Thursday, February 28, 2013

Car eases road to a degree for San Diego teen

IN THE NEWS: The San Diego Unified School District has a team of traveling teachers who work with homeless students. A Hoover graduate, who was homeless his last year of high school, is now in college. Read more from KPBS»

Honor Concerts begin Saturday

Elementary, middle and high school students from throughout the San Diego Unified School District who have been selected by audition will perform in four honor concerts beginning this Saturday, March 2. The students will be under the direction of special guest conductors. Community members as well as family and friends are invited to come and share in the accomplishments of these remarkable young musicians.
A small donation is requested for admission to the Honor Choir Concert. There is no admission charge for the instrumental concerts.

Event calendar

  • 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2
    Partnership Honor Choir
    Location: Brown Chapel, Point Loma Nazarene University
    Performing: Elementary, Middle and High School Honor Choirs
    San Diego Unified, County Office of Education,California Association for Music Education
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, March 9
    High School Instrumental Honor Concert
    Copley Symphony Hall, 7th and B Streets, downtown San Diego
    Honor Orchestra, Honor Band
  • Thursday, March 21, 2013 7:00 PM
    Elementary Instrumental Honor Concert
    Brown Chapel, Point Loma Nazarene University
    Honor Orchestra, Honor Band
  • Saturday, March 23, 2013 7:00 PM
    Middle School Instrumental Honor Concert
    Brown Chapel, Point Loma Nazarene University
    Honor Orchestra, Honor Band
For more information contact the Visual & Performing Arts department, Karen-Childress Evans, Director (858) 539-5349 or;
Mark Nicholson, Instrumental Music Specialist  (858)539-5351,; or Margaret Lathan, Administrative Aide, ( 858) 539-5349

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Central Elementary Principal Cindy Marten Named New Superintendent

Central Elementary School Principal Cindy Marten has been named the next Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, replacing the retiring Bill Kowba on July 1.

The Board of Education made the announcement of its unanimous choice at a news conference Wednesday.

"We want a leader who will be tirelessly focused on the needs of children and will expect all adults to do the same," said Dr. John Lee Evans, Board of Education President. "We have found such a person in our own district."

Marten has been a teacher and administrator for more than 25 years; principal at Central Elementary for the last six years. She began her career as a teacher in the Poway district, moving to Central Elementary School in San Diego Unified in 2003. During her tenure at Central, the school's Academic Performance Index score rose from 631 to 788.

"What an incredible honor," said Marten. "I believe in the hope and promise of public education in America, and I believe in doing the work to show America what it's all about."

Marten, 46, is a product of the San Diego Unified School District, having attended Hardy Elementary School and Horace Mann Middle School before moving to La Jolla Country Day School for high school. She received her Bachelor's Degree from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. She holds a Master's Degree from UC San Diego in curriculum and instruction.

"She is well known across the district," said Evans. "She and her work are well known by civic leaders, business leaders in the community."

The other board members also lauded Marten's reputation and vision for education.

"I am absolutely confident that Ms. Marten is the right person at the right time in the right position," said Scott Barnett. "Since I've been here, I've said to myself, 'Do we clone Cindy Marten?'"

"We go about this with great thought and great deliberation. Central is exactly what Cindy talks about: it embodies the promise of public education in this country," said Richard Barrera, District D board member. "Cindy Marten is not only going to lead this district, Cindy Marten is going to lead the conversation in this country as what education can be."

"She was a principal already doing the work of a superintendent," said Marne Foster, District E trustee. "I have no doubt. i am clear that Cindy Marten is going to take that vision and transform San Diego Unified, the state and the nation with her work."

"She is somebody that is passionate about kids and education, somebody that embraces research based reform," said District B Trustee Kevin Beiser. "She gets it. She understands what it takes at all levels."

Dr. Evans said the Board will formally ratify the selection at a future meeting. Contract terms have not been announced.

La Jolla High speech students awarded by Rotarians

La Jolla High SchoolIN THE NEWS: The Rotary Club of La Jolla held its annual “4-Way Test Speech Contest” on Jan. 29. Four La Jolla High School students incorporated Rotary’s 4-way test ethical standard into a five-minute speech with a topic of their choosing. Read more from the La Jolla Light»

Toler Elementary Literacy Night draws community support

Toler Event More than 200 students, families and community members came together Jan. 30 at Toler Elementary School for the neighborhood school’s annual Literacy Night. Kathleen Krull, an award-winning children’s author who lives in San Diego, was the featured speaker. Krull has written some 60 books, most notably biographies. In 2011 she won the Children's Book Guild of Washington D.C. Nonfiction Award, an honor presented annually to "an author or illustrator whose total body of work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children.”

Krull talked to the audience about the books she has written as well as her life as an author. She shared that she has always loved books, even as a child, and that it’s inspiring to write about people who overcome obstacles that seem unsurmountable. The Yellow Book Road had her books for sale, which Krull (center right) signed after the program.

This special celebration of literacy also included a presentation by the Clairemont High School Theatre group of a production based on the book, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and a wax museum of authors presented by Mrs. Stower’s fifth grade class.

"We are grateful to the Toler P.T.A. and our partner in education, the Clairemont Public Library, for supporting this event for the entire Toler community," said Amy Murad, library/computer prep time teacher and event organizer. "It was a very educational and entertaining event for all who attended."

Lucky raffle winners brought home Kathleen Krull books, posters, gift cards and a “Nook” e-reader.

For more information, contact Amy Murad at or 858-273-0294.

Supreme Court Justice is a hit with students

Students eager to visit wih Justice Sotomayor
Students Abigale Arroyo, left, Kathy Silva and Leslie Chaves'
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor left a great impression on six San Diego Unified students who attended her recent local appearances.
"I felt honored to have been at this eve
nt," said Abagail Arroyo, a student at Mira Mesa High School. "As a Latina myself I hope one day I will be able to represent individuals who may be inadequately represented."

Arroyo attended the event courtesy of Chris Yanov, president of Reality Changers, along with Kathy Silva from Madison, Rosa Oloscoaga of Patrick Henry, and Leslie Chavez and Jennifer Zamora from Preuss UCSD charter. All students are part of the Reality Changers program in City Heights, a program aimed at building first-generation college students.

Justice Sotomayor visited San Diego Jan. 27, speaking at the University of San Diego and signing copies of her new book, "My Beloved World," at a La Jolla bookstore. The five high school students were given copies of the book and met Sotomayor, who is the first Hispanic and just the third woman on the nation's highest court.
Arroyo said she couldn’t contain her excitement when she first saw Sotomayor and was inspired by the event. Arroyo hopes to attend University of California Irvine in the fall and major in political science; her plans include becoming an immigration lawyer.
For more information, contact Francisca Del Carmen-Aguilar, Mira Mesa High Vice Principal at 858-566-2262 X2216 or

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Supt. Kowba announces retirement

Bill Kowba
Bill Kowba
Superintendent Bill Kowba has announced his retirement from the San Diego Unified School District, effective June 30.

Kowba was named Superintendent in June 2010, after serving as interim superintendent following the departures of Terry Grier and Carl Cohn. He also served as the district's Chief Financial Officer, Chief Special Projects Officer and Chief Logistics Officer.

In a statement to the San Diego Unified staff and the community, Kowba said he notified the Board of Education of his decision today. His retirement will come at the end of his three-year contract as Superintendent.

"It is only after extensive reflection with my family and great mixed emotions that I have formally notified the Board of Education of my decision to retire on June 30, 2013," he wrote in a statement to the district's employees and the San Diego Unified community. "In the months ahead, I will have opportunities to thank all of you for your support, loyalty, and commitment to our San Diego Unified mission. But one can never thank enough those who have dedicated themselves to singular sacrifice and collaboration on the incredible journey of the past seven years."

During his tenure as Superintendent, San Diego Unified's record of academic achievement has garnered national attention. The district last year celebrated achieving an overall California Academic Performance Index score of 808, ranking second of just three large California districts that meet the state's target score.

In addition, Kowba's tenure has been marked by expansion of the technology available to students, with iPad tablet computers and Promethian "smart boards" equipping a growing number of classrooms.

These advances have kept student achievement growing throughout his years with the district, despite continual cutbacks in funding. Two successful bond measures during the Kowba era have provided local funding for infrastructure improvements but operating funds have dwindled by millions as a result of state and federal cutbacks. Kowba addressed these challenges in his retirement letter to the Board of Education.

"This tenure has been earmarked by both great resource challenge and solid academic achievement," he wrote. "At center stage, the Board, staff, and community have had to deal with incessant draconian cuts to the state and district budgets triggered by the single deepest and most prolonged economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"Year after year, we have had to make the most difficult decisions impacting all stakeholder groups. Great collaboration and sacrifice by all have enabled us to accommodate the budget deficits. That said, we must relentlessly address the future year fiscal challenges with balanced, long-term budget solutions."

Still, Kowba said the focus on academics had paid off for students.

"We have been able to maintain a laser focus on academic excellence and not allow the budget woes to distract from our core educational mission. The results speak for themselves," he said.

"This is testimony to one of the hardest working and most dedicated teams that I have ever been associated with in my adult life."

Board of Education President Dr. John Lee Evans thanked Supt. Kowba for his service.

"We congratulate Superintendent Kowba for the stability that he has finally brought to this district," said Evans. "He has shepherded this district through a difficult period with the utmost dignity and human decency, has planned for the future, and has provided a great example for the next superintendent."

Other Board members also lauded Kowba's record at the District.

"As a parent and as a board member," said District D Trustee Richard Barrera, "I just want to thank Bill Kowba for being a role model that I think any of our young people could be proud to look to as an example of how to live your life in a way that makes a difference."

"The candor, with such concern, and how carefully you consider the issues, and how thorough you examine the issues is very impressive and very much appreciated," said Trustee Marne Foster of District E.

"I don't think there is any employee of this district who works harder and cares more about our kids than Bill Kowba," said District C Trustee Scott Barnett.

"While I don't agree, I understand your desire to retire and just as Trustee Foster said, you'll be missed," said Kevin Beiser, District B Trustee.

San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Randy Ward lauded Kowba for his service to San Diego Unified, as well as the other 41 districts in the county. Kowba has chaired the county-wide Achievement Gap Task Force, which is working to ensure that all students are ready for the 21st job market.

"To use a naval analogy, which is fitting given Bill’s background, he provided a stabilizing rudder that guided the district through the rough waters of the state’s fiscal crisis," said Ward. "Bill’s strong leadership has made a difference not only in San Diego Unified, but also across the County."

Before joining the District, Kowba was a career Navy Supply Corps Officer, retiring at the rank of Rear Admiral. Across his extensive military service, he served in ever increasingly responsible leadership positions in the supply chain/logistics and financial management fields. His assignments included three shipboard tours, two Navy Pentagon details, and numerous field activity experiences. Admiral Kowba was the first commander of the Fleet and Industrial Supply Centers. As such, he developed a global network of seven supply centers operating at more than 100 sites and staffed by almost 7,000 logistics, acquisition, and financial professionals.

Bill Kowba was born and raised in Rochester, New York. After completing his undergraduate and graduate degree programs at Saint Bonaventure University and the University of Richmond, he joined the Navy and was commissioned as a Supply Corps Officer. He holds Master Degrees from University of Richmond and Webster University and an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA. Additionally he has completed the Executive Management program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

The Board of Education has not yet announced a plan for hiring a successor.

Revamping the “core” of education

When Tina Rasori teaches math to fourth- and fifth-graders at Fay Elementary School in City Heights, she expects her students to do more than calculate the correct answers. Students work through problems and demonstrate how they arrive at answers. After conferring with classmates, they also must critique the reasoning of their peers. This is math infused with Common Core, academic standards that are set to hit California classrooms in the 2014-15 school year. Read more from UT San Diego»

An Eagle Scout's view on Boy Scouts' gay policy

STUDENT VIEW: Patrick Henry student, an Eagle Scout, discusses controversial issue. Read more from UT San Diego»

Serra High student recognized as ‘Citizen Athlete of the Week’

Rebecca Wade
IN THE NEWS: Meet Rebecca Wade, water polo athlete and ASB activist around campus. She talks about getting involved in school, being the ASB Commissioner of Special Events, academics and athletics. Watch video from KUSI-TV»

Monday, February 25, 2013

Area 4 Superintendent Named 2013 Central Office Administrator of the Year

kim-phelps Congratulations to Area 4 Superintendent Dr. Marian Kim-Phelps for being named the 2013 Central Office Administrator of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region 18. Dr. Phelps oversees the Clairemont, Kearny and Madison clusters. The mission of ACSA is to support California's educational leaders; to ensure all children have the essential skills and knowledge needed to excel; and to champion public education. Nearly 1,000 educational leaders belong to ACSA Region 18, which encompasses San Diego and Imperial Counties. Phelps will be recognized, along with other honorees, at ASCA's annual “Honoring Our Own” awards dinner being held in the spring. Read more.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Madison High wins district "Teen Iron Chef" competition

Culinary arts students have gathered for the eighth year to test their skills and Madison High's team came out first, followed by Mira Mesa and San Diego high teams in the 2013 San Diego Unified Teen Iron Chef competition.

Based on the popular Food Network TV show, the contest gave teams from five of the eight culinary arts programs in the district a chance to work under pressure, creating a complete meal in an hour for some of San Diego's top chefs. Madison, Mira Mesa, San Diego High School of Business, Scripps Ranch and Hoover high schools participated; Garfield and Morse have the other culinary programs.

Students are able to work on their ideas, go shopping, portion their protein and measure any dry or liquid ingredients the day before. They are not allowed to do any actual cooking, pre-making of dough, or premixing ingredients ahead of time. On the day of the competition, they were presented with a secret ingredient that must be incorporated into at least one of their three courses. They are allowed to have their recipes or prep-list at the station during the competition. Watch video from CBS 8

The secret ingredient this year was tofu. Some of the secret ingredients from previous years include calamari, brie, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, and cantaloupe. Many of the schools hold mock competitions in the week leading up the event in order to select the students for the team or practice the nuts and bolts of the competition.

Madison's four-person winning team, led by captain Carolina Iniquez, created a three-course fine dining meal, all by hand and from scratch. The menu consisted of Bourbon Smoked Scallops, Sweet Pea Puree with Vanilla Parmesan Foam, Pan Seared Muscovy Duck Breast with Fingerling and Fennel Confit, Rainbow Chard, Blueberry-Cabernet Beurre Rouge, and White Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla-Fig Gastrique and Spun Sugar Cage.

The team was coached by Madison’s Chef Halbert and Sous Chef Emily Obeso from the Manchester Grand Hyatt. The students now move on to the California ProStart Invitational competition at the Pasadena Convention Center on March 17-18. The ProStart Invitational is the country’s premier high school competition focused on restaurant management and culinary arts.

“It is so much fun and makes all of our classroom cooking projects more meaningful because we are cooking for professional judges,” said Vannak Seang of runner-up Mira Mesa High School team. It was Seang's second time in the Iron Chef competition, where the students are guided by teacher Zhee Zhee Aguirre and mentor Juan Esquivel from Bully¹s.

"It is a tremendous experience," said Michael Nyland, a San Diego High School of Business senior and repeat contestant at Iron Chef. "It makes us all very nervous but it is worth the thrill."

Third-place San Diego High School of Business is lead by teacher Brian Murphy. Also participating were Scripps Ranch High School with teacher, Kimberly Coelho; and newcomer Hoover High School under the direction of teacher, Pam Dahlin, with the help of mentor Jeff Lewis from the San Diego Culinary Institute.

The Culinary Arts and Management course in the San Diego Unified School District is supported by the Office of College, Career and Technical Education. Major support for the program comes from the California Restaurant Association San Diego Chapter. San Diego Gas and Electric Company provided the facility used for the event, the Sempra Energy Innovation Center, 4760 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.. For more information, contact Lisa McDonnell at (858) 503-1841.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's the Year of the Snake at Barnard Chinese Language Magnet

Donning face paint, singing and dancing to Chinese songs, students and staff at Barnard Elementary School in Point Loma celebrated Chinese New Year, the Year of the Snake, at the school-wide festival.

Each class took turns demonstrating what they have been learning about what the Chinese call the Spring Festival, New Year's on the Lunar Calendar. Students, many wearing traditional outfits, participated in singing, dancing, acting out a rendition of the folktale “The Gigantic Turnip,” and the tale of first Chinese New Year, where the importance of the color red and lighting fireworks had their origins. Each performance was done completely in Mandarin.

For the finale, students holding small Chinese dragons wound their way through the excited crowd while dancers from the Three Treasures Cultural Arts Society performed a traditional lion dance, acrobatically bobbing and weaving the colorful costume to the beat of a Chinese drum, cymbal and gong.

Principal Eddie Park was justifiably excited about the day’s events. Talking about the Mandarin program’s humble beginnings and the numerous accolades his school has received, he looks forward to continued success in the years to come.

“The hope for the future for these kids is that they go through this immersion program through high school and come out having different opportunities, not just statewide, not just nationally, but internationally,” said Park. “You’ve seen the accumulation of what they have been learning. You saw the fluency of the upper grade levels. Today is a testament to this program.”

It was originally a time to honor household deities and ancestors. Today, it is an opportunity to renew family ties and perform rites meant to bring good luck and long life. At Barnard Elementary, it is a chance to come together as a community and showcase student achievement.

Located in Point Loma, Barnard Mandarin Chinese Magnet School has been honored as one of the top Mandarin programs in the world. Students receive daily Mandarin instruction and immersion in the Mandarin Chinese culture, including the arts, music and literature. The Chinese New Year celebrates the achievements of the students and ongoing community support, including the Confucius Institute at SDSU, the House of China in Balboa Park and Panda Express, which catered the lunch and donated $1,000.

This is the last Chinese New Year that will be celebrated at the historic Barnard Street campus. This fall, for the 2013-14 school year, the school will move to the larger Bayview Terrace Elementary location, across from Mission Bay High School in Pacific Beach.

For more information on the program, contact Principal Park at (619) 224-3306.

-- Brett Higdon

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mission Bay High is part of festival for its neighbor, Rose Creek

IN THE NEWS: A celebration of Rose Creek was held just recently, organized by Friends of Rose Creek and San Diego Earthworks. Rose Creek is one of the actual, live creeks that pours into east Mission Bay. Rose Creek runs down Rose Canyon, the canyon that I-5 travels, and enters the bay in its northeast quadrant, flowing right by Mission Bay High School. Read more from OB Rag»

Sequoia Elementary students learn dollars and sense

Students get a lesson in capitalism There are some traditions that never get old.

Every year for a decade, Junior Achievement and Jack-in-the-Box have teamed up to teach Sequoia Elementary School students the value of becoming financially responsible. Staff from the locally based restaurant chain visit classrooms to teach students about the value of saving money (in Kindergarten) to the economics (grade six).

"Everyone has fun on this day and they learn valuable lessons," said Principal Ryan Kissel. "This is great tradition that continues at Sequoia annually."

In addition, most of the volunteers brought prizes for the students, such as pencils with Jack-in-the-Box heads on them.

"One of the the lessons being taught to our first grade students is determining the difference between wanting and needing," said Kissel. "For example, they showed a picture of a puppy which is a want. Then they showed a picture of fruit which is a need."

For upper grades, the message is how to become entrepreneurs, how to build their own business and how to produce a product for their business.

For more information on the program, contact Kissel at

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Community Helps Revive Old Town Program

IN THE NEWS: Fourth-graders in San Diego will soon resume their once annual trek to Old Town. Local businesses have rallied to revive the popular public school program, which was shared by generations of San Diegans until it recently fell victim to budget cuts.

Under a new partnership with the San Diego Unified School District, the Old Town Chamber of Commerce will hold a golf tournament every March to raise money for the transportation costs — about $3 per student, or $36,000 in all. Read more from UT San Diego»

SD Unified Council of PTAs receives $2,000 translation grant

PTA The San Diego Unified Council of PTAs is proud to announce that it has been awarded a $2,000 Outreach Translation Grant from the California State PTA. The Translation Grants are available for a variety of PTA programs and projects such as:
  • Translating PTA information and materials including items such as flyers, handouts or website content into other languages
  • Translation at PTA meetings, programs and events
  • Activities to build and strengthen a PTA's central involvement in its school community
  •  Programs to enhance family/ school communications and partnerships
  • Activities to encourage and facilitate the engagement of non-English-speaking parents in PTA meetings, programs and events
The San Diego Unified Council of PTAs will use the funding to translate its Officer Survival Guide Booklets into Spanish. These booklets were developed to help school site PTA presidents, treasurers, secretaries and membership unit officers understand their roles and responsibilities.

“We are very excited to receive this funding,” said Council President Barbara Flannery. “The Council is always looking for ways to engage more Spanish-speaking parents in PTA leadership roles at their schools. Having the booklets in Spanish should help these efforts.”

For more information, contact the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs at or visit the website at

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SCPA students featured in Black History Month video

Alize Irby Students and alumni of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts are part of a television tribute to Black History Month produced by NBC 7.

The program features students from SCPA and performers from the San Diego Repertory Theatre, which has had a producing partnership with the South Bay Terraces school for several years.

Seniors Kevin Borroughs, and Alize Irby are joined by sophomore Deja Fields and alum Lisa Payton. Borroughs was part of the SCPA/San Diego Repertory's co-productions of “Zoot Suit” and “Tommy.” Irby concentrates on dance while Fields specializes in drama and musical theater.

Talking about the start she received at SCPA is alumnae, current local actress and singer Payton.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Madison High, Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary and other area schools join hands to stop bullying

Last year they were the only elementary school students in their cluster to walk to Madison High to support the "I Pledge" event against name calling and hurtful language. This year the students from Lindbergh Schweitzer were more than happy to join all the schools in the Madison cluster in coming together for a day of commitment to prevent harassment, bullying and other forms of offensive behavior.

Organized by Madison High, this event is part of Madison's ongoing commitment to safe schools. Schools in the Madison cluster are: Field, Hawthorne, Holmes, Lafayette, Lindbergh/Schweitzer, Sequoia and Whitman elementary; CPMA and Innovation middle; Mt. Everest Academy, Muir K-12 and Madison High schools. 

Each school decorated a wooden hand with a pledge against name calling and hurtful language. Each hand was presented to Principal Richard Nash and displayed by Area 4 Superintendent Marian Kim-Phelps on a board to be viewed in the Performing Arts Center.

Led by their sponsor club guides -- the Madison High Devil Ducks Robotics Team -- Lindbergh Schweitzer students, staff and parents were treated to friendly competition games of tug-of-war, basketball, and volleyball. Together with the Madison students in the new broadcast studio, they then pledged their voices to end bullying at their school sites with a DVD to play for their fellow classmates. The day concluded with students adding important words to remember to a student-created banner and then colored it with a rainbow of colors to beautify their campus walls.

For additional information contact Julie Harris, Lindbergh Schweitzer Media Production Assistant, at or 858-496-8400.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Choice Program highlighted as deadline approaches

Welcome to school. The deadline is Friday, Feb. 15 for school choice applications for the 2013-14 school year.

San Diego Unified is offers excellent educational opportunities around every corner. Visiting your neighborhood school is a great place to start. For students seeking other options, the application deadline is February 15th for the upcoming school year.

Please note:
  • All applications MUST be submitted online. Paper and faxed applications will not be accepted.
  • Applications accepted after Feb. 15 are only for new students or changes of address.
  • When applying for kindergarten, you must select Pre-k for the current grade level. 
Parents only need to apply during this period if they plan to "choice" out of their neighborhood school. The application period runs from Nov. 1, 2012 through Feb. 15, 2013.

In the News

Pacific Beach Middle School students grow their own lunch

Students at Pacific Beach Middle School have grown enough lettuce in their school garden to feature it on the cafeteria's salad bar. Many schools in the San Diego Unified School District have school gardens growing vegetables; extra goodies on the salad bar, organically grown, are a big hit with the kids.

"The PBMS garden club will be supplying the cafeteria salad bar with fresh produce on Fridays whenever there is something to harvest," said Library Technician Sally Kaufman. "It looks like we’ll have enough to harvest for several weeks and maybe more."

"The buzz on campus today from the students, staff and cafeteria employees was very exciting," said Kaufman.

Rand Stoller, the Video Club advisor and Network Systems Media Support Technician, helped the students produce the video. Stoller runs a video production club after school. Watch a video on their efforts»

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Birney Elementary 'Kindness Challenge' Marks Fire Anniversary

Birney's heart Birney Elementary School students have turned a school tragedy into a lesson in kindness.

It was just over a year ago – January 17 – that an arson fire heavily damaged the cafeteria, auditorium and PrimeTime before-after school facility at the University Heights campus. The fire was early in the morning of the day students were set to return to school after winter break. The school marked the occasion by participating in The Great Kindness Challenge.

"We thought celebrating acts of kindness would be a welcome alternative to the memories of the last time we came back from winter break," said principal Amanda Hammond-Williams. "The kids really took the challenge on. We were also excited to kick off the restoration of our burned-out building. This week was full of good beginnings and caring acts, then we wrapped up the week by wearing red, pink or white and forming a huge heart shape on the playground."

The Great Kindness Challenge is one school week devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible, choosing from a checklist of 50 suggestions.

"This week was full of good beginnings and caring acts, then we wrapped up the week by wearing red, pink or white and forming a huge heart shape on the playground," said Hammond-Williams.
There was considerable structural and other damage to the building. A completion date is expected later this year.

The Birney community continues to raise funds to support the reconstruction and other programs at the school. Visit the school's website for more information.

Monday, February 11, 2013

JROTC students learn positive lessons

County Office of Education, Cox Communications highlight JROTC programs in "Salute to Education" video. Watch»

Sunday, February 10, 2013

County Superintendent discusses Prop. 30 changes

Voters passed measure in November; Dr. Randy Ward gives his views on funding changes. Watch video from the San Diego County Office of Education and Cox Communications/Cox 4.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Youth and Transit forum eyes student bus usage

Students, especially in neighborhoods like City Heights, are major users of public transportation. Watch a video on a recent neighborhood meeting at Central Elementary School attended by San Diego Unified Trustee Richard Barrera and community leaders. Video courtesy Mid-City CAN.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Two Mira Mesa High facilities near completion

Mira Mesa High School is getting a double dose of upgrades for its College, Career and Technical Education (CCTE) Programs. Both the Broadcast Journalism Program and the Screen Printing and Computerized Graphic Design Program are getting extreme makeovers thanks San Diego Unified School District's Prop. S and a California Prop. 1D matching-fund grant. Read more from Prop. S news»

La Jolla High students raise, release seabass

La Jolla High is taking a hands-on approach to conservation, as students in Dave James’ marine biology class recently released into Mission Bay 18 young white seabass that had been raised from eggs.
The hope is that they will thrive and help replenish the depleted species.

James, a marine science and biology teacher, read online about a program where students were raising abalone and white seabass in the classroom and became interested in getting something similar started for his students.

After receiving a grant from the McCloud Educational Trust, he teamed up with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and set up a mariculture system. The students have been nurturing the juvenile white seabass in their classroom since September, learning about sustainability of natural resources, aquaculture, environmental science and the importance of water quality.

“We took turns taking care of the fish, feeding them and cleaning the water. We measured them before putting them in the tank so we could record their growth process,” said Jacob Gonzalez, a senior at La Jolla. “Hopefully when we release them, they will be ready to go out into the wild.”

Michael Shane, a research scientist with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research who has assisted LJHS with the program, remarked not only on the educational value, but the positive environmental impact as well.

“We’ve released almost two million fish up and down the coast of California since the mid-1980s." said Shane. "These students are helping to replenish the stocks of white seabass that have been declining since the early 1950s.”

Before releasing the fish, students carefully scanned nine fish at a time for tiny tracking tags implanted in their cheek. These tags will help Hubbs scientists track how far the fish have traveled, how big they got and how healthy they stayed. They then slowly poured the bucket of fish into the chilly Mission Bay water.

“This program is wonderful,” said James. “Students are getting to learn real-world skills that they can apply when they go to college. It helps them put everything they are learning together — chemistry, physics, biology, ecology — and they get to be responsible for fish being released into the wild.”

News Coverage

– Photos and story by Brett Higdon

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Schools, offices closed Friday, Feb. 15; Monday, Feb. 18

All schools and offices will be closed Friday, Feb. 15, for Lincoln Day, and Monday, Feb. 18 for Presidents Day.

Worms bore path for future scientists at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary

Christian, left, and Darin discover their worms.
When Dr. Michael Maxwell visited Mindy Norman's third grade class recently at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School in Clairemont, he brought along some friends.

Worms were Dr. Maxwell's pals, there to let the third graders learn about how insects, bugs and other creepy crawlies are very important to our environment.

The lesson was part of the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering’s Nifty 50 program; 50 scientists and engineers work together to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers. The program also focuses on getting girls interested in science.

The Nifty Fifty program is underwritten by Life Technologies Inc. Learn more about the festival and its week-long list of hands-on activities taking place March 16-23 at

For additional information contact Media Production Assistant Julie Harris at or 858-496-8400.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

First class with 'A-G' requirements moving through high school

San Diego Unified's plan to have all students complete the classes required to be eligibile for admission into the University of California and California State University is now under way as the Class of 2016 is more than half way through ninth grade.

"These are among the most rigorous graduation requirements for any large district in California," said Dr. Nellie Meyer, Deputy Superintendent of Academics. "We think our students are responding well to having the bar raised."

The new requirements include taking specific high school courses, called 'a-g,' that are minimum subject-area courses for students to be eligible for admission to University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) schools.The Board of Education approved the change in 2009.

"We recognize that all students are not headed to a University of California or California State University campus," said Meyer. "But we do believe they all students should be well-prepared for college, career or whatever the future holds upon graduation."

Changes for the Class of 2016 are:
  • World Language: Two years (four credits) of the same language, Grades 7-12;
  • Mathematics: Three years (six credits) Algebra, Geometry, Intermediate Algebra, Grades 7-12;
  • Visual and Performing Arts: One year (two credits) of UC/CSU “F”-approved visual and performing arts course.
San Diego Unified is providing student learning support, staff training and resources to help all students successfully meet these requirements. Teachers and school counselors are being trained to spot students who may need special help with the requirements.

In addition to completing 'a-g' requirements, the Class of 2016 and beyond must take additional coursework, pass the high school exit exam, complete a senior exhibition and earn at least a 2.0 in overall grades and citizenship to receive a high school diploma from San Diego Unified.

For more information, see the Class of 2016 and Beyond graduation requirements online or check with your child's counselor.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Free Tdap shots available Feb. 13 at Madison High

The Tdap booster shot -- required for students entering grade 7 -- will be available free to students in sixth grade from 2-6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at Madison High School Room 101, 4833 Dolvia Drive.

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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Pertussis (whooping cough) is very contagious and can cause serious illness ― especially in infants too young to be fully vaccinated. Pertussis vaccines are recommended for children, teens, and adults, including pregnant women.

Whooping cough — or pertussis — is a serious and very contagious respiratory disease that can cause long, violent coughing fits and the characteristic “whooping” sound that follows when a person gasps for air.

Mr. Pertussis
Centers for Disease Control
has information for kids. Go there.
Whooping cough has been on the rise in preteens and teens. In 2009, a quarter of the 16,858 cases of pertussis reported in the United States were among 10- through 19-year-olds.

Most children get vaccinated against whooping cough as babies and get a booster shot before starting kindergarten or first grade. But protection from these vaccines wears off, leaving pre-teens at risk for infection that can cause prolonged illness, disruptions in school and activities, and even hospitalization. To boost immunity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the Tdap vaccine for all 11- and 12-year-olds.

“It’s important for pre-teens to get a one-time dose of Tdap to protect themselves and those around them from whooping cough,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Young infants are most vulnerable to serious complications from pertussis and can be infected by older siblings, parents, or other caretakers.”

For infants, whooping cough can be deadly.

“Unfortunately, the most recent survey shows that only a little more than half of teens have received the Tdap vaccine,” said Dr. Schuchat. “By taking their pre-teen to get Tdap, parentscan protect their child and help stop this disease from spreading.”

Tdap is one of three vaccines CDC specifically recommends for pre-teens. The others are the meningococcal vaccine, which protects against meningococcal disease, including bacterial meningitis, and, for girls, the HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer. Boys and young men can get HPV vaccine to prevent genital warts. Of course, the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older.

Pre-teens should also be up-to-date on so-called childhood vaccines to prevent hepatitis B, chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. These recommendations are supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. To learn more, visit CDC’s adolescent vaccine website at or call 800-CDC-INFO.

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.

The Feb. 13 free clinic is sponsored by San Diego Unified's Nursing and Wellness Program and is open to all San Diego Unified students.

Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who can sign the consent form. No appointment is needed.
For information regarding immunizations needed for school, visit

Monday, February 4, 2013

Project Ujima grant will help improve outreach

Project Ujima, San Diego Unified's parenting program for African-American families, has received a $1,500 grant from the Neighborhood Unity Foundation and San Diego Neighborhood Funders to establish the parent-to-parent mentoring program.

The program will provide Project Ujima parents and caregivers a stipend as well as funds for materials to recruit parents and caregivers to Project Ujima parent classes for parents with students in Title I schools in the "Diamond District," an area that includes schools in both the Lincoln and Morse high school clusters.

"This grant will help all of us to use the skills, knowledge and confidence they gained through their own participation in Project Ujima parenting classes," said program director Elneda Shannon, "to help other parents in San Diego Unified in general -- and the Diamond District, in particular -- become more engaged in the academic success and social development of their children.”

Project Ujima is a program of the San Diego Unified School District’s Parent Outreach and Engagement Department designed to augment and strengthen existing resources within African American families in Title I schools. Project Ujima provides positive and empowering trainings, resources and networks that support African American families seeking to promote academic achievement within the family and community.

The core program offers classes from October through May at Valencia Park Elementary School on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. Classes are also held at various Title 1 schools throughout the district. Although the program’s focus is on African American families, all families are welcome to participate.

For more information, please contact Shannon at (619) 293-4431 or

National School Counseling Week is Feb. 4-8

counselor National School Counseling Week will be celebrated Feb. 4-8 to focus public attention on the unique contribution of professional school counselors within U.S. school systems. This special week, sponsored by the American School Counselors Assn., highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. This year’s theme is "School Counseling: Liberty and Learning for All."

The week provides the opportunity to honor and thank school counselors for the important role they play in helping students examine their talents, strengths, abilities and interests. Counselors work in professional partnerships with teachers and support personnel to provide an educational system where students can realize their true potential. As all educators focus their efforts on improving academic achievement for all students, it is important that we recognize school counselors for their continuing efforts in reducing barriers to learning and in providing the support necessary for all students to achieve at the highest level.

For information about San Diego Unified's Counseling and Guidance program, visit the Counseling and Guidance Department website.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

La Jolla High students in national WordWright competition

Eleventh graders from La Jolla High placed 12th out of 582 school teams in the recent WordWright Challenge competition.

Junior Trevor Menders, who made just one mistake during the meet, was ranked as one of the 63 highest-scoring 11th graders in the nation. More than 58,000 students from around the world participated.

The WordWright Challenge is a national reading competition for students in grades 9-12 that requires analytical reading of many kinds of prose and poetry. It emphasizes perceptive interpretation, sensitivity to language, and an appreciation of style. More than 54,000 students from public and private high schools in 46 states and 4 foreign nations participated last year.

La Jolla's students were supervised by Jewel Weien, a La Jolla English teacher. She has 84 juniors and 39 sophomores participating in this year's competition, which continues in February.

The program helps students prepare for the SAT and other tests by giving students a short text, then asking a series of questions based on the text. The texts for this challenge were: for grades 9-10, an essay by Peggy Orenstein, paired with a thematically related sonnet by William Wordsworth; and, for grades 11-12, an excerpt from Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit.

Students will have the opportunity to participate in two more WordWright meets during the coming months. Medals and certificates will be awarded in June to students who not only have the top scores, but progress the most during the course of the year.

For more information on the La Jolla program, contact Principal Dana Shelburne at

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Lindbergh Schweitzer Parent Honored by Islamic Center

Lallia Allai
Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School parent and family advocate Lallia Allali has been honored for her "interfaith leadership in the community" and "her efforts to be the voice of working families in supporting and improving public education in San Diego" by The Islamic Center of San Diego 2012 Voices for Justice Celebration.

Also serving the community as a member of the ELAC Advisory Committee and District ELAC Advisory Committee member, this tireless mom of four also helped establish the Girl Scouts of Islamic Faith in San Diego in 2004, whose troop has been very active in organizing religious, cultural, and interfaith events to celebrate diversity.

The San Diego Unified School District formally recognized by proclamation the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice of San Diego County (ICWJ) and its ninth Annual Voices for Justice Breakfast on December 4.

"On behalf of the staff and the PTA at Lindbergh Schweitzer, we sincerely thank Lallia for all her efforts on behalf of our students and families, and congratulate her on this most deserved honor," said Principal Deanne Rohde.

For additional information contact Media Production Assistant Julie Harris at or 858-496-8400.

Friday, February 1, 2013

From Supt. Kowba: The path to a balanced budget

Superintendent Bill KowbaOn Tuesday, Jan 22, the Board of Education held a budget workshop where I presented the reality of the district’s projected $84 million deficit for 2013/14. We outlined two alternative scenarios for balancing next year’s budget. One alternative is to initiate a large layoff process similar to the one we followed last year. The second alternative is to reduce staffing levels through attrition combined with a significant increase in property sales to generate one-time revenue.
Both alternatives are difficult. The massive layoff strategy creates great turmoil, destabilizes staffing and increases class sizes. The attrition approach will result in an uneven and challenging staffing pattern. But it is the best approach to safeguard stability and student supports. Consequently, the Board directed staff to prepare a balanced 2013/14 budget using a combination of attrition savings and property sales.

Outlook for 2013/14 – The Path to a Balanced Budget

Over time, the recently approved Proposition 30 taxes will generate more revenue for the state for education funding. This new revenue does not immediately return the district to the funding levels of 2008, but it is a first step toward that goal. We are in a transition period to a better funding environment but our current budget shortfall must be addressed now.
Over the past several years, the district has spent down reserves, made permanent operational cuts, and used one-time funding solutions to balance budgets during the state’s financial crisis. These budget balancing strategies of previous years still leave a 2013/14 budget deficit of $84 million.
Since last week’s board direction, I have initiated a two-pronged budget strategy of personnel reductions through attrition and planning for additional real estate sales. The following is a summary of these two key deficit reduction strategies. 

Attrition-Based Staff Reductions

Each year, 500-600 staff members leave the district stemming from retirements, leaves or separations. Typically, these are budgeted positions that are refilled with temporary contracts for approved leaves, probationary contracts or new hires for separations. Teaching positions that become vacant during the year are filled in the same manner. Certificated management at school sites are also replaced with interim appointments until permanent appointments are made. Classified positions are similarly filled based on function and situational need.
The attrition-based deficit reduction program will require a significant change to this standard operational approach. Beginning immediately and throughout the 2013/14 school year, every vacancy created in any manner at all school sites and support departments will be reviewed by a position review committee and the appropriate senior management leader.
More detailed procedures for implementation will be developed to support the following general guidelines:
  1. A reduction of a minimum of 300 staff positions not replaced from attrition is targeted for a savings of approximately $30 million. This target will be adjusted in response to the evolving state budget development.
  2. All teaching and other certificated positions and classified positions WILL NOT be automatically filled to replace leaves, retirements and separations.
  3. All hires will require senior management approval. Positions will not be automatically filled unless absolutely needed. 
  4. Schools may be required to adjust class sizes upward and add combo grade classes to accommodate for staff reductions from anticipated attrition.
  5. Unassigned qualified teaching staff at other locations may be moved to fill positions.
  6. Temporary contracts and subs will only be used if absolutely needed for critical positions.
  7. School sites and departments will have to support flexible staffing and staffing variations. 
  8. Business operations will be asked to adjust by not filling positions vacated through attritions unless the position is deemed critical.
  9. Principals will communicate to school site staff and their parent community that as an alternative to destabilizing layoffs that there will be a potential for mid-year class size and configuration adjustments as a result of attrition at any point.

Real Estate Sales

The second critical element of our 2013/14 deficit reduction strategy is to increase the revenue from real estate sales. The Board of Education has committed to proceeding with real estate sales as an alternative to a massive layoff. To accomplish that goal, the district will need to sell $50 million of surplus property in 2013/14. In addition to these sales, I will also pursue the implementation of a program to optimize short and long-term lease revenues from district real estate assets.


I believe that 2013/14 is a critical bridging year for San Diego Unified. We will need to solve our budget deficit as we await the fufillment of significant new revenues from Prop. 30 in subsequent years. This challenge will require more collaboration and support than ever. We face a stark choice for a balanced budget, massive layoffs or the path selected by the board, attrition reductions and real estate sales. Staff reductions from attrition will not be easy but it will give us more stability. In the weeks ahead, we will develop more details to guide this strategy and will consult with employee groups to ensure implmentation of this approach in the best way possible. As we move forward, I value and appreciate the understanding and cooperation from all employees.

Patrick Henry Junior scores on TV talent show

IN THE NEWS: Taylor George, a junior at Patrick Henry High and aspiring professional guitarist, is appearing on a talent show on the VEVO TV network. Read more from the Mission Times Courier»