In its last meeting before the new school year, the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board was updated Monday on several projects ongoing throughout the summer as members looked forward to an exciting year ahead.

"We're at a really good place at the district," Wendy Sinnette said during her superintendent's report. "I think we can honestly say we're off to a good start."

New Chief Business and Operations Officer Mark Evans updated the board on budget variances, which shook out in the district's favor to the tune of $454,725, compared to the budget approved in June.

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In addition to receiving nearly $400,000 more in state funding than anticipated, La Cañada Unified also budgeted more for its commitment to the State Teachers Retirement System than it was ultimately deemed obligated to pay, for $38,245 in savings.

And while the early retirement option LCUSD offered to 12 teachers cost an additional $129,932, it will eventually amount to about $130,000 in greater retiree savings, Evans told the board.

Evans also informed board members of maintenance projects ongoing throughout the summer break on several campuses, including deep cleaning and carpet replacement at all sites, as well as several improvements to the high school auditorium and the replastering of the pool.

New student rep, Teacher of the Year introduced

In preparation for its first regular meeting of the school year on Aug. 26, the board welcomed La Cañada High School senior Kara Thompson as its next student board representative, and announced LCHS science teacher Richard Weld as recipient of the district's 2014-15 Teacher of the Year award.

ASB adviser Bill Lively told the board Thompson's passion and dedication to the school community made her an obvious choice for student board representative.

"What made Kara stand out was her genuine love of this community," said Lively, who was on the selection committee. "We can think of no one better to serve as the voice of the student body for the next school year."

Thompson thanked board members for the opportunity to work alongside them throughout the upcoming school year.

"I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to working with all you guys," she said.

During her announcement of Weld as Teacher of the Year, Sinnette hailed the honors and AP chemistry teacher for 25 years of service to the district, noting that more than 90% of his students scored proficient of advanced on the California State Chemistry Test.

"He epitomizes dedication, professionalism, content area expertise, grace and just service to the district," she said. "He has certainly served the district in a capacity beyond measure, and it is only a small token today that we honor him as Teacher of the Year."

Weld — a member of the National and California science teachers associations, as well as past president of La Cañada's Teachers' Assn. — thanked the board for recognizing him with the award.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to teach the highly motivated students of La Cañada, to have such a supportive group of parents in the community and to have the great group of administrators and colleagues that I've worked with over the years," Weld said.