Friday, March 30, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Madison High's New TV Studio On The Air

Morning news features new career facility, funded by voters' Proposition S. Students produce professional quality programming using state-of-the-art equipment. Watch video from KUSI-TV»

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Distinguished School Award Goes to Ten Elementary Campuses

California Distinguished School Eleven elementary schools in the San Diego Unified School District have been designated Distinguished Schools by the California Department of Education.

The schools are: Benchley Weinberger in San Carlos; Dingemen Elementary in Scripps Ranch; Doyle Elementary in University City; Hardy Elementary in the College Area; Holmes Elementary in Clairemont; Marvin Elementary in Allied Gardens; Kumeyaay Elementary in Tierrasanta; La Jolla Elementary in La Jolla;  Tierrasanta Elementary in Tierrasanta; Toler Elementary in Clairemont; Torrey Pines Elementary in La Jolla.

"This is truly a great honor for these schools, their students, principal, staff, parents, volunteers and the entire community," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "It's not easy to become a California Distinguished School. It requires great scores and a commitment by the staff to go through the lengthy state process."

The state makes the awards to elementary schools on even-numbered years, middle and high schools on odd-numbered years.

"The schools we are recognizing today demonstrate the incredible commitment of California’s teachers, administrators, and school employees to provide a world-class education to every student, in spite of the financial hardships facing our state and our schools," said Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. "Their dedication is inspiring, and I applaud and admire their passion and persistence."

Each school is unique to its neighborhood.
  • Benchley Weinberger in the San Carlos neighborhood focuses on teaching its students dynamic communications skills. Students produce, film, edit, direct and star in a news program broadcast throughout the school. Field trips to theater performances, museums, floating biology labs, along with art lessons, pen and e-pals, sign language, music, P.E., and assemblies promote artistic/alternative communication.
  • Dingeman Elementary is located in the Miramar Ranch North neighborhood of the Scripps Ranch community and is proud of its community connection: it is named after a local civic activist Bob Dingeman. The school's API exceeds 900 and the school mixes high academic standards with acknowledgement that parents, teachers and community members are all partners in education.
  • Doyle Elementary in the University City neighborhood, near UC San Diego, and is the school for many of children of the university's faculty, research scientists and graduate students. The enrollment includes children from more than 30 countries, speaking more than 20 languages and providing cultural diversity that makes for a rich educational experience. Parent and community volunteers help in classrooms throughout the campus and with special events, such as the annual International Festival.
  • Hardy Elementary School, adjacent to San Diego State University and enjoys strong partnerships with the university; the school is named after SDSU's president from 1910-35. The school has been certified by the district as Family Friendly, has an active PTA and involvement by parents and grandparents as volunteers. More than 100 students participated in the before-school Mileage Club, with runners learning important fitness and life lessons.
  • Holmes Elementary is located in a quiet corner of the Clairemont neighborhood. Its API exceeds 900 and it has been listed on the California Business for Education Honor Roll for two years. All teachers in grades 3-6 are certified for Gifted and Talented Education (GATE). The school's active PTA funds an award-winning art program, a music teacher and the computer lab. The campus includes a student garden, rock-climbing wall and a fitness obstacle-course.
  • Marvin Elementary is in the Allied Gardens neighborhood and relishes its community ties. Several of today's teachers were once Marvin students and the school's Parent Teacher Foundation plays an active role in the school and community. The school has a fully equipped science lab and full-time science teacher, an annual science fair, GATE and Seminar programs. The PTF also purchases books for the library, sponsors assemblies, and produces the variety show.
  • Kumeyaay Elementary is in the northern part of the Tierrasanta neighborhood and provides an enriched curriculum that includes science and music instruction funded through the school's foundation. Three teachers have received the prestigious certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The school has "Caught Being Good Slips," where a student is given the award for random acts of kindness. Military family support is important, with nearby base housing.
  • La Jolla Elementary School is a historic campus located in "downtown" La Jolla. With an active foundation and parent community. The focus is on creating lifelong learners, enthusiastic readers and critical thinkers. Sciences are also important, with oceanography units that help kids learn about the nearby Pacific Ocean. The PTO and Foundation have helped create a beautiful campus learning environment and hold regular events keep the community involved.
  • Tierrasanta Elementary is in the center of the Tierrasanta neighborhood. Parents and community members volunteer in classrooms and provide enrichment programs and special projects. In addition, Art Corps, student recognition, gardening classroom volunteering, as well as the school’s and website, offer multiple ways for parents and community members to become involved.
  • Toler Elementary is located in the southwest part of the Clairemont community, overlooking Mission Bay. Toler parents volunteer in the classroom and serve on various decision-making groups, such as the Parent Teacher Association, School Site Council, Site Governance Team, and English Learner Advisory Committee. Toler parents participate in recognition assemblies, student activities, family events, student performances, and Family Academic Nights.
  • Torrey Pines Elementary is located high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Its proximity to the UC San Diego campus provides an opportunity for collaboration with an institute of higher learning. It consistently ranks as one of the top performing elementary schools in San Diego County and is in the top five percent of schools in the state. It has a very active parent involvement program, spearheaded by the Torrey Pines Elementary School Foundation.
For more information from the state Department of Education, go to For a list of San Diego Unified distinguished schools through the years, go to this web page.

Nominate Someone who Goes Above and Beyond for Students with Disabilities

Each spring, the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Special Education honors individuals who go "Above and Beyond" for district students with disabilities. Nominations are now being accepted for the annual "Above and Beyond" awards that recognize parents, staff members, students and community members who exemplify the district's commitment to high expectations for all students. The deadline to submit nominations is April 12, 2012.

Information and nomination forms can be found on the CAC website. With questions, e-mail or leave a message for the CAC at 619-725-7650.

Challenger, dePortola Students Take Fitness Tips from Marines

Fitness instructors from MCAS Miramar have made recent visits to middle schools to help students stay in shape.
The Marines worked out students at de Portola Middle School in Tierrasanta and Challenger Middle School in Mira Mesa. Exercises included pushups, tug of war and relay races, instructed by the Marines as they would new recruits.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Volunteer readers, mentors find the tasks rewarding

Irene Corey each Tuesday spends a half-hour reading to preschool students at Herbert Ibarra Elementary school. The 82-year-old former teacher says the volunteer work with Rolling Readers has made her feel needed and valued. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune»

Mira Mesa High Air Force JROTC Cadet Recognized

Samantha Nguyen
 Samantha Nguyen

Samantha Nguyen, Cadet Colonel Wing Commander for Mira Mesa High School Air Force JROTC, has been named the Air Force Association California Cadet of Year.

She was chosen for this prestigious award based on her high academic achievements, leadership excellence, extensive community service, and all around brilliance in all aspects of citizenship.

Scott Giusti, Mira Mesa High Principal, recognized Nguyen for her persistent efforts and dedication to the school and her community.

The Association recognizes excellence in the education and aerospace fields through national awards programs. She'll officially receive the honor next month at the Association's California convention in Palm Springs.

To learn more about the Mira Mesa High's Air Force JROTC program please, go to For more information, please contact Mira Mesa High Vice-Principal, Sara Leonard at

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Major Donation from Masons Makes Scholarships, Reading Program Possible

Presenting the donation
San Diego City Council
Member Marti Emerald,

 left, joins San Diego Unified 
Board President  Dr. John Lee
 Evans, Superintendent Bill Kowba,
and John Heisner, 

Grand Orator, Masons of California.
The Masons of California have donated $178,000 to support reading and scholarship programs around the county, including schools in the San Diego Unified School District.

Through the Raising A Reader Literacy Partnership, California Masons are bringing the award-winning Raising A Reader literacy program to kindergarten classrooms in the lowest-performing public schools throughout the state, turning the page for literacy and increasing life opportunities for thousands of children at risk for learning failure. Masons’ donations are enabling this acclaimed program to reach hundreds of California public school students for the first time.

The fraternity’s Investment in Success Scholarship Program, which launched last spring, provides college scholarships for deserving high school seniors who demonstrate an active pursuit of education in spite of significant obstacles. Students who receive these scholarships demonstrate exemplary character, drive, and scholastic potential, despite challenges in their homes or communities.

Board of Education President Dr. John Lee Evans and Superintendent Bill Kowba were joined by San Diego City Council Member Marti Emerald to accept the check from John Heisner, Grand Orator, Masons of California during a March 26 ceremony at Central Elementary School in City Heights.

The Masons of California have helped make public education a focal issue in California since their 1920 introduction of Public Schools Week, now celebrated statewide as Public Schools Month each April. The donation to support teachers and students in San Diego County schools is presented as part of the fraternity’s annual Public Schools Month kickoff celebration. Events will be held throughout California this March and April, with statewide donations amounting to more than $750,000.

To learn more about the Masons of California/Raising A Reader partnership, please visit: or contact the California Masonic Foundation at

Monday, March 26, 2012

Award Winning Mission Comes from Barnard Elementary

Ashlee and her mission.
Ashlee Alaoan, fourth grader in Ms. Cornell’s class at Barnard Mandarin Chinese Magnet School, has received the top prize from the San Diego History Center's Fourth Grade Mission Construction Contest.

Ashlee’s construction consisted of plastic foam blocks, cat litter, string, cardboard and painted toothpicks. She modeled the Mission Santa Barbara.

The contest is designed to help students understand San Diego's Spanish colonial period; California history is the fourth grade social studies curriculum. The mission projects give students a concrete understanding of the early settlement of California and the impact these missions had on the Native people, land and culture.

The San Diego History Center collaborated with San Diego Unified School District for this first annual event.

Ashlee's mission and five other winners will be displayed at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park and at the Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park. For more information on the contest go to

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Morse, Boone Students Join in Engineering Study

High school and elementary school students generally don't mix, but an innovative program the joins Boone Elementary and Morse High school is helping to train the engineers of tomorrow ... and the day after.

Whether it's completing a tower in 10 minutes or practical application of math, the Morse High MESA (Math, Engineering and Science Achievement) program students and their counterparts in the fifth grade at nearby Boone Elementary are finding it fun to learn some of the subjects that students find most challenging.

"It's fantastic to see these teenagers from Morse working with our fifth graders," said Dr. Mary Cannie, Principal at Boone. "They're a combination of teacher, mentor and brother or sister to our kids."

The two Skyline neighborhood schools partnered on a recent science night at the Boone campus. Projects included building a free-standing tower using two sheets of construction paper and masking tape.. all in ten minutes. In addition to having fun, Boone students were able to see the practical application of math and science in building their towers (some of which toppled over with a slight breeze).

The high school mentors were just as excited about the program. The numbers of high school students interested in serving as mentors is increasing as the word of the partnership spreads across the Morse campus.

The program is under the direction of Morse math teacher Lourdes Sanchez, with the Boone partnership funded through the College Career and Technical Education department's 21st Century grant.

For more information, contact Dr. Cannie at (619) 479-3111.

Friday, March 23, 2012

IN THE NEWS: KPBS Local Hero is Teacher Michelle Houlle

At county's Lindsay Community School, she helps expectant and parenting mothers finish their high school education. Watch video from KPBS»

Dingeman Elementary Students Cutting Trash Output

Recycle group shot
The Green Team.
If you notice a third grader at Dingeman Elementary School rummaging through a trash can, don't be alarmed. He's probably just part of the school's Ecology Academy, which has helped triple the school's recycling since September.
Lead by teacher Sara Church and Janet Whited, the district's rubbish and recycling specialist, the school's Green Team has been making steady progress and at the same time educating the rest of the campus on how to cut down on waste.

"The kids are really cool about this and they look at themselves as ambassadors," said Church. "If they see someone putting the wrong items in the trash or in recycling, they will politely ask them to put them in the right place."

After researching that the average person can generate as much as four pounds of trash a day, the students were inspired to not only reduce that number for the school, but to save it money. The district's waste contract allows free recycling bins and pickup as needed but trash dumpsters are charged. The students inspected trash cans in each classroom for several days to determine what was going where.

Among their recycling ideas are to cut down on disposal of plastic water bottles by encouraging use of the old-fashioned drinking fountains at the school. They're researching whether filters can be put on the fountains and whether reusable metal bottles can replace plastic.

The school has an innovative program where the third grade teachers get to "teach their passion" each week, said Church. Other subjects include music, science, and world peace. Students can choose their subject and are pooled with kids from other classes.

At the school's upcoming Spring carnival, scheduled for April 29, the Green Team will be out in force, having a booth with recycling ideas as well as helping with recycling at the event.

In the meantime, the Green Team members, back in their home classrooms, are competing to see which third grade class can recycle the best and coming up with new ideas to save the world.

For more information, contact Church at and Whited at

Thursday, March 22, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Pt. Loma High students reap rewards of motivational tutoring program

In the San Diego Unified School District, Reality Changers has opened aSenior Academy on three high school campuses: Lincoln, Madison and PointLoma.

iMiddle Students Demonstrate Projects at Conference

iMiddle student
 An iMiddle student demonstrates his netbook.
Many of the 3,500 attendees at this year's Computer-Using Educators (CUE) Conference in Palm Springs were impressed by the student-created projects from Innovation Middle School.

Students from iMiddle demonstrated their curriculum-based technology projects at the Student Technology Showcase, including math podcasts, science simulations, 3D models of the Great Wall of China, history videos and much more.

The showcase was sponsored by The California Department of Education, California Technology Assistance Project and CUE. The showcase was a great opportunity for teachers and others conference attendees from around California to see effective technology integration in student-generated classroom projects.

For more information, contact Harlan Klein, Principal, at (858) 278-5948.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Green Flashmob Surprises High School Students

Green Green Elementary Athletic and Academic School students surprised neighboring Patrick Henry High students with a "Green" flashmob recently. The elementary students walked the half-mile to Patrick Henry where they ate lunch and then surprised the high schoolers when they started dancing. The high school students surrounded the "Green" flashmob in amazement as the students danced in sync to three songs.
Green Elementary Athletic and Academic School is widely known for its belief that a healthy body and mind creates the best environment for successful learning.  Through activities such as dance, gymnastics, sports skills, weekly PE along with access to a fitness lab on site, Green keeps the students motivated in a healthy lifestyle.
For more information, contact Principal Bruce Ferguson at 619-460-5755.

From the Superintendent: Testing Season Is Here

Dear Parent/Guardian:

This spring, your child will take several very important tests at school as part of the California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. STAR results help us monitor your child’s achievement and, along with other information, help teachers make decisions about each student’s academic needs. The STAR results are also used by the state to calculate the Academic Performance Index (API) that determines whether schools in California are making progress in improving student achievement. In addition, STAR results are used to determine whether schools and districts are making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as required by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001. State and federal law require that at least 95 percent of the students at each school participate in the state testing. If you do not want your child to participate in the STAR program, you must complete a Parent/Guardian Request to Exempt Student form available from your child’s school.

Students in Grades 2 through 8 will be tested on the California Standards Tests (CSTs), which measure how well students are meeting state standards in English language arts and mathematics. Students in Grade 8 will also be assessed on state history/social science standards and students in Grades 5 and 8 will be assessed on state science standards. Students in Grades 4 and 7 will take a Writing Standards Test where they will write an essay.

Students in Grades 9 through 11 will be tested on the CST, which measure how well students are meeting state standards in English language arts, mathematics, history/social science, and science.
Students in Grade 10 will be administered an additional Life Science Standards test as required by NCLB. Limited English-proficient students: In addition to the STAR tests, Spanish-speaking students in grades 2 through 11 who have been enrolled in schools in the United States for less than 12 months or who are participating in the district’s biliteracy program will be given the Standards-Based Test in Spanish (STS).

Students with special needs: Most students with special needs take the California Standards Tests (CSTs) with all other students under the same conditions. Accommodations will be made for students whose Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or Individual Service Plans (ISPs) indicate the need for special assistance. Certain students with moderate to profound disabilities who are unable to participate in more traditional testing will be administered the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA). Some students in Grades 3 through 11 will take the California Modified Assessment (CMA), which serves as an alternate assessment to the CSTs for students who meet specific criteria, have been identified by students’ IEP teams, and are not eligible to take the CAPA.

The teachers and staff at your child’s school are dedicated to making sure that all students receive the support they need to meet the state standards and do well on the STAR tests. Please contact your child’s teacher to learn about the extra programs and services that are available to help your child be successful.

I encourage you to discuss with your child the importance of doing his/her best on these upcoming tests. The results of your child’s tests will be mailed to your home within 20 days of their arrival in the district, and you should be in receipt of those results prior to the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

Bill Kowba Bill Kowba

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lots To See At Food Services Website

Enjoying lunch
Enjoying lunch at Central Elementary School
Whether you want nutrition information about our menus or access to free and reduced-price meal applications, the Food Services Department website is easy to navigate and full of a wide range of resources to guide families to make schools meals the healthy choice.Our website is where you will find information on:
  • Programs: Kid’s Choice Café in elementary schools feature entrée choices and salad bars with fresh greens, fruits and vegetables and a variety of toppings.

  • Breakfast in the Classroom where breakfast is eaten at your desk.

  • SanDi Coast Café in secondary schools features salad bars and themed carts that are spread throughout the campus to reach students.

  • Summer Fun Café offers meals to children during the summer months when school is out at locations including schools, parks and other sites.

  • Farm to School connects schools to local farms by including local produce in the school menus. Learn how to become a Good Food Champion for your school. Keep up with Farm to School news on the F2S blog and “Like us” on Facebook at San Diego USD at Farm to School or follow us on Twitter at sdfarmtoschool.

  • Menus: Find what is on all the menus today or next week!

  • Nutrition and Allergens: Make educated choices based on the nutrient profile and allergen information of current menu items.

  • Nutrition Resources: For teachers, there are links to nutrition education and garden-based resources. In the works is a nutrition resource page for families.

  • Special Diets: Find information on how to request medically necessary special diets.

  • Free and Reduced-Price Meal Applications: Apply to receive federally subsidized free meals for the SDUSD students in your family. Applications are accepted year-round.

  • PayPams: Pre-pay for school meals by a variety of methods including online through PayPams.

  • Employment Opportunities: In our “Join the Food Services Team” section, learn about jobs available in the Food Services Department.

  • Kid’s Choice News, Promotions, Contests, Activities: Includes a variety of activities and news about nutrition related topics and the Food Services Department.

Clairemont High Revved Up Over New Automotive Facility

Dedicating Auto Shop
Students and staff open the new auto shop.

 Students and staff open the new auto shop.
Principal Lenora Smith, Teacher Larry Engelbrecht and students in Clairemont High School’s Automotive Technology Program were excited to show off their new automotive facility during its recent official dedication ceremony. Board President John Lee Evans and Deputy Superintendent of Academics Nellie Meyer joined Marston Middle School students, Clairemont High students, industry professionals, and community members in celebrating the occasion.

The new College, Career & Technology (CCTE) facility includes a 32-student-classroom that is housed in a remodeled 3,420-square-foot auto shop area. The buildings provide an industry-standard facility that supports certification by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).

The $2.6 million CCTE is funded by Proposition S and a California Proposition 1D matching-fund grant, which can only be used for capital facility improvements.  Construction began in April 2010 and was completed in November 2011. The project partners for the new automotive facility were Zagrodnik + Thomas Architects and Sraightline Construction. 

These professional facilities help prepare students for work in the commercial automotive industry, enabling instruction and practice in such areas as engine performance, steering and suspension, electrical and mechanical components and brakes. This career and technical education prepares students for careers in the transportation industry , which has a high demand for qualified technical employees.  In addition to the coursework requirements in English, math, science and humanities for entry into the University of California or California State University, students are offered the following sequence of courses in the career pathway:  transportation technology 1 and 2 (grades 9 and 10), NATEF brakes and suspension (grade 11); and NATEF automotive technology (grade 12).
For more details on Prop. S or CCTE, visit or You may also call (619) 725-7252 for additional information.

Congratulations to Spelling Bee Contestants

Congratulations and good luck to all the school winners that competed in Wednesday's 2012 San Diego County School Spelling Bee.

The annual Union-Tribune San Diego County wide Spelling Bee pits winners from middle schools throughout the county with the winner advancing to the state competition and the chance to represent San Diego County in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
Winners of the school competitions are:
  • CPMA, Amanda Hoffman
  • de Portola, Jacob Patterson
  • Farb, Alyssa Black
  • Grant K-8, Alexis Corl
  • iMiddle, Julie Tran
  • Lewis, Jabril King-Mahdi
  • Marshall Middle, Jackson Rogers
  • Muir K-12, Christian Blanco
  • Pacific Beach Middle, Nathaniel Pick
  • Pershing, Paul Osuna III
  • Standley Middle School, Hammad Afzal
  • Wangenheim Middle School, Brendan Foley
Read about the competition»

Monday, March 19, 2012

Anti-Synthetic Drug Bill Supported By School Police

Officer Montana
 Officer Montana
San Diego Unified School District Police Officer Jesus Montana recently represented the department in a news conference announcing a bill now in the state legislature that would ban sales of synthetic drugs, including the well-known "spice."

Assemblymember Ben Hueso announced the proposed law March 9, which bans possession of synthetic drugs in California. The bill, co-authored by Senator Juan Vargas (D-Chula Vista) and Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego), and sponsored by the community group People Against Spice Sales, serves as testament to its importance and broad support.

“This bill fulfills a promise I made to the community last year when we first took on this important public health and safety issue,” said Hueso. “I am committed to taking every step necessary to protect our youth and taking these dangerous drugs off the streets.”

Montana added that the bill includes provisions for education and cooperation. It will also allow schools to discipline students for possession on school grounds.

"This bill will allow schools and law enforcement work together to educate and protect our students from getting themselves into our hospitals and our morgues."
Synthetic drugs, commonly known as "Bath Salts” or “Spice” simulate the effects of other dangerous substances such as methamphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, PCP, and other drugs. However synthetic drugs are made up of powerful and toxic chemical compounds, and their use has been known to cause deaths, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks, increased heart rates and suicidal thoughts.

Last year, Hueso authored Assembly Bill 486, a new law that made it a misdemeanor to sell synthetic drugs. The law went into effect in October of last year. AB 2420 will provide additional protections to our communities by clarifying that possession of these toxic chemicals is illegal and ensuring that law enforcement has the ability to prosecute those who possess these dangerous drugs in our communities.

“As a parent and a legislator, I feel a sense of obligation to do everything we can to protect our children. I am proud to support this tough measure to provide better protections and enforcement against the use of harmful substances that have taken lives,” said Fletcher. “It’s critical legislation necessary to keep San Diego’s communities safe.”

“I’m pleased to be working with bipartisan members of California’s Legislature to ensure that public safety continues to be a top priority!” said Senator Vargas. “We were fortunate to get these dangerous substances off the shelves. Now, it’s time to eradicate them all together.”

AB 2420 has already received support from several local officials and law enforcement agencies such as the San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne, Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, and the Mayor of Poway.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

IN THE NEWS: La Jolla Cluster Screens Teen Stress Film

Real-life examples of stressed-out teens are explored in the documentary, “Race to Nowhere,” which will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22 in Parker Auditorium at La Jolla High School. The La Jolla Cluster Association will host the presentation. The film will be followed by a panel discussion. Middle school and high-school students are welcome to attend. Read more from the La Jolla Light»

SD Met Students, Staff Present at Principals Conference

Interviewed in Tampa
Students Janelle, left, and Elaine talk to the conference videographer.
San Diego Met High School sophomores Elaine Kunkee and Janelle Spikes joined staff from school in making a presentation on how the Met created a school culture that improves student achievement at a recent national conference.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals Breaking Ranks Conference heard the presentation, "The Fuel of Reform: Creating a School Culture That Utilizes Data to Improve Student Achievement" during its March 8-10 conference. Principal Mildred Phillips and four school staff members joined the students at the conference.

"I can't believe all the adults that wanted to hear my opinion at the conference," said Kunkee. "They asked about my internships and college classes, and made me feel like a celebrity on camera! It was a once in a lifetime experience I'll never forget."

This annual conference convenes school leaders, teachers, and students from the nation's top middle and high schools to discuss effective practices, programs, and strategies with colleagues from across the country.

"I learned so much, and will always remember the opportunity to travel across the country and be thankful for the experience," said Spikes.

For additional information contact Phillips at or (619) 388-2297.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Crawford Automotive Technology Program Spotlighted

Students at Crawford High's Automotive Technology program take reporter Brad Perry on a tour of their facility. Watch video from KUSI-TV»

Bus Farm Rolling Onto Completion Thanks to Whole Foods

Artists concept
 Artists' concept of the Bus Farm.
Interior concept
The San Diego Unified School District’s innovative new Bus Farm project is gaining momentum thanks to Whole Foods Markets in Hillcrest and La Jolla. The stores will donate 5 percent of their net sales on Wednesday, March 21, to support the new Bus Farm.

Events at the 5 Percent Day will include student art displays and professional designers’ visions of the Bus Farm, chefs creating dishes using fresh local produce, and blender bike powered smoothie samples.

The Hillcrest store will feature its Metro Chef Dennis Horton and South Park’s Alchemy chef Ricardo Heredia working with aspiring student chefs. At the La Jolla store, Kari Rich, chef of the Food Farm food truck will dish up her creations to support the event.

The Bus Farm, a farm built inside a bus, was conceived to expand San Diego Unified's 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 Bus Farm’s goal is to inspire healthy eating through interactive learning.

Bus Farm activities will take place from 2-6 p.m. at the Hillcrest store, 711 University Avenue, and from 4-7 p.m. at the La Jolla store, 8825 Villa La Jolla Drive.

For more information email Vanessa Zajfen, Farm to School Specialist at

There's No Place Like "Holmes" for Special Friendships

Holmes Circle of Friends Holmes was the first elementary school in the district to start a Circle of Friends, the social language skills program of inclusion that provides valuable support for students with special needs. It is based on the establishment of friendships between students with disabilities and their trained, nondisabled peers through meaningful interaction in a natural environment. Circle of Friends clubs can be found throughout the district at all school levels:  elementary, middle and high schools.
During Circle of Friends at Holmes Elementary, groups of one to two students with special needs join three to four general education students for 35 minutes. The students eat lunch, play board games and participate in structured, cooperative activities such as making friendship bracelets, creating cards and playing Buddy Bingo. During the holidays, the Circle of Friends had a Halloween mummy contest, played Pin the Feathers on the Turkey and decorated Christmas cookies.
Circle of Friends gives students with special needs the opportunity to learn conversational language skills and work on developing positive peer relationships. The general education students learn how to be patient, tolerant and accepting of the students with special needs. The program promotes teamwork, cooperation and working together.
To learn more about Holmes Elementary School, contact Principal Jonathan Saipe at For more information about Circle of Friends, contact Brittni Weaver, speech pathologist, at

Friday, March 16, 2012

Zoo Takes Over Paradise Hills Classes

Armadillo in class
Armadillo in class.
Paradise Valley Elementary School went wild recently as animals and keepers from the World Famous San Diego Zoo brought critters and experiments so second graders could learn more about the world's ecosystem.

The main topic was the dangers of trash to animals. The deaths of many animals have been attributed to them eating trash; students dressed up like real scientists and dissected "animals" (plastic animals in colorful goo) to find actual trash in their digestive tracts.

"After those experiments, our students pledged to help wild animals by picking up trash that is on the ground and putting it in the right place -- the trash can," said Principal Marisol Marin. Other classes were able to touch live animals such as a Chilean armadillo and a African Pygmy falcon.

The San Diego Zoo has many programs for the children of San Diego. This particular program helps youngsters learn how can make a difference for conservation, what to do, when to do it, and how to tell others. For more information on the Zoo's programs, go to its website,

To learn more about Paradise Valley Elementary School, contact Principal Marin at (619) 479-3145.

Parents Invited to Serve on District Anti-bullying Advisory Committee

San Diego Unified is looking for parents to serve on the Safe Schools Advisory Group. This group advises the district on how to make sure our students are safe from bullying (including cyber-bullying), harassment and intimidation while at school, at school events, on school buses or even outside of school hours if the intention is to be carried out at school

Parent perspectives are important because parents see the effects of bullying that teachers often don't see.
Parents are invited to join any of the following subgroups:
  1. Curriculum Development Subgroup: Develop curriculum and work with teachers and sites to prevent student-to-student bullying, harassment and intimidation. Guide and assist teachers and sites to implement Senate Bill 48. Contact: Matt Hayes at 619-725-7138.
  2. Communications Subgroup: Communicate district-wide about the work of the Safe Schools Advisory Group; maintain Safe Schools website; share information with community groups on how to support anti-bullying efforts. Contact: Sandra Salom for Bernie Rhinerson at 619-725-5504.
  3. Staff Training Subgroup: Design and train all staff members on student-to-student bullying prevention that includes discussion, information, and/or instruction about the district's anti-bullying strategies and non-discrimination policies and procedures, reporting and investigation requirements, effective interventions to employ when witnessing bullying, harassment or intimidation, and cultural sensitivity related to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Contact: Marge Kleinsmmith-Hildebrand at 619-725-7123.)
  4. Student/Parent Involvement Subgroup: Work directly with parent and student groups (i.e., PTA/PTSA, GSA, ASB) to promote anti-bullying on our school campuses. Contact: Agin Shaheed at 858-490-8691.
  5. Community Resources Subgroup: Work directly with community stakeholders from youth-oriented organizations to provide support and resources to the Safe Schools Advisory Committee. Contact: Denise Serrano for Delores Jacobs at 619-692-2077 x103.
Here is the District Policy on bullying, harassment and intimidation.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Honor Shows Next Week, Weekend

Next Thursday, March 22, Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24, three performances will take place that highlight some of the best musicians and actors in San Diego.

On Thursday, 203 students from 43 San Diego Unified elementary and K-8 schools will be performing on the stage at Brown Chapel at Pt. Loma Nazarene University in the annual Elementary Instrumental Honor Concert. Every school has a story to tell; here's just one. At Sandburg Elementary, music teacher Harvey Tellinghuisen, a recent Southern-Border Section Outstanding Music Educator from the California Association of Music Educators, is bringing a dozen students.

On Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, Serra High School's theater, students in the Honor Theater program will be performing in two plays, According to Clowns.

If you get a chance, attend this concert and play. Show you support the students who are tomorrow's stars.

Hoover's Green Construction Technology Facility Dedicated

Ribbon cutting at Hoover
Hoover students and staff join Board
of Education member Shelia Jackson
at the facility's dedication.
The cutting-edge Green Construction Technology building at Hoover High School, a true model of green construction that serves as an educational lab for teaching students about renewable technologies in construction, including photovoltaic solar systems, renewable and recycled building products and energy efficiency, is now open.

Students in Hoover High School's Sustainable Academy of Building and Engineering recently helped dedicate the 5,700-square-foot College, Career and Technical Education facility, which features a modern commercial wood shop set in an industrial arts classroom.

Immediately following the Feb. 29 dedication ceremony, Academy students built derby cars and learned about alternative energy and fuel efficiency vehicles. The Academy focuses on sustainable building techniques and career opportunities in the energy and construction fields.The Green Construction Technology building recently earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Sliver Certification by the Green Building Certification Institute.
The nearly $3.9 million Green Construction Technology Facility was funded by San Diego Unified School District’s Proposition S and California Proposition 1D matching-funds grant, which can only be used for capital facility improvements. The project partners for the new facility were Group Cristilli Architects and Soltek-Pacific Construction. For more details on Prop. S or CCTE, visit or, or call (619) 725-7252.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

IN THE NEWS: La Jolla student among top young scientists

Meredith Lehmann, a 16-year-old senior at La Jolla High School, is passionate about engineering, music and community service. But it took an accident for her to become an expert on how air and long-distance automobile travel affect the spread of epidemics.

In middle school, she planned to research an entirely different topic for a science fair project but a form was mislaid by a teacher.

Thinking on the fly, Meredith pivoted toward the field of study that eventually landed her among 40 finalists Tuesday in the Intel Science Talent Search, a competition bringing together the nation’s most promising young scientists in Washington, D.C. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune»

Board Approves 2012-13 Student Instructional Calendars

The Board of Education has approved the 2012-13 student instructional calendars for traditional and year-round schools. The information is posted on the district website at The calendars are based on 180 instructional days and are subject to change.

New Booklet for Kids Traces Food's Path from Farm to Table

Farm 2 Table Adventure Just how does food get from the farm to your table?

A new book for kids is now available that helps kids understand where their food is grown and how local farms can help them be healthier.

Created in collaboration with San Diego Unified's Food Services department, Farm to Table Adventure is full of fun coloring, guessing and imagination building activities that teach children why where there food comes from is an important thing to know, as well as building strong case for why local foods keep children healthy and strong, according to Vanessa Zajfen, San Diego Unified's Farm to School Specialist.

"The content for this booklet was written by FSD staff and illustration created by an amazing Australian design firm," she
For more information, contact Zajfen at

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Scripps, San Diego High JROTC Academic Teams Head East

San Diego High School team.
Teams from Scripps Ranch High School Air Force JROTC and San Diego High School Army JROTC are heading to the final round of the College Options Foundation JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl in June, with San Diego Unified becoming the only district in the nation that qualified two teams.

The San Diego High School team placed first against other Army JROTC squads in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington and will compete in the Army JROTC Academic Championship for a chance to compete in the JROTC Tri-Service Academic Bowl Championship.

Scripps Ranch High School team.
The Scripps Ranch team topped others from Arizona, California, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. They'll compete against 15 other teams at the Air Force JROTC Academic Championships to go on to the JROTC Tri-Service Academic Bowl Championship.

Both championships will be held June 22-26, 2012 in Washington, DC. The program is sponsored by the College Options Foundation, which helps students prepare for and get to college.

"Congratulations to both our teams’ achievement," said LTC David Guzman, director of San Diego Unified's JROTC programs. "We look forward to seeing them succeed in Washington, D.C."

For more information, please contact Guzman at

Monday, March 12, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Education is the key minority males told

African American/Latino Male Leadership Summit motivated students. Read more from San Diego Union-Tribune»

Buffalo Soldiers Visit Johnson Elementary

Buffalo Soldiers in class. The past came alive recently for second graders in Janice Anderson's second grade classroom at Johnson Elementary when members of the famed Buffalo Soldiers unit of the U.S. Army visited from the late-1800s.

Although dressed in period uniforms, the visitors were actually Carl Wright, Shelley White, John Roper and Robert Joyce. Wright and White are sons of original Buffalo Soldiers; all are members of the the San Diego Chapter Buffalo Soldiers -- 9th and 10th Cavalry Association, an organization that helps keep the memory alive of two cavalry units and two all-black infantry regiments that were part of the Army from 1866 to the 1950s.

The second graders learned another part of the integration struggle, as this all-Black unit helped protect settlers, cattle herds and railroad crews in the west.

"I think the students better understand that the fight for integration did not begin in with only during the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but in actually many years before with groups like the Buffalo Soldiers," said Ms. Anderson.

They wore the uniforms of the Buffalo Soldiers and showed photographs. History came alive via a lesson that was engaging, relevant to the student’s interests, and appropriate to their age level. After the lesson, the Buffalo Soldiers held a question-and-answer session, and two students won Buffalo Soldiers t-shirts, which they wore with pride.

The San Diego Chapter Buffalo Soldiers – 9th and 10th Cavalry Association is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that helps in educating the public about the existence of the Buffalo Soldiers while preserving, promoting and perpetuating the history, tradition and outstanding contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers toward the development and defense of the United States of America.

Located in the Emerald Hills neighborhood, Johnson Elementary is a magnet school for students who have curious minds and interests in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The STEM-focused education of the program prepares students for further study in these areas and for careers in this highly sought after career field.

For more information, contact principal Tracey Jenkins-Martin at 619-264-0103.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

50 JROTC Students Headed to Camp at SDSU This Summer

Science in 2011
Camp for 50 JROTC students will be this summer at San Diego State University, as they'll be part of the College of Engineering's science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) camp this summer.
For the second-year program, students will follow much the same routine as the 2011 class. The campers will be looking at engineering, bio-medical, robotics and nursing at the university level, with hands-on experiments such as building remote control robotic devices, studying robotic programming and learning the anatomy of the human heart

Other course projects include the understanding of how the circulatory system functions, making a heart pump, doing a laparoscopic surgery activity, creating a rocket-powered car, attempting to fly an airplane through the use of flight simulators, exploring the use of solar panels and experimenting with hydrogen fuel cell cars.

The program is funded by the Army's JROTC Cadet Command and includes room and board in SDSU dormitories, a campus tour and other activities that give them a taste of campus life. This program was initiated through the support of Dr. Bruce Westermo, Assistant Dean in the College of Engineering at San Diego State University, and LTC David Guzman, San Diego Unified's JROTC Program Manager.

For more information, please contact Guzman at

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pt. Loma Schools Hold Computer Classes for Teachers

Computer class The Point Loma Cluster Digital Literacy Committee and the SDUSD Educational Technology Department recently held  a cluster-wide Digital Literacy Day for i21 classroom teachers in the Point Loma cluster. Our Digital Literacy Day provided i21 teachers from elementary and secondary schools with opportunities to share ideas and explore the use digital tools to support instruction in the classroom.

Our Digital Literacy Day was organized into a series of 14 small-group sessions topics covering different content areas, grade ranges, and ability levels, such as: Digital Assessments, Digital Resources and Dropbox.

The Point Loma Cluster Digital Literacy Committee was founded in 2010 with the purpose of supporting the use of digital tools in the classroom. The committee consists of representatives from the ten schools in the Point Loma cluster, the Point Loma Cluster Foundation, and the Educational Technology Department. The committee developed the “K-12 Digital Literacy Matrix” to coordinate the use of digital tools in the classroom and support the district goal of insuring students are technologically proficient by 8th grade. The Point Loma Cluster Digital Literacy Day was creating by the committee to provide professional development in support of the implementation of this matrix.

For more information please contact Scott Irwin at

Friday, March 9, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Board member discusses effects of budget cuts

Trustee Kevin Beiser talks about how fifth year of funding reduction impacts individual teachers, students.
Watch video

San Diego's Future (and Present) Artists On Display at Education Center

The best from San Diego's future (and present) artists are now on display at the Eugene Brucker Education Center.

The annual Education Center art show lines the walls of the first and second floors of the district's administrative offices and includes more than 100 works from students throughout the district. The public is invited to view them during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.

A reception honoring the students and their parents will be held from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 14, at the center, 4100 Normal St. (92103).

For more information, contact Karen Childress-Evans, Director, Visual and Performing Arts Program, at (858) 539-5349.

Pershing Middle Dads Sponsor Day at Lake Murray

fishing at Lake Murray Gone fishin' was the sign up at Pershing Middle School on a recent Saturday as the Papas of Pershing Students (POPS) and the local Elks Lodge held a day of fishing and family fun at nearby Lake Murray.

More than 60 students, parents/guardians, staff members and volunteers attended the event, which was designed to bring the community together for a day of fun.

"The fishing was optional, but it was a great way for the Pershing POPS and the whole Pershing family to have a wonderful experience," said Principal Sarah Sullivan. "We very much appreciate all the work of the POPS dads to put this together and the support of Elks Club 168, whose members donated and helped serve the food. And another thanks goes to Squidco, which sponsored the fishing derby and provided supplies."

For more information about POPS, contact Vice Principal Francisco Santos at

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Congratulations to Science Olympiad Participants

Congratulations to all the participants in the recent San Diego County Regional Science Olympiad, the nationally organized competition in biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering.

Mann Middle School students
Mann Middle School students.
In the high school group, University City High placed third, and Scripps Ranch High placed seventh, while Marshall Middle placed sixth in the middle school group. More than 1,000 students on 70 teams from 23 schools competed in lab-testing events such as chemistry, and written test events such as meteorology.

Michelle Irwin, Marshall Middle School's principal, lauded the effort made by her students, with support from teachers and parents.

"We are proud of the way our 63 students performed," she said. "Whether sixth, seventh or eighth graders, they all showed outstanding sportsmanship, poise and dedication.

"They'll take this experience with them in all the things they do."

At Mira Mesa High School, team teacher Gregory Steinbach said his Marauders again had a great year.

"Our teams competed in 20 events covering topics from robotics to physiology and earned awards in a total of 6 events," he said. "Excellent performances (top 10 in San Diego County) were earned by the teams competing in protein modeling, chemistry lab, dynamic planet, and microbe mission."

Mann Middle School competed for the first time.

"While we were the smallest school showing there it was quite an experience," said the team's teacher, Rachael Tarshes. "Our students are already planning for next year’s event. They can come back as ninth graders and they are hoping to support the students here with their expertise."

The event was held Feb. 4 and 18 at three sites, Rancho Bernardo High School, Bernardo Heights Middle School, and Del Norte High School, all in the Poway Unified School District. For more information on the program, go to the group's website.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Lincoln Honors Legend Marcus Allen

Pro football legend Marcus Allen was recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company in San Diego on Tuesday, March 6, as part of “Hometown Hall of Famers™,” a national program honoring the hometown roots of the sport’s greatest players with special ceremonies and plaque dedication events in local communities.

Marcus Allen at ceremony.

News Coverage

“As we enter the second year of our program, we have found that ‘Hometown Hall of Famers™’ has been warmly embraced by communities and Hall of Famers alike,” said George Veras, Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises president and CEO. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Allstate to bring the Pro Football Hall of Fame to communities across the country and congratulate Marcus Allen and Lincoln High School on being the first recipients of 2012.”

A six-time Pro Bowl selection as running back for the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs and former Lincoln High School standout, Allen will be presented with his “Hometown Hall of Famer™” plaque during a special ceremony at 1:45 p.m. PT on Tuesday, March 6, at the Lincoln High School auditorium, where the plaque will live permanently to serve as an inspiration for the school’s students and athletes. The presentation will be made by Damon Allen, former Canadian Football League quarterback and brother of Marcus Allen.

“To be part of a program that brings the prestige and tradition of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to communities like San Diego is an honor for Allstate, our agents and employees,” said Mark LaNeve, Allstate’s chief marketing officer and senior executive vice president of agency operations.

The ceremony will be attended by Lincoln High School students, faculty, staff, alumni and Allen’s former teammates. Don Robinson, Lincoln High School athletic director, will be serving as the Master of Ceremonies.

"Marcus Allen's career is an inspiration to all current and future Lincoln students,” said Esther Omogbehin, senior principal of Lincoln High School. “This plaque will forever be a reminder of what Lincoln students can do."

In addition to the plaque, a commemorative Marcus Allen “Hometown Hall of Famer™” road sign will be on display in San Diego.

After playing the quarterback and safety positions at Lincoln High School, Allen transitioned to running back when he enrolled at the University of Southern California. During his college career for the Trojans, Allen made NCAA history in rushing for more than 2,000 yards in a single season, an achievement that earned him the 1981 Heisman Trophy.

Allen’s NFL career began in 1982 when he was selected 10th overall by the Los Angeles Raiders. From 1982 to 1997, Allen left his mark on the game, rushing for 12,243 yards and scoring 145 touchdowns as a member of the Los Angeles Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. During the 1983 season, Allen led the Raiders to the Super Bowl XVIII title and was crowned Super Bowl MVP.
Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

“Hometown Hall of Famers™ presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate” is the Hall of Fame’s first nationwide plaque program and will lead into the celebration of its 50th anniversary in August 2012. For more information on the program and event videos, fans can visit

Tiger Teams Roar Back Into Action

Efficiency Committee The district's Tiger Teams efficiency reviews return with volunteers looking at seven areas within the district: K-12 arts; custodial; landscape; real estate; food services; procurement and warehouse-distribution.

Anyone interested in serving on the review committees are invited to the organizational meeting, 10 a.m. Saturday, March 10, at San Diego Unified's Ballard Parent Center Auditorium, 2375 Congress St.

Board of Education Members Scott Barnett and Kevin Beiser head up the Operations and Efficiency Committee, which supervises the Tiger Teams.

"Our goal is to generate efficiencies and savings minimizing administrative costs so that more of our resources can go directly to the classroom." said Beiser.

For more information, go to the Tiger Team web page:

California Apple Pears are the Harvest of the Month

Crisp, cold apple pears are the hot item on the menu this month at lunch.

Grown by the Jackson family at their Kingsburg Orchards in the San Joaquin Valley, the golden goodness is sometimes known as Asian pears, Chinese pears or Japanese pears. The pears are featured as the district's Harvest of the Month on selected days in school cafeterias.

Just as the name implies, the taste of an apple pear is a mix of apple and pear: a little less sweet than a pear and a little less sour than an apple, but crunchy, juicy and delicious. They are best when allowed to ripen on the tree. Apple pears are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of Vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, K, folate and potassium. On Kingsburg Orchards 9,500 acres, the Jackson family grows more than 200 varieties of fresh fruit.

The Harvest of the Month is part of the Farm to School program. Funded through a federal grant and in cooperation with the County of San Diego and other local agencies, the connects schools (K-12) 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 more information about the Harvest of the Month program contact Vanessa Zajfen at

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Board of Education President Discusses Budget Cuts

Board of Education President Dr. John Lee Evans discussed budget reductions and potential teacher layoffs on KUSI's Good Morning San Diego. Watch video»


PrimeTime Applications Now Available for 2012-13

PrimeTime, San Diego Unified's extended-day program, is accepting applications for the 2012-13 school year through May 4.

Parents/guardians are reminded that all students need to apply, even those currently in the program, in order to be considered for next school year.PrimeTime Extended Day Program, (formerly known as the “6 to 6” Program) provides elementary and middle school students with a fun and engaging learning environment during the hours that most parents/guardians are working. Parents/guardians can feel comfortable knowing their children are not only receiving professional academic support, but are also interacting with peers in a physically and emotionally safe environment.

Students can “get in the Zone” in the PrimeTime environment by participating in structured activities with their friends. Art, music, athletics, and cooperative team-building games, are just a few of the invigorating activities children will participate in during the prime part of the day.

PrimeTime is offered at 132 schools and serves more than 20,000 students. Applications will be sent home with children and made available for download from the District’s website. To be included in the initial review and enrollment process, applications must be sent via U.S. mail to the PrimeTime partner providing services at the child’s school, postmarked on or before May 6, 2011.

In addition to the PrimeTime staff at the San Diego Unified School District’s Extended Learning Opportunities Department, the PrimeTime team is a collaboration among many departments, programs and individuals who work together to make the program the best it can be. District departments including Food Services, School Police, Nursing and Wellness, as well as site principals, teachers and parents, together with our community partners, Bayview Charities, Center for Community Solutions, Harmonium, San Diego State University Research Foundation, Social Advocates for Youth, Union of Pan Asian Communities, and YMCA of San Diego – make up the team which offers a full service, enriched and fun learning environment for all students at each site.

For more information regarding PrimeTime please contact the Extended Learning Opportunities Department at (858) 627-7562.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Oscar Welcomes SD High Arts, International Studies Students

San Diego High students
San Diego High students at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills.
How do you motivate students? At the San Diego High schools of Media, Visual and and Performing Arts, and International Studies, you take them to the Oscars, the Oscar symposiums on foreign language films and makeup and hair. A bus full of students and staff left San Diego High at 7 a.m. on Feb. 25,  to go to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters in Beverly Hills. Arts teacher Arlene Harris has been attending the symposiums for several years. This year as she was considering the event she decided to see if she could get tickets to bring students with her. Kirk Ankeney, Arts and International Studies principal, said, “You get the tickets, I’ll get the bus.” And they did. Arlene decided since she was able to get 40 student tickets to “spread the wealth” and asked three other teachers to join her in inviting students and attending. Daren Sparks teaches digital media, Ian McAvoy teaches drama for Arts, and Philippe Poncey teaches Drama for International Studies. Harris and the other three teachers invited excited film buff students.
Arriving at “Oscar’s house,” they all trooped through the lobby exhibiting “Uncharacteristic” beautiful new photographs of the Oscar nominees. The exhibit is called “Uncharacteristic” since it is of the actresses and actors as themselves, not their nominated film characters.

The symposiums are held in the Academy’s second floor Samuel Goldwyn Theater with state-of-the-art technology and a huge Oscar statue on each end of the stage. The group from San Diego High Arts and International Studies took 52 of the 1,012 auditorium seats.

From 10 a.m. to noon, the foreign film directors took center stage. San Diego High saw Michael Roskam, director of Belgium’s entry Bullhead; Joseph Cedar of Israel’s Footnote; Agnieszka Holland, Polland’s In Darkness; and Asghar Farhadi, Iran’s A Separation. Each director introduced crew sitting in the audience; Farhadi also introduced his film’s leading actor and actress. Holland was the only female director nominated this year.

Several minutes of selected clips were shown of each movie so the audience could know a bit about each project before the discussion began. The directors were asked questions by the moderator, Mark Johnson, chair of the Academy's Foreign Language Film Executive Committee. San Diego High attendees were fascinated to learn how and why the films came to be made, some “insider” info on what happened during the filming. Universally it was heard, “I want to see those” as the symposium ended. Student, Melissa Jasso said, “It was really cool. I’d never seen what actually went into making a movie.”

Onto the bus and over to Farmer’s Market for lunch. Then, back to Oscar’s house.

The makeup and hair artists took the stage from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. by film. Harry Potter #8 was the one most San Diego High attendees were gleefully anticipating. It was the second film presented in the symposium. The three makeup and hair artists showed stills from the transformations into goblins, werewolves, and other characters. They discussed the prosthetics used, the hair pieces—wigs, beards, mustaches. San Diego High learned that it was difficult to keep it all on Hagrid since the actor was usually dressed in wool, physically big, and tended to sweat. Dumbledore’s actor was known to stud his beard with potato chips or other items between takes. Two of the artists worked on all eight films, one on Deathly Hallows, parts 1 and 2.

The first film highlighted was Albert Nobbs. Again the makeup and hair artiss took the stage. But left an empty seat stage right, much to the audience’s confusion. Academy Governor Leonard Engelman happily asked Special Makeups Designer Matthew Mungle if there was anything else. Mungle smiled broadly and announced they would be joined by a special guest -- Glenn Close walked out onto the stage and sat with the artists. The audience stood clapping and thrilled as Close entered. Close was particularly adamant that she needed Martial Corneville to make the wigs for the character of Albert. She had worked with him on other films, the first being 101 Dalmatians with her amazing Cruella DeVille hair.

After Harry Potter #8’s time on stage came The Iron Lady. Again the makeup and hair artist took the stage. But left an empty seat stage right, again. This time, Engelman delightedly nodded and the J Roy Helland introduced his friend of 37 years, Meryl Streep. The roof almost came off the auditorium with the roar of enthusiasm as the audience shot to its feet, wildly clapping in welcome. As everyone took their seats, the two makeup and hair artists discussed Streep’s transformations needed to portray former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Streep said she would not have done the movie without these two particular artists. She began working with Helland in 1982 on Sophie’s Choice.

The next part of the symposium was 10-minute clips from each film, followed by all of the makeup and hair artists on-stage together. This concluded with audience Q&A. San Diego High “Russ” reporter, Mindy Powers was able to ask a question of the Harry Potter artists. “That was totally cool,” according to Mindy.

When the symposium ended, the 1,000+ went downstairs to the Academy’s lobby where there was a light buffet -- good luck getting any food with 1,000 people there -- and, more importantly, displays set up with prosthetics, wigs, photos, bald caps, and more with the makeup and hair artists available for discussions.

At 5:15, San Diego High was on the bus ready to go home. Harris introduced the Academy’s education director to everyone. Randy Haberkamp told the students that they are exactly who he wants to see at the Academy events. He encouraged all of them to get onto and sign up for the activity calendar available by email, that many of the events are $5 to free, some are on weekends. He gave Harris 84th Academy Award posters to be distributed to everyone. The San Diego High group thanked him for making the trip possible, then happily went south toward home.

Staff attending included Arlene Harris and Ian McAvoy, Arts; Theresa Aviles, Arts; Philippe Poncey, Sylvia James, International Studies; Mark Brickley, Harris’ student teacher; Kirk Ankeney, principal of Arts and International Studies.

Harris is already looking forward to the possibility of taking another group of film buff students next year. She’s been promised 50 tickets.

For more information, contact Harris at 619-525-7457, ext. 1103

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Holmes Fifth Graders Top Fox 5 Anchors

Holmes Elementary fifth graders show they're smarter than Raul and Shally on the Fox 5 Morning News. Watch video»

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's Read Across America Day

San Diego City Council President Tony Young reads
to kindergarteners at Fulton K-8.
Friday, March 2, is the annual celebration of someone who was a great San Diegan and whose work continues to captivate kids and adults around the world. It's Read Across America Day, which is held each year to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss, the late Ted Geisel of La Jolla.

What's special about Read Across America Day is that it brings many new volunteers to our schools to read to kids. Our district is fortunate to have many thousands of volunteeers contributing thousands of hours each year. Events such as Read Across America help to bring in new volunteers as local officials and celebrities sit down with our kids for a few minutes to read them a classic title like Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham.

We thank everyone who reads to our kids today and all those volunteers who work in our schools each and every day. If you'd like to volunteer, give your neighborhood school -- elementary, middle or high school -- a call. They can use your help.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

JROTC Students Heading To Leadership Conference

The rights and responsibilities as American citizens are the topics of a national conference that will be attended by seven members of their high schools' JROTC programs this spring.

The cadets, already ranked as the top two in their junior class, were selected by members of the Military Order of World Wars San Diego chapter. The four-day American Leaders Youth Summit is presented by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.

Students scheduled to attend are: Arnelle Sambile and Zabrina Reyes, Mira Mesa High; Michelle Mayo and Audrey Pelonia from Morse HIgh; Jordan Robertson, Patrick Henry; Steven Fang, Kearny; Marielena Teng, Scripps Ranch.

The nominees showed strong academic, citizenship and leadership traits. The Freedoms Foundation provides a wide range of educational and awards programs for students, teachers and citizens to gain a greater awareness and appreciation of the principles and responsibilities of a free and democratic society.
Student participants from around the country will be challenged to articulate their views and perceptions about their constitutional rights and responsibilities as citizens while interacting and working collaboratively with their peers on various projects.

These programs include: U.S. history, citizenship and civics, Constitutional rights, citizen responsibilities, student entrepreneurship, American political process, public policy issues, free enterprise system,
All education programs are conducted at the Freedoms Foundation's 85-acre campus in historic Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, located 25 miles from Philadelphia. In addition, the students will also visit Washington D.C. to gain greater awareness of our national history, monuments and museums.

For more information, please contact LTC David Guzman, JROTC Program Manager, at

Zamorano Second Graders Learn History Through Quilting

Students work on their quilt
 Students work on their quilts.
At the Zamorano Fine Arts Academy in South Bay, learning sometimes takes unusual forms.Second-grade students recently completed a project, learning about African-American history by creating their own version of the historic Gee's Bend Quits.

The quilts have been produced as a community project in the historic Alabama African-American community for decades. At Zamorano, students created their own quilts from construction paper, learning about the geometric shapes and the women who create them.

"Students created their own paper quilts," said art teacher Donald Masse. "They followed the “housetop” pattern common in Gee’s Bend for a few steps and then were free to make their section unique by adding shapes and colors in different ways."

This creative approach to learning is one of the unique features of the magnet school.

"As a final step, all the quilts were assembled together in our auditorium to serve as an example of the beauty people can create when they work together," he said.

For more information on the program, contact Principal Caroline King at 619-267-8007.