Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cubberley Hosts Elementary Career-Ready Event

Animal Control's Shalimar Oliver
meets the kids.
Fifth-graders from Cubberley Elementary, Juarez Elementary and Wegeforth Elementary got a head start preparing for the workforce at Building Bridges to the Future, a career-ready event for elementary students. Approximately 130 attendees explored fields ranging from engineering to video production.

The event featured six presentations from speakers like Shalimar Oliver, an animal control officer for the San Diego County Department of Animal Services, and Willie Buchanon, a former NFL player for the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers.

Chemist Brad Savall, from Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development LLC, inspired at least one student to proclaim his career aspirations.

"It was awesome,” said fifth-grader Jose Cautino-Lopez. “I always knew I wanted to be a scientist, but now I really know."

Presenters encouraged the students to set goals and pursue professions they would love, even if they did not have a particular career in mind already.

"I got really great ideas about what jobs I wanted to do," said Brianna Cormier, a student at Cubberley Elementary.

The event was organized for the Serra Mesa neighborhood schools with the help of the Office of College, Career & Technical Education. For more information, contact Ralph West, CCTE program manager, at 858-503-1747 or

Friday, June 29, 2012

From Superintendent Kowba: Reflections on the 2011-12 school year

Superintendent Bill KowbaTo The San Diego Unified School District Community:
It has been a year of great swings on various levels – academically, financially, emotionally, and the like. As such, we have reached a point where the year’s closure comes with a mixed sense of accomplishment, relief, and uncertainty. Let us focus on the element of accomplishment. There is much to be proud of in the realm of student and staff achievement and district/community engagement. Despite the deepest and most prolonged budget crisis in the district’s history, our singularly committed staff, focused students and supportive parents all contributed to some remarkable milestones. Here are just a few items that should make us all proud.

  • California Standards Tests (CSTs). The school year started off in great fashion with the release of the CST results that revealed that San Diego Unified students achieved the highest scores in English Arts of any large urban district in California. Across-the-board increases were recorded in the four tested subjects - English language arts, mathematics, science, and history/social sciences.

  • Best Graduation Rate. The year also concluded on a high note. Just this week, we learned that San Diego Unified has the lowest dropout rate of any of the large urban school districts in California. At 5.9 percent, our rate is far below the next lowest, San Francisco Unified. We are also well under the San Diego County dropout average of 10.9 percent. Further, our graduation rate of 83.7 percent is above the county average of 77.5 percent and the second highest among California’s big city school systems.

  • "Nation's Report Card" Successes. Students in grades 4 and 8 sustained improved national test scores in English and Mathematics, placing the district ahead of California city schools as a whole and in the top ranks of comparable large urban districts across the nation.

  • Record-breaking Attendance. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson acknowledged our remarkable increases in attendance and corresponding decreases in absenteeism. Torlakson named San Diego Unified as one of 11 statewide Model Attendance Improvement Programs. We are the first California large urban district to achieve this distinction. In doing so, we reached five-year highs in attendance.

  • Unprecedented Community Collaboration. We continued the successful development and maturation of cluster governance councils throughout the district. We convened the first joint meeting between our Board of Education and the Community College Board in well over a decade to focus on an education partnership vital to the greater San Diego. Recently, Board President John Evans and I met with the San Diego City Council's Rules Committee, establishing a renewed spirit of collaboration and committing to a joint School Board and City Council meeting in the fall.

  • Strategic Process Refinement. The strategic process, our five-year vision to create a quality school in every neighborhood is moving forward. We have completed the planning year and developed a quality school framework based on 12 key attributes. We are implementing the framework in 2012/13. Our Local Education Agency (LEA) plan for student achievement has been reconfigured such that the strategic process is now the centerpiece of our work.

  • Construction Bond Prop S Headway. Prop S repair, renovation, and construction continued despite the uneven funding environment. Many significant projects were completed including the installation of numerous i21 interactive classrooms throughout the district; new CCTE venues such as state-of-the-art automotive, culinary arts, broadcast journalism, and multimedia production facilities; high school stadium and other athletic facility upgrades; and safety and other improvements.

Among our schools, we had numerous CIF champions in athletics, three coaches named CIF Coach of the Year; award-winning videos at several sites; the Classroom of the Future award; 45 schools named "Bright Spots of Excellence" from California Business for Education Excellence; schools on "Best Of" lists from the US News and World Report, Newsweek and the Washington Post; five Academic Achievement schools; and I could go on and on.

Perhaps one of the greatest accomplishment has been our employees and students who have stayed the course in spite of the tumultuous budget crisis. Their efforts are the reason we continue to see progress. Many employees have once again stepped up and made personal sacrifices for our kids and our schools. My sincere, heartfelt thanks goes out to members of the San Diego Schools Police Officers and the San Diego Education Association for making very difficult trade-offs. Let me note that all of our stakeholder staff teams are committed to a viable, robust San Diego Unified.

Last night, the Board of Education approved a budget that supports our district being fully staffed with educators and police officers when school resumes on Tuesday, September 4, 2012. Class sizes will be restored to 2011-12 levels. Teachers, counselors, nurses, and librarians will be restored to current levels. Music, arts, IB, and other programs will continue. Schools and students will be safe. Valuable employees will be where they belong, at schools supporting the success of our students. I cannot imagine a more positive way to end the school year.

Of course, we still face critical budget shortfalls as the state Legislature struggles with economic woes that translate into reduced funding for education. We will must advocate for proper funding for K-12 schools throughout our state. Please make your voice be heard on behalf of public education. Over the summer, I urge you to talk with your friends and family about what's right with education in our district. Let them know about the great accomplishments of our students, their teachers, and schools.

Have a restful and relaxing summer. See you in September!

With deepest appreciation,
Bill Kowba

Benchley Weinberger, Sherman win iVIE Awards

Students and teachers from Benchley Weinberger and Sherman elementary schools felt like celebrities as they walked the red carpet at the 2012 iVIE Awards ceremony. By the end of the celebratory evening, they felt like super stars as they accepted their awards. Benchley Weinberger students received one award and Sherman students received three awards.

The Innovative Videos in Education, more commonly known as iVIE, is a student video contest sponsored by the San Diego County Office of Education. This annual contest encourages teachers and students to utilize project-based learning through film-making while integrating California content standards.

To see a complete list winning schools at the June 7 event, watch the videos and get more information, go to

Holocaust Survivor Inspires CPMA Students

Dr. Edie Eger
 Dr. Edie Eger
Students at the Creative Performing and Media Arts Middle School (CPMA) were inspired by the visit of Dr. Edie Eger, a survivor of the Holocaust who later in life became a clinical psychologist in La Jolla.

Dr. Eger visited the school and discussed how she survived the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. She also gave the students inspirational words on bullying, identity and goals. Her visit was part of the Grade 8 Ann Frank/Holocaust curriculum.

"Students who walked away from the assembly took with them a greater understanding of human perseverance and putting life into perspective," said Principal Scott Thomason. "Dr. Eger talked about how the choices we make define who we become."

Although CPMA has an arts focus, students receive all the same educational opportunities of any middle schooler in the San Diego Unified School District. Dr. Eger's visit was one of many by experts in their field to the school.

"Students learned that even in the most dire of circumstances, a person can choose to ignore, choose to walk away, choose to survive," said Thomason. "She also left them with the message of community in a story she told of how, though hungry beyond belief, her choice to share her meager loaf of bread with other starving prisoners, later led to her very survival on the famed Death March, when these same women formed a human chair to carry her when to stop walking meant death."

Thomason added that students were openly moved by her courage, her strength, and her belief that through recovery comes discovery and that with each life event they face, students are given the choice to learn and grow or blame and repeat.

Visit the school's website for more information on the campus.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Whitman Elementary Students Raise $3k for Playground Equipment

by Elias Palacio
Fourth Grade
Whitman Elementary
What do you get when you have 300 sweaty students run laps around a large dirt field? $3,000 is what Walt Whitman Elementary got from that!

Whitman Elementary hosted its first student council-sponsored Jog-A-Thon. It was a fundraiser for the colossal dirt field for playground equipment on the field. It ended up being a raging success! Students got sponsors from friends and family members to donate money for each lap they ran!

Whitman uses the dirt field for things like student recess, physical education and field days. This field needs equipment because it is only a barren field of decomposed granite. We need equipment! That is what our hard earned money is going for. If you are interested in helping go to:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Board of Education President Praises Positive Vote by Teachers

The overwhelming ratification of the agreement between the San Diego Unified School District and the San Diego Education Association means that nearly 1,500 teachers will be receiving contracts for the 2012-13 school year, Dr. John Lee Evans, Board of Education President, said today.

The Association announced this afternoon that the contract revisions were ratified, with slightly more than two-thirds of the teachers voting in support of the changes.

"I want to express my gratitude to our educators for once again stepping up to the plate and sacrificing to protect our children's education," said Evans. "As President I had insisted that we have an agreement that would responsibly balance the budget and protect our educational mission at the same time. This agreement does that."

San Diego Unified and the San Diego Education Association agreed June 20 on revisions to the 2012-13 school year contract that will result in the district recalling all 1,372 of the K-12 teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses who had received final layoff notices in May. An additional 109 Early Childhood Education teachers will be recalled under the agreement.

To make this possible, SDEA members will defer raises and continue the five furlough days in the current contract with possible additional furlough days should the November tax initiatives fail.

The agreement contains the following elements:

-- All SDEA members in the K-12 program released May 25 will be recalled in two phases: 1,090 unit members will receive a written notice of recall by June 30. The remaining 280 unit members will be sent a notice by June 30 stating they will be recalled no later than Sept. 30 as budgeted positions become available through attrition.

-- 109 (full-time equivalent) SDEA members in the Early Childhood Education program will also be recalled on or before June 30.

-- Raises will be deferred.

-- Five furlough days will continue.

-- Health care will remain the same; SDEA members who are not placed in a budgeted position by July 1 will maintain uninterrupted healthcarebenefits for up to 3 months.

-- A retirement incentive will be offered to eligible SDEA veteran members.

-- Additional furlough days are possible if the November tax initiative ballot measure fails.

"Parents and students can be reassured," said Evans. "San Diego will continue to be the leader among both public and private schools in protecting small class size in K-3. We will have the teachers, nurses, counselors and graduation coaches to continue with the great results in reducing dropouts announced today. San Diego has the lowest dropout rate among all urban districts in the state."

Lowest Big District Dropout Rate? San Diego Unified

Dropout Rate
Click on chart for larger
version. Source: California
Department of Education.
Graduation Rates
New dropout and graduation rates for school districts across California show San Diego Unified School District with the lowest dropout rate among the state's large, urban school districts.

At 5.9 percent, the rate is far below the next lowest district, San Francisco Unified, which has 10.4 percent. The highest rate in the state is at Oakland Unified, with a 27.7 percent.

"For parents, this means that they can be confident that their child is receiving, in our district, as good an education as they can get anywhere in California," said Dr. John Lee Evans, Board of Education President. "Our schools are innovative. Our schools are creative. Our schools are accountable. And our schools fit into their communities."

Overall, the district's 83.7 percent graduation rate is 8.5 points higher than the state average.

San Diego Unified also showed gains in ethnic groups that have been a focus of attendance-improvement efforts. For Hispanic students, a nearly four percent increase was registered over 2009-10. The 75.8 percent topped the statewide average of 70.4.

For African-American students, the year-over-year increase is 4.4 percent, with the 80.3 graduation rate is 17.4 percent higher than the statewide average.

"This means that hundreds of young adults beat the odds and became high school graduates last year," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "This district, our Board of Education and every staff member have made graduation a top priority."

The district has focused resources in recent years on improving graduation rates. This includes sending staff and volunteers to the homes of truant students during the first weeks of school, allowing online and other digital options for students to make up courses, and motivational events at schools. At-risk students are also targeted with extra counseling and support from volunteers.

News Coverage

Ribbons Galore for Students at Del Mar Fair

Crawford auto technology students
and their teacher.
Students from the automotive technology program at Crawford High School have been regular visitors to this year's San Diego County Fair, which runs through July 4 in Del Mar.

Under the supervision of teacher Carl Kingsbury, the students have been showing fair visitors the differences between diagnosis and repair of a 1974 Chevrolet (owned by Kingsbury) and a 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid, on display thanks to a local auto dealer.

"The equipment used and the techniques for repairing cars have totally changed in the last 40 years," said Kingsbury. "Today's students have to know about computers -- not only as a tool to fix the car, but the onboard computers that help today's cars perform."

The Crawford students are located in the breezeway of the fairgrounds grandstand, adjacent to hundreds of other student projects that were submitted to the fair. Many San Diego Unified schools submitted art projects and other items for the fair's competitions. Winners included:
Winners for Lexa Horsley
of Serra High School.
  • Diana Bautista, Clairemont High School, Fashion Design 
  • Art 1-2, Mrs.Polyak, Patrick Henry High School, Group Project, Fine Art 
  • Lexa Horsley, Serra High School, Graphic Design, Two-page Spread for Yearbooks
  • Manny Rodriguez, Serra High School, Graphic Design, Sports/Action/News page
  • Julian Finburgh, University City High School, Drawing, Other 3D
  • Tom Naylor, University City High School, Ceramic Other 3D
 The fair continues through July 4.

Three Coaches Recognized by State

Vu Nguyen, badminton coach at Hoover.
Coach Vu Nguyen, center,
was joined by several former
and current Hoover High
badminton players.
The California Coaches Association has named Hoover High’s Vu Nguyen, Scripps Ranch High’s Jane Morrill and Pacific Beach Middle School’s Dennis Gildehaus 2012 Coaches of the Year.

The three coaches were among 32 individuals recognized for coaching a sport or serving as an athletic director or official. Only one coach per sport was selected in the state.

Vu Nguyen has been coaching badminton at Hoover High for 13 years. In that time, he has compiled a 215-2 career record that includes 13 league titles and 12 CIF titles, including the last eight CIF championships.

Jane Morrill has been coaching the highly-successful field hockey team at Scripps Ranch High for 12 years. She has also served as a counselor at the school for 17 years.

Dennis Gildehaus runs the physical education program at Pacific Beach Middle School. He was the only middle school representative honored by the coaches association.

The trio was honored at the Association’s 55th annual awards banquet held in San Diego in June. To learn more about the California Coaches Association, visit its website.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Promethean and Channel One News Announce The Parent Connection

In a joint announcement made today at ISTE 2012, Promethean, Channel One News and the National PTA launched The Parent Connection, a new program that delivers daily Channel One News InterActiv broadcasts shown in the classroom directly to parent’s mobile phones. Representatives from San Diego Unified School District join today’s announcement and will be the first school district in the country to offer the service to parents.

“This is truly good news for parents and our entire school community. One of our objectives is to continually look for opportunities to strengthen and grow parental involvement in schools across the district. Without involvement of parents, we would not be successful and we are delighted that next year, we will be able to offer yet another avenue to strengthen the school to home connection,” said San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Bill Kowba.

“Today’s announcement is an terrific addition to our i21 initiative. Combining current events with standards aligned content will advance our efforts to helping all students build 21st Century skills,” said Darryl LaGace. “We are delighted to work with all the partners of this effort to enhance to increase parental involvement in the academic success of students.”

“Students are more successful when parents are engaged and when school-to-home communications are strong. The Parent Connection will change dinnertime conversations around the country because parents will receive the same daily news broadcast their child viewed in the classroom via a text message with an embedded URL,” explained Jim Marshall. “Boosting parent engagement is a critical intervention strategy and one that will help districts maximize return on other investments in education.”

Once enrolled with The Parent Connection, parents would receive a daily update with a video link to the Channel One News InterActiv broadcast shown in classrooms that day. Parents can also view updates in their existing district's parent portal. For districts using Promethean ActivProgress, an adaptive, personalized learning environment for students, parents can see how well their child performed on any Channel One broadcasts, their school performance, and have topics for discussion based on the broadcast content.

“Since Channel One News launched over two decades ago, we have served as a window to the world for America’s youth. The experience we provide each day to millions of young people has fostered countless formative conversations at the dinner table with parents,” commented Kent Haehl, CEO of Channel One News. “This latest innovation will power these discussions and we are extremely proud to offer this as a companion to our expanding interactive services.”

The Parent Connection will kick-off in the San Diego Unified School District in grade 3 through 12 classrooms. Over the course of the year, The National PTA will work with school districts implementing The Parent Connection to determine its overall impact it has on achievement.

“Studies continue to show that family engagement is a critical ingredient for student success,” said Betsy Landers, President, National PTA. “"We are excited to be part of today's announcement and look forward to examining how this program will help families and what, if any, impact it will have on the types of family engagement behaviors that ultimately lead to positive student outcomes such as improved student academic achievement."

Launched last year at ISTE, Channel One News InterActiv delivers daily news with embedded assessments conducted using on screen buttons and Promethean Learner Response Devices. The subscription service also includes just-in-time professional development to support teachers’ efforts to build instructional technology skills. Additional resources linked to the daily broadcasts are correlated to Common Core State Standards providing teachers’ ready-to-use interactive, digital content on a range of subjects connecting classroom learning to the real world.

An informal survey of the services reported that for 57% of teachers using C1Ni lead to an increase in their overall use of technology in the classroom. Teachers also reported that 87% of students were highly engaged and interacting with the content.

Additional information about Channel One New InterActiv can be found online at (registration required). The Parent Connection App can be downloaded for free in the education section on both Google Play (for Android) and the Apple App Store (for iPhone).

Lindbergh/Schweitzer Run Again Honors Chelsea King

Steve Scott and Hazel Groff run.
Olympian Steve Scott, left, and overall winner Hazel Groff.
Elementary school students from 15 schools around the county joined with Lindbergh/Schweitzer Elementary School students and staff recently for the third annual Chelsea King Invitational Mile.

More than 170 students participated in the event, which attracted qualifying students from around the county. Superintendent Bill Kowba was on hand for the May 31 event, which honors the memory of King, a local high school student and avid runner who was murdered in 2010.

The event raises funds for the Chelsea's Light Foundation. It is organized by Lindbergh/Schweitzer staff members Mary Lou Baranowski, Roger Drews, Julie Harris and others at the Clairemont campus.
Students compete by grade level. For more information, see the event's website.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Elementary, Middle School Musicians Present a Dazzling Band and Orchestra Concert


A concert combining the bands and orchestras of Bell Middle School, Paradise Hills Elementary, Penn Elementary, Perry Elementary, and Zamorano Fine Arts Academy recently featured close to 300 student musicians at Bell Middle School.

Each year for the past four years and beyond, Richard Opina, Bell Middle School music director, along with DavidRouillard and Laura Smith, elementary instrumental music teachers, bring together their groups for an all-star event. This concert is an event that everyone looks forward to throughout the year.

“Area concerts are important for the community, the schools, and the students,” said elementary music teacher Laura Smith.  “These type of concerts happen all over San Diego Unified throughout the school year in different areas and communities,and showcase student development in instrumental music that began as early as fourth grade all the way through eighth grade, and on to high school.”

Many of the students in the Bell orchestras and bands were once in those same elementary classrooms, and have chosen to continue in music through all of middle school. Now these musicians are planning to continue into high school. 

concert 2 “I like music because you can be creative, no one judges you, and you can be yourself,” said fifth grade violinist Chantille Edano, from Zamorano Fine Arts Academy.

Music is important to these students, as can be seen through the number of students participating in the concert each year, and the number of students in the program.  It truly is amazing to see so many music students all in the same place.

“Bringing together almost 300 elementary and middle school musicians shows how much impact music can have on our community.  There is a lot of talent here at Bell and at our elementary schools.  It gives our parents and teachers pride when we get to see and hear that talent all on one night,” said Richard Opina, Bell Middle School music director.  

All three teachers hope these concerts can continue for years to come in this community, enabling them to share the joy and achievement of learning a musical instrument with their students of many ages.

“If there wasn’t any music in the world, life would be boring,dull, and colorless,” said fifth grade violinist Celine Benasa, from Zamorano Fine Arts Academy. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Department of Finance Projects K-12 Funding Increases with Passage of November Initiative

Projected funding
Click to view full-size image.
Following the Board of Education meeting June 22, Board President John Lee Evans requested that the Superintendent seek further information from the State Department of Finance (DOF) about future K-12 funding projections should the Governor’s November Tax initiative pass. Several DOF charts show how the state is projecting significant funding increases for K-12 funding with the passage of the initiative.

The DOF projections clearly show how K-12 funding will increase significantly through 2015/16. Of greatest importance to San Diego Unified is the projected increase in per ADA funding for 2013/14. The projections show that the average daily attendance (ADA) funding could increase at least $311 per ADA which would yield approximately $30 to $35 million to the district. This new revenue following the approval of the November initiative would make a significant impact on the district’s projected $80 million deficit in 2013/14 and would provide job security for teachers and stability for district schools. In addition, should the Governor shift funding away from deferral buy downs and into actual education program funding, the district could receive as much as an additional $599 per ADA in 2013/14 or an additional $60 million. Unfortunately, the district is not able to show this additional revenue in its budget documents presented to the Board and the public.

Total Per-ADA K-12 Funding
Click to view full-size image
“This new information demonstrates just how critical the November initiative is to our schools,” said Board President Evans. “With this additional funding from the initiative, the district would be in a far better position to ensure job security for our teaching staff and to start restoring school days for our students.”

“These projections were prepared to show how revenue for K-12 programs and deferral buy downs would grow over time under the Governor's budget proposals, assuming the Governor's tax initiative is approved by the voters,” said Department of Finance officials. “This would be the total revenue allocated to K-12, and the amount of the deferral buy down would be a policy decision of the Governor and legislature as part of the annual budget process.”

“This funding projection from the state is a ray of hope for our students, our teachers, our parents and the entire community.” said Evans. “"These projections demonstrate the wisdom of the Tentative Agreement which allows for automatic adjustments for changes in state funding, maximizing our ability to have stable schools, school year restoration and a balanced budget without having to come back to the bargaining table."

According to Evans, the district will be aggressively advocating for the Governor and legislature to reduce the deferral buy downs so as to further increase the useable funding available from the initiative for schools in 2013/14. "We came together to avert disaster next year. We will see significant improvement if voters approve the Governor’s ballot measure," Evans concluded.

Congratulations to The Preuss School UCSD, California's Top Charter School

Source: University of Southern California

Congratulations to The Preuss School UCSD, one of San Diego Unified's charter schools, which has been named the top charter school in California by a recent report from the University of Southern California.

The USC report was developed to strengthen accountability among California’s charter schools and includes a ranking of the state’s top 10 charter campuses.

The sixth-annual USC School Performance Dashboard, developed by USC’s Center on Educational Governance at the Rossier School of Education, draws on data from 2003 to 2011 to rate charter schools across multiple measures of financial health and academic performance, including state test scores and classroom spending.

“The USC School Performance Dashboard uses data collected for accountability purposes to help parents decide which school is the right fit for their child, for teachers to decide where they want to work and for those funding charter schools to judge the return on their investment,” said lead author Priscilla Wohlstetter, director of the Center on Educational Governance.

The top 10 California charter schools are (listed in order):
  1. The Preuss School UCSD, San Diego (San Diego County)
  2. Leadership Public Schools, Hayward (Alameda County)
  3. Primary Charter, Tracy (San Joaquin County)
  4. Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County)
  5. KIPP Bayview Academy, San Francisco (San Francisco County)
  6. KIPP Summit Academy, San Lorenzo (Alameda County)
  7. (tied) Camarillo Academy of Progressive Education, Oxnard (Ventura County)
    Alliance Gertz-Ressler High, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County)
    KIPP Heartwood Academy, Alum Rock (Santa Clara County)
    University High, Fresno (Fresno County)
 Half of the top 10 charter schools serve large populations of students from low-income families, with 75 percent or more of the schools’ students qualifying for the federal free- and reduced-price lunch program. Those schools are The Preuss School UCSD, Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High, KIPP Bayview Academy, Alliance Gertz-Ressler High and KIPP Heartwood Academy.

At six of the top 10 schools, more than 10 percent of the students are learning English as a second language: Leadership Public Schools, Primary Charter, Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High, KIPP Summit Academy, Alliance Gertz-Ressler High, and KIPP Heartwood Academy.

Seven of the top 10 charter schools are affiliated with a charter school network, including three campuses run by San Francisco-based KIPP (the Knowledge is Power Program). In Los Angeles, two Alliance College-Ready Public Schools made the top 10 list – Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High and Alliance Gertz-Ressler High.

Two of the schools, including this year’s top-ranked charter, operate on university campuses – The Preuss School UCSD at the University of California, San Diego and University High at California State University, Fresno.

A full copy of the report and accompanying interactive database can be found at

The 2011-2012 school year saw the highest growth rate in the history of California’s charter school movement, with a 13 percent jump in the number of new charter campuses over the year before.

In fall 2011, California opened 118 new charter schools, leading the nation with 912 charter campuses. Los Angeles County gained 31 new charters for a total of 242, the highest number of charter schools of any county in the United States.

The report’s Snapshot looks at campus trends across all charter schools statewide on a number of indicators including student and staff ethnicity, school size, parent education, and populations of low-income and English learner students.

Wohlstetter said this year’s data show charter schools continue to be either disproportionately high or low performing as compared to non-charter schools.

“We see a large group of charter schools being very high performers. This begs the question: ‘What are these schools doing that leads them to excel and how can that information be shared?’" Wohlstetter said.
"For charters clumped at the bottom, we hope serious attention is being given to improving those schools or closing them down.”

Major funding for the 2012 USC School Performance Dashboard was provided by The Ahmanson Foundation, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and the Weingart Foundation.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Grant Program Awards Recycling Containers to San Diego Unified

Recycling bin Recycling efforts are being boosted this fall thanks to a significant grant made possible by The Coca-Cola Foundation as the district will receive 60 recycling bins for placement at schools and administrative facilities.

"Through our partnership with Keep America Beautiful, the Coca-Cola Bin Grant Program supports local community recycling efforts across the United States," said Lori George Billingsley, Vice President of Community Relations for Coca-Cola Refreshments. “We are pleased that these bins being placed in schools throughout SDUSD will provide additional opportunities for students and staff to recycle.”

Recipients were chosen by Keep America Beautiful based on a number of criteria including level of need, recycling experience and the ability of applicants to sustain their program in the future.

“These recycling bins will assist the district in achieving our waste reduction and recycling goals, while providing opportunities for school clubs, organizations, and classes to raise much needed funds by recycling,” said Tom Wright, Manager of San Diego Unified’s environmental programs.

“Providing infrastructure for people to recycle on-the-go in our communities is a key component of making recycling a natural thing to do,” said Matthew M. McKenna, president and CEO, Keep America Beautiful. “We are truly grateful for Coca Cola’s support and commitment to recycling, and for its support and commitment of the Bin Grant Program.”

The Bin Grant Program awards recycling bins directly to recipients and leverages volume buying discounts. In its seven years of operation, the Bin Grant Program has placed 29,000 recycling bins in more than 500 communities in 48 states and the District of Columbia. A full list of the spring 2012 Bin Grant recipients and further information about the grant program is available at

San Diego Unified's recycling effort includes educating students on the benefits of recycling, as well as ensuring that as much of the district's waste material is recycled every day. Visit the recycling website for more information.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Longfellow Videos Win at California Student Media Festival

Longfellow Students Win Three at State Video Contest Longfellow Spanish Immersion School students won three state level video production awards at the 46th Annual California Student Media Festival. Open to students in grades K-12, the festival is the the nation's oldest student video contest.

Students won in the Foreign Language category for their films entitled “Pedro Pollito” and “Don Quijote,” and in the Bilingual Education category for their film “Dia de los Muertos.”

To view Longfellow’s winning entries, visit

Longfellow has won a total of nine awards in the last three years.

For more information on Longfellow’s multimedia program, contact Cary Knight at To learn more about the California Student Media Festival and the 2012 winners, visit the festival website.

Mira Mesa High Air Force JROTC Receives Top Honors

MMHS Air Force JROTC Top Honors
Instructors Lt. Col. Charles Olander, Master Sgt. Randy Crouch, and Master Sgt. James Manson, along with Wing Commander Samantha Nguyen and Principal Scott Guisti.
The Department of the Air Force presented both the Outstanding Instructor Award with Merit and the Distinguished Unit Award with Merit Award to the Mira Mesa High School Air Force JROTC program.

Senior aerospace instructor Lt. Col. Charles Olander, aerospace science instructor Master Sgt. Randy Crouch, and aerospace science instructor Master Sgt. James Manson all received the outstanding instructor award for their hard work, dedication and exemplary leadership.

The selected recipients represent the top 10 percent of all officer and non-commissioned officer instructors, according to Air Force JROTC Director, Col. Chris L. Wheeler.

Mira Mesa High’s Air Force JROTC unit was also recognized, earning the Distinguished Unit Award with Merit, which is given to the top 10 percent of Air Force JROTC units worldwide.

Wing Commander Samantha Nguyen accepted the award on the unit’s behalf.

The unit was recognized for the personal growth and accomplishments of their cadets, as well as the continual involvement and support in the community and their school.

“The instructors, the administration and community are proud of all the 205 cadets that worked hard to obtain this achievement,” said Vice Principal Sara Leonard. “Their success comes from the leadership and guidance of all three of their instructors.”

For more information on Mira Mesa High’s Air Force JROTC program, please contact Vice Principal Leonard at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

San Diego Unified Honors 2012 Retirees

Julie Martel and Supt. Kowba
 Superintendent Kowba congratulates Pacific Beach Middle School Principal Julie Martel on her retirement.
District leadership, staff, family and friends came together June 14 to honor the more than 250 employees retiring this year from San Diego Unified School District.

The Monroe Clark Middle School band treated the nearly 90 attendees to music while they enjoyed crackers and cheese, sandwiches, fruit and dessert on the Ed Center lawn. Honorees were also greeted by representatives from each employee group, including SDEA-retired, AASD, CSEA, and the POA.

Superintendent Bill Kowba, Board Trustee Shelia Jackson and Deputy Superintendent of Academics Nellie Meyer thanked each employee for their service to the district and wished them well in their future endeavors.

“All of you – teachers, support staff, administrators - have made immeasurable contributions,” said Superintendent Kowba. “You have given the priceless gift of time and talent to help our students achieve their best – in and out of the classroom, toward graduation and beyond. The success of our students is truly a reflection of your hard work and dedication.”

Each retiree had the opportunity to introduce themselves, and share with the crowd the number of years they had worked in the district and at what locations. Some were retiring after a few years, others had more than 30 plus years of service; one employee was retiring after 48 years. Combined, the district’s 2012 retirees had 6,301 total years of service.

Sincere thanks go out to all of our retirees for their hard work and dedication to our students.
For a complete list of 2012 retirees as of 6/14/2012, go to To view photos of the event, visit the event web page.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tentative Agreement Reached between San Diego Unified, SDEA on 2012-13 Contract Revisions

San Diego Unified and the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) have reached a tentative agreement on revisions to the 2012-13 school year contract that will result in the district recalling all 1,372 of the K-12 teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses who had received final layoff notices in May. An additional 109 Early Childhood Education teachers will be recalled under the agreement.

To make this possible, SDEA members will defer raises and continue the five furlough days in the current contract with possible additional furlough days should the November tax initiatives fail.

The membership of San Diego Education Association must now ratify the revisions and the Board of Education must also approve the agreement.
Board of Education President Dr. John Lee Evans praised SDEA for coming forward to work with the district.

"On behalf of the district and all of our students, I want to thank SDEA for agreeing to come together with the district to save our schools," said Evans. “This marks a new era of cooperation between SDEA and the district.”
SDEA President Bill Freeman acknowledged the continuing budget crisis made it necessary to make some tough decisions.

"Our members have invested their lives in public education and deserve to be rewarded for that investment. These are tough times that require tough decisions and ultimately, I believe that this agreement protects our schools and our members,” said Freeman.

Superintendent Bill Kowba believes that this agreement will save the jobs of teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses and allow San Diego Unified to maintain current class sizes and educational programs for the 2012-13 school year.

"San Diego’s educators deserve a raise but without this agreement to return teachers to our classrooms, we are facing a new school year with higher class sizes and reduced programs that threaten our positive record of increasing student achievement," said Kowba. "We would not have been able to develop an agreement that protects our schools without SDEA.”

The Tentative Agreement, which must be ratified by the Association membership, contains the following elements:
  • All SDEA members in the K-12 program released May 25 will be recalled in two phases: 1,090 unit members will receive a written notice of recall by June 30. The remaining 280 unit members will be sent a notice by June 30 stating they will be recalled no later than Sept. 30 as budgeted positions become available through attrition. 
  • 109 (full-time equivalent) SDEA members in the Early Childhood Education program will also be recalled on or before June 30.
  • Raises will be deferred.
  • Five furlough days will continue.
  • Health care will remain the same; SDEA members who are not placed in a budgeted position by July 1 will maintain uninterrupted healthcare benefits for up to 3 months.
  • A retirement incentive will be offered to eligible SDEA veteran members.
  • Additional furlough days are possible if the November tax initiative ballot measure fails.
"Teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses as well as our police officers already sacrifice every day for our kids; they've agreed to sacrifice even more to keep working despite a fifth year of draconian budget cuts by the state,” said Evans. “I hope that our legislators in Sacramento will take note of what educators are sacrificing here in San Diego. We now must be united with the teachers in advocating for proper funding of public education in California.”

Related Item

Summer Lunch Program Under Way

San Diego's kids are being invited to "Power Up Your Summer" at any one of 69 locations in the city that will be serving free lunch this summer.

San Diego Unified's Food Services Department and the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department are once again joining forces to bring the US Department of Agriculture's Seamless Summer Feeding Option to kids throughout the region. The theme this year is "Power Up Your Summer."
"This program provides an important bridge over the summer for children when school is out and they no longer have access to school meals," said Gary Petill, San Diego Unified's Food Services Director. "Good nutrition is very important to a child's continued growth during the summer."

Lunches are being offered at a variety of locations, ranging from city recreation centers, to schools, to military bases beginning June 20. Use the table at the bottom of this story to find a location near you.

To kick off this year's Summer Fun Café, a free-for-the-whole-family barbecue is being held from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 20, at the Skyline Hills Community Park, 8285 Skyline Dr. (92114). All kids, as well as their parents/guardians, can receive a free lunch. The WalMart Foundation is funding adult meals at this event, where the San Diego Padres' Friar and Pad Squad are scheduled to perform.

Other activities scheduled for Wednesday include fruit and veggie games, a bike and backpack raffle, the Let’s Move Dance Flash Mob, plus cooking demonstrations by Chef Alex Carballo. Many community organizations will provide information about low cost utility and healthcare programs, health screenings, immunizations, food assistance, housing, counseling and summer activities, as well as distributing free fruit and vegetables. There will also be an inflatable jumper, crafts and music by Radio Latina. Children can participate in all the activities at this and other barbecues throughout the summer, earning points toward a super cool Power Up Your Summer patch.

Most of the 69 locations will have a similar barbecue during the summer, but daily fare is much more simple. Kids receive a sandwich, fruit and juice for lunch, all in line with federal nutritional guidelines. Breakfast will be served at 35 locations, mostly schools, beginning in late July.

"Each parent and guardian can be assured that their child is getting a good breakfast or lunch through this program," said Petill.

Crawford MVAS Students Explore Community Issues

Crawford Multimedia and Visual Arts School students joined residents from all walks of life in their City Heights neighborhood in learning about how to take leadership in environmental issues.

Residents from all walks of life City Heights, of varied ages and from many countries, such as Burundi, Myanmar (Burma), Somalia, Vietnam, and Mexico; participated in workshops on topics that included urban planning, environmental justice, active transportation, community food systems, tenant rights, organizing and advocacy.

Crawford MVAS students participating were: Reyna Bravo, Binti Musa, Long Nguyen, Michelle Burlaza, Yadria Mejia and Jennifer Nguyen. The other members of the class were from a variety of countries, which reflects the international character of City Heights: Burundi, Myanmar (Burma), Somalia, Vietnam, and Mexico.

The nine-week program brought six Crawford MVAS AVID students together with 40 other City Heights residents. Sponsoring the workshops were the City Heights Community Development Corporation, Environmental Health Coalition, International Rescue Committee, and Proyecto de Casas Saludables, through a grant provided by the California Endowment Building Healthier Communities Initiative.

For more information on the program, contact Diego L. Gutierrez, Principal, Crawford MVAS-IDEA at

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Historical Society picks student photo contest winners

Maddie Lyons, a second-grader at La Jolla Elementary School, won Best of Show at the second annual Student Photo Competition sponsored by the La Jolla Historical Society and Outside The Lens. Read more from the La Jolla Light»

Two Graduates Have Perfect Attendance

Erin Westgate and Principal Richard Nash.
Madison Principal Richard Nash and Erin Westgate.

Amelia Hilliger and Principal Pat Crowder
Principal Pat Crowder and Amelia Hillier of Patrick Henry High.
Two students in the Class of 2012 never missed a day from kindergarten through their graduation on June 12.

Erin Westgate of Madison High School and Amelia Hillier of Patrick Henry had perfect attendance all the way through their primary and secondary education.
Hiller, who will attend the University of Portland next year and pursue a career in nursing, told local media that some days were more difficult than others, but it was a goal she wanted to reach.

"I just really love school and I never wanted to miss out on learning anything. I hate the idea of missing the information," Amelia told U-T San Diego.

At graduation, she received advice from her principal, Pat Crowder.

"Let's see if you can do this all the way through college!," she said.

Westgate was second-team All Western League in Field Hockey and will attend Cal Poly-Pomona next year.

"For those of you counting, that is 2,330 consecutive days or 14,980 hours of attendance without missing a single day," said Marian Kim-Phelps, Area Superintendent, in introducing Westgate at Madison's commencement ceremony. Kim-Phelps noted that Erin began her schooling at Sequoia Elementary on Sept. 7, 1999.

Both students received certificates of achievement from Superintendent Tom Torlakson of the State of California and Bill Kowba from the San Diego Unified School district.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Retired Teachers Give a Dozen Scholarships

CalRTA 2012 Scholarship Winners
Front row left to right: Quynh Anh Nguyen, Roxanne
Capanzana, Kylie Anderson, Erica Le, Nataly Orozco
Sharon Vongvanith
Back row left to right: Kira Adsit, Gustavo
Flores, Maxwell Weishan, Michael Tran, Britta Henry, Holly Hirshi
San Diego members of the California Retired Teacher Association (CalRTA), Division 4 have given $1,500 scholarships to 12 graduating seniors.

The honorees have an average GPA of 3.92 and have applied for acceptance to top universities, including San Diego State, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UCSD, University of Arizona and University of Pennsylvania. Their diverse areas of study include biology, business, psychology, journalism, sports management and anesthesiology.

“CalRTA is proud of its scholarship program that recognizes deserving, hardworking and intelligent young people,” said Cindy Spillane, the organization’s membership co-chair. “It’s a great pleasure for CalRTA members to support and contribute to the education of San Diego students.”

High school seniors were judged on their academic achievement, school leadership, extracurricular activities, community and volunteer service, financial need, and work and home activities. They must be attending a four-year university after high school.

The students were honored at a luncheon June 2. The 2012 scholarship recipients are:
  • Kira Adsit, Scripps Ranch
  • Kylie Anderson, Clairemont
  • Roxanne Capanzana, Morse
  • Gustavo Flores, Point Loma
  • Britta Henry, Patrick Henry
  • Holly Hirschi, Madison
  • Erica Le, Crawford
  • Quynh Anh Nguyen, Kearny International Business
  • Nataly Orozco, Gompers Prep
  • Michael Tran, Mira Mesa
  • Sharon Vongvanith, The Preuss School UCSD
  • Maxwell Weishan, Serra

The Scholarship Foundation of CalRTA, Division 4, was established nearly 30 years ago. In the past 10 years, Division 4 has awarded more than $150,000 in scholarships to more than 100 students. For more information about the scholarship recipients or about CalRTA, contact Vi Huprich, president of CalRTA, Division 4, at or

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Shakespeare Meets Mann Middle School Students

Mann Middle School seventh and eighth grade theater students performed in Shakespeare's The Tempest, with Annielene Contreras taking home the Gold Medal for Festival Outstanding Actor, as the students participated in the annual Student Shakespeare Festival.

The annual Balboa Park event brings together kids from all over San Diego to celebrate "The Bard." In addition to Contreras, other students participating from Mann included Brianna Walker, Diamond Benson, Chelsea Marcus, Nyadhour Deng, Jalon Young, Pilar Cruz, Nathan you, Dionnejanae Ridley and Sarah Abdollah.

The production of The Tempest was a variant that created a parallel to The Wizard of Oz, using live puppets.

For more information, contact the Theater Teacher Maria Chistodoulou at or on the festival at

Friday, June 15, 2012

Safety Patrol Students Experience a Day with Navy SEALS

Students who are members of their schools' Safety Patrol, along with their sponsors in the San Diego Police Department, spent a recent day with the US Navy's Seals. Read more from the Zamarano Elementary School website»

2012 Salute to Excellence Honors Top One Percent

Photo Gallery
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They're now all high school graduates and most are headed to some of the top universities in America, but on June 4 they were still high school students and were honored as being the top one percent of the Class of 2012.

Receiving accolades from Board of Education President Dr. John Lee Evans, Board Members Shelia Jackson, Scott Barnett and Richard Barrera, Superintendent Bill Kowba and Deputy Superintendent Nellie Meyer were 99 students from 16 high schools.

"This is truly what education is all about," said Kowba. "Celebrate your high school achievement, then go on to repeat it at your new university."

The annual event brings students together from all high schools, where they receive a certificate and a medal marking their achievement. The ceremony was held at the Shiley Theater at the University of San Diego. Major sponsors of the event were California Coast Credit Union, Mission Federal Credit Union and University of San Diego.

The high school principals organized this year's celebration.
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Rosa Parks Students are 'Bikes for Kids' Recipients

Every month, NBC San Diego and the Salvation Army give away a bicycle to a deserving elementary school student.

In May's giveaway at Rosa Parks Elementary School, 10 students were the lucky recipients.

The extra-special giveaway was in honor of the 59th National Salvation Army Week, which was celebrated the week of May 14. Major Peacock and Marie Romo from the Salvation Army joined NBC San Diego reporter Whitney Southwick on May 15 to make the surprise presentation to students in grades 1-5.

Receiving the bikes were Brandon Diaz Fregoso, May Nguyen, Bryant Orantes, Sole Lapensee, Hai Lam, Catalina Nava, Abdirahman Abdi, Magali Perez, Andrew Le and Kayli Quezada. Students also received a free entry pass to the Salvation Army Kroc Center.

"Teachers nominated deserving students for various reasons, including perfect attendance, improvement in academics and great humanatarian efforts," said principal Carolanne Bugey.

For more information, contact Buguey at 619-282-6803. To nominate a deserving student go to the Salvation Army website.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

IN THE NEWS: City Heights Students Learn By Running Their Own Micro City

Three afternoons a week during the last hour of the day Joyner is not just an elementary school. It’s also a tiny city that the kids call Micro. That city is based on a framework developed by a nonprofit called MicroSociety. Read more from KPBS»

Farm Bus One Step Closer to Reality

Thanks to Whole Foods and its customers
Supt. Bill Kowba, left,
Whole Foods Marketing,
Liz Kahler, Board President
John Lee Evans, Whole
Foods Marketing Ray Kau,
Farm to School Specialist,
Vanessa Zajfen and Food
Services Director Gary Petill.
Whole Foods Markets in Hillcrest and La Jolla presented a check for $10,385.30 to San Diego Unified from their March "Five Percent Day" that supported San Diego Unified's Farm Bus program. Supt. Bill Kowba, Board President John Lee Evans along with Food Services Director Gary Petill and Farm to School Specialist, Vanessa Zajfen accepted the check.

The Farm Bus, a farm built inside a bus, was conceived to expand the Farm to School program by creating a living-learning lab that will travel to schools and engage students in concepts of sustainable agriculture and nutrition. The Farm Bus’s goal is to inspire healthy eating through interactive learning.

"Additional financing will be required for completion," said Zajfen, "but a big thank you is necessary to Whole Foods Market who stepped up from the beginning to support this project."

For more information about the Farm Bus Project contact Zajfen at or 858-627-7310.

Greening of Taft Middle School Brings Community Together

Planting in the garden The San Diego Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), in partnership with the Friends of Ruffin Canyon and the ACE Mentor Program, have completed the design and installation of an educational and native garden, "The HabiTaft Garden," for William H. Taft Middle School in Serra Mesa.

At the May 31 dedication, Principal Mike George welcomed guests, followed by remarks from San Diego Superintendent of Schools, Bill Kowba and Gary Petill, Food Services Director for the San Diego Unified School District. As part of the celebration there were demonstrations that included composting, worms,planting and native plants.

The 2011 Legacy Project for the ALSA, The HabiTaft Garden was selected because it presented an ideal forum for reconnecting children with the environment and exposing them to the practice of landscape architecture. Installation of the garden began in October 2011 with school officials, landscape architects, students and Friends of Ruffin Canyon digging in.

ASLA volunteers developed and hosted design workshops for ACE Mentor High School Students as part of the Legacy Project. The first workshop was heldat the site where the students learned how to prepare a site-analysis plan by observing and documenting existing site conditions. The subsequent workshops were held at The New School of Architecture and Design in downtown San Diego. These workshops led the students through the landscape architecture-design process from concept through construction documents.

During the workshops, students learned about the value and diversity of canyon land and watersheds in San Diego and how they related to their site. They learned about urban agriculture and the benefits of reconnecting to natural processes through gardening. The students documented their site-analysis, programmed the site, generated a master plan for the campus, and designed a small educational garden, which they helped construct at Taft Middle School.

In the next stage of the Legacy Project, Taft will develop curriculum that allows students to discover nature, investigate history, and celebrate culture through working and learning in the garden. The garden is universally accessible, providing opportunities where children of all abilities can explore San Diego¹s rich and diverse landscape. The Friends of Ruffin will use the garden¹s greenhouse to grow seedlings that will be planted in Ruffin Canyon, which is adjacent to Taft Middle School.The HabiTaft Garden Legacy Project celebrates the mission of the American Society of Landscape Architects, which is to lead, educate and participate in the careful stewardship, wise planning and artful design of our cultural and natural environments.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

SciTech at SD High Charges to Second Place in Solar Boat Race

The students on SciTech-San Diego High School’s Solar Cup team overcame a few electrical challenges with their solar powered boat during the endurance race at this year’s Solar Cup event to place second in the Southern Region. The team also placed second in the Southern Region for their public service announcement focused on being water wise all year long. Read more»

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Rosa Parks Students Make a Big Contribution

It was big news when John and Becky Moores donated several million dollars to the UC San Diego cancer center that now bears their name. But when fifth graders from Rosa Parks Elementary School, located in the low-income City Heights neighborhood, donate $6,600, in many respects it is even bigger news.

Harvest of the Month are Pixie Tangerines from Ojai

Ojai Pixie Ojai Pixie Tangerines are the June Harvest of the Month from the Food Services Department and will be enjoyed by students at the more than 30 schools that are on year-round schedules.

"The Pixie Tangerine comes only from this small valley high above on the lower central coast," said Vanessa Zajfen, Farm To School Specialist. "Pixie tangerines are pale orange colored, moderately juicy and always seedless."

Each month, cafeterias serve a Harvest of the Month that brings a fresh vegetable or fruit from a nearby field to our students. The Farm to School program connects schools and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities and supporting local and regional farmers.

For the Pixie Tangerine, students will learn that it was developed right here in Southern California, Howard B. Frost at the University of California Citrus Research Center at Riverside, in 1927. They grow only in the Ojai Valley, north of Santa Barbara.

A collective of 40 small family farmers works together to meet the high demand for their tangerines. Some of the orchards are small with just a few dozen trees, while others have several thousand. Each orchard is harvested individually when the fruit is at its peak.

"We think this will be very popular with all our students," said Zajfen. "Even our kindergarteners with their little fingers can enjoy this Pixie."

For more information, go to the Food Services website at and click on "Farm to School." The Pixie has its own website at

Monday, June 11, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Patrick Henry's Ameilia Hillier Has Perfect Attendance, K-12

Patrick Henry High student Amelia Hillier has had perfect attendance, from kindergarten through grade 12. She's NBC San Diego's Inspirational Student of the Month for June 2012. Watch video»
View more videos at:

IN THE NEWS: Newspaper picks Serra’s Woldt as co-Academic Athlete of the Year

During her stellar career, Serra’s Kelsey Woldt has experienced more than normal wear and tear. The multisport athlete has suffered a brain injury and undergone stitches and surgery. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune»

SD Science Alliance Honors Resource Teacher

The San Diego Science Alliance Partnership has named Mike Senise STEM Teacher of the Year. Senise is a member of San Diego Unified's Educational Technology Department.

Senise works on the district's i21 project, as well as the county-wide technology implementation and integration for the Middle School Science Education Leadership Initiative, a program of the San Diego Science Alliance, the UCSD Supercomputer Center, and various STEM grants such as the National Science Foundation Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education Grant with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

IN THE NEWS: SDG&E Launches Reduce Your Use Day Rewards

Through the San Diego Energy Challenge, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) area residents are eligible to earn their Reduce Your Use day rewards by saving energy, while also earning points for the SDUSD middle school of their choice by signing up at Read more from company news release»

Lincoln English Teacher is Summer Scholar with National Endowment for the Humanities

Gina M. Jackson, English teacher at Lincoln High School/Center for the Arts, has been selected as a 2012 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Scholar.

Chosen from a national applicant pool, Jackson will participate in “The Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, History and Culture of the Mississippi Delta,” where she will perform extensive research with cultural experts on the rich history and musical origin of this territory.

“It is an honor to have been chosen and be able to continuously incorporate the arts, culture and research into my daily work,” said Jackson.

An educator for more than 10 years, Jackson holds a B.A. in Speech Communication from Southern Illinois University, an M.A. in African American Studies from Clark Atlanta University, and an M.Ed./Preliminary Administrative Credential from National University.

Jackson is also active in San Diego’s arts and culture community. Her past and current Board affiliations include La Jolla Playhouse Partners; City of San Diego Horton Plaza Theatres Foundation; Young Audiences of San Diego; African American Council/San Diego Repertory Theatre; Friends of San Diego Public Library; Pazzaz, Inc. and San Diego Educational Theatre Association.

She serves as a Script Evaluator for Playwrights Project and a Grant Reader for the City of San Diego Arts and Culture Commission. Miss Jackson also works with diverse arts and educational projects/programs throughout Southern California and the country.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Rotarians award $150,000 to La Jolla graduates

The Rotary Club of La Jolla awarded $150,000 in college scholarships to 22 graduating La Jolla High School seniors during its May 22 luncheon at the La Valencia Hotel. Read more from the La Jolla Light»

Adams Elementary Hosts New SDSU President

Dr. Elliot Hirshmann, president of San Diego State University, recently hosted the Parent Institute for Quality Education graduation ceremony at Adams Elementary School in Normal Heights.

The Institute's Parent Engagement Education program is a nine-week class for parents and guardians that helps them foster a positive educational environment for kids at home and at school.

Adams Principal Derek Murchison said the campus was thrilled to have Dr. Hirshmann visit and meet the school's parents.

"We work on encouraging our students to go from Adams to Aztecs," said Murchison. "Dr. Hirshmann shared some wonderful stories about the importance of parent involvement.

"He encouraged all of our students to work hard so they can attend the college of their choice."

The Parent Engagement program gives parents tips such as setting up a study location for their kids, setting a specific time for study and homework and creating an open dialogue with their children.

For more information, contact Murchison at 619-284-1158.

Friday, June 8, 2012

IN THE NEWS: School board honors program inspired by Jewish pioneer

The San Diego Unified School District board voted unanimously Tuesday, June 5, to congratulate five USD students and their professor for a volunteer program to teach the German language to elementary school students who are part of a sister-school program inspired by San Diego’s pioneer Jewish settler Louis Rose at Cabrillo Elementary School. Read more from San Diego Jewish World»

From the Superintendent: Thoughts on the End of the School Year

Supt. Kowba
Tuesday, June 12, marks the last day of instruction for the traditional school year.

I want to extend my deepest gratitude for everyone’s hard work and dedication during a year of solid cluster development, sobering budget cuts, and collaborative sacrifices. You have stayed the course and continued to make our students the top priority. The wonderful teaming of staff, students, and parents is reflected in a solid trend of academic excellence.

Congratulations to the graduating Class of 2012, their parents and families. More than 7,000 seniors from the district’s 31 high schools will be attending their commencement ceremonies next Monday and Tuesday. We are proud of your achievements and wish you the very best in all future endeavors.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the administrators, certificated staff and classified employees who are retiring or leaving the district. Thank you for your countless years of service, loyalty, and commitment to public education. We will miss your expertise and experience and wish you well.

For those who will open our classrooms at the start of the new school year, we appreciate your steadfast focus on service to others and dedication to a job well done. In this incessantly resource-limited environment, we will go forward with a shared vision for student well-being and success. Please remember, the first day of school for students is Tuesday, September 4.

Again, thank you for all that you do for our students.

Bill Kowba

Observe Teen Curfew, Driving Rules This Summer

Curfew and driving laws in the State of California and the City of San Diego can affect teens' time off and should be known by students and their parents, according to San Diego Unified's School Police Chief.

"Curfew enforcement is intended to protect children from dangerous circumstances and people," said Rueben Littlejohn, interim police chief. "While it may be an inconvenience, it's important to make sure at home when the curfew starts at 10 p.m."

As teens have more free time during the summer, it means they have more opportunities to run afoul of these laws, which also include restrictions on teen drivers. The rules are enforced by the San Diego Police Department, California Highway Patrol and other local police agencies. A conviction can put a mark on a young person's record that might otherwise be clean, he said.

"The regulations also have sections with that affect parents," he said. "A teen who breaks the law may face punishment -- and so can their parents."

More information on the local laws

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lincoln High Completes 31-Hour Whirlwind Legislative Expedition

Lincoln High School students, teachers, parents, and community members joined the California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for the Annual Legislative Day at the State Capitol on May 21. The students advocated and lobbied California lawmakers on three pieces of legislation supported by the NAACP, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.

The Lincoln High community partnered with other Californians to learn about and advocate for passage of civil rights history education (AB 580), drug possession misdemeanor (SB 1506) and limiting education budge cuts in the 2012-13 budget bill. The Lincoln lobbying team met face-to-face with legislators and discussed the importance of the Civil Rights Movement in the lives of all Californians, and how we need to foster better understanding of the complexity of racial, social, economic and political challenges faced by citizens of our state by including the histories of our civil rights struggles in state curriculum (AB 580).

The San Diego contingent impressed upon lawmakers that only 6% of California’s population is African American, however 17% of felony drug arrests--19% of which are high school-aged students--are African Americans. To reduce the costs of incarceration in a time of austere state budgets, the NAACP supports making illegal drug possession intended for personal use a misdemeanor, with drug counseling over incarceration (SB1506).

Lincoln students began their lobbying journey aboard the NAACP-sponsored bus from Malcom X Library on Sunday night, May 20 and returned Tuesday, May 22 at 3 a.m., completing a 31-hour whirlwind legislative expedition.

“The experience was worth my time because we got to talk with legislators about bills that sometimes they may pay little attention to” said Octavio Guzman, 9th grade student, Lincoln High School Center for Social Justice.

For more information, contact Lincoln High teachers, Precious Hubbard-Jackson at; or Danny Blas at

Summer Fun Café Program Provides Free Lunches for Kids 18 and Under

 Download Schedule (PDF)
For San Diego’s kids there is such a thing as a free lunch this summer, as the Summer Fun Café opens in locations all over the city with a big barbecue kickoff coming up on Wednesday, June 20.

Kids are invited to bring their parents to the kickoff event, scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Skyline Hills Community Park, 8285 Skyline Dr. (92114). Lunch is free for anyone 18 and under – and at this event and BBQ events throughout the summer, for adults, too. The event will feature a special guest appearance by the San Diego Padres’ Friar and Pad Squad and a big bike drawing for seven bicycles and helmets.

For the ninth year, San Diego Unified School District is partnering with the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department to bring the USDA’s “Seamless Summer Feeding Option” to local children. At 69 locations around the city – including 26 parks, 30 schools and 13 other community sites including MCAS Miramar – lunch will be available to kids Monday-Friday. For the complete schedule and locations, go to select Summer Fun Café. County-wide information is at

There is no paperwork or qualifications required to enjoy lunch. Good nutrition is very important to a child’s growth and each parent can be assured that their child is getting a good lunch through this program. The barbecue kickoff will also include food bank distributions, Chef Alex Carballo’s cooking demonstrations, CalFresh prescreening, Power up Your Summer fruit and veggies games, lots of prizes, a Let’s Move dance flash mob, health screenings, immunizations, a resource fair, an inflatable jumper, music by Radio Latina and crafts.

For more information on the Summer Fun Café program contact Norma Johnson at or 858 627-7308.

Crawford Auto Students Get Rev’ved Up 4 Kids

Working on the engine
Students work on the engine.
For the second year in a row, Crawford High School automotive students competed in the Annual Edelbrock Rev’ved Up 4 Kids charity car event by participating in the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge Regional competition.

"The kids had to learn the inner workings of a small-block Chevy engine and practice as a five-person team to get fast enough to compete in the competition," said Carl Kingsbury, Crawford IDEA Automotive Technology instructor. The team had four students working on the engine, while the fifth kept the tools moving.

Events such as this stress teamwork and help the students understand the pressure that professionals sometimes feel when a customer "needs a repair yesterday."

"The event teaches the kids about paying attention to detail in building engines, team work, interacting with automotive professionals, and the spirit of competition," said Kingsbury.

The top teams from each region will earn their spot to compete at the National Finals in Las Vegas at the "Showdown at SEMA" in early November. Crawford's team again fell short, but the students learned from the experience.

"The experience was great," said Jose Barrios, the IDEA team's captain. "We did a lot better than last year and we are going to be better next year."

The top teams are honored with scholarships from Ohio Technical College, University of Northwestern Ohio and the School of Automotive Machinists. Crawford students took seventh place this year.

For more information, contact Kingsbury at 619-583-2500, ext. 4608.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

SD Unified Council of PTAs Donates 170,800 Volunteer Hours

Jose Gonzales and Barbara Flannery presenting check to Bill and Kevin
Barbara Flannery, Jose Gonzales, Superintendent Bill Kowba and Board Member Kevin Beiser 
 Arika Daniels, Bey-Ling Sha and Derby Pattengill
Arika Daniels, Bey-Ling Sha and Derby Pattengill 
 Bey-Ling Sha, Mary MacKenzie, Ann Marie Haney, Barbara Flannery
Bey-Ling Sha, Mary MacKenzie, Ann Marie Haney, Barbara Flannery 
 Barbara Flannery and Melissa Whipple
Barbara Flannery and Melissa Whipple 
The San Diego Unified Council of PTAs presented Supt. Bill Kowba with a mock check for $4,000,139, which represented the estimated dollar value of the 170,800 volunteer hours donated by PTA members this school year to the district. Board member Kevin Beiser joined the superintendent for the special presentation, which took place at the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs Founder’s Day Meeting on May 23.

“In reality, a dollar amount cannot be put on the volunteer hours given by PTA members each year,” said Kowba. “These committed volunteers are priceless to the district.”

The Council of PTAs also presented four service awards, recognized special unit PTAs who met the membership challenge and one National PTA award winner.

Mary MacKenzie and Mary Ann Haney accepted the Honorary Service Award presented to Community Council for Music in the Schools, a non-profit agency that revitalizes donated instruments to ensure that all San Diego Unified students have access to good musical instruments. The council also hosts the annual Honors Orchestra. The Honorary Service Award recognizes outstanding service to children and youth.

Melissa Whipple, family engagement resource teacher at the Ballard Parent Center, was presented an Honorary Service Award for her continuing support of student success through parent education. Melissa uses the National PTA Family Engagement Standards to frame her program.

PTA Council board members, Derby Pattengill and Bey-Ling Sha,each received Very Special Person award for outstanding service in the Our Children, Our Future [] ballot initiative – an initiative to solve the continuing school budget crisis.

Twelve district school PTAs were recognized with membership awards. Whitman Elementary PTA was recognized for its Family Evenings Science Week, which was funded by the National PTA “Take Your Family to School Week” grant. Benchley-Weinberger Elementary PTA was recognized by Ninth District PTA for Best Printed Newsletter and La Jolla High School PTA was recognized for Outstanding Continuing Program – Life 101.

The San Diego Unified Council of PTAs is comprised of 81 school-level PTAs in the San Diego Unified School District. To start a PTA at your school, contact Barbara Flannery at