-old.  Well, it wasn’t easy. But it was fun! I played it all the way through school and at my graduation. I still play that horn today, 42 years later. Thank you public school, for introducing me to something that would enrich my life. Something I never would have experienced if it had not been presented to me. Something that made me a little weird. The only girl in our school who played the trumpet.

But somewhere along the line, arts got erased from the curriculum. How can they cut out the arts? Don’t they know that art stimulates academic learning?

Everywhere I went in Burbank there was a studio, or a recording business on the corner, or an art opening, or an industry event around the bend. How can there be no school arts program in the media capital of the world?!  Because public schools are governed by the state, and influenced by budgets made up by people not necessarily trained in early childhood development, that’s how. Grrrr.

Well, apparently the entertainment industry was thinking the same thing, because around 2006 an arts and endowment fund was created by Warner Bros. Somebody thought it would be a good idea to invest in the development of students, future employees, right in their back yard. A fund just for Burbank Unified School District. A fund just to support the arts. Wow! That’s amazing.

When we moved back here in 2006, Burbank Arts for All Foundation was in its infancy, run by volunteers. Working toward building the Foundation to fundraise for arts education and grow the $10 million-dollar endowment in 10 years. Warner Bros. had donated the initial $300K to get the ball rolling. The thinking was to get the community behind it and for local businesses and residents to become invested in its growth. To own it. To make it theirs.

Because of that idea, followed by excellent leadership and community involvement, the Foundation has become an integral component in our schools. The grants they fund and programs they initiate and support make Burbank public schools some of the best in the country. And we are more fortunate than we know because of it.

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