Monday, April 30, 2012

IN THE NEWS: SD Unified rolls out iPads in a big way

After putting more than 75,600 netbooks into the hands of students, the San Diego Unified School District has switched its focus to Apple iPads and will buy devices to outfit 340 classrooms before the end of the school year. In all, the district plans to purchase around 25,700 iPad 2s at a slight discount from retail to roll out to its fifth- and eighth-grade classes as well as some high school classes by next fall. It is one of the largest deployments of iPads in K-12 schools in the nation and will cost the district more than $15 million.  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune»

Mann Middle's Lockheed-Martin Donation Funds STEM Programs

Mann students
Engineering is thought of as an advanced subject, but in classrooms at Mann Middle School in City Heights pre-teens are beginning to learn about it with the help of an $11,500 grant from Lockheed-Martin.

Jose Lara, Mann's Gateway to Technology teacher, received the grant from Lockheed Martin's Cory Smith, representing the company's Engineers in the Classroom program. The class taps into the natural curiosity of middle school students, using a hands-on approach to teaching basic STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

The grant will be used to purchase component systems that the students will use to build small robots, structures and other items created by the imagination of the students.

"Horace Mann and Lockheed Martin partnered together in 2009," said Lara. "Aside from the financial contribution, our partnership has included countless site visits by Lockheed Martin Engineers and various forms of support within the classroom."

For more information on the program, contact Kevin Martin, Vice Principal, at (619) 582-8990.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sessions Elementary Celebrates New Dropoff Zones

Sessions Elementary Associated Student Body President Bethany Kepner and Principal Susan Devicariis joined students, parents and staff in celebrating the school's new student drop-off and pick-up zone. The official dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held the day students returned from spring break, the first day students and parents could use the new drop-off and pick-up zone. Principal Devicariis says this was a very important change for the school and community.

The project included widening and relocating the existing driveway into the parking area, adding fencing and landscaping, installing dedicated left-turn lanes on Beryl Street and adjusting traffic signals. The changes are expected to improve traffic and parking, and ensure safer conditions at the school.

The nearly $2 million project was funded by Proposition S, San Diego Unified School District’s general obligation bond that was passed November 2008 for capital facilities improvements at district schools. Construction began May 2011 and was completed March 2012. The project partners were Group Cristilli Architects and Summit Builders Construction Company.

For more information, contact Proposition S Communications at 619-725-7252 or

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Reminder: Tdap Booster Required for All Incoming 7th Graders

California law requires that all students going into seventh grade be immunized with a pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine booster called Tdap. This includes current students, new students and transfer students in both public and private schools. Schools must receive proof of the Tdap booster before the student can attend class in the fall unless they have a documented exemption .
PLEASE NOTE:  Children who received a DTP, DTap or Tdap shot on or after their seventh birthday meet the Tdap booster requirement and do not need another shot. Parents and guardians can simply provide their child’s school with a copy of the updated shot record.

For more information about the Tdap vaccine, visit

Friday, April 27, 2012

From the Superintendent: Budget Update

Bill Kowba It has been some time since I have updated the staff and community on the budget and related staffing issues.  Let me take a moment in this Friday Note to paint the current picture.  We are in the uncertain period between the March 15 submission of the second interim financial report and the release of the Governor’s May Revise 2012-13 budget.  There is much budget discussion and debate ongoing in Sacramento, but no decisions. 

Concurrently, San Diego Unified and other school districts are continuing their budget development as dictated by the California Education Code. This past Tuesday, the Board of Education had to make another extremely difficult decision, authorizing the issuance of layoff notices to more than 975 classified support staff.  This figure includes 385 personnel in the early childhood education program who are directly impacted by state funding cuts to preschool programs. The classified number, combined with the 1,656 certificated staff who already received preliminary layoff notices, equals a staggering 2,631 of our dedicated employees affected by the state’s enduring economic woes.

Another parallel activity was last week’s Administrative Law Judge  hearings that were held in response to the certificated layoff notices.  We are now standing by for the judge's decisions before presenting an updated certificated layoff list to the Board.  The layoff notice numbers will likely be adjusted  a bit as a result of the judge's decision and could subsequently be altered by other dynamics such as near-term decisions of the Governor and/or legislature.   In the meantime, the terrible reality is that the layoff process must proceed in accordance with specified Education Code procedures that include the dissemination of final layoff notices to hundreds of our certificated staff in May..

At this point in the 2012-13 budget cycle, our calculated deficit for next year remains at $122 million.  With a revenue gap of that magnitude, the proposed program and personnel reductions highlighted in the March 15 second interim financial report remain in effect.  As the district heads into the homestretch of our 2012-13 budget adoption process, the California budget outlook for public education continues to look grim.  The state controller is reporting that California revenues may come in more than $2 billion below projections.  This disconnect could further undermine the state’s ability to adequately fund public education next year.

The Governor’s May Revise budget proposal may come out at a later date than is the norm.  We may not know the full impact of his proposal until after May 20.  While many assume that this is the final direction for the preparation of next year’s budget, it is probably not the final word.  I expect the  budget uncertainties will spill into June as the legislature weighs in with responses to the May Revise.  We will eventually arrive at a final state budget and an adopted district budget but still have to prepare for another major uncertainty, the outcome of November tax ballot measures.

Clearly, we are operating in an ambiguous and fluid budget process, one that is, in no way, synchronized between the state and local agencies. We all want clarity and certainty and there is none to be had at the moment.  We will do all that is possible to keep you informed.  I am firmly committed to seeking the solutions that will best mitigate the detrimental effects on our students, staff, and programs; resolve the budget deficit; and create a balanced 2012-13 budget.  I will work closely with all stakeholder groups to deflect the financial blows, but we all know that there will be some direct hits.

In closing,  words are inadequate to express my deepest appreciation to the entire staff for their steadfast support of our students and laser-focus on academic excellence during this unprecedented, financially turbulent time.  We are a team and by working collectively and collaboratively, we will get through this together.
Bill Kowba

Thursday, April 26, 2012

ALBA Students Continue Win-Streak in Street Law Mock Trial Competition

 Alba students and court officers.
 From left to right, back row: Mr. Ryan Storms (Street Law instructor), LaBraye Franklin (9th grade), Mr. Francisco Vidal (Street Law instructor), Josh Mendelson (9th grade), Mr. Mark Hoskisson (ALBA English teacher), Mr. Burton Skomal (ALBA SPED assistant); front row: Honorable Judith F. Hayes (San Diego Superior Court), Edgar Arribeno (9th grade), Mario Cecena (9th grade), Ms. JoAnne Johnson (ALBA Street Law coordinator), Brandon Lopez (9th grade).
0On April 16, 2012, ALBA Community Day School at North Park participated in the bi-annual Street Law Mock Trial Competition. The Mock Trial Competition is a court role-playing activity wherein teams from area high schools prepare a case and conduct a trial, complete with a judge, jury, prosecutors, defendants, and witnesses.

The Honorable Judith F. Hayes, San Diego Superior Court Judge, presided over the April 16th competition between ALBA and Hoover High School. The jury found for ALBA’s prosecution team, giving the school its third straight Street Law Mock Trial Competition victory. Judge Hayes also recognized two ALBA 9th grade students, LaBraye Franklin and Brandon Lopez, issuing them the outstanding advocate awards.

This year’s Street Law Competition was held at the downtown San Diego Superior Courthouse in front of a jury of four adult community members. Mr. Ryan Storms and Mr. Francisco

Vidal, students from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, served as instructors, teaching the five-member team of ALBA students for ten weeks, guiding them through a rigorous preparation and selection process.
Mr. Alex Simpson, staff attorney at California Western School of Law and Street Law Program Coordinator, indicated that he was very impressed with ALBA’s consecutive win streak. He stated that the Street Law program is really

geared for ALBA students, giving them a unique opportunity to positively interact with our country’s legal system. Ms. Joanne Johnson, ALBA ROP Career and Life Management teacher and on-site Street Law coordinator, appreciated the dedication of the Street Law instructors and explained that ALBA’s success is because of a school-wide commitment to the program.
“All of the teachers see the value in Street Law,” stated Ms. Johnson. “We serve a unique population of students that really need a positive experience with the justice system.” Outstanding student advocate Brandon Lopez commented, “It felt pretty natural.” In his role a lead prosecutor, he conducted the opening statement as well as direct and cross examinations of the witnesses.
Brandon, who plans on going to San Diego State University, further reflected, “It was fun learning how to be a litigator, how to respond to a judge. I would recommend Street Law to any high school student.”
For more information about Street Law, contact Mr. Alex Simpson at or 619-515-1525. For more information about ALBA Community Day School, contact principal R. Vernon Moore at or 619-293-4468.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Serra High Students Will Be Published Scientists

For a scientist, being named as a participant in a project published in a peer-reviewed journal is a professional requirement. It's also something that might not happen until the scientist has been working in their field for several years.

But more than 30 high school students at Serra High School will be skipping forward in their careers, becoming published scientists before they've even graduated from high school.

Members of the biotechnology program at Serra, the students have helped advance a project that is researching how species are impacted by environmental decay. Starting last February, students analyzed the COI gene, a portion of the DNA, in 20 Channel Islands species. Their work is being submitted for inclusion in the Barcode of Life Data Systems project, which hopes to establish a planetary DNA database. This lead to a visit to the Coastal Marine Biolabs in Ventura, which is publishing a study on the results of the tests. This study will include the names of all the Serra students who participated.

"Many scientists have to wait until their careers have advanced before they become published," said Dr. Ericka Senegar-Mitchell, Serra's biotechnology teacher. "Having high school students named in a study published in a peer-reviewed scientific platform is outstanding and will aide them every step up the educational and professional ladder."

Serra's biotechnology program gives students an early look at what could be their life's work. Students have access to state-of-the-art equipment to learn about the basic building blocks of life. Many of San Diego's top biotechnology firms donate equipment and other supplies to the program, which gives students and advanced look at the sciences they might take at a university.

During Spring Break, 10 students and Dr. Senegar-Mitchell, traveled to Coastal Marine Biolabs in Ventura Harbor, where they worked with research scientists who are cataloging species DNA for the study. They helped investigate how biodiversity loss is a result of habitat destruction, invasive species, population expansion, pollution, and overharvesting.

 "This program gives students a real chance to see this type of research in action," said Dr. Senegar-Mitchell. "Part of our job as teachers is to expose our students to as many opportunities as possible. Marine research is a very important part of this field."

For more information on the program, contact Dr. Senegar-Mitchell at

About the School

Located in the Tierrasanta neighborhood, Serra High School is a comprehensive high school with a tradition of excellence. It offers students a wide variety of programs, from high-tech, cutting edge programs such as biotechnology, to career-technical education, to athletics and marching band. Serra is the center of the community and receives outstanding support from its foundation and neighbors.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Spring Dance Concert at SCPA on TV

Reporter Ruben Galvan from San Diego 6 News visits with students performing in the school;s Passion and Pathos Spring dance concert. Watch video from San Diego 6»

About the concert


For the second straight year, 38 SCPA dancers will perform the work of legendary choreographer Donald McKayle. Mr. McKayle is a Tony and Emmy Award winning choreographer, but his greatest contribution may have been to the world of modern dance. SCPA dancers will perform his masterpiece, House of Tears, April 19-27, 2012 in The Grand Theatre. Other works include former Alvin Ailey dancer and current choreographer Christopher Huggin’s piece The List. Both pieces are moving tributes to human suffering from major world events that have left indelible marks on our world consciousness. House of Tears explores the heart wrenching experience of “the disappeared” in Argentina from 1976-1983 and The List is a gripping reminder of the inhumane Holocaust. SCPA’s concert entitled Passion and Pathos will also feature works by Fred Benjamin, and SCPA dance instructor Erin Fetters. And, running concurrently in the Little Theatre is the 2012 Senior Exhibition of work by the Visual Arts majors. Many of these students have already been accepted to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Otis Parsons College of Art in LA, and The New School for Design in NYC! Tickets are only $5, and available online at or by phone at 619-475-8556.

Madison High, Lindbergh-Schweitzer Elementary Continue Anti-Bullying Collaboration

On stage Students from Madison High and Lindbergh-Schweitzer Elementary continue their collaboration on preventing and reacting to bullying.

The ILEAD Team from Madison recently visited Lindbergh-Schweitzer, performing skits and playing games to demonstrate bullying, as well as how to react to the behavior by others. The high school juniors and seniors engaged in a lively discussion with elementary school students in grades 5-6, with all students pledging to avoid bullying.

Plans are for the ILEAD team from Madison and the students from Lindbergh-Schweitzer to continue working together next school year.

For more information, contact Julie Harris at or 858-496-8400.

Monday, April 23, 2012

From the Superintendent: Volunteers Make a Difference

Bill Kowba As National Volunteer Appreciation Week draws to a close, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to the thousands of volunteers who give countless hours to our students each year.

Research validates that support at home and community involvement are critical to academic success. Volunteers have a tremendous impact on the lives of students, both today and in the future.

To parents and grandparents, community members and neighbors, high school and college students, working people and retirees, business partners, and the countless others who dedicate their time to making a difference in the lives of our students.

Thank You!
Bill Kowba
Bill Kowba

Vista Grande Class Wins $8,000 Grant

Teacher Amy Chmbard, right, and student
Sarah Gonzalez with her parents.

There are now more than 50 new books in Abby Chambard's class at Vista Grande Elementary School in Tierrasanta, thanks to a lot of "Real California Milk" seals and $8,000 from the California Milk Advisory Board.

Chambard's fourth-grade class won the grant as part of the California Milk Advisory Board's Real Seal Appeal Sweepstakes. Families saved 274 "Real California Milk" seals off dairy products, with two-thirds coming from student Sarah Gonzalez, her parents and friends.

The 50 books came from Scholastic Books, which partnered with the Milk Advisory Board. The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), representing California's dairy families, awarded more than $1.4 million in cash, books and school supply prizes to elementary schools in Southern California as part of the Real Seal Appeal! sweepstakes drawing.

For more information on Vista Grande Elementary, contact principal Mary Calcagno at 858-496-8290.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

District and city dedicate joint-use field at Jefferson Elementary

Kids at Jefferson
Jefferson students test-drive the new field.
Superintendent Bill Kowba and Mayor Jerry Sanders joined Board Member Richard Barrera, Councilmember Todd Gloria, students, parents, school staff and community members last week to dedicate the new multipurpose joint-use field at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in North Park. The ceremony opened with the Navy Color Guard from Navy Recruiting Command San Diego, and culminated with participants cheering on Jefferson students as they began their annual jog-a-thon fundraiser on the new turf field.

The multipurpose field opened to the public Monday, April 16. The one-acre field, located on the southern part of the school campus, is a joint-use facility that will be used by the students during school hours and the public during nonschool hours. The improvements include a new multisport field using synthetic turf, parking and accessibility for people with physical disabilities.

The project cost more than $1.1 million. Construction was funded by the school district’s Proposition S bond program, money from which can be used only for capital improvement projects. Construction began in November 2011, and was completed in January 2012. Project partners were Mesquita and Associates (architecture) and Soltek Pacific Contractors (construction). The City of San Diego will fund and provide the maintenance of the field.

The city and the school district have a long-standing agreement to share school and park land to benefit both the city and the school district. The facilities shared by the city and the school district include multipurpose turf fields, lighted athletic fields, tennis courts, gymnasiums, parking facilities and libraries. In total, the school district and the city currently have 76 joint-use agreements.

For more information, contact Cynthia Reed-Porter, communications supervisor for San Diego Unified School District, at 619-725-5579 or

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Challenger Middle School Students Raise $2,732 for Shamrock Drive

Students, staff and inspiration Gladys Swensrud celebrate.
Student government members at Challenger Middle School in Mira Mesa have raised $2,732 this year for the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Shamrock Drive, inspired by a staff member who has muscular dystrophy. This brings to more than $12,000 the students have raised over the last six years.

The students are raising the money in the name of Gladys Swensrud, a retired staff member and longtime neighborhood resident who has MD.

"I stand in awe and am extremely grateful for the continued generosity and enthusiast support Challenger’s student body and staff have demonstrated for MDA through their Shamrock contributions,” said Swensrud.

The school creates competition between classrooms for the coveted green and gold shamrocks, which are placed in the class windows.

"Competition can become quite fierce between advisory classrooms as each class strives to have the best display of colorful shamrocks appearing in their classroom windows," said Principal Sheelagh Moran.
The fundraising effort also has educational value, she said.

"Students also learn about the organization and are inspired to help others in need," she said.

Challenger was the first middle school in the county to participate in the Shamrock Drive.

"MDA has been able to use Challenger Middle School as a successful example to inspire more San Diego area schools to join the Shamrock Drive," she said.

About the school

Challenger Middle School is located in Mira Mesa, north of Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Our school is named in honor of the Challenger space shuttle. The memory of the Challenger crew serves as a role model for our multi-ethnic student population. The Challenger name captures the energy and the inspiration associated with our school’s commitment to success. We motivate students to go beyond their limits, have high expectations and touch the future.

Friday, April 20, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Thurgood Marshall Choir Performs in National Honor Choir

Join choirs from schools from Los Angeles, Indiana, Florida, and New Orleans in New York City. Read more from Scripps Ranch Civic Association Newsletter»

$120,000 State Grant Goes To Recycling Programs

Student "green teams" that make sure campuses recycle efficiently will be receiving some help, thanks to a $120,000 grant from the State of California.

CalRecycle, the Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery, awarded the grant that will allow district staff to help expand the programs to all campuses.

School green teams and others encourage students and staff members to recycle as much on their campus as possible. The funds will provide schools with source-separated beverage containers and co-mingling of paper products, bottles and cans.

Not only does the student work help save the environment, it helps put more money in the classroom. By the terms of the district's waste hauling contract, recycling is provided for free, while schools are charged by the dumpster for waste hauling. The more recycling, the fewer dumpsters that need to be filled.

In other news, the Recycling Program has launched "Get Your Green On!", an online blog with recycling tips, student scholarship and involvement opportunities, and other great news. Check it out at

For more information,contact Janet Whited, Recycling Specialist, at (858) 637-6268.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

IN THE NEWS: La Jolla Elementary shows its artistic side

Students at La Jolla Elementary School showed off a bright display of artwork ranging from oil on canvas to pencil and marker drawings on paper to sculptures and collages at the school’s annual art show from March 27-30.  Read more from La Jolla Village News»

IN THE NEWS: April Roundup from Scripps Ranch Schools

Join choirs from schools from Los Angeles, Indiana, Florida, and New Orleans in New York City. Read more from Scripps Ranch Civic Association Newsletter»

IN THE NEWS: Monroe Clark Helping Students Get a Head Start on College

Two Monroe Clark Middle School graduates have received a healthy start to their college scholarship fund, thanks to the campus’s English Learner Advisory Committee and Parent Center. Read more from City Heights Life»

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Roundup of events at Pacific Beach schools

Events, fund-raisers all help area schools. Read more from Beach and Bay Press»

Field Elementary Kindergarteners Meet Authors at Fair

Clown Field Elementary kindergarten students, along with teachers Katherine Aud and Kristen Silva, met and talked with author/illustrator Paul Brewer and submitted self-portraits inspired by his illustrations in Kathleen Krull’s book Clip, Clip, Clip: Three Stories about Hair during the recent 39th annual Authors Fair, held at the San Diego County Office of Education. 

One classroom used torn pieces of construction paper to represent their hair, while the other classroom used pictures of hair cut out from magazines. The students also attended a performance by a storyteller and visited displays of student work inspired by all the participating authors.

Local clowns were on hand to entertain students with bubbles, parachute activities, puppets, and games in between activities. The fair is co-sponsored by the Greater San Diego Reading Association.

For more information on the Author’s Fair, please visit  website at For additional information, please contact Elementary School Assistant Linda Earlston at or (858) 273-3323.

About the School

Field is a small school, but we have a lot to offer: General Education classes from Kindergarten to 6th grade, a State Pre-School program for 3 and 4 year old children, and a Special Education program serving the needs of pre-school children in Special Ed/Early Childhood (SEEC) and Medically Fragile children in grades K-6. All our students receive instruction in Physical Education. A Child Development Center is also located at our school. Our PrimeTime program provides supervision for students before and after school.

Adams Student Council, County Board of Supervisors Meet

Before board
leading the pledge of allegiance
during the Board meeting.
Ron Roberts with students
County Supervisor Ron Roberts,
back left, with Principal Derek Murchison
and Adams Student Council members.
Members of the Adams Elementary School Student Council recently visited the County Administration Center and met with Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Roberts to see how similar the county government is to their own on-campus panel and share their thoughts for San Diego's future.

While there, the students lead the pledge of allegiance during a Board of Supervisors meeting. In attendance were the the fifth-grade president, fourth grade vice-president and secretary, and third-grade fire marshal.

"The student council really enjoyed this experience," said Adams Principal Derek Muchison, "and maybe in 25 years from now they will be inviting young students to see the work that they will be doing at a County Board of Supervisors meeting."

For more information on programs at Adams, contact Murchison at (619) 284-1158.

About the school

Located in the historic Kensington/Normal Heights neighborhood, Adams Elementary School has thriving community support and offers science for all grades, including hands-on laboratory science where kids love a chance to get messy and try new experiences.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Good job for a good deed

Last month, a landscaper named Lance Greer (owner of Lance Greer Consulting) voluntarily planted a garden inside the Bird Rock Elementary campus. Read more in story from Muirlands Middle School student Kieran Bauman in the La Jolla Village News»

IN THE NEWS: Building The Future At Hoover High

Dedication of green building shows "The future of education is on full display at Hoover High School in City Heights." Read more from City Heights Life»

School Board President Gives Progress Report to City Council Committee

For the first time in recent history, a San Diego Board of Education President will present an update on the city's schools to the San Diego City Council this Wednesday when Board of Education President Dr. John Lee Evans is scheduled to visit the City Council Rules Committee.

The San Diego City Council Rules, Open Government and Intergovernment Relations Committee meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 18, in the Council Committee Room, 12th Floor, City Administration Building, 202 C Street, and is scheduled to hear a report from Dr. Evans about the district's Vision 2020, community based school reform plan and budget challenges.

"Our goal is to educate council members with a more detailed overview about the progress being made in our schools and the serious budget challenges we are facing," said Dr. Evans. "We welcome support for public education from all segments of the community including city government."

Evans and Young have also discussed the possibility of having a full joint meeting of the City Council and Board of Education this fall to explore ways in which the city can be more supportive of the district’s mission to provide a quality education to all San Diego children.

"This is the start of an important discussion between the City Council and Board of Education on ways we can strengthen our ties, further partnerships and work together toward a better educated San Diego," said San Diego City Council President Tony Young.

Evans will share with the Council Members the district's academic focus and goals through the Vision 2020 plan. These include efforts to boost student achievement, narrow the achievement gap between ethnic groups, improve attendance, implement University of California A-G classes for all students, and ensure there is a quality school in every neighborhood. The San Diego Unified School District is one of the top large school districts in the nation, with 104 of its 185 schools having API scores above the state target of 800, the second lowest dropout rate and steadily rising test scores, despite five years of severe budget cuts.

Wednesday's meeting is open to the public. It will be televised on the city's cable channel and streamed live at

Juarez Elementary Marks 50 Years, Namesake’s Birthday

digging for time capsule
Digging for the time capsule
that was never found.
Juarez Elementary students, staff, alumni and community members recently marked the school's 50th birthday, celebrating the life of the school's namesake, Benito Juarez, as well a having a community celebration ... and digging a hole to nowhere.

The school's students, staff and families March 16 learned about and celebrating the culture of Juarez, five-term President of Mexico and historic leader of that nation. Each year, the school community marks his March 21 birthday.

This year, the week began with student leaders, staff and parents digging for a time capsule, reportedly buried in 1976.

"We never located the time capsule despite alumni descriptions of where it was buried," said Principal Marceline Marques. "We dug for probably 12 hours over 3 days and nothing! So... in order to make our efforts worthwhile, the ASB decided to create timecapsule and bury it in the same place. We will be putting it together this week. We will do our best to leave word for future generations to unearth it!"

On Benito Juarez Day, March 21, alumnus “Papa” George Arroyo kicked off the day with an uplifting rap performance urging students to do their best in school. He was followed by the San Diego High Mariachi Band, under the leadership of teacher Serafin Paredes. Next, the band Afro Meztizo performed music indigenous to the area where Benito Juarez grew up.

A fiesta lunch was enjoyed by all, and following that a fun filled carnival and classic car show featuring the Road Ramblers and the Horseless Carriage Club of America took place.The Zumba booth, led by YMCA staff, was by far the most popular carnival activity.

For more information on the school, contact Principal Marques at (858) 496-8145.

Monday, April 16, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Deputy Superintendent Talks New Graduation Requirements

Take effect with Class of 2016, today's eighth graders (in Spanish). Watch video from KBNT-TV»

IN THE NEWS: A Culinary Education, courtesy of high school students

This is not the tasting menu from a hot new place in the Mission. This is the Mira Mesa High School (San Diego) menu that won the State Pro-Start Competition last weekend in Sacramento. Read more from Inside Scoop SF»

Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch, Students Wow Sacramento Chefs

Mira Mesa team
Above, the Mira Mesa High team.
Below, three of their dishes:
Togarashi Crusted Ahi,
Alaskan Halibut and
Macadamia Nut Cake.
Culinary students from Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch high schools didn’t let the long drive to Sacramento stop them from placing in the top three spots at this year’s California Restaurant Association ProStart Competition.

Mira Mesa took first place in the Boyds Coffee Culinary Cup and third place in the BJ’s Restaurant Management Cup. Scripps Ranch took third place in the Boyds Coffee Culinary Cup, received a special cash award of $2,000 from BJ’s Restaurants Foundation and student, Jordan Tucker, was named the ProStart Student of the Year.

Mira Mesa will now have the opportunity to represent California in the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore, Md. The competition was tough this year with a total of 23 culinary teams and 14 management teams from all over the state competing.

An association spokesperson said that the 23 culinary teams and 14 management teams from all over the state impressed the judges and attendees with their skill and entrepreneurial spirit. The judges were quick to note the passion and dedication apparent in all of the teams’ performances – clearly an indication that the future of the industry looks bright, thanks to the ProStart program.

The ProStart School-to-Career program was created to educate and develop promising high school graduates by giving them culinary and business training. The California Restaurant Association Education Fund works to increase student opportunities for higher education, jobs and careers in the hospitality industry.

Designed for high school juniors and seniors, ProStart is a two-year program that provides instruction in 25 subject areas, ranging from service to sanitation. This program encourages high school students to embrace and experience all of the skills necessary to operate and manage a successful food service establishment. ProStart also helps students develop the good business management skills crucial to future industry growth.

The Culinary Cup has teams competing in a series of skills tests as well as preparing a fine dining three course menu -- within an hour -- using only two butane burners. The teams have to bring all their equipment and food items to the competition. The Management Cup teams had to create their own restaurant concept, business plan and perform an oral and visual presentation to a panel of potential investors.

In San Diego Unified, culinary arts programs are offered at five high schools: Garfield, Mira Mesa, Morse, San Diego High and Scripps Ranch. Students who have completed the program have gone onto receive degrees from cooking academies and four-year universities with specialties in hospitality and other fields.

For more information, contact Mira Mesa chef/teacher Zhee Zhee Aguirre at, or Scripps Ranch chef/teacher Kimberly Coelho at

Read news coverage»

About the schools

Mira Mesa High School is a California Distinguished School and has been recognized by the state for its Exemplary Career Technical Education Program. Mira Mesa High is a comprehensive, neighborhood school drawing students from the diverse and integrated Mira Mesa neighborhood.
Scripps Ranch High School is a California Distinguished School, a National Blue Ribbon School, and received a medal in U.S. News and World Report’s 2007 America’s Best Schools rankings. Faculty and administration provide a challenging learning environment and consistently utilize current research and student data to improve programs and work toward student achievement.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kearny High SCT Shows Skills at Science Fest

Sampling soil.
Soil samples -- how to take them and the results students found in their investigation of Tecolote Canyon -- were the topics shared with visitors by students from the EnTec Academy at the Kearny High's School of Science-Connections-Technology (SCT) at the recent San Diego Science Festival Expo.

EnTech, a specialized academy within SCT funded through a California Partnership Academies grant, involves students with UC San Diego's Science Bridge program, which links local research first with schools.
Academy students presented GIS maps and soil sample data they collected from a recent field trip to Tecolote Canyon; they demonstrated and taught visitors how to test soil samples and interpret the results.

The EnTec students are working on a cross-curricular project called My Green Life. The project is shared by the students' English, biology, and Global Information Systems (GIS) courses. The goal of the project is to have student connect emotionally and intellectually with the world around them. The students believe that appreciation is the first step to conservation.

For more information, contact Corri Burgess, GIS Teacher, at

About the School

The School of Science, Connections & Technology (SCT) at the Kearny High Educational Complex exists to engage students in rigorous, stimulating and diverse learning experiences that emphasize critical thinking and foster interpersonal communication skills. Our collaborative learning environment empowers all students to be successful members of their local and global communities. It is one of four small high schools on the historic Kearny High School campus.

Crawford, Lincoln, San Diego Students Go To Court

Students at court.

Students from Lincoln Academy of Public Safety, Crawford Academy of Law and San Diego High School participated in the annual Open Doors to Federal Court event.

Each year, the Federal Court allows students to visit their court rooms and participate in a mock trial. The students prepare in advance of the field trip by studying and practicing a mock trial script. The students then get to participate in the court room the day of the event.

This year’s mock trial focused on manslaughter charges for a teen driver that got in an accident while texting while driving.

For more information, please contact Ray Beattie, CCTE Instructor, at

Saturday, April 14, 2012

IN THE NEWS: UC High Ugandan Relief Effort Featured on Morning News

Students write, receive grant to ship supplies to students in African nation. Watch video from KUSI»

Friday, April 13, 2012

IN THE NEWS: It’s a wrap! Senior creates film festival for La Jolla High students

La Jolla High School is about to host its first film festival, thanks to senior and aspiring filmmaker Julian Clark. The event will be held Friday, May 11 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium and is open to the public.

All current La Jolla High students are welcome to submit a film or video for the festival, as long as they enter by May 1 and follow two rules: the video must be under 10 minutes in length and it must include at least one potato.

Why a potato? “It’s an object anyone can acquire easily,” said Julian. Read more from The La Jolla Light»

Patrick Henry Bel Cantos Sing at Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall Patrick Henry High's Bel Cantos Ensemble recently performed with the National Youth Honor Choir at Carnegie Hall in New York City, joining eight other schools from around North America.

Patrick Henry Choir Director Carol Fleming said the students were conducted by Dr. Lynne Gackle, Associate Professor of Ensembles and Associate Director of Choral Activities at Baylor University. The concert featured a variety of music, including the full Mozart "Te Deum" with string quartet.

"Our Henry Patriots had the experience of working with a diverse group of student musicians to create beautiful music and to put the final artistic touches on each song," said Fleming. "It was truly a group effort."

The Bel Cantos competed in a Field Studies International program to reach Carnegie Hall, with the choir submitting a CD for judges' consideration.
The Bel Cantos have 32 members in grades 9-12. The March 18 performance is the third time this Patrick Henry advanced choir has performed at Carnegie Hall.

While in New York, the students also visited the Metropolitan Museum, Ellis Island, 9/11 Memorial and saw "How to Succeed in Business" and "Newsies" on Broadway.
For more information on the choir, contact Fleming at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Graduation Requirements Revised for Class of 2016 and Beyond

Graduation requirements for the Class of 2016 and beyond -- today's students in grade 8 and lower -- have been revised, putting career-technical education classes in the elective category, according to an April 10 Board of Education action.

The Board approved using the University of California's "a-g" courses as a basis for graduation requirements for students, beginning with the Class of 2016. It removed an earlier proposal to mandate two semesters of career-technical education courses. Students will be required to complete the ‘a-g’ coursework in order to graduate high school while still being able to take the popular career classes as electives. Classes range from engineering to information technology to medical technology in 15 career sectors (read more).

The Board also voted to fund workshops in the 2012-13 school year to inform parents/guardians and students about the new requirements. As the new graduation requirements are more rigorous than those required by the state, additional funding is being allocated on an equitable basis to schools for students who need help to pass the required courses.

More information on the current and future graduation requirements is available online at

Rosa Parks Elementary Cancer Fundraising Honored

UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center salutes student effort. Read more»

JROTC Cadet Ball Continues Tradition

JROTC Ball San Diego City Council Member and Madison High School JROTC veteran Todd Gloria was the guest speaker as San Diego Unified's JROTC program held its annual ball on March 24.

Board member Kevin Beiser also attended the event that drew more than 1,000 JROTC students from the 13 programs around the district, which has been held nearly every year since 1937.

Gloria reflected on his days as a Madison High School cadet and shared the impact the program had on his life.

"JROTC taught me to be prepared for the unexpected, become an effective communicator, and a contributing part of a team," he said.

Students from each school completed traditional presentation of the Royal Court to their principals and senior military iinstructor.

For more information on the JROTC program, contact LTC David Guzman at

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Five Schools, One Charter Cited for Academic Achievement

Title 1 Five San Diego Unified schools and one district charter have been named Title I Academic Achievement Schools by the state Department of Education.

The schools are: Angier Elementary in the Serra Mesa neighborhood; Garfield Elementary, North Park; Hardy Elementary, College area; School of International Studies at San Diego High, downtown; Vista Grande Elementary, Tierrasanta; and King/Chavez Primary Academy Charter, Stockton.

"I congratulate each of these schools, their principals, teachers and staff, students and parents, as well as the schools' network of partners, volunteers and supporters," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "It takes a daily effort by each individual involved to create the climate of educational excellence recognized by this honor."

Only schools receiving federal Title I funds are eligible to receive the award. The program provides funding and other assistance to schools serving students whose families are at or below the poverty line. To receive the award, low income students need to make significant improvement on meeting California's academic standards, doubling achievement targets for two consecutive years.

In making the announcement, state Superintendent Tom Torlakson lauded the schools for continuing to make progress in tough budget times."Their accomplishments prove the value of investing in our schools," he said, "and I thank the hardworking parents, teachers, administrators and school employees at these campuses for their efforts."

For San Diego Unified Title I Academic Achievement Award winners through the years, go to For more on the state program, go to

Grant K-8 Geographer Advances to State Competition

David Hickman David Hickman, in grade 8 at Grant K-8 school, recently competed in the California finals of the National Geographic Bee.

In addition to being Grant's school-wide geography bee winner, David took a proctored exam, scored by National Geographic, to determine if he could move forward to the state level.

Unfortunately, David wasn't a winner and won't move forward to the national competition.

The contest is designed to encourage teachers to include geography in their classrooms, spark student interest in the subject, and increase public awareness about geography. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging test of geographic knowledge.

For more information, see the National Geographic Bee website.

Mira Mesa Tops Rubik's Cube Competition

The Mira Mesa High School Cubing Club took the top $250 prize in its division at the recent 2012 Rubik’s Cube Competition, part of the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering Super STEM Saturday.

Challenger Middle School placed second in its division, winning $150, while Language Academy, Wilson Middle School and San Diego Early Middle College also competed.

The competition was held at California State University San Marcos and the Mira Mesa High team took the grand prize with an astonishing completion time of 03:01:15. Lead by head coach Zarek Pilakowski and assistant coach Don Boccio, team members are Steven Zakravsky, Joshua Li, Miguel Horrilleno, Anthony Clark, Dominic Tran, Seth Nakanishi, Danise Edra, Dani Ambrosio, Khai Nguyen, Kimberly Nguyen and Alex Lieu. The team had to "unmix" 25 Rubik's cubes, competing against other high school teams.

The competition, held March 17 at Cal State San Marcos, was part of the San Diego Science and Engineering Festival. The creators of Rubik's Cube have set up competitions around the country to encourage students to try the puzzle. For more information on the Mira Mesa effort, contact Sara Leonard, vice principal, at

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

IN THE NEWS: Board President Talks Budget, Attendance

Board President Dr. John Lee Evans discussed the budget, attendance and student achievement on KUSI's Good Morning San Diego. Watch video»

Free Lunches For Kids During Year-Round School Vacation

Lunch is available free to any child 18 and under during intersession break, April 9-27, 2012.

Through a partnership with the City of San Diego Department of Park and Recreation Department, the Jackie Robinson YMCA and selected military-related sites, lunches will be made available to any child who comes to the site during serving times. There is no paperwork or qualifications required.

Great food and fun activities at a special City Heights barbecue, April 25, 2012, noon to 1 P.M.

The whole family is invited to join the BBQ fun. Besides the BBQ, free fruit and vegetables will be available for every family to take home and many community organizations will share resources available in San Diego. Adults are invited to join their children for only $2 per person. Kids eat free.

Adams Elementary Second Graders Star in Video

Adams Elementary School second-graders recently gave Phil Blair, United Way of San Diego board member, the rock-star treatment when he read in their Normal Heights classroom.The seven-year-olds are featured in a video starring Blair that shows him feeling like a “celebrity” when he volunteers to read to kids.

Principal Derek Murchison was on hand to make sure students were on their best behavior but he needn’t have bothered.  Teacher Adam Gray had only to say “back to work” between takes, and his students were nose to books.
The video was part of the United Way's Volunteer for Education program.

"Volunteers make a huge difference,” said Murchison, adding that he hopes the video gets even more volunteers tutoring, mentoring and reading to children.

"The experience motivated and inspired the children," he said, "and “let these students know that they are amazing and that a lot of people truly care about them.”

The United Way staff was very grateful to Principal Murchison, Mr. Gray and the Adams students for allowing them to film the video in their classroom, calling the students the real rock stars of the video production. To learn more about how you can Volunteer for Education, go to the United Way of San Diego County website.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SD Unified Recognized for Absence Reduction

Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, traveled to San Diego today to congratulate the San Diego Unified School District on its successful efforts to reduce absenteeism.

Torlakson has named San Diego Unified one of 11 districts in California that are "models of attendance improvement."
San Diego Unified is reporting its third year of attendance gains, with more than 96 percent of students in school or on excused absences every day.

"We can't teach students if they're not in class," said San Diego's Superintendent, Bill Kowba. "This has been a total effort among staff and the community to do everything possible to make sure kids are in school."

The effort was a combination of teams from the district's School Attendance Review Board; the ORBIT team, which implemented new computer software to track absenteeism; and the Dropout Prevention program, said Kowba.
Contributing to the results were efforts by school attendance clerks, as well as principals, teachers, counselors and other school staff members.

"Our great support by the parents, our community partners and the wonderful residents of San Diego contributes to this success," said Dr. John Lee Evans, Board of Education President."They know that if they see a school-age child out and about on a school day, there should be some questions asked. Specifically, why isn't that child in school."
Districts awarded by the Model SARB program are those that are taking positive approaches to help students and families improve attendance, rather than just seek to punish offenders.

"While we need to address problems with truancy, we cannot overlook students and families that may need support due to health or emotional problems, or who may simply not realize the importance of regular school attendance, even in kindergarten," Torlakson said.

News coverage

IN THE NEWS: Benchley-Weinberger Goes “Back to the Future”

Students sang, danced, tumbled, designed sets, and presented skits to music that spanned the decades. Read more from the Mission Times Courier»