Thursday, December 29, 2011

New 2012 Laws Affect Families, Kids

Car seats, scholarship eligibility among changes that begin January 1, 2012. Read more from the  California Department of Education»

Sunday, December 18, 2011

SD High Students Cheer On "Walk for the Cure"

 San Diego High students
Participants in the recent Susan G. Komen San Diego 3-Day for the Cure were cheered on by students and teachers from the San Diego High School of Business Academy of Finance students.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cabrillo Students, San Diego Police Collect Teddy Bears

Cabrillo teddy bears
Students at Cabrillo Elementary show off their teddy bears.
Cabrillo Elementary partnered with the San Diego Police Department to collect nearly 100 Teddy Bears for the kids staying at Rady Children’s Hospital. Principal Nestor Suarez and the officers and representatives of the Associated Student Body encouraged each classroom to participate in this charitable drive.

Cabrillo Elementary has a student population of around 200, so with nearly 100 bears collected, it represents participation from roughly half of our students! The winning class, Ms. Dieli’s First Grade, collected 27 new stuffed animals with tags attached, which is more than one per student! Congratulations to Ms. Dieli’s class, the Cabrillo students and ASB for a job well done!

For more information on Cabrillo Elementary, visit us at

Friday, December 16, 2011

Season's Greetings from Supt. Kowba

Bill Kowba As we prepare to close our schools and offices for the holiday break, I want to share my heartfelt appreciation to our team, all of the men and women who spend each day working to improve the lives of our students. Often, we become so busy with our daily routine, caught up in a myriad of issues, that we underplay the significance of our own work. It is both remarkable as well as inspiring to me how you focus on our core academic mission despite the incredible churn that characterizes our K-12 public education environment. It is a testimony to your unwavering dedication to the children that results in steady influx of academic growth. The San Diego Unified administrators, teachers, and credentialed and classified support staff in partnership with parents, businesses, and community members are making a positive, value-added impact on the next generations of citizens of America’s Finest City.

I thank the entire staff across our campuses, central offices and administrative sites for your dedication and pursuit of excellence in advancing public education. I thank our board members for their commitment to collaboration among all stakeholders and for their vision to have a quality school in every neighborhood. I thank parents and families for the privilege of being a part of your child’s life. By working together, we will ensure that all San Diego students are prepared to succeed in college and career.

As we ready ourselves to face more budget challenges in the new year, please take a moment during the break to catch your breath, re-energize, and enjoy special moments with family and friends.

I wish you all a safe and peaceful holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year!

Superintendent Bill Kowba

P.S. –  Remember traditional schools and central offices reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. Year-round schools resume classes on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012.

Winter Break Schedule for Schools, Offices

All schools and district offices will be closed from Dec. 19 through Jan. 2, 2012, as schools take their winter break.

Schools will reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 3, for those on traditional schedules, while schools on year-round schedules will reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

All district offices will be closed to the public from Dec. 19 through Jan. 2, 2012. Staff may be working during these two weeks, as schedules differ depending on the work group; many other office employees will be taking a combination of unpaid furlough, vacation time and holidays during the two weeks.

If you see an emergency at a school or district office, call School Police at (619) 291-7678.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

IN THE NEWS: Marvin Elementary Students Talk Weather

Weather visit by morning news shows off science students at Marvin Elementary School.

Watch video from KUSI-TV»

GIS Connects Kearny SCT and Montgomery Students

Checking coordinates
 A Kearny student, left, helps Montgomery students locate their GPS coordinates.
Students became teachers recently as GIS 3-4 students in the School of Science, connections and Technology at Kearny High visited eighth graders at nearby Montgomery Middle School.

Basic concepts of geographic information systems (GIS) data collection, spatial analysis and the use of GPS were in the curriculum, part of the celebration of National Geography Awareness Week from Nov. 14-17 and International GIS Day on Nov. 16.

Students at the Kearny schools regularly work with students at Montgomery, who are future Kearny Komets. Many of Kearny's advanced programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics begin with classes for the students in grades 6-8 at Montgomery, which is a member of the Kearny cluster.

Contact Corri Burgess, GIS teacher, at, for more information. To learn more about GIS day, check

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Serra High School Student2Student Club Mentors Vista Grande Students

 Serra and Vista Grande students
Serra and Vista Grande students talk about transitions.
Vista Grande Elementary School Student Council members wanted to ease the transition of students entering their school. With a mobile military student population of 35-40 percent, they were concerned about how difficult it sometimes is to be “the new kid.” Serra High School students came to their aid, traveling to Vista Grande recently to share some of the strategies used by Serra’s extraordinary Student2Student (S2S) Club.

The S2S Club helps students face the daunting experience of changing schools. Club members offer incoming students a forum to quickly feel welcomed, comfortable, included, and accepted into their new school community. Student tours, welcome packets, and social gatherings during the school year help to diminish the stress and uncertainty of the first days and weeks at a new school. At Serra, friendships often start with S2S.

Serra students shared tools and experiences and demonstrated icebreaker and team-building games that helped Vista Grande students develop their own plans for a Student Ambassador Club at their elementary school level. They answered questions and shared ideas, leaving the student council members with a clear plan for their new club.

S2S, and JS2S (Junior Student2Student) are powerful high school and middle school programs designed by the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC). Serra students and staff received extensive training from MCEC to customize an individualized program for implementation at their school site.

For more information about Serra’s S2S Club, contact Jason Demendonca, Club Advisor, at 858-496-8342 x163 or Marie Byrd, Parent Support Liaison and S2S Activities Coordinator, at 858-496-8342 x231.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sustainable Technologies Facility construction progressing

Sustainable Technologies Facility Scripps Ranch High School's Sustainable Technologies facility is nearing the half-way mark. At 40 percent complete, the nearly $6.4 million facility is a College, Career & Technical Education (CCTE) project funded by California Proposition 1D and local Proposition S bond funds.

It will house an innovative program that CCTE and Scripps Ranch High School are developing to focus on renewable technologies. The unique CCTE programwill encompass four emerging, high-growth industry sectors including building trades and construction, engineering and design,transportation, and power and utilities. Instruction will focus on areas such as green construction, renewable energy and utilities, alternative fuels, clean transportation, and innovative engineering and design.

For additional information, visit, or (College Career & Technical Education program info). You may also call (858) 637-3604

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Taft Middle School Students "Mix It Up" at Lunch

Taft Middle School Students Changing habits can be tough for anyone, but students at Taft Middle School chose to break out of their comfort zones and “Mix It Up” at lunch to bring attention to the epidemic of bullying.

Students participated in a nationwide “Mix It Up at Lunch Day” activity Nov. 18 where they were asked to sit in a different place and with different individuals than they typically do at lunchtime. This national campaign, launched by the organization Teaching Tolerance a decade ago, encourages students to identify, question, and cross social boundaries.

Taft Middle School’s lunch court was rearranged and specially decorated for the event. Every student was randomly grouped using colorful wristbands with letters to identify which group they would sit with at lunch. Students got their lunch and joined their assigned table, each having a student leader/facilitator, and were encouraged to engage in conversations with those at their table to discover what they had in common with one another. The event concluded with music and group dances like the Macarena, Cupid Shuffle, and Y.M.C.A.

“This is one of the many ways Taft Middle School is trying to address the epidemic of bullying,” said Principal Mike George. “It was truly an amazing sight to see our students “Mix It Up.”
For several days leading up to the lunchtime event, students were involved in lessons during their first period classes that fostered thinking about concepts such as differences/similarities, isolation, prejudice and “isms,” among other topics. According to Teaching Tolerance, studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away.

The event was sponsored by the PBIS committee and ASB.

For additional information, contact Vice Principal Lynn Ryan at 858-496-8245 or

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Serra High Invites Parents to Experience Their Child's School Day

Brandon and his mom, Kay
Student Brandon shows his mom, Kay, around school.
What would it be like for adults to go back in time to their high school days?

At Serra High, parents can experience it every year during "Come to School With Your Student Day." It allowed parents and guardians to "shadow" their child at school, spending time in their classrooms, observing during actual instruction time and even having lunch in the cafeteria.

Parents and guardians say they gain a better understanding of what their student is doing at school and in the classrooms.Others said it was helpful to “shadow” their student for the day and be reminded of what it’s like to be in high school again!

In addition to getting a taste of campus life, workshops on Naviance, the district's college and career planning tool, and A-G high school graduation requirements provided parents and guardians with information and resources to support their student’s academic success. The Nov. 10 event was the third-annual "Come to School With Your Student Day."

"Serra High believes that events like this are an excellent way to encourage parents to be more actively engaged in their student’s education," said Principal Mike Jimenez. "Allowing parents to observe classrooms during actual instruction time,for example, provides valuable insight into such things as specific teaching methods and styles. Walking the campus with the students during the day allows parents to experience the true climate and culture of our school."

Serra recognizes the value of parental involvement at school and continues to strive to help all students achieve academic success. For more information, contact Marie Byrd, parent support liaison, at 858-496-8342 x231

Friday, December 9, 2011

Study Finds Prop. S Labor Agreement Good for Taxpayers, Local Jobs

An independent study commissioned by the San Diego Unified School District has shown that the $2.1 billion construction bond's Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA) has produced the benefits promised without impact on cost or quality of the construction.

The study, completed by consultant Rea & Parker Research, found:

-- Local hire goals are on track;

-- There was no change in project cost between PSA and non-PSA projects;

-- The number of bidders is lower (an average of six per project), but with no impact on cost or quality;

-- PSA projects are on average completing faster than non-PSA projects.

"The results prove that the school board made the right decision in approving this agreement," said Richard Barrera, Board President. "It's good for our students and teachers and good for our local economy by providing jobs for local workers."

The report finds that overall construction costs have not been affected by the agreement. School Board Member Scott Barnett, who represents Subdistrict C, said he is convinced that the agreement has had a positive impact.

"I admit I was highly skeptical of the PSA," said Barnett, a former head of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association who joined the school board after approval of the agreement. "That's why I pushed for an independent review of the Prop. S projects by a trusted source."

At Barnett's suggestion SDUSD retained Rea & Parker Research, who completed many studies for the San Diego Taxpayers Association.

"The facts are clear, the PSA is good for taxpayers," said Barnett.

On November 4, 2008, nearly 69 percent of San Diego voters passed the $2.1 billion general-obligation bond measure, Proposition S to repair, renovate and revitalize our neighborhood schools.

The Project Stabilization Agreement is designed to ensure a sufficient supply of skilled craft workers and to eliminate work disruptions on Prop. S projects. It also includes sections that promote the hiring of skilled craftspeople living within the San Diego Unified boundaries and encourages individuals living within district boundaries, including students, to become apprentices.

The following are highlights from the Rea & Parker Research Report.

-- There has been no increase in the cost of the winning bids for school construction projects under the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA) than were the winning bids for non-PSA projects under Proposition S that was approved in November, 2008.

-- The number of general contractor bidders and participating subcontractors per project has declined for PSA projects; however, this decline is not reflected in any increase in cost to SDUSD.

-- Profit margins for contractors have declined under the PSA, but these contractors appear to be absorbing these increased costs rather than increasing their bids—thereby imposing no additional cost upon SDUSD taxpayers.

-- Project completion time is faster under the PSA than for Proposition S projects that pre-dated the PSA. Faster completion allows for the District to experience less overhead per project and for the more efficient replacement school improvements to be in operation more quickly.

-- Quality of construction, as indicated by contractor and construction manager interviews and by survey responses, is unchanged between projects constructed under the PSA and those that were contracted prior to the PSA.

-- Workers from targeted zip codes (economically disadvantaged portions of the District) have increased during the past six months and are presently close to achieving the very ambitious target of 35 percent that was set in the PSA.

-- The achievement of the high level of workers from targeted zip codes is due predominantly to union referrals that are focused upon obtaining workers from these zip codes. This increase in targeted area workers is not re-flected among non-union core workers or existing workers for union signatory contractors.

-- There has been an increase in reporting violations and deficiencies pertaining to labor compliance since the PSA was adopted; however, there is no discernible or perceived impact on construction quality or duration of construction caused by these deficiencies. Furthermore, it can be interpreted that this increase is due to increased attention to worker payroll and benefits under the PSA than before, which is beneficial to the payment of prevailing wages to the working population.

-- The Los Angeles Unified School District PSA required approximately 5 years to achieve operational efficiency. SDUSD’s PSA has been in effect for only 2 years and, by the measures included in this report, is significantly ahead of the LAUSD schedule.

District Bus Fleet to Reduce Carbon Footprint With Biodiesel

bus San Diego Unified School District Trustees voted to use biodiesel or an alternative fuel to be used in the tanks of school buses and the diesel fleet by the end of the 2014-15 school year at their Dec. 6 meeting. The resolution was introduced by Trustee Kevin Beiser.

Mandating that the fleet of more than 500 buses "come clean" will help reduce pollution in the San Diego region, helping the kids that ride the bus possibly avoid diseases such as asthma and cancer. According to the Board resolution on the topic, biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that complies with the federal Clean Air Act.

"It's our duty as trustees of the next generation to do everything we can to make their environment safe," said Kevin Beiser, Board of Education member. "This step will not only make the environment better, we will be doing our part toward energy independence by using a renewable resource."

San Diego Unified has already taken an interim step. In 2009, the district finished modifications to its fleet to create "clean diesel" buses, installing equipment that reduced particulates. Federal stimulus funds and help from the US Environmental Protection Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and the local Air Pollution Control District made that
conversion possible. Students from district automotive technology programs also helped with the conversion.

"As this equipment ages, we have to look at alternatives," said Beiser. "This resolution gives the Superintendent clear direction that this Board is dedicated to reducing pollution."

Biodiesel mixes standard diesel fuel with fuel distilled from renewable resources such as soybeans or waste vegetable oil. The alternative fuel conversion can produce lower emissions including reductions in carbon monoxide, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The use of biodiesel will not void any warranties that the district has on current vehicles, and create local jobs supporting the local bio-diesel industry in San Diego.

"Aside from the environmental and health benefits, the use of biodiesel fuel will be cost neutral, which is equally important during these difficult economic times," said Beiser.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

IN THE NEWS: Madison High unveils new TV studio

Ribbon cutting at studio.
When Madison High School launched its broadcast journalism program last year, it didn’t have much of the required equipment to produce programing. Now, the school has a 3,250-square-foot facility that would make many television stations envious. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune»

CHAMPs Teacher Cited As Having 'Life-Changing Academic Influence'

Winn Jonathan Winn, calculus teacher at Crawford High's School of Community Health and Medical Practices (CHAMPs), was recently honored by the Carlston Family Foundation as an Outstanding Teacher of America.

Honorees are nominated by former students for having a profound, life-changing academic influence on their lives. 

"Mr. Winn was my most exceptional teacher," said one student. "He never discriminated against any student, yet, there were so many of us who were ill prepared and did not have even basic math skills. However, everyone was welcome to take his class.

"He would take extra time to re-teach physics or geometry if we did not have the foundation. He helped us do things we never thought were possible. He was determined we would learn Calculus. He pushed us because he believed in us. Because of his inspiration took and passed the AP Calculus exam and also took and passed the AP History and Psychology Exams. He made me believe in myself." 

Winn was one of five California teachers to receive this honor given to educators who, by their own example, demonstrate the value of knowledge through their commitment to their students' academic successes.

Winn was named San Diego Unified's 2011 High School Teacher of the Year in May.

Read more on the Carlston Family Foundation website.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

'Nation's Report Card' Test Scores Again Show Growth

San Diego Unified School District students in grades 4 and 8 continued to show learning growth in improved national test scores in English and mathematics, placing the district ahead of California schools as a whole and in the top ranks of comparable large urban districts.

District administrators will use the results to focus efforts in key areas, such as the achievement gap between ethnic and economic groups. Although narrowed with some ethnic groups, the achievement gap persists.

The test also shows what has been working with students. Proficiency growth is 35 percent or higher in many areas since 2003. Fourth-grade students ranked better in mathematics than 16 of the other 20 districts.

The National Assessment of Education Progress, known as "The Nation's Report Card," began the Trial Urban District Assessment in 2002 with six districts; San Diego Unified joined in 2003. There are now 21 districts involved in the testing, which is designed to gauge student achievement on a national scale. The tests have been taken every-other-year since 2003.

"We're gratified by the serious learning by our students and hard work by our teachers over the last eight years," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "These years have been extremely challenging for our district and students, with budget cutbacks and leadership turnover. It shows we have a dedicated workforce that stays focused on what's really important: student achievement."

The achievement gap continues to be a focus of teachers and administrators. African-American students lost ground in several areas.

"There were gains in the number of students identified as proficient on these tough tests almost across the board for all ethnic and economic groups," said Dr. Nellie Meyer, Deputy Superintendent for Academics. "However, these tests show us that our concentration on African-American students with the achievement task force is the right place to focus our limited resources."

A full report will be made to the board of Education at an upcoming meeting. More information is online at; the San Diego Unified report is online at

IN THE NEWS: Jazz group from SCPA performs on Morning News

Students in the Jazz Avenue group from SCPA, the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts appeared on Sunday's "Good Morning San Diego" on KUSI-TV. They performed two songs and teacher Tamara Page was interviewed.

Three local schools win Walk, Ride, and Roll to School Challenge

Three schools in San Diego have won the countywide Walk, Ride, and Roll to School Campaign Challenge for having the most students walking and biking to school throughout October. The grand prize winner, Chollas-Mead Elementary, will receive $1,000 in classroom supplies. The second place winner, Knox Middle School, will receive $750 in supplies. The third place winner, Horton Elementary, wins $500 in supplies.

Throughout the region, 22 schools representing nearly 15,000 students participated in the Challenge, sponsored by SANDAG as part of its SchoolPool program. Read more from SANDAG»

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Prop. S Update: New Morse High Child Development Center Milestone Met

Morse High CDCMorse High School’s new Child Development Center is more than 50 percent complete. The $2.8 million project is funded by Proposition S and a $1.8 million Career Technical Education/Prop 1D grant that was received last year.

Features of the new facility will include an ROP classroom, child development center laboratory, observation room, infant room, instructor’s office, restrooms, kitchen, and laundry room. Read more.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Need Volunteers?

The United Way of San Diego County and the U-T Volunteer for Education Campaign have teamed up to recruit volunteers to help our schools.  Volunteers will serve as readers, tutors and mentors for students. Schools that want to request volunteers can simply fill out a Request for Volunteers Form and e-mail the completed form to For more information, visit and click on the “Volunteer” banner or call 858-492-2000 and ask for the Volunteer Coordinator.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Help Us to Reach 2,000 Facebook English Fans and Join Us on Twitter


Here's a reminder that you can get news about San Diego Unified schools, programs and events almost every day through the district's Facebook (in English and Spanish) and Twitter pages.

Our English Facebook page had 1,950 as of this week's Friday Notes, so if you have not "liked" the page yet and use Facebook, help us reach 2,000 fans.

The site en EspaƱol carries the same content, translated for those whose primary language is Spanish. For anyone wanting instant information, join the 3,751 followers on Twitter. Facebook and Twitter followers will also receive timely updates in the event of a district-wide crisis, such as the recent blackout.

IN THE NEWS: Interview with co-Teacher of the Year, Jonathan Winn

How does a brand new teacher quit after his first two years because he was so miserable, to come back to create the most popular class on campus? Read more from What's So Special»

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Whitman Fourth Graders Skype Author Sharon Creech

 Writer Sharon Creech,
on screen, talks
to students at
Whitman Elementary
via internet teleconference.
What inspires a writer?

Whitman Elementary School fourth grader Elias Palacio found out that, for Sharon Creech, it's things that have happened in her own life. Creech, author of popular novels The Wanderer, Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, Ruby Holler, Replay, and Heartbeat, recently met with Elias and other students in Denise Maggard's class via Skype, the internet-video service.

The fourth graders are currently writing narrative texts, and after reading Ms. Creech’s books, they became familiar with her writing style. In addition to the interactive 30-minute question-and-answer session about her books and writing, the students were elated to meet the person who wrote some of their favorite books.

The Nov. 18 interview reinforced what Ms. Maggard tries to teach her students: write what you know about your own life. After being immersed in narrative texts, the fourth graders have begun to craft their own fiction stories based on their own lives.

For additional information, contact Denise Maggard at or 858-273-2700.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Children in Transition Joins with Community for Thanksgiving

Feeding America San Diego, House of Blues® San Diego and San Diego Unified School District hosted meals for hundreds of local children and their families on Thanksgiving Day. The meal included live entertainment by gospel choir Eddie Baltrip & Fulfillment, singer/songwriter Alex Woodard and a special performance by the Mission Bay High School band. More than 600 low-income and homeless San Diego Unified School District children and their families attended the event.

While the holidays are a perfect time to provide a holiday meal for those in need, the issue of food security is impacting families year-round. According to a March 2011 study by Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), nearly one in every five San Diegans are now struggling to put food on their family tables.

“It is so important to us that children and their families can celebrate the holiday without worrying about how they are going to get food on the table,” said Jennifer Gilmore, executive director of Feeding America San Diego. “We are so grateful to the House of Blues for letting us host this event again and are thrilled to be able to provide meals to local families in need this Thanksgiving.”

The dinner is being sponsored by The Rose Foundation of Rancho Santa Fe as well as individual donors and supported by KyXy 96.5. Feeding America will also supply food boxes for the school children and through the Mobile Pantry program the week prior to Thanksgiving to ensure that they and their families have enough food to eat during the holiday break.

“This has been a tradition among House of Blues since we opened in 2005. Members of our staff volunteers every year to participate in this heartwarming event” said Shervia Sana, Brand Marketing Manager at House of Blues San Diego. “It’s part of our culture –.the tradition began in 1992, when the original House of Blues in Cambridge, Mass opened its door on Thanksgiving Day, feeding the homeless before opening to the public. Our commitment to serving the community will always be a priority and we are extremely thankful for the opportunity to give back.”

For more information about Feeding America San Diego, local food distributions or to make a donation, please call (858) 452-FOOD (3663) or visit

At least 25 percent of people experiencing homelessness each day are children. SDUSD serves nearly 5,000 students experiencing homelessness each year, grades preschool to high school. The Office of Children and Youth in Transition offers services that include resources to assist students and families in navigating the educational system so they continue to receive a quality education during this transitional time.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Students Design Hospital Emergency Departments

UC High student The assignment for Biomedical Innovations students at University City High School was to design an effective and efficient emergency room and then present their plans to members of the medical community for grading.

Teams of three to four students conducted needs assessments for an emergency department and then addressed:
  1. The physical layout;
  2. Innovation in equipment, devise or organization; and,
  3. Staffing and connections with other departments.
Students researched issues of congested hallways, patient and family wait times, long wait times for diagnostics such as labs and x-rays, tedious movement of equipment room to room and other emergency department complaints. They also studied the care, diagnosis and treatments of two patients to develop their final presentations.

Some of the innovations the students created were:
  • Patient and Family Tracking systems
  • Specific Rooms for Psych Patients to decrease congestion in the Emergency department
  • Integration of Smart Phones with Apps to pre-register for the Emergency department
  • Gardens for Waiting Rooms
  • Use of iPads for transfer of Patient Results
The students presented their plans to local emergency department directors, a vice-president of nursing, an emergency room nurse, a physician and a Ph.D. data analyst. The students will be touring a local emergency room this month to see how a real hospital puts things into action.

For more information, please contact Ellis Vandiver, CCTE Biomedical Sciences Instructor, at