Monday, December 23, 2013

Giving back to the community

Students, staff from San Diego Unified are active in the community during the holdiay season. Here are some stores.

Holmes' third graders spread joy to seniors

Third graders from Mr. Blasé's class, Mrs. Celle's class, Mrs. Elliott's class, and Mrs. Leonardy's class traveled to Wesley Palms Retirement Home on December 5th. The students sang holiday songs to a large crowd of excited seniors. Then, the students had an opportunity to ask prepared interview questions and have a discussion with the seniors. The culminating activity involved seniors and students working together to make candy cane ornaments. This annual event has become a great way to spread holiday cheer throughout the community.
Singing at Wesley Palms  

Collecting food at John Muir

This photo shows some of the students of Peace Patrol/MLA with five large boxes of non-perishable food that they collected, with the help of the students, families, and staff of John Muir K-12 Magnet. The food they collected will go to the San Diego Food Bank, who assist more than 380,000 people each month. Also pictured are Laura Bellofatto-Principal and Barb Waller-teacher/sponsor.
The Peace Patrol/Muir Leadership Academy is an amazing group of 16 fourth, fifth and sixth graders who are dedicated to helping students solve problems, promote good character, and make a difference in their community.
At Muir School.  

Crown Point Junior Music Academy in PB parade

Students and community members from Crown Point Junior Music Academy participated in the Pacific Beach Holiday Parade on Dec. 15.

"Wow. It was such a nice day and we had a lot of our families present." said Cathy Calderon, school secretary. "It was also a lot of fun to see many of our students and their families in the crowd cheering us on. It was a great experience."
 Crown Point students

Morse Food Giveaway

A generous donation by Foresters allowed the Office of Children and Youth in Transition to provide food for almost 200 families at Morse High School during the first day of Thanksgiving break. For many families, the holidays are a time of extra hardship. Without the school breakfast and lunch programs, it is even more difficult to make ends meet. Fortunately, volunteers from First Investors and parent company Foresters, along with staff from Morse High School, the Office of Children and Youth in Transition and Feeding America San Diego were available to distribute food to a grateful group of families. Families from Morse, Fulton K-8, Audubon, Lee and Bell received food to help them through the break.
Families were able to receive information about the Affordable Care Act and learn about community food resources and programs. Feeding America San Diego staff also provided recipes to help families stretch their food dollars.
A special thanks goes out to Joyce Orona, Morse community assistant, and the wonderful school counselors Judith Percy, Ramona Garcia and Eli Salazar, who helped to notify needy families of the event.
Food giveaway  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Message from Superintendent Cindy Marten

Central Students Make a Peace Sign Peace on Earth. Photo credit: Central Elementary PrimeTime
Dear Colleagues, Families, and Friends,

The holiday season is here, a time of celebration, reflection, and gratitude. Days with little daylight remind us of how important light is in our life. We see the light in the faces of our students during holiday programs and in our parents we see the hope and promise of a new year to come. Similarly, our staff can reflect on our relentless focus on our students as we gather together to build upon what has been working. As I met many of you during the year, I was reminded of our role in delivering on the hope and promise of quality schools throughout our city.

Our school system has been built by generations of people who care. Vision 2020 inspires us to join together to ensure that our students become actively literate, contributing, participating members of society. This vision both honors the work of those who came before us and challenges us to be innovative and deliver excellence in an intentional and purposeful manner to teach our future generations.

I would like to take a moment to highlight a few of our accomplishments. In July, upon becoming superintendent, our district was reorganized to ensure that our students are always at the heart of the educational experience. We are focused on the instructional shifts necessary to implement the Common Core State Standards which bring a renewed rigor and align with our approach to deliver a broad and challenging curriculum. With equity at the center, our approach is designed to close the achievement gap and prepare all students for college and career opportunities.

Accomplishments also include the development of monthly Principal Institutes, as well as principal teams that support ongoing peer-to-peer learning. I have had the great opportunity to visit 65 schools and am proud to say that our staff is working thoughtfully to engage our students in critical thinking across the curriculum.

Thanks to the voter-approved Prop S and Z construction bonds, many students are learning in new state-of-the-art classrooms, including new two-story classroom buildings at Encanto, Euclid and Zamorano elementary schools to name a few. We have also delivered nearly 100,000 tablets and laptops to students throughout our schools.

We have been proactive in communicating with our parents, staff, and community about the new Local Control Funding Formula and its implications to education. San Diego Unified continues to be a leading voice advocating in Sacramento and in Washington for a funding level that reflects the priority that our state and nation needs to give to education, to deliver on the promise of the ideals of public education that is at the center of our democracy.

Looking forward, we can say goodbye to a productive 2013 and hello to a successful 2014. After all I've seen firsthand in our schools, I am encouraged by what I see and proudly share our work wherever I go. I invite you to do the same and share with at least one person something that works well at your school and to engage in a dialogue that reflects on the excellence of our schools.

I want to extend my warmest wishes for a joyful, peaceful, and delightful winter break. May your holidays bring good health, the pleasure of spending special time with family and friends, and a New Year filled with hope and optimism.

Cindy Marten

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Songs of the Season features SD Unified school choirs

IN THE NEWS: Patrick Henry High, Mira Mesa High give previews of annual tradition on morning news. Video courtesy KUSI-TV.

Patrick Henry High

Mira Mesa High

City Heights residents treated to holiday goodies

Folks Families from Rosa Parks Elementary, Joyner Elementary, Clark Middle School, Wilson Middle School and Hoover High School were pre-selected to come to Fire Station 17 on Chamoune Avenue to receive a 20 pound turkey and 10 pounds of potatoes the morning of December 8.

On hand to deliver food were Trevor Hoffman, Randy Jones, Bud Black and Tim Stauffer from Padres Baseball; City Council members Marti Emerald and David Alvarez; and the Firefighters of Station 17.

All schools and families are part of the Hoover cluster where there are high numbers of Title I students. Family members were so appreciative of this generous opportunity to provide a holiday meal for their family.

For more information please contact Irene Hightower or Soraya Freire at Rosa Parks Elementary School at 619-282-6803.

SD High Business students cheer on '3 Day' walkers

Cavers cheer For the fourth year in a row, more than 110 students from the Academy of Finance at the School of Business, San Diego High Educational Complex, dressed in costumes, wore pink to show support, and cheered on the walkers in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer.

This year was extra special for the students because one of their own Academy of Finance alumni from the class of 2011 participated as a walker. He had cheered on walkers back in 2010 with the Academy of Finance students.

The Academy of Finance students participate in community service activities throughout the school year as a whole group, grades 10-12, to learn the importance of giving back to the community. This event is always one of the students’ favorites because they can directly see the effect they have on the walkers as they cheer them on.

The Academy of Finance is a California Partnership Academy funded by a grant from the California Department of Education. California Partnership Academies are three-year program in grades 10-12 structured as a school-within-a-school. Academies incorporate integrated academic and career technical education, business partnerships, mentoring, and internships.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Fun Café opens for kids free lunch on January 6

Winter Fun Café opens January 6 at 15 sites throughout the San Diego Unified School District. The nutritious lunches are available free to any child 18 years and younger. There is no paperwork or proof of income required for children to take advantage of this program.
Winter Fun Cafe
Just come to one of the eight Park and Recreation Centers, one YMCA or four military-related sites hosting the program. San Diego is one of very few districts in the U.S. that offers this program during intersession.
Winter Fun Café helps to bridge the gap during winter intersession when school lunch is not available.

“We feel there is a real need for families, especially during the holidays,because a lot of children and families depend on the food at school during the week,” said Gary Petill, Food Services Director.

Winter Fun Café Locations

Location Address Zip Code Lunch Time
Bayside Community Center 2202 Comstock St. 92111 12:45-1:45 p.m.
City Heights Recreation Center 4380 Landis St. 92105 Noon-1 p.m.
Colina Del Sol Recreation Center 5319 Orange Ave. 92115 Noon-1 p.m.
Jackie Robinson YMCA 151 YMCA Way 92102 Noon-1 p.m.
Linda Vista Recreation Center 7064 Levant St. 92111 12:30 -1:30 p.m.
Logan Heights Public Library 567 South 28th St. 92113 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Mt. View Recreation Center 641 So. Boundary St. 92113 1-2 p.m.
North Park Recreation Center 4044 Idaho St. 92104 1-2 p.m.
Paradise Hills Recreation Center 6610 Potomac St. 92139 Noon-1 p.m.
Southcrest Recreation Center 4149 Newton Ave. 92113 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Willie Henderson Recreation Center 1035 So. 45th St. 92113 Noon-1 p.m.
Military Connection, open to the public
Gateway CYP 2741 Mendonca Dr. 92110 Noon-1 p.m.
Murphy Canyon CYP 4867 Santo Rd. 92124 Noon-1 p.m.
Murphy Canyon Kid Connection 3493 Santo Rd. 92124 Noon-1 p.m.
Base access required
MCAS Miramar Youth 2700 Moore Rd.
Noon-1 p.m.

San Diego Unified keeps pace in 'Nation's Report Card'

The latest biennial "Nation's Report Card" released by the US Department of Education shows that the San Diego Unified School District continues to rank near the top of large city school systems across the country.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and math tests administered in 2013 reports that San Diego Unified ranks among the highest performing cities in the nation in fourth- and eighth grade reading and math. The program tests students across the nation and in each state, and it allows the 21 participating cities to compare their results not only to California but to the nation and to other cities outside the state.

Superintendent Cindy Marten indicated that the district received good benchmark data from the assessment that will allow the school district to know where it stands with comparable cities and where reforms will need to focus going forward.

"Our culture of innovation, excellence, and creativity has allowed teachers to concentrate on student achievement, giving San Diego Unified a consistent spot near the top," said Marten. "As we transition to the new Common Core State Standards, our focus is on increasing rigor, pacing, and engagement as we challenge ourselves to come up with new ways to address the persistent achievement gap and achievement in grade 8 math."

In Grade 4 reading, the 2013 score of 218 is up from 2003's score of 208. The national public average this year was 221 with the large-city score at 212. Los Angeles came in at 205 while Fresno students scored 196. Districts topping San Diego Unified nominally were Austin, Texas, and Jefferson County, Ky., 221; Miami-Dade County Fla., 223; Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, N.C., 226; Hillsborough County, Fla., 228. As with mathematics, San Diego scored higher than several cities such as Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Philadelphia. Houston actually posted a significant decline in 4th grade reading scores on the 2013 assessment.

Grade 8 reading saw San Diego students score at 260 in 2013, up from the 250 in 2003. The 2013 average for large cities was 258, while the national average for public schools was 266. Districts topping San Diego Unified were Jefferson County, Ky., and Austin, Texas, at 261; Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, N.C., 266; Hillsborough County, Fla., 267. San Diego scored higher than cities such as Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston.

In Grade 4 math, San Diego Unified's scores have risen to 241 in 2013 from 226 in 2003--right at the national average and substantially above other large city schools. The comparable Los Angeles score was 228 and Fresno's was 220. Districts with somewhat higher scores than San Diego Unified were: Hillsborough County, Fla., 243; Austin, Texas, 245; and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., 247. San Diego scored higher than cities such as Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and New York City.

In Grade 8, math, San Diego's 2013 score of 277 was up from the 264 in 2003. The 2013 average for large cities was 276, while the national average for public schools was 284. Districts topping San Diego Unified were Houston, 280; Boston, 283; Hillsborough County, Fla., 284; Austin, Texas, 285; and Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, N.C., 289. Among California districts, Los Angeles was 205 and Fresno, 196. San Diego out-scored cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

"Over the last decade, the San Diego schools have posted some of the largest academic increases of any city nationwide -- something that is very hard to do given its already high academic achievement compared with other cities," said Michael Casserly, Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools. "This is particularly impressive given the frequent leadership transitions, major personnel changes, and significant budget cuts that the school system has experienced over that period. We are enormously optimistic about the reforms that the school system is launching under its new superintendent."

Data on individual schools is not provided by this study. For more information, visit the NAEP/TUDA website at

Quinceanera Magazine cover girl is Bell Middle student

Bell Middle School eighth grader Luz Lopez is the cover girl for Quinceanera Magazine's January issue.
Luz with the magazine The magazine, which is to the Mexican tradition of quinceanera that Brides magazine is to weddings, selects its cover subjects from the area served by its local edition.

According to her profile in the magazine, the 14-year-old aspires to attend a university once she's graduated from high school, and become a professional model, getting her face on the cover of a magazine. She lists as her hobbies "modeling, shopping, swimming and spending time with her family."

At least one of those goals has been satisfied... being on the cover of a magazine.

"Thanks to Quinceanera Magazine my dream came true," she wrote.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

KUSI, 'Connect to Compete' give away computers to military families

IN THE NEWS: KUSI, Connect 2 Compete give away computers, internet connections. On its Morning News, San Diego Unified families received computers. Read more» - KUSI News - San Diego CA - News, Weather, PPR

'Girl of Merit' is Mira Mesa High JROTC commander

One of ten San Diego young women to receive the Girls of Merit award at the recent Girls World Expo is Jessica Danga of Mira Mesa High.

Jessica Danga Danga, a senior, is the Air Force JROTC Wing Commander at Mira Mesa and said she was thrilled to receive the award.

"This is the second time in two years that a MMHS Wing Commander has received the award," she said. "This gives me an opportunity to help inspire young girls and enables me to give back while supporting the MMHS AFJROTC program in developing future leaders."

After graduating this summer, Danga is heading to San Diego State University and a major in kinesiology. She hopes to become a physical therapist when she has finished her education and training.

In 2012, Mira Mesa High School's Arnelle Sambile was named a 2012 Girl of Merit.

The Nov. 3 ceremony picked 10 girls from around the region. They're honored for their care about their family, their friends, and their community; because they give of themselves in order to better the lives of others; have care and compassion for others; and are strongly committed to excellence in all areas of their lives.

For more information on the Girls World Expo, check out its website.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lincoln High students get $7,500 from Walmart Stores

Lincoln High School has received a $7,500 donation from Walmart Inc., to purchase supplies for its students.

Store manager Luciano Villela, left, Supt. Cindy Marten, students Brandon Thai of Crawford and Michaela Valk of SCPA.
Store manager Luciano Villela,
left, Supt. Cindy Marten,
students Brandon Thai
of Crawford and Michaela Valk of SCPA.
"We hope the school supplies we funding will be well loved and well worn by the end of the school year," said Luciano Villea, manager of the chain's Walmart Neighborhood Market located in the Sherman Heights neighborhood.

In presenting the check to the Board of Education at its Dec. 10 meeting, Villea noted that the company has supported local after-school programs and the Raising a Reader program at several elementary schools.

"At Walmart, we have a long history of supporting student programs throughout the region," said Villea. "In 2011, we provided a three-year, $1.7 million grant to support the San Diego Unified School District and Think Together to in providing learning programs and nutritious meals during the summer."

For more information on the program, contact Villea at (619) 849-5729.

Charity helps put shoes on 6,000 students

More than 6,000 athletic shoes have been donated to San Diego Unified School District by FOCUS North America as part of the charity's "Operation Lace Up."
Shoe recipient Working with the district's Office of Children and Youth in Transition, the donations reached students at 75 schools where the need was greatest.

"So far, approximately 6,000 students have received new shoes." said Vanessa Peters, Director of the Office of Children and Youth in Transition, "thanks to the efforts of school staff who identified needy students, measured feet, and picked up shoes at the district warehouse for final distribution."

Parents and kids were grateful for the shoes, with staff receiving notes such as this one: “Thank you for the gift of shoes given to Israel. Thanks, Israel’s Mom.”

Cherokee Point Principal Godwin Higa reported that “the kids were
ecstatic with their new shoes.”
FOCUS North America will be providing another 6,000 pairs of shoes in the spring for a second major distribution event, according to Peters. For more information, contact her at

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wangenheim Middle School shows off musical and shop sides on TV

Wangenheim Middle School was featured as the "Show Me Your School" subject with four live reports during the Fox 5 Morning News on Dec. 11. Reporter Heather Ford featured the band and orchestra, holiday sock drive, wood shop and metal shop. Watch video.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

One of CNN's favorites: the presidential museum at Clairemont High

A presidential museum, housed in a high school

Clairemont High social studies teacher Jim Fletcher began collecting presidential memorabilia in 1996 to spice up his American history lessons. With the help of his students, Fletcher started the Museum of the American Presidency that now has more than 40,000 items representing all 44 presidents.

Among the 2,000 items on display in the school's library annex are Bill Clinton's golf shoes, a Richard Nixon shower head, a life-size cardboard cutout of Barack Obama and a 1980s "First Family Paper Doll book" of Ronnie, Nancy, Ron Jr. and Patti Reagan complete with clothes, accessories and furnishings. There's more to see in a locked conference room that's also open to the public when not being used for, say, a math department staff meeting. Read more from CNN»

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kearny High students visit CPMA construction

Young journalists from Construction Tech Academy (CTA) at Kearny High School participated in a press conference and tour marking the final phase of campus renovations and construction of a new state-of-the-art performing arts center at the Creative Performing and Media Arts Middle School (CPMA) in Clairemont.

The journalism students in Jessica Frichtel's ninth-grade English/journalism class are competing as freelance writers to have their articles on the construction at CPMA featured in the January edition of Contractor News and Views, a construction industry publication.
Construction News and View and the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of San Diego have supported construction academy since its inception.

Students received mentoring from journalists that work for Contractor News and Views so that their article, which will be viewed by over 20,000 subscribers, is high quality. The AGC Training Facility picked up the tab for the bus so that 51 students could attend the press conference and tour the job site.

During the press conference, students heard from Scott Thomason, principal of CPMA; Lee Dulgeroff, the school district's executive director of Facilities Planning and Construction; Rick Morazavi, the district's construction manager for the project; Jeff Almodovar the project superintendent for Triton Structural; and Rebecca Grijalva, the lead architect for the new Performing Arts Center at CPMA.

After the press conference, students toured the middle school to see the work that’s being done under Propositions S and Z. A new performing arts center is being constructed on the east side of the middle school campus (former Kroc MS). The new 20,600-square-feet facility will feature the following amenities:
  • 400-seat theatre
  • Two music classrooms
  • Scene shop
  • Green room
  • Restrooms
  • Control and ticket booths
  • Support and storage spaces
The performing arts center is being done in conjunction with the school's whole-site modernization,which includes remodeling the food service facilities to include a new serving area and kiosk, remodeling the auditorium, renovating shower/locker areas, installing a new security fence and improving landscaping along the street in front of the school, and making improvements needed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and current building codes. There will also be heating/air conditioning/ventilation upgrades, lighting improvements, technology upgrades. Construction is expected to be completed in July 2014.

For more details on bond projects at CPMA, visit For information on Propositions S and Z, visit, e-mail or call 858-637-3604. Media inquiries should be directed to Cynthia Reed-Porter, facilities communications supervisor, at 619-546-3378.

Kids, Superintendent, celebs mix at annual North Park Toyland Parade

Superintendent Cindy Marten was the Grand Marshall of the 2013 North Park Toyland Parade on Dec. 7.
Supt. Marten, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria and a Central Elementary student
During her report to the Board of Education on Dec. 10, Supt. Marten talked about many of the children who lined the parade route, including some of her former students from Central Elementary. The parade, an annual tradition in North Park, runs down University Avenue and 30th Street in the historic North Park neighborhood. It is very close to Central Elementary, where Marten was Principal before becoming Superintendent in July.

"I was honored to have been asked to be the (grand) marshal," Marten told the Board of Education, "the first time I've been asked to be a grand marshal."

Marten was joined by San Diego Interim Mayor Todd Gloria and other dignitaries during the event.

Today’s Toyland Parade is all about families, having fun, and enjoying North Park, according to the parade's organizers, Victoria House Corporation. It began in the 1930s when North Park was one of San Diego's busiest shopping districts, with department stores and specialty shops lining the streets. It was revived in the 1980s as a catalyst for the rebirth of the area, which is today one of San Diego's trendiest neighborhoods.

Kindness is part of curriculum at Jones Elementary School

Kindness is nothing special at Jones Elementary School, it's a way of life for the students and staff.
A Kindness Station
"We're proud to be a Kindness Certified school," said Principal Rita Powell. "Last year we participated in the Great Kindness Challenge, a Kids for Peace initiative. The Great Kindness Challenge is a positive, proactive anti-bullying initiative, reaching millions of students during the last full week of January every year."

In order to create a consistent, positive message throughout the school and community, Jones holds "kindness stations" during recess every month. Students make hearts, bookmarks and posters all devoted to kindness for their friends, teachers, parents to show that kindness matters.

"One child even shared the note he wrote," said Powell. "'It said "I am sorry.' Other kids wrote, 'You are a great friend" and 'You make me smile.'

"I am so thankful to our wonderful PTA and parents that help run and support our efforts of creating a bully-free, safe and caring school environment!"
For more information, contact Powell at 858-496-8140.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

La Jolla High debate ace ranks top in the nation

IN THE NEWS: La Jolla High School senior Ram Prasad has spent two years traveling the nation arguing for and against sides in some of today’s most pressing issues, such as rehabilitation versus retribution in the criminal justice system and the appropriate response to domestic violence. Read more from the La Jolla Light»

Morning warmups part of new on-campus breakfast program

On these winter mornings, what better way to take the chill off than to drink a warm cup of hot cocoa? Now offered at most secondary schools, the hot cocoa  is served to students as part of the breakfast meal. Yogurt, fruit and granola parfaits and fruit smoothies will also be added in the coming weeks.
Morning Break at Kearny High
One of three milk-related menu items that are being added to the secondary menu as part of a grant from the Anita Bosch Milk Fund through the San Diego Foundation that encourages children to drink milk.

“These two grants have given us a great opportunity to expand our breakfast menu for secondary school students," said Gary Petill, Food Services Director. "The kids are already enjoying the hot chocolate and yogurt parfaits and smoothies are next.”

The new menu items will be part of Food and Nutrition Services new breakfast theme called Morning Break Café.

Designed to carry on the SanDi Coast Café theme of the secondary school lunch programs, the design and signage for Morning Break Café was funded through grants from the California Department of Education and the Community Transformation Grant.

Morning Break Café is being launched in an effort to encourage more secondary school students to eat breakfast. Students of this age often skip the most important meal of the day which can give them the energy they need to be at the top of their game, both mentally and physically.

For more information, contact Norma Johnson, food service program specialist at
This project was funded by a grant from the Anita Bosch Milk Fun of the San Diego Foundation.The San Diego Foundation

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Board elects Beiser as President, Foster as Vice-President

San Diego Unified's new Board of Education leadership team are President Kevin Beiser, from District B, and Vice-President Marne Foster, from District E, the Board of Education decided on Tuesday night.
Kevin Beiser and Marne Foster
The Board vote was taken at the district governing body's annual meeting, in which officers for the new year are established and other procedural items completed.

"I look forward to working together to continue improving public education with quality schools in every neighborhood," Beiser said shortly after the meeting.

Beiser was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2010 representing District B and is also a math teacher. Prior to his election, Beiser’s work with his students earned him “San Diego Math Teacher of the Year” honors in 2008-2009.

“My experience in the classroom, working side-by-side with school administrators and parents alike, has given me a unique insight as to how the policies that are developed by the Board and the superintendent’s office affect those of us on the front lines,” Beiser said. “I’m honored that my Board colleagues found that experience helpful and I look forward to working with Superintendent Marten to continue creating a world-class classroom experience for our students.”

Beiser had served as Board Vice President for one year and hands that position over to San Diego native Marne Foster, who represents District E.

“I'm excited!” said Foster. “I look forward to continuing this work to create the conditions where ALL students can succeed, and value the listening and collaborating with San Diego Unified internal and external stakeholders to make it happen."

Mira Mesa High band review and field tournament draws 37 schools

Mira Mesa High's 21st annual Mira Mesa Band Review and Field Tournament drew 37 bands, one of the largest band contests in Southern California, to the campus on Nov. 2 as non-stop music resonated from the field shows in the stadium, as well as the spectacular parade on the street.

Mira Mesa band "Our band director, Jeanne Christensen, leads this state ranked program," said Francisca Del Carmen-Aguilar, Mira Mesa Vice Principal. "Her inspiration has influenced thousands of students, past and present in her 23-year career as an educator.

"We were honored to have Superintendent Cindy Marten in attendance to experience the wonderful student performances. A special thanks to the students, staff, parents, and the Mira Mesa Instrumental Music Boosters for their tireless efforts as contributors to the success of the annual tournament."

For more information and inquires on how to support the Sapphire Sound, Mira Mesa's Marching Band, please contact the Christensen at or call (858) 578-5143.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Board approves plan to spend $2.8B on schools

IN THE NEWS: The Board of Education has updated its two-year plan for implementing future projects under a voter-approved $2.8 billion general obligation bonds. Read more from Fox 5 San Diego»

'Fashion Moms' get warmup for Whitman Elementary fundraiser

The big fundraiser next week at Whitman Elementary School had a preview last month as participants in the 2013 Whitman Fashion Mom Contest were serving food and hosting games during the school's Family Fun Night last month. Whitman moms

One of the regular events at the North Clairemont campus brings together the school community in an evening of fun and games. Emma's Gut Bucket Band, regular performers for community events at Whitman Elementary, warmed up the crowd with live bluegrass music.

The moms working hard that night will be back in the Whitman cafetorium at 12:30 p.m. this Saturday, Dec.16, as part of the "Whitman Fashion Mom" contest. With a goal of raising funds for a new track and improvements to the school's field, audience members will "purchase votes" for $1 each for their favorite Whitman Fashion Mom.

Contestants, all members of the school's PTA, have an opportunity to be a winner in four categories: Most Votes, Most Fashionable, Best Runway Performance, and Facebook Fashion Mom. All contestants will be given gifts for their participation.

Supporters can purchase a vote for their favorite contestant for $1 each. For each vote purchased you can get a raffle ticket for an opportunity to win a variety of prizes, including the Grand Prize of Four One-Day Hopper Passes to Disneyland California Resort.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Johnson STEM Magnet has new students -- parents

Johnson parents discover
Some hands-on work by parents, guardians and school staff lead to adults learning more about the new Common Core Standards at Johnson Elementary STEM Magnet School in Emerald Hills.

At a recent parent meeting, Johnson staff and parents came together to learn more about the demands that the Common Core State Standards will require of teachers, parents and students.

Parents were given a performance task in the area of science and were put though the challenge of doing the lesson as students. Parents learned how concepts build upon prior years learning and the importance of literacy in all of the content areas as students will be expected to explain their thinking through various types of pictorial representations, oral explanations and through writing.

Parents asked many questions about what their students are going to be expected to do in grades K through the high school years and enjoyed this hands on experience.
Centrally located in the Emerald Hills community, Johnson Elementary STEM Magnet School has more than a half-century of tradition. The school, named for former Superintendent Henry C. Johnson, continues to grow and expand.

"We provide a stimulating and rigorous curriculum to ensure grade level proficiency," said Principal Tracey Jenkins-Martin. "Our high expectations foster strong academic excellence. Addressing the needs of the whole child is critical. Our teaching reflects this belief, while strengthening the understanding of STEM."

For more information on the school and its implementation of the new Common Core State Standards, contact Jenkins-Martin at (619) 344-4900.

The San Diego Unified School District, other California districts and the California Department of Education are participating in Common Core State Standards.

Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade. In California, the State Board of Education decides on the standards for all students, from kindergarten through high school. The California Department of Education helps schools make sure that all students are meeting the standards.

Common standards allow for collaboration among states on best practices and professional development. It also helps students whose families move from state-to-state to minimize the adjustment at school. For more information on Common Core State Standards, visit the district's website.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Author Betty Birney visits at Bird Rock Elementary

Acclaimed author, Betty Birney, author of the Humphrey series, spoke with second through fourth graders recently at Bird Rock Elementary. She is an engaging speaker and gave the students insight into the life of a writer.

Betty Birney Birney highly recommended keeping a writing notebook to record ideas and encouraged students to write daily! She also emphasized the importance of thinking about life through the eyes of your character and doing research as part of the writing process.

This wonderful opportunity was brought to Bird Rock through a partnership with Warwick’s Book Store in La Jolla. Next month, Stuart Gibbs, author of the Spy Camp books will be visiting. Bird Rock students love learning directly from published authors!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cabrillo Elementary receives $5,000 Barona Education Foundation grant

Cabrillo Elementary School has received a $5,000 grant from the Barona Education Foundation. The funds will be used to support Cabrillo teachers and students through the use of current professional readings and research, updated classroom library books, guided reading sets, and high interest/low readability texts.

Barona Tribal SealIn addition, the grant will help in the purchase of materials that will support students at their levels of need, each classroom will house several examples of mentor texts as well as books students can get their hands on and read.

These books will not only promote literacy and reading comprehension, but also transition into students' writing, which is a school-wide focus for the 2013-2014 school year.

Since 2006, Barona has awarded more than $1.5 million to more than  300 schools statewide through its grant program, which is the first of its kind in California created and administered by a Tribal Government. The goal of the Barona Education Grant program is to create strong educational opportunities for the children of California building upon the success of the Barona Indian Charter School, which operates under a continuous improvement model.

Schools throughout California can apply for educational grants from Barona to purchase much-needed supplies and materials that promote academic improvement.Each grant awarded by the Barona Education Grant Program is $5,000.Applications can be downloaded at .

Friday, December 6, 2013

Encanto Elementary dedicates new classroom building

Marne Foster, Board of Education trustee and Encanto Elementary School alumnus, Debra Baker,  Encanto ES principal; and Lee Dulgeroff, executive director of the district's Facilities Planning and Construction division, joined students, parents, community members, school partners, project partners, and other alumni to celebrate the Nov. 15 dedication of the school's new two-story classroom building.  

This classroom project included the addition of a new 16,768-square-foot, two-story classroom building on the Encanto campus. The new Building 100 includes 12 classrooms, one multipurpose (art/science) classroom, a Special Education room, an elevator and sky bridge connecting to Building 200, plus educational support rooms for grades three through five. The project also included a new ramp to the playground from the new building and code- compliant upgrades to the railings on the upper levels of the buildings 200 and 300, as well as electrical upgrades.

Construction began during summer 2012 and was completed in fall 2013. The two-story classroom project represents an investment of nearly $6 million into Encanto Elementary School and the community of Encanto. The project was funded by Proposition S, the 2008 bond measure passed by voters to repair, renovate and revitalize schools for the children of San Diego.

For more details on bond projects at Encanto Elementary School, visit For information on Prop. S, visit, e-mail or call 619-637-3604.

Martin-Zimmerman Dialogues address tough social issues

In an effort to drive further discussion about race relations in our schools and in the community, San Diego Unified recently hosted the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Dialogues at the Ed Center.

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Although the famous court case may have been the impetus for holding the dialogues, the conversation focused less on the case itself and more on the issue of racism and how changing attitudes and creating a more tolerant society starts with education.

“This is not so much about George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin as it is about giving students the tools they need to address the issues we face right here in our own community,” Agin Shaheed, chief of the district’s race, human relations and advocacy office told UT San Diego.

The district hopes this event will serve as the launching point for middle and high school students to engage in similar conversations and learn how to address these types of issues in a productive manner at school and in the community.
Organized by the Office of Race Human Relations and Advocacy, the event featured a panel of local experts offering a variety of perspectives. Most all agreed that racial and ethnic bias continues to divide our schools, our communities and our nation.

Panelists at the Martin-Zimmerman Dialogues
 Panelists Dr. Alberto Ochoa and Dr. John Robert Brown
The event’s distinguished panelists included: Dr. Alberto Ochoa, San Diego State University; Chief Rueben Littlejohn, San Diego Unified School Police Department; Danell Scarborough, City of San Diego Human Relations Commission; Dr. Joe Fulcher, San Diego Unified School District Chief of Student Services; Dr. John Robert Brown, retired district administrator, author, and education consultant; Lynn Sharpe-Underwood, City of San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention; Prof. Jesse Mills, University of San Diego; Tina Malka, Anti-Defamation League; Salimisha Logan, NAACP; LaShae Collins from Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s office; Lee Muhammad, parent representative and Program Coordinator at the Multicultural Counseling and Consulting Center; Al Abdallah, Chairperson of the San Diego Urban League Board; and student representative Michaela Valk, SCPA ASB president.

For more information about the dialogues, contact the district’s Office of Race Human Relations and Advocacy at 858-490-8678.

Morse High student video wins award

Patricia Rucker, a senior at Morse High School, has received the 2014 San Diego Teen PSA Award from The Greatest Save and Kindervision, a non-profit program that educates kids to protect them from predators.

Rucker's video educates students on the dangers of parties and rape.

"The video's message is powerful," said Det. Jay Gresham of the San Diego Unified School District Police Department. "I would like to recognize Patricia Rucker as the recipient of this award, as well as Kristi Flint who was instrumental ensuring that the project was complete and Rick McFall for being the videography support."

The Greatest Save partners up with the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, local law enforcement officers and educators to protect children from predators. One of the ways that they do this is by having the public service announcement contest. Rucker's video, the San Diego winner, will be entered into the national contest.

She was given her award at a recent banquet where guests included Randy Jones, a retired member of the San Diego Padres and inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In addition to her award, the group will be donating proceeds from a recent golf tournament to Patricia's school, Morse High.

For more information on the award, contact Det. Gresham at 619-725-7000.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

New wheels help keep things moving at Lindbergh Schweitzer

Thanks to donations from the staff, Tom Alvarez, a Childcare Activity Assistant at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School in Clairemont, has received a brand new bicycle to help him complete part of his job on the 17-acre school site.

Tom Alvarez "Tom will have a little more fun delivering the mail at Lindbergh Schweitzer," said Principal Deanna Rohde. "So if you see him ride by, give him a wave and a smile. He deserves it!"

Wanting to make his four or more daily trips across the campus easier, the staff put together a fundraising campaign that only took four days to reach success. The shiny blue (school colors) bike came complete with a basket to carry the red mail bag and other delivery items, a helmet, and a cheery little bell to announce his arrivals.

For more information, contact Rohde at (858) 496-8400.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Common Core funds focus on training San Diego Teachers

IN THE NEWS: Money to roll out the new Common Core curriculum in San Diego city schools will go mostly to train teachers on the new approach to education.  Read more from KPBS»

More information

Two La Jolla High teams win national reading and analysis competition

Two teams from La Jolla High have won highest honors in the 2013 WordWright Challenge, a national competition for high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry.

Nico Nave, Clay Halbert, Thomas Godek
Alma Halgren and Gabrielle Pearson
Juniors Alma Halgren and Gabrielle Pearson, as well as sophomore Clay Halbert, earned perfect scores. Other students participating and receiving high individual honors were sophomores, Nico Nave and Thomas Godek.

La Jolla High English teacher Jewel Weien uses the WordWright competition as part of her instruction. 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 some of the best public and private high schools in 46 states (and four foreign nations) participated last year.

Overall, two teams from La Jolla High won highest honors in the competition, with the school's 11th grade team tied for eighth in the nation.

The tests for the first WordWright in this school year were a short story by Tess Hadley for grades 9-10 and a pair of essays by Thomas Carlyle and Frank Bruni (written more than 150 years apart) for grades 11-12. The students will participate in three more WordWright meets during this school year, with awards going to students who make the most progress during the year.

For more information on the program, contact Weien at, and on the program at

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

At Cherokee Point Elementary, kids don’t conform to school; school conforms to kids

IN THE NEWS: This story about Cherokee Point isn’t really about a school that’s doing away with suspensions and expulsions. It’s a story about people in this school and this community who are creating an environment where suspensions and expulsions are. Just. Not. Necessary. Read more from ACES Too High News» In The News

Schools celebrate parents on National Parent Involvement Day

Schools across the district hosted a variety of events that brought parents to campus in honor of National Parent Involvement Day Nov. 21. From shadowing students and chatting with principals, to receptions filled with food and music, schools said “thank you” to parents for the important role they play in their child’s education.

Dad and son at Whitman Elementary.
Parents at Crown Point Junior Music Academy joined their students for lunch while being treated to musical performances by the school’s Suzuki Violin players, CPMA orchestra and jazz bands, and Pacific Beach Middle School’s string group.
"There must have been over 100 families present,” said Principal Muriel Bartolini. “It was so great to see how happy each child was to be able to eat lunch with his or her parents.”

Across town at Whitman Elementary, parents spent about 30 minutes observing their students in the classroom. In Mr. Brady’s second-grade classroom, several students showed their parents how they use netbooks to enrich their studies. The PTSA also hosted refreshments in the library for parents while Interim Principal Angela Zarzosa shared information about the new Common Core Standards and Local Control Funding Formula.

“I think our event was successful in reaching out to parents, as I saw many parents who had not attended these types of events before,” said Celeste Bobryk-Ozaki, Whitman PTA treasurer and one of the event’s organizers. "As a community member, I believe in the district's Vision 2020 Plan, a quality school in every neighborhood, and this includes a parent engagement program."

At both Serra and Patrick Henry high schools, parents had the opportunity to shadow their students for a few classes, while other schools hosted receptions for parents and opportunities to talk with the school’s principal. The underlying idea behind all of the events was to thank parents for their contributions and emphasize how important they are to their child’s education.

Milton Martin, vice principal at Sandburg Elementary, took time out of his busy work day to show support for his son, Nicholas, who is a sophomore at Patrick Henry High.  

"As parents many times we wean ourselves from participating in our children's lives as they get older, but our teenage children need us just as much, if not more, than they did when they were younger," Martin said. "I also wanted to also meet some of the students our son supports in the "Circle Of Friends," program. I'm very proud of our son for having such a compassionate heart and wanted to encourage him to continue in that vein." 

National Parent Involvement Day is a collaborative effort between the district’s Parent Outreach and Engagement Department and the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs to recognize parents/guardians and the invaluable role they play in supporting a child's learning at home and at school.

Other activities in the district in honor of National Parent Involvement Day included:
  • University City High School hosted a special “Chat with the Principal.” The PTSA provided refreshments and appreciation gifts to all attendees and the principal gave a presentation entitled "The Benefits of Celebrating Effort and Recognizing Achievement - a Look at Western versus Eastern Cultures."
  • Language Academy welcomed Walter Lam, president & CEO of Alliance for African Assistance, who spoke about the importance of parent involvement. A proclamation by the City of San Diego was also presented, recognizing Nov. 21 as National Parent Involvement Day. In addition, more than 20 Language Academy middle school students were recognized for outstanding academic achievement.
  • Marshall Middle School hosted a breakfast and principal chat.
  • Standley Middle School hosted events for parents throughout the day, including coffee, cookies and pizza with the principal. Each event included a demonstration for parents of the new PowerSchool Parent Portal.
  • Sandberg Elementary hosted "Family Reading Night," where students, dressed in their PJs, munched on milk and cookies and listened to the principal, teachers and parents read short stories.
  • Zamorano Elementary hosted a morning reception and allowed parents to observe their children in the classroom.
  • Loma Portal Elementary hosted as Western BBQ for parents to eat lunch with their child

This was the district’s second year celebrating National Parent Involvement Day. The national event was started 19 years ago by Project Appleseed. For more information on National Parent Involvement Day, contact Bea Fernandez at or your school's PTA representative.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gingerbread houses created by Kimbrough Elementary students

Gingerbread houses decorated for the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel's annual Make-A-Wish fundraiser once again have the extra special touch of decorations by fourth graders from Kimbrough Elementary School in Sherman Heights.

Kimbrough students work on their house The students and their teachers took a field trip to the downtown hotel, working with its culinary experts to build and decorate the traditional holiday treat. The houses are currently on display in the hotel's lobby.

"I am so happy that the Hyatt has invited our students for the fifth time to participate in this holiday event that will benefit the Make a Wish Foundation," said Principal Flavia Soria. "Making gingerbread houses is something that our students have not experienced before and they are thrilled to be a part of this learning experience."

The Nov. 14 event found groups of 4-5 students teaming up to create one gingerbread house. Students also made and decorated a holiday cookie to take home and enjoyed a healthy lunch provided by the Hyatt.

"This is such a wonderful program that not only teaches our students lessons about those less fortunate," said Soria, "but how to create a plan, like an architect's blueprint, of how they want to decorate their house.

"Design, colors and organization are all very well thought-out."

The students' completed gingerbread houses will be auctioned off to benefit Make A Wish San Diego at a later date in December. Kimbrough is pleased to have been allowed to participate in this great program every year.

It's back to school today in the San Diego Unified School District

After a week off for Thanksgiving, it's back to school today in the San Diego Unified School District! Be sure to be on time to school and ready to learn!