Friday, September 30, 2011

From the Superintendent: Enrollment, Budget Challenges and Impacts to Classrooms

Supt. Kowba In the first few weeks of each school year, class sizes and staffing are adjusted to balance the numbers of students in each grade across each campus. Even with the best projections, this planning is not a precise science and adjustments must be made in response to enrollment growth and decline. This year has been especially challenging. Due to state budget requirements and contractual obligations, we had to submit a budget and reduce teachers based on projections made last Spring. Our official 2011 enrollment numbers, released today, indicate that the district has experienced an enrollment decline of about 1,700 students, slightly more than projected.

Starting today, our principals will be working with the Education Center team to make adjustments at schools to ensure the right teacher with the proper qualifications is in a classroom with the correct number of students. This will result in changes to classes at some campuses, which we know can be difficult for staff and students. In making the adjustments, a number of teachers will be recalled from layoff status and rejoin the district. We are working to get them fully reinstated and in the proper classroom as soon as possible. Our area superintendents, principals, and teachers are working to make these transitions as smooth as possible for all campus stakeholders.

As always, our top priority is our students. We are committed to making these changes with as little impact on the learning process as possible. Your patience and understanding with this very difficult and complicated transition is very much appreciated.

Bill Kowba

Thursday, September 29, 2011

IN THE NEWS: Big Bang to Twitter: A 13.7-billion-year curriculum could change history big time

Thanks to Principal Kirk Ankeney’s obsession with history, the School of International Studies at San Diego High School was selected to join a roster of five public and private schools — one in Washington state, two in Michigan, another in Massachusetts — to class-test the online big-history curriculum. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.»

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

IN THE NEWS: Whooping Cough Booster Deadline Approaching For San Diego Schools

The deadline for San Diego Unified seventh through 12th graders to submit proof of a whooping cough booster is October 6. After that, unvaccinated students will be told to stay home. The district is holding vaccination clinics to make sure as many students as possible make the deadline. Read more from KPBS»

Barona Donates $5,000 to Language Academy

Assemblyman Marty Block (left), Principal Veronika
Lopez-Mendez, teacher Shauna Dreyfuss, Barona
Chairman Edwin Thorpe Romero and San Diego
City Council Member Marti Emerald accept check.
The Language Academy has received a $5,000 education grant from the Barona Band of Mission Indians.

New lab equipment and supplies for middle-school grades will be purchased with the funds.

The Barona Band of Mission Indians is proud to help make a difference for schools throughout California. Through the endorsement of locally-elected state representatives, schools receive Barona educational funding to purchase much-needed supplies and materials such as books and computers.

Each grant awarded by the Barona Education Grant Program is $5,000.

For more information, contact Veronika Lopez-Mendez, principal, at (619) 287-1182.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

IN THE NEWS: San Diego High Principal Talks Attendance

Students need to be in school and parents have the responsibility to make sure, Consuelo Manriquez, principal of San Diego High and LEADS told the Despierta San Diego audience on KBNT-TV. The Tdap immunization deadline is also coming up. In Español. Watch video»

IN THE NEWS: Kindergarten: Little kids, big jobs

Courtesy San Diego Union-Tribune
In this brave new educational world of endless standardized tests, increased scrutiny and escalating academic demands, what is the school day like for our youngest students? After spending some time in a kindergarten class at McKinley Elementary School in North Park, I discovered that academics are in, naps are out and Jack and Jill are still reporting for duty. And animal crackers are even more delicious than I remember. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune»

Montgomery Middle School Students Welcome Emergency Medical Techs

 EMTs visit Montgomery
 EMTs visit Montgomery
 EMTs at Montgomery
Montgomery Middle School students got an up close look at careers in emergency medicine recently when they were visited by local emergency medical technicians.

With the students researching health careers, the recent visit by San Diego Project Heart Beat, which provides community education about careers in the health sector, was especially timely.

The students enthusiastically asked the EMTs questions about their profession and were given a firsthand look at the environment inside an ambulance.

Before the EMTs visit, students in the career class tirelessly worked to understand the importance of first aid response and cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). They learned that, by being well prepared for emergency situations, they have the potential to make the difference between life and death.

In each week of the course, which is being piloted at Montgomery, students learn about a different specialized career in health or technology and discover what skills and education are necessary to become a professional in that area. Montgomery Middle is committed to inspiring its students to be the leaders of tomorrow by learning more about careers in science today.

For more information on the program, contact Pamela Schmidt, teacher, at

Monday, September 26, 2011

IN THE NEWS: No app for gratitude? iPads will have to do

San Diego app game developers Ian and David Marsh, 2001 Serra High School graduates, decided to merge technology with old-fashioned human contact in their first effort to give back to the community and thank teachers for contributing to their newfound success. The twins bought and donated a trunk-load of iPads and other equipment to Joyner Elementary School in City Heights. They hope to inspire students with technology the way Joyner principal Joe Austin inspired them — back when he was their business and technology teacher at Serra. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune»

Correia Middle School Hosts Exchange Teacher from China

Ailing Fu
Correia Middle School in Pt. Loma proud to be hosting an exchange teacher from China this year.

The teacher, Ailing Fu, is teaching Mandarin Chinese this year in Correia's language program. Pt. Loma area schools now offer Mandarin Chinese through grades, ranging from elementary at Barnard Elementary, Correia and Dana middle schools, and Pt. Loma High School.

Ms. Fu is visiting as part of the State Departments's 2011 Teachers of Critical Languages Program along with 24 other teachers from China and Egypt. The Teachers of Critical Languages Program is designed to increase the study and acquisition of important world languages in U.S. schools.

This program enables primary and secondary schools to strengthen their teaching of Arabic and Mandarin by bringing Egyptian and Chinese teachers of English as a Foreign Language to the U.S. to teach Arabic and Chinese language and culture for an academic year. In addition, Arabic and Chinese teachers have the opportunity to learn more about U.S. teaching methodologies, culture, and society, as well as to improve their English language proficiency.

The Teachers of Critical Languages Program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries around the world through academic, cultural, and professional exchanges. The program is administered by American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS (

Sunday, September 25, 2011

IN THE NEWS: Scripps Ranch High Student's Goal Is to Walk in Graduation

Patrick Ivison, who was run over by a car when he was 14 months old, was told by doctors he would never walk again. His goal is to walk across the stage at his graduation from Scripps Ranch High School next year, he said. Read more from the Poway Chieftan»

Saturday, September 24, 2011

IN THE NEWS: In San Diego, Gary Petill and Vanessa Zajfen make a great team with kids’ interests at heart

In San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), Director of Food Services Gary Petill says of his Farm to School Specialist Vanessa Zajfen, “I’m so excited about her being here, I can’t even tell you!” If you think that sounds like the start of a beautiful partnership, you just might be right. Read more from School Food Focus»

Friday, September 23, 2011

Madison High School Dedicates New Football Stadium

Madison High Area Four Superintendent Marian Phelps joined Meredith Hoagland, wife of the late George Hoagland, former Madison High School football coach, in a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the dedication of Madison’s new George Hoagland Stadium on Sept. 2. The two were joined by students, staff and fans to honor the late football coach.
The ceremony was followed by a football game that kicked off a new season of Warhawk football. The recently completed stadium, funded by Proposition S, features new synthetic turf football field and all-weather running track, new steel and aluminum grandstands, press box, ticket booths, restrooms and snack bars.
Accessible parking and field lighting were also added. The Prop. S project represents a $7.6 million investment into Madison High and the Madison community. For more project information, visit our school facilities projects page at

SD High School of Business Students Honored for Internships

Interns at the Boys and Girls Club
 Interns at the Boys and Girls Club, above, and AXA.
Axa intern
Students from San Diego High School of Business's Academy of Finance have been honored for completing six-week internships at companies this summer.

The 24 students worked at 18 companies, including as the Omni Hotel, Boys and Girls Club and AXA, gaining valuable experience during their 120 hours of work.

The now-seniors are participating in a program that integrates academic and career technical education, business partnerships, mentoring and internships. It is funded through a California Partnership Academy grant through the state Department of Education.

The Omni Hotel hosted a reception for the students, their parents/guardians, internship hosts and academy supporters recently to salute the students’ achievements and thank their fellow hosts for their contributions to San Diego’s schools.

For more information about the Academy of Finance, please contact Kelly Granfield at For more information about California Partnership Academies, go to

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Two Free Tdap Clinics Coming Up

Two more free Tdap booster clinics have been scheduled in a cooperative effort between the San Diego Unified and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agencies. A new state law requires all students in grades 7-12 to show proof of having received the pertussis (whooping cough) booster shot, or Tdap, in order to enroll in school. October 6 is the deadline for parents to comply with the law and provide proof of immunization to their child’s school.

The clinics are open to the public and the Tdap vaccine is free. Children under 18 years must be accompanied by parent/guardian to give consent.
The dates and locations are:
  • 2:30-6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, faculty lounge, Serra High School, 5156 Santo Road (92124).
  • 2-6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29, library, Patrick Henry High School, 6702 Wandermere Drive (92120).
For more information on immunizations, pertussis and the Tdap booster, see the County Health and Human Services website at

Educators from China Visit University City High School

More than 21 educators from China recently visited University City High School, touring the campus, visiting classrooms, and speaking with the faculty. The Chinese educators were impressed with the school and had plenty of questions for the UCHS faculty.

This activity was beneficial to all involved as UC High School and UCSD continue to strengthen their community partnership. It also presented a great opportunity for UCHS to serve as ambassadors for our country, state and school. 

By the end of the day, the participants gained a true perspective of how American schools work and operate. They returned to their home country prepared to serve as teacher leaders with the ability to apply and share their experience and skills with their peers and students.

The Sept. 14 visit was made possible by the Global Leadership Institute (GLI) at UCSD's School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. GLI is a graduate-level education program that provides opportunities for postgraduate researchers and students to study abroad. The program strives to improve and expand the participants' English language skills, provides the participating teachers with customized training in teaching English as a foreign language, helps teachers develop a deeper understanding of best practices in teaching methodologies and lesson planning, and gives educators a more nuanced understanding of the United States.

For more information, contact Jeff Olivero, principal, at (858) 457-3040.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Restructuring Presentations Go To Cluster Committees

Presentations on possible realignment of school boundaries, programs and school closures are under way with San Diego Unified's high school cluster groups over the next several weeks.

The discussions, part of the district's preparations for the 2012-13 school year, are being held at locations around the district as each cluster group meets over the next few weeks. Part of the district's Community-Based School Reform, each school that feeds into a high school -- its "cluster" -- has representatives and provides input on educational and other issues for that neighborhood.

"This school year may have just started, but as we are expecting additional reductions in state funding for the next school year, the Board has asked us find further cuts," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "We're working with the local communities to see if there are ways we can right-size schools, improve education and save money."

Deputy Superintendent-Business Phil Stover will be conducting most of the presentations for the cluster groups; each will discuss what consolidations and cuts may come to that cluster. In addition to closing schools, options for change include revising a school's grade level (K-5 to K-8, for example), and moving and consolidating special programs.

The meetings are open to the public. Check the calendar at the Realignment website for the latest schedule.

Local Community Groups Open Dialogue with East African Community

A new dialogue between San Diego's community of residents of East African descent and local service providers and educators was begun recently thanks to a conference sponsored by the Voices of Women, United Women of East Africa Support Team and City Heights HOPE.

Agin Shaheed, San Diego Unified's Race Human Relations and Advocacy Department program manager, was part of panel that to discussed how to provide better advocacy for children and adults in a diverse cultural community.

In addition, Shaheed gave a motivational speech to the participating students on how to become responsible citizens of San Diego’s community and shared information about the contributions of East Africans to the American culture.

Participants are working mprove the service and enhance the overall health and well-being of East African families living in San Diego.

For more information, contact Shaheed at 858-490-8678.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breakfast in the Classroom Featured in New Video

A new video prepared by the Food Services Department helps train staff and educate parents on the district's popular Breakfast in the Classroom program. Now in more than 50 schools, the Breakfast in the Classroom program has won national awards by providing healthy and nutritious breakfasts to elementary school students every day.
Produced this summer at Logan Elementary, students demonstrated their roles and responsibilities, while teacher Irma McCoy talked about the benefits to the classroom and principal Antonio Villar focused on the benefits to the school.

The video was created in response to requests by teachers for an educational tool about the program. The video is available online at, select the Breakfast in the Classroom video link.

Nine more elementary schools are slated begin Breakfast in the Classroom this Fall. For more information about Breakfast in the Classroom contact Norma Johnson at or 858-627-7308.

IN THE NEWS: New school year recalls the old and new at La Jolla High

A senior at La Jolla High looks to the future and the past as the school year begins. Read more from La Jolla Light»

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pt. Loma, Crawford Students in National Bizfest

Two students from Pt. Loma High and one from Crawford High will advance onto the national BizFest Youth Entreneurship Competition this week in Miami Beach.
BizFest, a signature initiative of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, is an innovative and intensive entrepreneurial training program where Hispanic high school juniors and seniors learn how to turn their hobbies into profitable business ventures. The three students were winners in the local competition that was held in August.

The winners are: Kevin Thai of Crawford High School, most innovative for his business plan “Conception”; Joanna Brito of Pt. Loma High School who created "Fruit of the Book" and received recognition for business plan with the most potential;  and Guadalupe Barajas, also of Pt. Loma High, who was awarded most entrepreneurial for her creation, "Eco Able Inc."

“I learned a lot about the different components of business plans” said Thai. “I learned about industry profiles, management, marketing and financial. I also appreciated that they invited keynote speakers to talk to us, they were a great motivation.”
Visa, Sempra Utilities and Mission Federal Credit Union are also partners in the local program.For more information, please contact District Counselor Mariana Gomez from Race Human Relations & Advocacy at (858) 490-8678 or e-mail at 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Deep Cleaning Keeps Schools Spic and Span

Custodial Services has just completed its annual deep cleaning of District school sites.

This involved thorough dusting, wiping and cleaning of all interior surfaces, as well as refinishing tile floors, shampooing carpets and maintaining the exterior walkways, parking lots and other grounds areas.

In addition, site custodial staff provided support to teachers moving in and out of school sites and from room to room.

As a result of recent budget decisions impacting teaching staff, Custodial Services successfully completed a greater than average number of classroom furniture and equipment moves in support of teaching and learning. All of this was done in a short 54-day window.

Their hard work and effort provides an environment where students can open their minds and feel comfortable while learning. Please join us in thanking your custodial staff for a job well done!

For information contact Bob Werner, custodial services supervisor at or 858-637-6220.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

IN THE NEWS: Shining moment at Clairemont

With the flip of a switch after the cutting of the ribbon, lights illuminated the field at Clairemont for the first time on Friday, the crowning achievement of a $7 million project that left everyone involved smiling almost as brightly as the incandescent bulbs.

Hombre Noble Program Provides Life-Changing Experiences

Hombre Noble Program
Students and counselors in the Hombre Noble Program.
 Hombre Noble counselors
Chicano and Latino male students, who have participated in the Circulo de Hombres/Hombre Noble Program, also participated in an annual rites of passage retreat held from Sept. 9-11.

The retreat was held at the local Native American reservation at Manzanita. These young men were provided with a life changing experience held in a safe and healthy environment which helped to facilitate their journey into higher education, and try to reverse the trends of violence, and educational disregard that continues to plague Chicano and Latino males.

The Hombre Noble Program is a ten-week curriculum designed for grade levels 5-12 Chicano and Latino males. The curriculum covers culture, history, self-esteem building, career exploration and goal setting.

The students were chaperoned by Macedonio Arteaga, Pupil Advocate, Race Human Relations and Advocacy Program, and Mario Valladolid, District Counselor, Race Human Relations and Advocacy Program.

For more information, contact Agin Shaheed , Program Manager, Race Human Relations & Advocacy Program, 858-490-8678.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Three Free Tdap Booster Clinics Scheduled

Three more free Tdap booster clinics have been scheduled in a cooperative effort between the San Diego Unified and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agencies. A new state law requires all students in grades 7-12 to show proof of having received the pertussis (whooping cough) booster shot, or Tdap, in order to enroll in school. October 6 is the deadline for parents to comply with the law and provide proof of immunization to their child’s school.

The clinics are open to the public and the Tdap vaccine is free. Children under 18 years must be accompanied by parent/guardian to give consent.

The three dates and locations are:
  • 12:30-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, auditorium, Bell Middle School, 620 Briarwood Road (92139).
  • 2:30-6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, faculty lounge, Serra High School, 5156 Santo Road (92124).
  • 2-6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29, library, Patrick Henry High School, 6702 Wandermere Drive (92120).
For more information on immunizations, pertussis and the Tdap booster, see the County Health and Human Services website at

IN THE NEWS: Union-Tribune, United Way join to boost volunteers

The San Diego Union-Tribune has teamed up with United Way of San Diego County and the San Diego County Office of Education to recruit 4,500 volunteers to work with local schools. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune»

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Board of Education Approves New Sub-District Boundaries

Recommended Board Sub-Districts
 New Board subdistricts
The Board of Education has approved recommendations from its Redistricting Committee designed to balance population between trustee subdistricts as required following the decennial census.

With the new boundaries, the population between trustee subdistricts to below a .9 percent maximum deviation, well within the 10 percent permitted. The recommended map also includes a summary of the ethnic population data for each sub district. The new districts, which are now in effect, make the following changes:
  1. Mission Valley West goes from C to B
  2. Mission Hills and Midtown go from C to D 
  3. Azalea/Hollywood Park goes from D to E
  4. Rolando Park goes from B to E
  5. Part of Normal Heights go from D to B
  6. Part of Cortez, Core-Columbia and East Village go from C to D
Hoover High School moves from B to D. Includes a part of Talmadge neighborhood.

These boundary adjustments impact the board representation of three schools: Hoover High School, Grant and Clay elementary schools.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Congratulations to students on National Merit Scholarship semifinal list

Congratulations to students from Patrick Henry, La Jolla, Mira Mesa, Pt. Loma, Scripps Ranch and University City high schools that are on the list of National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, released Sept. 14.

Qualifying as semifinalists means the students are in the running for some of the $34 million that will be divided among recipients this spring by the National Merit Scholarship Program. The program estimates that about 90 percent of the semifinalists will advance to be finalists, with more than half of those receiving scholarships or other assistance.

The semifinalists are: Sophia Quiroz from Patrick Henry High; Erica Eisen, Ryan Farley, Grace Henahan, Meredith Lehmann, Ryan Mann, Yuhao Wang, Ashley Weller, Qian Zhang and Ardis Zhong from La Jolla; Anglea Pham, Mira Mesa; Anthony Cook, Pt. Loma; Sarah delos Santos, Jacob Fineman, Brian Hie, Kevin Hu, Ryan Seo, Hyungjin Shin, Vivek Vishwanath and Amy Zheng, Scripps Ranch; and Kyle Ingraham and Hailan Pang, University City.

"I join everyone in the San Diego Unified School District, and in the San Diego community, in recognizing the hard work and achievement demonstrated by these students," said Bill Kowba, San Diego Unified Superintendent. "We wish them the best of luck in completing the process and receiving their scholarship."

Winners of the scholarships will be announced this spring.

According to National Merit, semifinalists must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by the high school principal, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test in order to advance to the final level. The semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes the student’s essay and information about the semifinalist’s participation and leadership in school and community activities.

PB Middle Tree-Planting Honors 9-11 Memories

Pacific Beach Middle School students, staff and heroes Pacific Beach Middle School students, staff and local heroes.
Members of San Diego Fire Department's Station Station 21 were greeted by students with flowers and fresh tomatoes from the school's garden as the campus had a ceremony planting a tree to honor sacrifices by first-responders and military personal, along with the memory of the 9-11-2001 tragedy.

The students recognized the firefighters for their daily service to the community and military personnel's service to the nation in planting the tree in the school's Waves of Green student garden. As part of learning about the tragedy of Sept. 11, the students created displays about the local firefighters and service men and women, as well as 9-11. These were also presented to the honored guests.

For more information, contact Julie Martel, principal, at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Iftin K-8 Charter School Design Task Force meeting is Wednesday

San Diego Unified School District invites you or your representative to participate in a Design Task Force for the Proposition S-funded whole-site modernization project at Iftin K-8 Charter School. You will join students, school staff, parents, neighbors, community members and the architect to discuss the general design of the K-8 school, and how it can best serve the students and the community for years to come.

Please join us for the first Design Task Force meeting:

When:      Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011 at 6 p.m.
Where:     Iftin Charter School Library
                  5465 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego, CA 92115

Proposed dates for additional task force meetings will be determined at the Sept. 14 meeting.

The primary function of the Design Task Force is to provide input and feedback to the design team during the design process for all new and expanded school site facilities. The process includes three to four meetings and takes approximately six weeks.

The whole-modernization at Iftin Charter School is funded by the Proposition S bond measure approved by voters on November 4, 2008. Prop. S provides $2.1 billion toward repairing, renovating and revitalizing all district schools in support of student achievement.

Involving parents, community members, students and school staff is key to the success of facilities modernization and student achievement at San Diego Unified School District. We look forward to your participation. For more information, contact the Prop. S Communications Office at (619) 725-7252 or

P.S. If you are receiving this email as the chairperson of an organization, please convey this information to your members. This email is being sent to you as the representative of that organization. Also, if you are a member of an interested stakeholder group, please feel free to pass this information on to your fellow members.

UC High Student Grant Proposals Result in Ugandan Labs

UC High biomed students
UC High biomed students
Students in the University City High biomedical program wrote grant proposals that have resulted in more than $15,000 in equipment donations to a college in Uganda.

"Our students have demonstrated leadership, developed teamwork, and above all, gained an introduction to the world of grant writing, a necessary component in contemporary society,” said Ellie Vandiver, UC High Biomed instructor.

After hearing from Dr. Kathryn Ely, a representative of Quench and Connect, a program that helps provide clean water and educational supplies to secondary schools in that impoverished African nation. The benefactor chosen was Gayaza Cambridge College, which has been praised for its academic excellence. The school offers physics, biology and chemistry programs, but due to a lack of equipment, students cannot complete fundamental science labs.

Last school year, UC High students presented proposals to a panel of professionals consisting of PhDs, parents, administrators, grant writers and representatives from VWR International and Fisher Scientific, large science supply companies. Over the summer, VWR International decided to fund and supply 85 percent of the student proposed supplies. Fisher Scientific is currently evaluating if it can supply the remaining 15 percent.

For more information, please contact Vandiver at 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Redistricting Proposal Goes to Board of Education

The Board of Education has received recommendations from its Redistricting Committee and is scheduled to consider the new sub-district maps at its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13.

The recommended map balances the population between trustee subdistricts to below a .9 percent maximum deviation, well within the 10 percent permitted. The recommended map also includes a summary of the ethnic population data for each sub district. The recommended map makes the following changes to the current subdistrict boundaries:
  1. Mission Valley West goes from C to B
  2. Mission Hills and Midtown go from C to D 
  3. Azalea/Hollywood Park goes from D to E
  4. Rolando Park goes from B to E
  5. Part of Normal Heights go from D to B
  6. Part of Cortez, Core-Columbia and East Village go from C to D
  7. Hoover High School moves from B to D. Includes a part of Talmadge neighborhood
These boundary adjustments impact the board representation of three schools; Hoover High School, Grant Elementary and Clay Elementary. The RAC received public comment in support of this recommended map and made adjustments to reflect public comment received on the website and in public meetings. The Committee recommends that the Board of Education adopt this recommended map with no changes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

IN THE NEWS: School is on at San Diego Unified

Clairemont High Pep Band
Clairemont High Pep Band performs on Ch. 8.
You can't beat the excitement of the first day back to school, with more than 200 campuses and 130,000 students district-wide. Administrators have their fingers crossed that busing and staffing projections go smoothly. Watch video from CBS-8»

More coverage

Enrollment and Resource Fair Welcomed Military Families to San Diego Unified

More than 150 students found their way to San Diego Unified schools during the recent Enrollment and Resource Fair for Military Families.

Presented by partners San Diego Unified School District, Naval Base San Diego, Naval Base Coronado and MCAS Miramar, the third annual fair welcomed military families to San Diego and shared information on community, school district and military services. Parents and guardians were also able to enroll their students in district schools.

Held at Farb Middle School in Tierrasanta, more than 400 family members were on hand. Thanks to a donation from San Diego Gas and Electric, visitors were served lunch by the district's Food Services Department.

On-site enrollment was a great convenience to parents, as they were not only able to find out about their neighborhood school, but about the many enrollment options that are available in San Diego Unified. Each child enrolled received a backpack filled with school supplies.

More than 35 booths provided information on community services. While parents visited the booths, their kids enjoyed outdoor games and activities led by the more than 70 military service members who volunteered their time and energy to make the event possible.

For more information on services to military families, go to the Military Families website.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Operation of Schools During Hot Weather

All schools in the San Diego Unified School District have “hot weather” plans in place for continued operations of schools during periods of extremely hot weather. We want to make sure our students are as comfortable as possible in school so that their learning can continue. As a result, our schools have a number of guidelines in place for planning instruction during hot weather.

Instructional Program Modifications

Elementary teachers may rearrange the daily schedule so that basic skills subjects are taught at the optimal time. Physical education activities are limited to less strenuous activities and/or are rescheduled to a more appropriate time. Recess activities are limited to quiet games that require a minimum of physical activity.

Alternative Locations for Instruction Cooler areas of schools buildings and grounds are used when available. As an example, some teachers may have students gather in shaded lawn areas or move to rooms with better cross-ventilation. Students in non-air-conditioned portable facilities may be merged with other classes in air-conditioned buildings, such as media centers, cafeterias or auditoriums.

Extracurricular Activities

Athletic activities and practices may be canceled due to hot weather, or rescheduled for a more appropriate time. Before- and after-school programs may also be modified or activities rearranged.

Keeping Students Cool and Hydrated Students are encouraged to bring containers of water to school during hot weather. Water fountains are available in all schools and schools are encouraging students to take extra water fountain breaks throughout the day. Many teachers keep spray-bottles with water in classrooms so that they can ‘mist’ students at their request or as needed.

Students are asked to dress in lightweight clothing that is in keeping with their school dress codes. Please also make sure to apply sunscreen to your child before school, as school staff are not permitted to apply it. If your child has a medical condition that may be compromised by exposure to high temperatures, you may keep your child at home or arrange for an early release.

Related Resources
For additional information, please talk with your school's principal.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Special Education Panel Looks for Members

The Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC) is currently looking for volunteers to fill existing vacancies.

The CAC is a group of volunteers including parents of students with exceptional needs, other parents, school district personnel, adults and students with disabilities, representatives of agencies and organizations and individuals concerned with the needs of individuals with exceptional needs. Members are appointed by the Board of Education.

The CAC is a place where you can learn about special education, meet other individuals who are concerned about the needs of exceptional children and assist the school district to improve special education services and programs. Everyone is invited to join us for our public meetings. Our meetings are held monthly during the traditional school year. When you come to a CAC meeting, you can also share your ideas and concerns, ask questions, ask for assistance, etc.

In addition to our monthly meetings, the CAC also provides information through our newsletter, parent trainings, our website and informational presentations.
The committee advises the School Board about issues related to special education, provides training and information for parents and works collaboratively with the school district to improve outcomes for students with exceptional needs.

Interested parents and community members are invited to review the criteria for membership at  and attend an upcoming meeting. For additional information about the CAC, please contact

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Encanto Paint Project Brightens Campus for Students

The Park View Zone paint crew finished a large exterior paint project at Encanto Elementary this summer. Encanto is not only a credit to the neighborhood, but the students and staff have a place they can take pride in along with having comfortable and inviting areas for learning. Other schools in the Park View area that have received exterior painting are Carver and Valencia Park elementary schools, while painting is under way at Rolando Park Elementary School.

Students achieve at higher levels when they feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment. Assisting students achieve their potential has always been the goal of Physical Plant Operations, which has a number of programs to provide an environment conducive to teaching and learning; the Paint Program is one of these programs and is really making a difference.

For information, contact Bill Lamb, Maintenance Services Supervisor at

Friday, September 2, 2011

New Murals at Zamorano Greet 2011-12 School Year

 Painting at Zamorano
New murals will greet the 2011-12 students to Zamorano Fine Arts Academy as the fifth grade class of 2010-11 left a present behind as they moved on to middle school.

Just completed when school ended in July (Zamorano is on the year-round schedule), the school's art department marked the third year of completing this legacy project, something for students to come back and view at their old school, according to teacher Don Masse.

"We got the go ahead from Principal King and last Monday I was drawing it out on a 24-foot wall on our north campus," he wrote on his blog. "Once it was drawn out, fifth grade students rotated through for the next six days to add color and life to a beige wall.

"Each student was able to work for about 20 minutes on the wall. With over 200 5th graders we need to keep moving students through, so they all get an opportunity to help beautify the campus and leave a permanent positive mark on our school community."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

From the Superintendent: Creating Safe Learning Environments for Our Students

This commentary, by Supt. Bill Kowba, was published in the Aug. 26, 2011, edition of Gay San Diego

Providing a safe learning environment is a critical element that all schools must focus on if we are to achieve our goal of providing our children a quality education.

To reach this goal, The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education created a Safe Schools Task Force to develop strong policies and proceduresfor schools to ensure that our students can interact in a safe and secure learning environment, one free from any threat to their safety and well-being from their peers or any others in the school setting.

The Safe Schools Task Force is made up of citizens, community organizations and district staff who are passionate about eliminating all bullying in all forms on our school campuses. The task force includes representatives from several community organizations, including representatives from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and allied community.

The task force developed and presented a viable new antibullying policy that was adopted by our Board of Education last spring. That policy clearly states in part:

    Board of Education will not tolerate any student or staff member being bullied (including cyber-bullying), harassed, or intimidated in any form at school or school-related events, (including off-campus events, school-sponsored activities, school buses, any events related to school business), or outside of school hours with the intention to be carried out during any of the above.

Over many years, San Diego Unified School District has consistently identified race, gender, religion, and other elements as “protected” groups in our efforts to make schools inclusive and accepting environments for all students. We are now adding LGBT students to this list. It is important to begin and maintain a dialogue about this newly identified group in efforts to make our classrooms, hallways, playgrounds, gymnasiums, and sports settings safer for all.

All students are at risk of being bullied, harassed or called names on campuses, but lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students face particularly hostile school environments. LGBT students come in all colors and ethnicities and represent all religious and socioeconomic groups.In our drive to improve the climate for all students, we are not looking to change any stakeholders’ beliefs. Rather we are focusing our work on changing behavior.

Allowing or ignoring LGBT bullying is not acceptable and, in fact, is in opposition to our anti-bullying policy and fundamental to create safe schools. Research has shown that the most effective bullying prevention programs have certain common characteristics, especially a broad-based understanding andconsensus among school staff so that people enforce the same expectations consistently.

As we begin this new school year, I am asking all of our San Diego Unified staff to review the anti-bullying policy and to be vigilant to instances of harassment and bullying. Our expectation is that any bullying situation in theworkplace at our administrative offices or at any of our campuses will be reported immediately so that prompt action is taken to protect our students, staff and parents.

During the next few months, the safe schools task force will be finalizing more detailed administrative procedures for all of us in the district to follow that will help us maintain safe school environments throughout our district.

We will keep the community posted on our progress with this important effort.

San Diego Unified's Accountability Score at Highest Level

California's Largest Districts
District Score Growth
Garden Grove 815 13
San Diego 798  13
San Francisco 796 5
Long Beach  766 7
Sacramento 759  6
Los Angeles 728 19
Oakland 726 8
Fresno 717  6
San Bernardino 713 14

Source: California Department of Education
Top San Diego Unified Results
Elementary School Scores
  • La Jolla Elementary, 982  
  • Torrey Pines Elementary, 989
Elementary Top Growth
  • Sherman Elementary, 95
  • Cubberley Elementary, 62
Middle School Scores
  • Marshall Middle School, 932
  • Muirlands Middle School, 897
Middle School Top Growth
  • Innovation Middle, 43
  • Millennial Tech Middle, 40
High School Scores
  • Scripps Ranch High, 883
  • San Diego High International Studies, 873
High School Growth
  • iHigh Virtual Academy, 60
  • Twain High, 50
California's Academic Performance Index (API) results for 2011 show San Diego Unified's overall score nearly at the state's target 800 score, with 104 schools scoring at 800 or above and 28 scoring 900 or higher.Among other large districts around California, only Garden Grove exceeds 800, at 815; San Diego is second with 798, San Francisco third with 796. The results were released Aug. 31.

"I want to congratulate the students, teachers and staffs at all of our schools for their excellent showing," said Supt. Bill Kowba. "What is particularly impressive is the growth that has come despite several years of historic budget cuts."

The Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measure is used by the federal Department of Education to determine if a school or district meets the act's annual growth standards; those that do not are placed on Program Improvement after two years. Four San Diego Unified schools exited Program Improvement as a result of these test results: Garfield High School, Kimbrough and Rosa Parks elementary schools, Garfield High School, and the King/Chavez Arts charter school.

Despite the improved scores, 113 schools are now on Program Improvement, up from 95 last year. School targets increased by about ten percentage points over 2010. However, because of differences between the state and federal standards, 20 schools met the California API target of 800, yet are on Program Improvement according to the federal government.

"California has some of the most rigorous standards in the nation and these schools excel," said Kowba. "Yet parents at these schools will receive a letter saying that their school is failing. That just is not true."

San Diego Unified's Board of Education has supported changes in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), including those advocated by state Supt. of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, who has called these schools "mislabled."

Torlakson noted that statewide, 55 percent of elementary schools, 43 percent of middle schools and 28 percent of high schools were 800 or above. In San Diego Unified, 59 percent of elementary schools met target, along with 48 percent of middle schools and 26 percent of high schools.
Despite the increase, for the third year, San  Diego Unified did not make its AYP under NCLB. In its third year of Program Improvement, the district will be required to take corrective actions that are yet to be identified. San Diego Unified entered Program Improvement in 2009.

Among student groups, some achievement gaps continued to slowly narrow. For example, while White students had a gain of 12 API points to 890 and Asian students' scores rose 10 points to 878, Hispanic or Latino students were up 14 points to 735 and Socioeconomically Disadvantaged students increased 14 points to 746.

"We're pleased to see these achievement gaps continuing to narrow," said Kowba. "Eliminating these gaps is one of the key missions of our district."

For scores of districts and individual schools, go to the state's website at

A Summer Camp Full of Surgery, Piloting Aircraft, Robotics and Solar Tech

San Diego State University's Project Lead the Way -- a program that encourages high school students to continue their education in the engineering field -- hosted a week-long summer camp in August for 50 JROTC cadets.

Called the STEM Camp, the event encouraged the development of problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and creative and innovative reasoning using Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Hands-on experiments included building remote controlled robotic devices, studying robotic programming and learning the anatomy of the human heart.

The camp also included lessons on how the circulatory system functions, making a heart pump, laparoscopic surgery, creating a rocket-powered car, flying an airplane through the use of flight simulators, exploring the use of solar panels and experimenting with hydrogen fuel-cell cars.
The week culminated with project presentations to visiting parents and a graduation ceremony.

The program was the result of a collaboration between San Diego Unified's JROTC staff, Command support at Ft. Knox, Ky., and Dr. Bruce Westermo, Assistant Dean in the College of Engineering at San Diego State University. LTC David Guzman, the District JROTC Program Manager, helped secure a $40,000 grant to fund the program. San Diego Unified teachers Ellie Vadiver (University City High) and Omar Garcia (Lincoln High) were also involved.

Not only did the cadets have STEM activities during the week, they had a taste of college life, living in a dorm at the university, taking meals in the dining hall and enjoying a campus tour, and personalized admissions briefing. 

For more information, see an SDSU News Center article or contact LTC Guzman at (858) 496-8203 or