Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Point Loma teen wins Braille Challenge

IN THE NEWS: Cricket Bidleman has captured her fourth North American Braille Challenge victory — the first time in the varsity division — and she is already thinking about the next attempt.

“I have a title to uphold,” Bidleman said Tuesday, smiling as she corralled Nipi, her service dog, in the living room of her family’s Point Loma home.

Cricket, 16, competed against other blind teens in 10th to 12th grades from the United States and Canada. She was one of 60 finalists culled from more than 1,100 Braille students who had been picked to participate in the contest that tests speed, accuracy and comprehension.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Two students win Food Services recipe contest

In the News IN THE NEWS: Two Point Loma cluster students have won a San Diego Unified School District recipe contest, and their concoctions will be on next year’s menu. Ocean Beach Elementary School fourth-grader Zarai Rosenzweig-Bullard took first place in the K-5 age group and won an amazon Kindle for her “Terrific Turkey Tacos.” Correia Middle School eighth-grader Ava Marie Bunn also claimed first place in the grades 6-12 category for her “AVAcado salad.”

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Office of Children and Youth in Transition receives national honor

The National Assistance League's Operation School Bell® Award was presented at a recent Board meeting by its local chapter to the San Diego Unified School District's Office of Children and Youth in Transition (CYT), led by Program Manager Vanessa Peters. The Assistance League of Greater San Diego forged a relationship with this office more than three years ago, and together they have developed a process that, in the last year alone, has enabled more than 200 of the hardest to reach children in San Diego to participate in Operation School  Bell (OSB). Peters is shown in photo holding the award with members of the local Assistance League.

Operation School Bell®, the signature philanthropy of the organization's 120  chapters nationwide,  began in the 1950's as a one-woman effort to provide clothing to disadvantaged children so that they could attend school. This year, Operation School Bell in Greater San Diego grew to provide new school necessities to more than 3,100 students in 70+ schools in eight school districts. Each child who visits Operation School Bell receives two complete school uniforms plus a jacket, underwear, socks, a hygiene kit, homework supplies and a brand new book. Satellite programs fit and purchase new clothing and shoes for qualified students at  community  retail stores. All  children  are  greeted  by  an  Assistance League (AL)  volunteer who guides them through the process  of selecting two complete outfits and needed supplies just for them.

The Office of Youth and Children in Transition works to support the continuity of education of students in transition including students in foster care, those experiencing homelessness, military dependents, and students who have refugee status. A goal of this office is to ensure students receive a quality education during transitional times when consistent attendance at a "home school" is too  often  interrupted.

A significant expansion of Assistance League of Greater San Diego's signature philanthropy - primarily supported with revenue from its Thrift Shop at First and University and donations from individuals and foundations - was made possible through collaboration with the office of Children and Youth in Transition. A series of special events brought busloads of 60 children at a time to AL's Chapter House in Hillcrest. CYT provides the bus, driver and supervision to travel across the city to pick up children in grades K through 6 whom have been identified as in critical need of assistance.

A group of eight educators from CYT welcomes the children to Operations School Bell and ensures professional supervision for the children while they wait their turn to try on clothes with an AL volunteer. As they wait, the children  are guided by the CYT team through the process of writing 'thank you' notes, building with Legos, making puzzles and playing educational games. When the last child is fitted with what may be his or her first new clothes and only book at home, the group gets back on the bus and each child is safely delivered to his school or family.

Assistance League of Greater San Diego nominated Office of Children and Youth in Transition for this national award for many reasons:

1. The staff has the expertise to identify children in need who are often missed by individual schools that may not have the chance to recognize their needs before they move on.

2. Educators worked with OSB leaders to work out a plan that works for our organizations' strengths and to meet the students' needs.

3. CYT has eliminated the transportation barrier that has limited OSB outreach to the neediest populations.

4. The events have been replicated with consistent success and positive outcomes.

5. Potential funders have attended the events, resulting in significant grant income to purchase clothing and supplies.

6. CYT has been a positive voice about Assistance League's impact on the community.

7. Presenting the award to CYT can bring public awareness of the needs of San Diego's school-aged population.

2015 marks the Assistance League of Greater San Diego's 50th year of serving San Diego. To learn more about the Assistance League of Greater San Diego and Operation School Bell, visit

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Eat smart, play hard at this summer's free lunch program

Where can you enjoy a great BBQ, see the circus, play hard, win prizes and rub elbows with the mayor AND the Padres Friar all for free? – the Summer Fun Café Kickoff BBQ, of course! The barbecue is Thursday, June 25 from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Skyline Hills Community Park, 8285 Skyline Drive (92114).

The kickoff event will feature San Diego’s own Fern Street Circus with jugglers, acrobats, aerialists and live music. A free BBQ lunch for all children and accompanying adults will be provided. This family-friendly event will also feature the San Diego Padres Friar and Pad Squad, fun games with lots of prizes, an inflatable jumper, crafts, music and prize drawings.

Summer is a difficult nutritional time for many children. Not only does food insecurity increase among low-income families during the summer months, but children are also at greater risk for obesity as they lose access to the school meals they rely on during the school year. The summer meal program gives children the nutritious meals they need to remain healthy throughout the summer. 

San Diego Unified’s Summer Fun Café meals also support the community’s other summer programs and help draw children into educational, enrichment and recreational activities that keep them learning, engaged, active and safe during school vacation.  The EAT SMART. PLAY HARD. theme translates to eating healthy food and being physically active every day.

“It is important that San Diego learns about this valuable summer lunch program for children,” said Gary Petill, San Diego Unified¹s Food Services Director.  “It’s fun, it’s free, it’s easy and when the kids head back to school in the fall, they will be strong and ready to learn.”

San Diego Unified has offered the summer lunch program since 2003, and now serves nearly 250,000 meals and snacks each summer. The program is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s “Seamless Summer Feeding Option” and will be at 58 sites: 27 park and recreation centers, 14 community and military sites, and 17 schools.  For a complete schedule and locations, go to and select Summer Fun Café or go to Participating in the program requires no paperwork, reservations or income qualifications.

More than 1,500 children and their parents/guardians are expected to attend the kickoff event. The community resource fair at the event provides participants with a wide variety of information about services from community partners.  Additionally, every family goes home with a bag of fresh fruit and vegetables from the San Diego Food Bank or Feeding America San Diego.  The San Diego Honda Dealers are underwriting the cost of the adult meals at the kickoff event, and General Mills is sponsoring parent participation in other BBQ events.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

District celebrates 2014-15 retirees

Employees, family members and honorees gathered Wednesday to celebrate the careers of the more than 250 employees that are retiring from San Diego Unified this year -- and have given years of service to our students and our district.

2015 retirees Both Superintendent Cindy Marten and Board Trustee Richard Barrera were there to thank the retirees and congratulate them on retirement.

Each retiree had the opportunity to introduce themselves, say where they worked and how many years they had been with the district. Some have served the district for just a few years, others more than 40.

The annual event was held on the lawn of the Education Center and featured refreshments from Food Services and music provided by the Monroe Clark Middle School band.

To view photos from the event, please visit:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Kiwanis Club of San Diego names Alyson Ramirez School Counselor of the Year

Alyson Ramirez The Kiwanis Club of San Diego recently honored Alyson Ramirez, head counselor at De Portola Middle School, as the district's 2014-15 Counselor of the Year. The award was presented at the Counseling and Guidance Department End-of-Year Meeting held May 29.

De Portola Principal Ryan Brock supported Ramirez's nomination by stating, “Simply put, she amazes me. She handles an incredible workload with a tremendous amount of responsibility with grace and ease. I never hear anything but overwhelming praise for her and the work she does. She is an amazing head counselor, woman and mother. She really deserves this honor and she represents so many great aspects of school counseling.”

Ramirez has been a school counselor in San Diego Unified for 12 years. She grew up in Brawley, CA and moved to San Diego to attend college. She has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Education with an emphasis in Guidance Counseling. In addition to her work at De Portola Middle School, Ramirez is a member of the district’s Crisis Response Team.

Principal Brock, vice principals Heather Potter and Suzanne Fore, and school counselor Amy Ericson attended the event on May 29 to support their colleague. The Kiwanis Club of San Diego has been a long-time partner-in-education with district's Counseling and Guidance Department.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Foster Elementary fourth-grader designs winning sunglasses

The future is so bright at Foster Elementary School that students all over campus are wearing shades. Cool, new shades called “Striker” designed by fellow classmate, Evan Bui.

 Foster Elementary Student Evan Bui and family
 Contest winner Evan Bui and family with Knockaround founder Adam Moyer.
Bui’s blue and orange creation with lightening bolts was selected from among more than 300 designs submitted by students at three elementary schools that participated in a design contest sponsored by ArtReach and Knockaround Sunglasses.

Knockaround Sunglasses brought Bui’s design to life and company founder Adam Moyer presented pairs to all fourth- and fifth-grade students at Foster Elementary at their June 10 awards ceremony. They also received a small magazine that included images and concepts with all the student’s designs.

The sunglasses are sold as the company’s Limited Edition Class Acts Sunglasses and available to the general public for purchase on Knockaround’s website. All proceeds from sales are donated to the participating elementary schools, and ArtReach, to help fund the program in schools next year.

The contest was made possible through ArtReach’s partnership with Knockaround Sunglasses, a local sunglasses manufacturer. Every year Knockaround visits local elementary schools to talk about the importance of art and give students the opportunity to design a pair of sunglasses.

ArtReach takes artists into schools throughout San Diego County to provide visual arts instruction. They provide free workshops that give sequential, standards-based art lessons to Title I schools that meet other need criteria.

For more information on Foster Elementary, contact Principal Karla Shiminski at 619-582-2728.

Photos courtesy of Brock Scott Photography