Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Madison High automotive technology teacher, program are honored

Teacher Omar Sevilla with a student.
Teacher Omar Sevilla with a student.
Madison High School’s automotive technology program and its teacher, Omar Sevilla, have been honored as 2013 Program of the Year by the California Industrial and Technology Association.

The program was cited as being "one of the finest examples of current teaching programs in the career technical education field," said the association's past president, John Chocholak.

Sevilla accepted the 2013 Program of the Year award from the association recently in Sacramento.

"We're state champs in auto, too," said Madison Principal Richard Nash. "Congratulations to Mr. Sevilla; it's his hard work that has made this such a quality facility."

The automotive technology program at Madison High was transformed in December 2010 with the opening of a 10,000 square foot facility housing eight auto bays as laboratories, classroom space for more than 70 students, energy efficient features and sustainable products and designed according to industry standards, based on input from professionals in various commercial automotive fields. The facility was built using Proposition S and state Proposition 1D matching funds.

Madison’s automotive program achieved industry certification from National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation in Spring 2012. Students can receive industry certification after completing a sequence of courses that enhances their employability. The current sequence of courses includes Transportation Technology, Automotive Technology and Brakes, Steering and Suspension.

For more information, contact Sevilla at (858) 496-8410.

Seven seniors are Gates Millennium Scholars

Graduating seniors from Kearny High Science Connections and Technology, San Diego High School of Business, Scripps Ranch High School and University City High schools are among 1,000 students nationwide who have been awarded 2013 Gates Millennium Scholarships.

Gates Millennium Scholars The program awards the Class of 2013 Gates Millennium Scholars good-through-graduation scholarships which can be used to pursue degrees in any undergraduate major at the accredited college or university of the recipients’ choice. It is funded through a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has helped remove barriers to education for more than 20,000 high-performing, low income students since it was established in 1999. It is administered by the United Negro College Fund in partnership with with the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund.

Three students from University City High School – Susan Stewart, Matthew Wood and Calvin Yao – received the scholarships. Also receiving scholarships were: from the San Diego High School of Business, Miguel Anzelmetti and Anesheawa Senior; Nhat Quang Thai, Kearny Science Connections and Technology; and Solomon Ephraim, Scripps Ranch High School.

"All of us at the San Diego Unified School District commend the hard work of these students and are thrilled with the opportunity they are receiving from the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program," said Superintendent Bill Kowba.

According to the program, it provides recipients with leadership development opportunities, mentoring, academic and social support as well as financial support. Known for its recipients' high graduation rates, Gates Millennium Scholars have a six-year graduation rate of more than 86 percent (38 percent higher than the national graduation rates for all students) and comparable to the rates for students from high-income families.

Students have already been accepted to four-year institutions. Scripps Ranch High's Ephraim is scheduled to attend UC Santa Barbara. At UC High, Susan Stewart is slated for UC Berkeley, New York University or UCLA; Matthew Wood, Brown University; and Calvin Yao, UC Berkeley, University of Chicago or UCLA. San Diego High's School of Business Miguel Anzelmetti is going to UCSD and Anesheawa Senior is going to Tuskegee University.

Qualifications for the program include: a 3.3 grade point average; African American, American Indian – Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, or Hispanic American ethnic groups; will enroll for the first time at a U.S. located, accredited college or university (with the exception of students concurrently pursuing a high school diploma) in the fall of 2013 as a full-time, degree-seeking, first-year student; have demonstrated leadership abilities through participation in community service, extracurricular or other activities; meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria. First-time college enrollees can also be GED recipients.

For more information, visit the program's website.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hancock Elementary to receive Target library makeover

Library grand opening at Kimbrough elementary
Grand opening at Kimbrough Elementary in 2011.
Hancock Elementary in Murphy Canyon is scheduled to be the latest San Diego Unified school to receive a makeover from Target School Library Makeover Program.

The school, which primarily serves the Santo Terrace/Murphy Canyon neighborhood of housing for U.S. military dependents. Other schools to receive Target library makeovers in San Diego Unified include Angier, Kimbrough and Miller elementary schools.

"We once again appreciate the generosity of Target Corp. and the Heart of America Foundation," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "I have attended the grand openings of these libraries and can tell you the children are so excited about the great books and wonderful improvements."

To transform the school library, Target partners with The Heart of America Foundation and enlist the pro bono work of the Target design and construction teams. Additionally, Target relies on its team-member volunteers at local stores and across the country to help breathe new life into the libraries.

Each school will have the option to receive a Target Meals for Minds food pantry. In partnership with Feeding America affiliates, Target Meals for Minds food pantries will provide students and their families with more than 22 pounds of fresh produce and staple foods each month.

“The Target School Library Makeover program is part of our commitment to give $1 billion for education by the end of 2015,” said Laysha Ward, president, community relations, Target. “By reimagining school libraries and transforming outdated spaces into state-of-the-art learning centers, Target hopes to ignite a love of learning and put more children on the path to high school graduation.”

Through initiatives like the Target School Library Makeover program, Target is helping more children reach academic milestones such as reading proficiently by the end of third grade. By the end of 2013, Target expects to have completed 175 school library makeovers and impacted more than 93,000 students through the program.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Superintendent-designate discusses education issues

Superintendent-designate Cindy Marten was recently interviewed by Comcast Media, giving her thoughts about education, San Diego Unified and Central Elementary School. Watch interview»

Saturday, April 27, 2013

California Department of Education wants public views of new science curriculum

Three public meetings will be held throughout California in April and May to accept public comment on the latest draft of the California Department of Education's Next Generation Science Standards. Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade.

The updated standards reflect the major advances in science over the past 15 years and aim to help students achieve the practical skills they need to succeed outside the classroom, maintaining California’s economic and technology leadership in the world. A consortium of 26 states developed the standards.

A review of the standards by a panel of science experts is under way. Later this spring, the panel will review the public comments. In the summer, the State Board of Education is expected to receive feedback from the panel and public meetings. Then in the fall, the State Board is expected to consider adoption of the new standards.

View the latest draft of the science standards at the Next Generation Science Standards website. The public may also submit comments by Webinar at the second public meeting listed below; by email to NGSS@cde.ca.gov; by mail to 1430 N Street, Room 4309, Sacramento, CA, 95814-5901; or by fax to 916-323-2833. If special accommodations are needed, contact the person listed for each meeting. If any member of the public has further questions about the meetings, contact Karen Martin at the California Department of Education’s science standards office at 916-323-5847.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Madison High 50th Anniversary highlights upcoming events at San Diego's schools

Madison High journalism class in 1963.
In addition to year-round schools resuming classes, Madison High School's 50th anniversary this Saturday, April 27, highlights a busy week at San Diego Unified campuses. There are public tours of schools scheduled for prospective parents, the National College Fair and the start of Asian and Pacific Highlander Heritage Month.
Come celebrate Madison's 50th Anniversary Open House from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27. The event will feature a 1950's car show, live entertainment, food and school tours of Madison's new facilities. Alumni can look at yearbooks from the last 50 years and will have an opportunity to catch up with classmates and Madison staff. Madison High School is located at 4833 Doliva Dr. (92117).

Also on Saturday, community members and families will work on a beautification project at Cabrillo Elementary School, 3120 Talbot St. (92106). The San Diego Rotary Club will be painting the school logo and doing other spruce-up projects with staff and students. The work starts at 8 a.m.

Monday, April 29 is Back to School day for students at year-round schools. Students at these elementary and middle schools have been on vacation since Monday, April 1.
For more activities, check the district's calendar.

More Bang for the Tax Dollar: Building Schools and Careers in San Diego

IN THE NEWS: Bond projects not only create new classrooms, construction sites are learning locations for apprentices. Read more from the Huffington Post»

Muirlands Middle School history teacher honored by education group

Muirlands Middle School history teacher Mark Heinze has been named the March 2013 Parent Choice Award winner by Up for Ed, a local parent group.

Mark Heinze Heinze was honored by the program, which is selected by the UpforEd staff in conjunction with its Educational Advisory Committee. Winners are those the selectors find most compelling and who have positively impacted the lives of their students.

Heinze has been a teacher in San Diego Unified for more than 20 years. He teaches history at Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla; he began his career at Hearst Elementary teaching a third grade seminar. He was District Teacher of the Year in 1986 and County Teacher of the year in 1987.

"Today one boy told me," a classroom volunteer told the selection panel, "'I hear that Mr. Heinze is tougher than the other social studies teachers at our school, but that's OK with me that we have to work harder because it's worth it. I'm going to remember this class my whole life."

In February, Jessica Graham, Kearny SciTech, received the award.

Visit the Up for Ed website for more information.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New solar systems put a charge into more than 25 District schools

Since 1994, San Diego Unified has pursued innovative projects to save energy, reduce utility costs, and protect the environment while promoting sustainability in the district. In 2010, the Board of Education approved two contracts with companies to purchase solar power that would be produced by utilizing glass solar panels at district sites. As a result, roof-top photovoltaic (solar) systems were installed at 25 school sites by Main Street Power, and carport systems were installed at five school sites by AMSolar. An additional six roof-top systems/sites are currently under construction by Main Street Power. Recently, all the systems were turned on; and, they are all producing sustainable solar power.

“In one day, these systems generate enough electricity to power the average house for a year,” according to Tom Wright, the district’s safety, training, personnel and environmental compliance manager.

The district continues to seek opportunities for sustainable energy. In fact, one of the areas of focus for the new Proposition Z bond program is energy efficiency and sustainability. During the bond program, the district will look for opportunities to increase solar panels and energy cells, recycle water for irrigation, install high-efficiency lighting, insulation and dual-pane windows; and replace inefficient mechanical systems.

For more information on the recently installed solar systems, please contact Tom Wright at 619-260-5487 or twright@sandi.net. For more information on the Proposition Z program, call 858-637-3607 or e-mail SDUSDFacilitiesInfo@sandi.net.

Talk by former addict leaves sobering impression on La Jolla High School students and parents

IN THE NEWS: Actor and former drug addict Scot Anthony Robinson spends two days at La Jolla High School. His visit was organized by the Community Education Committee of the La Jolla Cluster Association and Principal Dana Shelburne said it was the most effective anti-drug program he had ever seen. Read more from La Jolla Light»

Dell Scholarships go to nine students

Nine students in two district schools have been accepted into the prestigious Dell Scholars Program, sponsored by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

Dell Scholars Program
The students, from Crawford High School and the School of International Business at Kearny High, will be part of the Dell Scholars Program, which provides its students with resources and mentoring beyond initial financial assistance to ensure they have the support they need to obtain a college degree.

The students are, from Crawford High School: Ikram Aweys, Israel Barbosa, Ayan Fara, Quang Nguyen and Nongfa Tain; from the Kearny School of International Business, Noema Aguilar, Yusife Nazir, Andy Tran.

"All of us at the San Diego Unified School District congratulate these hard-working students and the schools where they are receiving their high school diploma," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "The Dell Scholars program will help them to continue their road to success."

To be eligible, students must attend a high school with a college readiness program, such as AVID or GEAR UP, which are used by the San Diego Unified School District. At the Kearny School of International Business, Principal Ana Diaz-Booz attributed the student success to the AVID program and the hard work of the students.

"Our teachers and counselors have worked endlessly to support these students," she said. "Erica Heinzman, the AVID Coordinator, is especially committed to the students' success."

GEAR UP, funded through a federal grant, has provided counselors that have moved from year-to-year with the classes of 2012-13 at several high schools, including Crawford.

The Dell Scholars Program accepts students who not only need financial assistance, but have shown the ability to work hard and have had "unique experiences in and out of the classroom," according to the program's website. It also recognizes academic potential and determination. Since 2004, the foundation has awarded 300 scholarships each year.
Dell Scholars receive $20,000 each to complete their higher education over the course of six years. In addition, the Dell Scholars Program provides its students with technology, a private scholar networking community, resources, and mentoring to ensure they have the support they need to achieve their college degrees. Scholars become part of a support network for each other that is made up of themselves, their schools, families, peers and a dedicated Dell Scholar team at the Michael & Susan Dell foundation.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

UCSD offers $40k scholarships at three schools

IN THE NEWS: Lincoln High joins charters Preuss and Gompers in receiving aide from university.

Online stories

Mira Mesa High biotech students' "bright ideas" recognized

Jessie Garcia and Frank Pham helping
students to learn how to separate proteins.
Science kits designed and built by Mira Mesa High biotechnology students received the Bright Ideas Society award at the recent San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering.

After receiving the award from the San Diego City Council on March 19, students were on hand at the Festival on March 23 to show the 55,000 in attendance what they learned. The Bright Idea Society is sponsored by the Kimmich Educational Foundation at the San Diego Foundation. It recognizes three programs in San Diego county schools each year.

The students in the Mira Mesa High School biotechnology class were the recipients of the award not only for their own learning, but their effectiveness in passing on their learning to other science classrooms. In their biotechnology class the students learn both laboratory techniques and biological principals necessary for success in the biotechnology industry.

 Effects of Carbon Dioxide on ocean
ecosystems presented by Kristine
Lee and Manuel Lamug.
The students then apply their knowledge to manufacture four different interactive STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – science kits. The four kits are: ocean acidification, enzymes, bacterial transformation, and protein purification. Other high school students can benefit by using the hands-on STEM experiments. These STEM education kits are then distributed for free to more than 200 high school science classrooms throughout the year.

At the Petco Park event, Bright Ideas Society award winners from the Mira Mesa High biotechnology class presented their work to the approximately 55,000 children who attended the San Diego Festival of Science at Engineering at Petco Park. During the festival, the Biotechnology students had interactive STEM activities for children of all ages to learn about carbon dioxide effects on ocean mollusks, separation of specific proteins from a cell, changing DNA in bacteria to make them glow, and how enzymes work.

For more information about Biotechnology at Mira Mesa High School, contact Lisa Yoneda at 858-566-2262 or lyoneda@sandi.net.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Agriculture Secretary praises Spring, Summer Fun Café program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had lunch with kids at San Diego Unified's Spring Fun Café Thursday, lauding the program and it bigger summertime counterpart, and challenging other cities and school districts to do the same.

Sec. Villsack with Supt.-desig. Cindy Marten and students.
Vilsack was joined at the event by Supt.-Desig. Cindy Marten, City Council Member Marty Emerald, County Health Officer Wilma Wooten and other local officials.

Enjoying a lunch that included turkey and swiss sandwich on a whole-wheat bun, baby carrots (from Bakersfield), Pixie tangerines from Ojai, kumquats from Pauma Valley and oranges from Valley Center, Vilsack called for a nationwide effort to double the number of meals served this summer.

"When school lets out, millions of low-income children no longer get a healthy breakfast or lunch, but USDA's summer meals program helps to fill that gap and is an invaluable investment in the future of America's children," said Vilsack. "Poor nutrition during the summer months can have a negative impact on a child's health, as well as their academic performance during the school year. Communities across the nation can work with us to ensure that all children have access to healthy foods, all year long."

Supt.-Desig. Marten noted that nearly $700,000 in USDA funds supports the summer-winter-spring programs and in 2012 nearly 308,000 meals were served. The current program runs through this Friday.

USDA's summer meals programs operate through partnerships between USDA, state agencies and local organizations. Local sponsors, such as schools, local government agencies, faith-based and nonprofit community organizations, and residential and non-residential camps provide free meals and activities to eligible low-income children during the summer months. In 2012, USDA's partners served 144 million summer meals at 38,800 sites, feeding approximately 2.3 million children on a typical summer day. For more information on becoming a SFSP sponsor or site, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/. To find a site in your community, call 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-Hambre.

News coverage

History lessons in Nation's Capital for JROTC students

Living American history and how to share that knowledge with their peers was the topic when JROTC students from throughout the district spent a recent week in Washington, D.C. at the invitation of a veterans group.

The JROTC at Capitol students visited the U.S Capitol (sponsored by Congresswoman Susan Davis), the U.S. Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian Museums, the White House and the home of George Washington in Mt Vernon, Va.

The educational trip, sponsored and fully-funded by the Military Order of World Wars is conducted each year by a selection panel of military veterans. This year’s trip centered on student-to-student teaching techniques as each cadet researched and presented assigned historical sites, monuments and figures.

Students attending were: Samantha Bui, Mira Mesa High; Jessica Plein, Patrick Henry High; Emanuel Baeza, Madison High; Erica Santo-Domingo, Scripps Ranch High; Melissa Ly, Pt. Loma High; Junelle Aquino, Serra High; DeShawn Walker, Hoover High; Julia Sterling, San Diego High; and Shannon Douangsavanh, Lincoln High.

Leadership, citizenship responsibilities and key American historical events were discussed by the students in group settings; throughout the trip students were assessed for their leadership qualities, participation and subject knowledge by members of the Military Order of World Wars.

For more information on the program, contact David Guzman, JROTC Program Manager, at dguzman1@sandi.net.

Monday, April 22, 2013

San Diego Unified may have money for you

The San Diego Unified School District has published its list of unclaimed property. Read more»

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Superintendent testifies before state legislature on budget issues

Superintendent Bill Kowba testified before the California Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee 1: Education on April 18. Here are his remarks on the topic of school district perspectives on local control funding formula.

Good morning Chairman Block, Senator Wyland, Senator Wright and Senator Leno:

Bill Kowba
Read coverage
from UT San Diego»
I am Bill Kowba, Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. Thank you for the opportunity to address you today to share my perspective on Governor Brown’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula and its impact on school districts.

Let me begin by giving the members of the committee an overview of San Diego Unified to provide context for the diverse student population we serve. As the second largest school district in the state, we serve more than 130,000 students in pre-school through 12th grade. Approximately 65 percent of our students are free and reduced lunch recipients and 27 percent are English learners. In an urban setting as large and diverse as ours, with 223 schools, enhancing a district’s ability to design programs that best meet the needs of our students is of high importance. It is of equal significance that students with the greatest needs are provided adequate and even additional resources required to succeed in the classroom. These are two goals the Governor’s LCFF proposal is trying to achieve, and two of the reasons why San Diego Unified fully supports the proposal.

Support for LCFF: Focus on Local Decision Making, Flexibility and Accountability

I commend Governor Brown for his determined advocacy for public K-12 education and for his visionary leadership in restructuring an archaic education finance system.

I believe Governor Brown’s proposed new formula will address many problems inherent in the state’s existing K-12 funding structure. This major overhaul in education finance is a significant improvement relative to the current system. The existing distribution of state funds is convoluted and based on dozens of categorical programs with many restrictions and reporting requirements to the state.

With equity and flexibility as two of the core principles in the Governor’s proposal, the San Diego Unified Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution on April 9, explicitly stating the district’s support for the LCFF proposal with its focus on local decision making, local accountability and extended flexibility. We support the goal of developing a new state school finance system that is simple and transparent, one that focuses on local control and results in increased community engagement.

We enthusiastically back the Governor’s commitment to ensuring our education system is equitable and fair. Regardless of a school district’s student population or its geographical location in the state, school districts with the highest number and largest concentration of low-income and English learners deserve supplemental resources to help our neediest young people meet state standards and graduation requirements.

Maintaining the concentration thresholds of 50 percent at a district average, as currently proposed by the Governor's plan, will enable school districts to target supplemental resources to EL and low-income students. In the case of English learners, our district leadership and parent advisory committees may decide these students need supplemental services such as tutoring and smaller class sizes.

The specific strategies we would pursue will depend on whether the English learner is an elementary or secondary student. Best practices are linked to grade level. Having this local discretion in allocating resources is essential as districts create school budgets.

Given the scale, multi-community diversity and sizable continuum of student needs in San Diego Unified, we believe the district leadership is better suited to make decisions on how to allocate the resources appropriated by the state as we are the ones working closely with our students to reduce dropout rates, increase high school graduation rates and advance preparation for college and career.

By shifting decision making to the local level, school districts will better allocate resources to programs and school-site initiatives that have demonstrated positive academic results at our campuses. We are committed to continuing to place emphasis on programs currently funded through categorical revenues, yet our evaluation of school needs’ may encourage the district to focus funds on some areas more than others.

This proposal of extended flexibility is an opportunity for school districts to assess what strategies are working at our highest performing schools, consider replicating promising pilot initiatives and shifting the allocation of state resources for particular interventions we see working well in our schools. Our district staff, in consultation with the School Board and our stakeholder advisory committees composed of parents and community leaders will be better positioned to allocate the resources and prioritize initiatives.

A case in point, San Diego Unified may choose to fund additional Advance Placement and Career Technical Education courses as we continue to prepare our high school students to be career- or-college-ready. Some of our schools may benefit from additional instructional support for the language immersion and biiteracy programs.

We may decide to reduce class size at our high need sites and hire counselors or librarians since these positions are the ones we’ve had to eliminate or reduce during the painful years of budget cutting. As we prepare to implement the Common Core Standards, we may consider providing additional support for our teachers in the form of professional development, which has been dramatically reduced since the onset of the recession in 2008.

In the recent California Department of Education’s release on the 2012 graduation and drop-out rates, San Diego Unified proudly exceeded all of the state averages by increasing graduations and decreasing drop-outs. In fact, we attained the lowest drop-out rate among California’s large urban districts and the second highest graduation rate among our peer districts. This is validation that we are pursuing strategies that work and that are helping our students graduate from high school with the necessary skills and knowledge to enroll in college or compete in the workforce.

We also support the Governor’s plan to maintain the Targeted Instructional Improvement Block Grant (TIIBG) as an add-on to the formula. It has been a critical, stand-alone integration fund that has benefitted many of our students for decades as San Diego Unified was one of the districts subject to court desegregation orders. The court has acknowledged the district has remained committed to achieving the integration goals, and to that end, San Diego Unified has continued to use TIIBG resources for transportation activities attributed to desegregation.

We have also applied these funds to other integration strategies, including increasing enrollment options for our students who live in racially isolated areas, decreasing class sizes for high needs schools, transporting our students to magnet schools across the district, and increasing parent involvement.
I am confident that the proposed finance system will allow local educators and communities to adapt, innovate and respond to changing student needs. Under LCFF, district and school staff will spend far less time navigating the cumbersome bureaucracy created over decades by layers of restrictions and requirements and instead focus on improving educational outcomes in response to being held accountable for raising student achievement across the board.

More Clarity on Role of COE and What New Accountability System Means

Before I conclude, I would like to make a few remarks in the area of accountability. We look forward to receiving additional direction on what the proposed accountability system will look like, and we encourage the Governor’s office, the Legislature and Department of Education to engage school districts in developing an accountability plan that is not cumbersome, but one that is simple, straight forward and implementable.

The accountability proposal currently envisions that each County Office of Education to review the local accountability plans for all school districts within its county concurrently with its review of district budgets. We are concerned about the implications of this approach because of the broad diversity of County Office capabilities around the state. Each County Offices of Education in the state conducts a variety of activities depending on the size of the county and the characteristics of the districts they serve. Before implementing this accountability review approach, school districts and County Offices of Education will need to be informed on the responsibilities County Offices of Education will have under this new system and what the consequences will be, if any, if districts fail to comply with their plan.

While it is important that County Offices of Education to review the District Plans on an annual basis, this examination should be limited to a fiscal analysis, not one based on evaluating whether schools have met academic progress. This separation of fiscal review versus academic performance review is very important as many school districts across the state believe student achievement and academic progress should not be part of the County Offices of Education.

While the accountability structure is further defined, the state should consider convening a stakeholder advisory group to assist with the development and adoption of the Local Control and Accountability Plan so the county's superintendent role in reviewing district's plan is clear.

One final point on accountability. I am aware that concerns have been raised that the proposed local decision making and flexibility granted to school districts does not factor in an accountability system that will ensure the supplemental funds are being spent on the neediest students: English learners, low-income and foster care youth. I disagree with and challenge these concerns, as I believe the proposed formula will empower parents and community members to hold school districts accountable for ensuring the funds are being used for the most disadvantaged students.

Conclusion: Education Finance Reform is Needed Now

In conclusion, how best to improve upon the existing K-12 funding system has been discussed by stakeholder groups for many years, San Diego Unified believes that the need for action grows increasingly urgent.

Not only does a strong rationale exist for restructuring the current flawed system, but the passage of Prop 30 and projected annual growth in Prop 98 minimum guarantee serves as a unique opportunity to transition to a more rational funding system that is equitable and one which allocates a share of new funds in a way that more closely aligns with current student needs.

School districts have suffered more than $20 billion in reductions and deferred payments from the state since 2007-2008, and our school district has had its own share of these cuts. Thanks in large part to Governor Brown; the passage of Proposition 30 will serve to stop additional cuts to schools. California¹s public schools must be funded at a level that allows them to meet the state¹s expectations, and to serve all students while providing them with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in today¹s society.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you San Diego Unified’s perspective. I welcome any questions from members of the committee.

Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary Principal pays off on PTA challenge

The California PTA challenged all PTAs to have 100 percent teacher membership by January 31, and at Lindbergh Schweitzer that was no problem, reports Principal Deanne Rohde.
Celebrating success.
After meeting the goal, Vice Principal Muriel Bartolini had the idea to challenge the students and their families to increase their PTA membership to exceed 250, and if they did, she and Principal Deanne Rohde would come to school with purple hair and serve pizza or ice cream to the classrooms that turned in the most memberships.

"Guess what," said Rohde. "They did it again!"
Robert Patton's second grade and Mary Morgan's fourth grade were the classes that won the treats and helped the membership soar over the 250 mark. The PTA increased their membership which helps students succeed by strengthening the partnership between home and school.

"Congratulations and thank you to all who turned in new PTA memberships," said Rohde.

PTA, sanctioned by the National PTA, are parent-teacher organizations that operate at many San Diego Unified schools. Families are urged to join their school's PTA or other parent-student-teacher organization as a great way to support their school, get more involved in their child's education and network with parents.

For additional information contact Media Production Assistant Julie Harris at jharris2@sandi.net or 858-496-8400.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Join the festivities at Clairemont Day at the Bay on April 21

Be sure to mark your calendars for the first annual Fast Times 5K Race/Walk and Clairemont Day at the Bay being held Sunday, April 21, at De Anza Cove in Mission Bay Park. Join the family-friendly fun and festivities geared at spotlighting the Clairemont community and supporting its local schools.

The event is two-fold, beginning with the Fast Times 5K Race/Walk, sponsored by the Clairemont Hills Kiwanis. A 2-loop, fast 5K Race with three separate categories will begin at 7 a.m. A 5K Fun Run/Walk geared for families and individuals of all ages and skill levels will begin at 8 a.m. The Kiwanis will share the proceeds from the race with the Clairemont Mesa Educational Foundation. Race/walk registration is closed.

Clairemont Day at the Bay will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. This free community event will bring Clairemont schools, businesses and community members together for a day of fun and educational activities for the whole family. For details about the event, visit their Facebook page.

Schools in the Clairemont and Madison clusters will showcase the many innovative programs they offer students. High school and middle school students will provide entertainment throughout the day and elementary schools have partnered with businesses or community groups to host activities.

SoCal Bounce and K-Co Construction,Inc., two of the many event sponsors, will provide obstacle courses and bounce houses for younger children. The Paralyzed Veterans of America Cal-Diego Chapter will showcase radio-controlled cars, airplanes and helicopters. The Boys and Girls Club will have a giant Twister game. Other sponsors for the day’s events include Mission Federal, AXA Advisors and Seiko Properties. Local food vendors, including Pick-Up Stix, Chili’s, Mountain Mikes, Don Pepe’s, BonBon Kettlecorn, Mimi’s and Trinity Baking, will have tasty items for sale.

The Clairemont Mesa Education Foundation is a local 501(c) 3 that supports the 16 public schools that make up the Madison and Clairemont high school clusters. This support comes from partnerships with businesses, organizations and residents within the community that assist the schools with financial support and in-kind contributions for programs and projects as requested by school administrations and classroom teachers.

Don’t miss out on the excitement and be sure to share this information with family,friends and neighbors. For information about the Clairemont Day at the Bay, e-mail colette@fasttimes5k.com .

Friday, April 19, 2013

Education historian returns to SD schools with praise

IN THE NEWS: Diane Ravitch calls district "bright spot in the increasingly dark landscape of public education." Read more from UT San Diego»

Whitman Elementary science night takes to the skies

Paper airplanes soared kites were flying, balls were bouncing and roller coasters were looping. In fact, everything and everyone were moving around the packed auditorium at Whitman Elementary School during a recent Science Night.

Science night at Whitman. More than 150 people were part of this event, arranged by Whitman science teacher Cathy Watson. Visitors rolled up their sleeves for hands-on force and motion experiments.

“This momentum for science as the center for student learning will continue,” said Whitman Principal Pamela Thompson. In addition to specialized teacher training and science nights, Whitman also opens its doors to students on Saturdays; the classes are consistently filled, an often have to turn away student scientists.

In addition to committing to 300 minutes of weekly science instruction, Whitman teachers are partnered with Ruben H. Fleet Science Center. They receive monthly professional developments in innovative ways in integrating science to other areas of the curriculum. They are also part of the district’s “Science Centered Schools” initiative that provides educators with training and collaboration time led by experts in the field.

Check out Whitman’s upcoming STEM activities on their website: http://www.sandi.net/whitman. Keep on moving Whitman Cougars!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lincoln High students take original monologues to La Jolla Playhouse

Students Alicia Yancey, Bandon Silva, Izay Harris and Jose Hernandez of Lincoln High performed student-written monologues on issues ranging from drug abuse to teen relationship violence at a recent fundraiser for the La Jolla Playhouse.

The original pieces were written by 40 students in the Business Law and Introduction to Criminal Justice courses during a ten-lesson curriculum program called InterACTion.
Lincoln students perform at the La Jolla Playhouse This program places law enforcement officers and professional theater teaching artists inside the classroom to educate and assist students with skills necessary to cope with issues ranging from drug abuse, sexual assault, teen relationship violence, and gang involvement. InterACTion provides a forum where students can feel free to express themselves in a non-threatening environment, using theater as a medium for communication about powerful issues.

La Jolla Playhouse teaching artist James Pillar, San Diego Police Officer Edwin Garrette, and Ray Beattie, Lincoln Criminal Justice and Business Law teacher, helped the students through the ten-lesson program.

The students then performed their original works at Lincoln High School’s Black Box Theater. Playhouse officials chose four students to perform at its fundraising gala and helped the students create a mini script combining the monologues, but not changing the words of the original writings by the students.

Students Yancey, Silva, Harris and Hernandez met with the gala director, sound and managing staff before the gala to transform their once-individual monologues into a theater form of the combined script featuring all of their works. This was the first kind of this performance for the La Jolla Playhouse as well as for the students.

For more information, please contact Ray Beattie, CCTE Teacher, at rbeattie@sandi.net.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A man of many words teaches more than just vocabulary at Ocean Beach Elementary

IN THE NEWS: Each month, Ocean Beach Elementary School students in Cyndie Volpone’s combined third- and fourth-grade class look forward to a visit by the “The Word Man,” Jim Crakes, who livens up the classroom with his fun word games and puzzles, enlightening youngsters with educational tidbits about cultures around the globe and tales about his own fascinating personal history as an avid traveler, Olympic athlete and lifelong educator.  Read more.

Tower Garden helps kids grow veggies at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary

A Tower Garden – a hydroponic system for growing vegetables – is now on in the campus garden at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School.

Setting up the Tower Garden. Through grants from the San Diego Master Gardeners and the La Jolla Village Gardening Club, the Tower Garden was purchased for the school's teaching garden and will be helping kids learn where their meals come from, as well as the process of growing fruits and vegetables.

"When I ask my kids, 'where do fruits and vegetables come from?' the response is "the store!" said teacher Patti Read, the 2012 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Read's goal is to put the school-grown produce on the menu in cafeteria.

The Tower Garden is a patented vertical aeroponic growing system developed by Tim Blank. The 5-foot tall Tower Garden will grow up to 20 plants at a time using a system of recycling nutrients and water. The plants will grow in less time than it would take in soil, so the children will see more produce for less work. Also, the design of the system will accommodate students using wheelchairs and walkers, as well as ambulatory children.

For additional information contact Media Production Assistant Julie Harris at jharris2@sandi.net or 858-496-8400.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kearny International Business, King-Chavez Primary Academy Charter get Academic Achievement Award

Kearny High School of International Business and the King-Chavez Primary Academy Charter have received the 2012-13 Title I Academic Achievement Award from the California Department of Education.
Title 1 Academic Achievement Awar
The schools must be part of the federal Title I program, which helps students who live in communities where families are classified as low-income, and show sustained progress in academic improvement among low-income students.

This is the second honor in a week for the Kearny School of International Business. On Thursday, the school was named a California Distinguished School for 2013. A list of previous district schools receiving the award is available online.

"The students at Kearny International Business have shown continuing improvement in their academic achievements," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "The hard work by the principal, teachers and staff, and the students has resulted in these important recognitions."

According to the California Department of Education, the school must demonstrate that all students are making significant progress toward proficiency on California's academic content standards. Additionally, the school's socioeconomically disadvantaged students must have doubled the achievement targets set for them for two consecutive years.

“These schools serve students facing real challenges, and they’ve risen to meet them through hard work and dedication,” California Superintended Torlakson said. “It is inspiring to see their students achieve more in the classroom today so they can enjoy more opportunity in the years to come.”

For more information, go to the California Department of Education website.

Video highlights ‘Economic Educator of the Year’

A video spotlighting Pt. Loma High School teacher Vivian Love has been posted.
Love was saluted for her work with the Stock Market Game, helping her students to learn financial literacy.

Two SCPA students selected by National YoungArts Foundation

Jullanar Gamboa Senior Jullanar Gamboa from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) is a 2013 National YoungArts Foundation honorable mention winner in voice. Cleo Person, an early graduate of SCPA who is now attending The Juilliard School, was a 2013 finalist in dance. Jullanar and Cleo were chosen from approximately 10,000 applications from students in nine disciplines in the visual, literary, and performing arts.

To date, YoungArts has honored more than 16,000 young artists with over $6 million in monetary awards; facilitated in excess of $100 million in college scholarship opportunities; and enabled its participants to work with master teachers who are among the most distinguished artists in the word, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Placido Domingo, Quincy Jones, and Martin Scorsese. For more information about YoungArts and for a complete list of 2013 YoungArts winners, visit www.youngarts.org.

SCPA is a college-preparatory, arts-focused, magnet public school within the San Diego Unified School District for students in grades 6 through 12 who have a strong interest, passion, and talent in the arts. SCPA alumni are an extensive and impressive group who have attended UCLA, Juilliard, Otis School of Design, New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Boston University, the New England Conservatory, and numerous other prestigious universities, colleges, and conservatories throughout the United States. SCPA counts 5 Tony Award-winners among its alumni along with countless others who are working professionally in the artistic arena. For more information about SCPA and auditions in into the high school program, please visit www.sandi.net/scpa.

Cleo Person - Young Arts Excerpt from SDSCPA on Vimeo.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pt. Loma High film studio makes its debut

IN THE NEWS: New Prop. S-funded project is part of College, Career and Technical Education program.

32 Science Fair winners heading to state finals in Los Angeles

Eager to display their research, some 650 students from around the county packed into the Balboa Park Activity Center for the 59th Annual Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair. More than 160 students from San Diego Unified district schools participated, representing Wangenheim, Morse High, Pershing Middle, De Portola Middle and others.

Marshall Middle Principal Michelle Irwin and student Emily Stuart
The big winner this year was Elaine Gillum’s eighth-grade science class at Marshall Middle School in Scripps Ranch, where 28 of her 44 students won first place honors, two were sweepstakes winners (Alexander Poirier and John Gomez), two were sweepstakes runners-up (Matthew Bronars and Jason Provol), and 23 professional awards were earned from various societies and groups. The 62nd annual California State Science Fair in Los Angeles will have 32 entries from San Diego Unified, with two potential alternates, where they will have the chance to compete for awards totaling $50,000.

Sweepstakes winners John Gomez, left, and Alexander Poirier.
“I've been doing this for 16 years and have never seen a year like this,” said Gillum. “They did a project that they were interested in, which makes a huge difference. They also found amazing mentors that wanted to help them be successful.”

In addition, 17 students have been invited to compete for Broadcom Masters, a national science, technology, engineering, and math competition; and one student, Jacob Yoshitake, had his essay selected from more than 9,000 submissions to win the prestigious DuPont Essay Challenge. Most will be applying for the Google International Science Fair as well, an online science competition open to middle and high school students from around the globe.

Marshall Middle School's Jason Provol.
Students submitted projects in one of the following categories: Animal sciences, behavioral and social sciences, biochemistry, computer science, Earth and planetary sciences, engineering--electrical and mechanical, engineering--energy and transport, engineering--materials and bioengineering, environmental sciences and management, mathematical sciences, medicine and health sciences, microbiology, physics and astronomy, plant sciences, and product testing/consumer science (junior division only).

Other notable winners include:
  • Zachary McGaugh, grade eight, Wangenheim, first place, junior sweepstakes winner, Marine Technology Society Award;
  • William Hang, sophomore, Scripps Ranch High School, second place, Human Factors & Ergonomics Society Award, San Diego Chapter, Office of Naval Research (US Navy Science and Technology) Award, San Diego Supercomputer Center Computational Science Award; 
  • Sara Simpson, Patrick Henry High School, first place, senior sweepstakes runner-up, Acoustical Society of America, San Diego Chapter Award, James Lyon Memorial Award, Office of Naval Research (US Navy Science and Technology) Award; 
  • Michael Du and Wenhao Lioa, juniors, Scripps Ranch High School, first place, American Society of Mechanical Engineers Award, General Atomics Sciences Educational Foundation Award; 
  • Ryan Beck, grade eight, Pershing Middle, first place, Grantville-Allied Gardens Kiwanis Club Award, California School Nurses Organization Award.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

2013-14 School Year Calendar Now Online

Parents, time to log into that online datebook, as San Diego Unified has approved its calendar for the 2013-14 school year and the first day of next year is Tuesday, Sept. 3.

The Board of Education approved the new calendar at its April 9 meeting, setting the academic path for more than 100,000 students and families for the next year. Download schedules: Traditional Adobe PDF   |   Year-Round Adobe PDF

Important Dates

Traditional Schedule

  • 3,  First Day of School for Students     
  • 11, Holiday, Veterans Day
  • 25-29, Thanksgiving Break
  • 23, First Day of Winter Break
  • 6,  School Resumes
  • 20, Holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Year-Round Schools

  • 3, First Day of School for Students
  • 11, Holiday, Veterans Day
  • 25-29, Thanksgiving Break
  • 23, First Day of Winter Break
  • 21, School Resumes
Visit the Academic Calendar page

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Congratulations to Kearny Business, Mt. Everest, Health Sciences Charter: they’re ‘Distinguished’

The Kearny High School of International Business is a California Distinguished School for the second time in four years, joining independent study oriented Mt. Everest Academy and charter Health Sciences High on the 2013 list released Thursday by the California Department of Education.

California Distinguished School The state makes the awards to middle and high schools on odd-numbered years, elementary schools on even-numbered years. For a list of past San Diego Unified winners go to the district's Awards and Distinctions section.

"Each of the students, principal, staff, parents, volunteers and the entire school community should be saluted for excellent work," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "This is exciting news for each of these campuses."

The 2013 California Distinguished Schools Program directly focuses on the right of California’s students to an equitable and rigorous education, and recognizes those schools that have made progress in narrowing the academic achievement gap, according to State Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

“These schools have gone the extra mile to provide high-quality instruction that puts their students on the right path toward career and college,” Torlakson said. “Given the enormous challenges schools have faced in recent years, it is inspiring to see this kind of success in so many schools. Our future depends on meeting the needs of every student no matter where they come from or where they live.”

To apply for Distinguished School honors, schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria, including accountability measures. Once schools are deemed eligible, the California Department of Education (CDE) invites them to apply to be recognized as a California Distinguished School.

The application process consists of a written application, which includes a comprehensive description of two of the school's signature practices, and a county-led site validation review process, which validates the implementation of those signature practices.

For more information, visit the California Department of Education website at http://www.cde.ca.gov/

Friday, April 12, 2013

Madison High baseball player shows signs of success

IN THE NEWS: In a sport where players and coaches constantly communicate using signs, Andy Villasenor feels right at home playing baseball. The Madison High School senior lost his hearing as an infant, so he uses sign language to communicate with his Warhawks coaches and teammates. “Some deaf people think they can’t do it because they are deaf, but they need to go and try it, try new things and they will find they can do it,” Villasenor said through his interpreter.  

Barnard teacher named one of California's top language educators

Sally Lowe Barnard Elementary teacher Sally Lowe has been named one of four Outstanding Teachers for 2013 by the California Language Teacher's Association.

The award is given in recognition of outstanding teaching performance of a world language other than English.

"Barnard is in its fifth year of implementing the Mandarin Language Program and Sally Lowe is a driving force in pushing forward," said Barnard Principal Eddie Park. "She is a confident educator and embodies all the qualities of a leader. She demonstrates exceptional skills in modifying and adapting curriculum, creating material, varying instruction and implementing a positive behavior support plan. She is organized, positive, flexible and accommodating in working with students and other professionals."

Each month Lowe leads a full day professional development of the Mandarin teachers at Barnard, helping her colleagues teach common core curriculum in Mandarin as well as exciting and innovating ways to efficiently teach Mandarin.

Lowe has taught for 17 years and was the 2011 Teacher of the Year from Barnard. She was also an honoree of the 2010 California Distinction Award in Promoting Chinese Language and Culture issued by Chinese Language Education and Research Center in Silicon Valley, and is the recipient of many other educational awards. She is a member of the California Language Teacher’s Association and Foreign Language Council of San Diego.
For more information on Barnard, contact Principal Park at epark1@sandi.net.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kearny Construction Tech principal honored by Women in Construction

Laura Bellofatto Laura Bellofatto, principal of the Stanley E. Foster Construction Tech Academy at the Kearny High Educational Complex, has been named Executive Member of the Year by the San Diego chapter of the National Women in Construction.

"Bellofatto's enthusiasm and skill for integrating technology and 21st Century skills into curriculum," said Lorelee Langworthy, chapter president, "coupled with her four-year tenure as CTA's principal and 15 year record with the district demonstrate Bellofatto's dedication to making the educational foundation of tomorrow's leaders strong and the future of construction relevant and connected to tomorrow's industry leaders at CTA."

Bellofatto is an 11 year veteran teacher of mathematics, science, and technology at the middle school level. She has served San Diego Unified School District in a variety of leadership roles, notably in the district's Educational Technology Department where she coordinated the implementation of federally-funded and state-funded Challenge grants.

She became a teacher trainer at the local level and speaker at national conferences on the topic of integrating WebQuest units, a form of targeted online learning discovery and research, into the general curriculum. Her successful track record of working with students, teachers, and technology, and her work as vice-principal at Morse High School, led to her current role as principal of Construction Tech Academy.

"Bellofatto and CTA's 23 teachers educate, mentor, and foster a growing understanding of the construction industry in the 459 students who attend CTA," said Langworthy.

For more information on the National Women in Construction's San Diego chapter, go to its website, http://www.nawicsd.info/.See more on the Construction Tech Academy at http://www.sandi.net/kearnycta

Elementary, middle school artists honored by Southern California art teachers

Second place, Elli-Ana Hauser, Kumeyaay Elementary

First place, Nina Ciodo, Marshall Middle School

Second place, Hannah Lewellin

Work by students at Kumeyaay Elementary, and Marshall and Muirlands middle schools has been awarded in the Southern California Area Young Artists exhibition.

Second place in grades 3-5 was awarded to Elli-Ana Hauser from Kumeyaay Elementary; her art teacher is Kathleen Kane-Murrell.In the grade 6-8 category, first and second place awards went to students of Laura McDonald at Marshall Middle School, Nina Chiodo, first place, and Hannah Lewellin, second place. Receiving third place was Jenny Yorn from Muirlands Middle School; her art teacher is Pat Cox.

The students' work is on display from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday through April 20 at the Riverside Community Artists Association Gallery, 3870 Lemon St., Riverside.

The San Diego Youth Art Month show was a preliminary to the regional judging. In the San Diego show, winners from San Diego Unified schools were: first place, grades K-2, Daniel Orila, Vista Grande Elementary (teacher, Kathleen Kane-Murrell/Borino); grades 3-5, second place, Elli-Anna Hauser, Kumeyaay Elementary (teacher, Kathleen Kane-Murrell); grades 6-8, first place, Nina Chiodo, Marshall Middle School (teacher, Laura McDonald); grades 6-8, second place, Hannah Lewellin, Marshall Middle School, (teacher, Laura McDonald); grades 6-8 third place, Jenny Yorn, Muirlands Middle School (teacher, Pat Cox).
For more information, contact Dr. Karen Childress-Evans, Director, Visual and Performing Arts, (858) 539-5349. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Saint-Gobain Solar Guard donates more than $20,000 to schools

More than $20,000 in supplies and cash has been donated to four elementary schools by employees, staff and charitable giving arm of local company Saint-Gobain Solar Gard Performance Plastics.
At Baker Elementary Lindbergh Schweitzer in Clairemont, Baker Elementary in Mountain View, Gage Elementary in San Carlos and Logan K-8 in Logan Heights each received several boxes of supplies and a check for $1,725 as part of its program to give back to its community. The school supplies were collected and purchased by employees.

At Lindbergh Schweitzer, ASB Officers Kaylee Broadhead, Jordan Salazar and Naomy Harvey greeted Saint-Gobain employees Maria Perez, Moira Peraza and Susie Tolentino and gratefully accepted the company's donations of school supplies and a check.

"Generous businesses such as Saint-Gobain Solar Gard that support teaching and learning in the classroom by providing these donations are another reason students at Lindbergh Schweitzer are achieving success every day," said Lindbergh Schweitzer Principal Deanne Rohde. "We're so grateful for support such as this from our community.

Headquartered in San Diego, Solar Gard makes industry leading architectural and automotive window films, photovoltaics and custom coatings. A division of Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, the world leader in the habitat and construction markets, Solar Gard’s architectural solar control window films are proven carbon negative and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

SD Unified's graduation rates continue improvement; most dropout rates decline

A three-year trend of increasing graduation rates has continued for the San Diego Unified School District, which had 86.9 percent of its students graduate in 2012, an increase of 1.6 percent over 2011 and 4.7 from 2010, according to data released April 9 by the California Department of Education. San Diego Unified leads the San Diego County average by 8.4 percentage points.

Graduation day at Madison High.
Only one large school district in California had a higher graduation rate than San Diego Unified's 86.9 percent: Garden Grove with 87.8. Other large districts ranged from San Francisco's 82.2 to Oakland's 73.2. San Diego Unified's overall dropout rate of 6.2 percent was the lowest among the nine other large urban largest districts in California, with San Francisco the next lowest at 10 percent.

"This continued improvement means that our district, and most importantly our students, are on the right path," said Superintendent Bill Kowba. "To have a nearly five percent jump in just three years shows the outstanding work done every day by everyone in the San Diego Unified School District."

Across San Diego County, the graduation rate is 78.4 percent with a dropout rate of 10.4 percent, 4.2 percentage points above the county's largest school district. The statistics report the overall graduation rate, which is the number of students attending in ninth grade who get a diploma. The dropout rate is the number of students entering grade 12 but fail to graduate.

“Attendance figures build on each other," said Kowba. "If the kids are coming to school day in and day out at every grade level and keep moving up the ladder and don’t let up on that emphasis, I think we’re in a great place.”

Since 2007, reducing the dropout rate has been one of the district's top priorities, not only focusing on high school seniors, but starting early -- as early as sixth grade. Studies show that student who miss 10 days or more in sixth grade have a higher high school dropout rate than their classmates who miss fewer days.

"Even with these outstanding overall numbers, the statistics show we were unable to make an impact on Hispanic students last year," said Kowba.

Among Hispanics, while the dropout rate was unchanged at 9.9 percent, the graduation rate rose to 80.2 percent from 78 percent. Among other large ethnic groups, African Americans' dropout rate declined to 7 percent from 7.7 percent and the graduation rate increased to 83.9 from 81.8 in 2011 and 76.9 in 2010.

Programs such as graduation coaches, credit recovery, providing more options for high school students on campus have been instrumental in improving the graduation rate, said Kowba. In 2012, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson called San Diego Unified a "model of attendance improvement."

To look up specific schools, go to the California Department of Education website at http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/ 

News Coverage

Marshall Middle School student wins DuPont Challenge science award

Jake Yoshitake, an eighth grader at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Scripps Ranch, has won the grand prize in the DuPont Challenge, which calls on students to research, think critically and write a science essay that provides innovative ideas on our most pressing global challenges and demonstrates the application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to our daily lives. Jake with his project.

His paper was based on his project submitted to the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair. It took a solar tracking unit an attempted to increase efficiency. Jake will also be presenting his Science Fair project at the upcoming State Science Fair competition and the Broadcom competition. 

His prize includes a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond, an all expense-paid Orlando trip in April 2013, and numerous prizes from Encyclopedia Britannica. His paper was based on his Science Fair Project on a solar tracking unit, and an attempt to increase efficiency. Jake will also be presenting his Science Fair project at the upcoming State Science Fair competition and the Broadcom competition.

Jake submitted his paper about three months ago, as did more than 9,000 other students across the United States. Jake's paper was read by scientists, teachers, and members of the business community and has been awarded the grand prize in the junior division (grades 7-9).

Elaine Gillum, Jake's eighth grade science teacher, continually challenges her students to excel in science based activities. Gillum is an advocate for her students and supports them as they reach for new challenges.

For more information about the Thurgood Marshall Middle School Advanced Science program, contact Michelle Irwin, principal at mirwin1@sandi.net or Elaine Gillum at egillum@sandi.net.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Walker Elementary book donations help expand library

Walker Elementary School Principal Rochelle Dawes and City National Bank Vice President, Branch Manager Christian Weissmann Walker Elementary School has received a $4,200 donation from City National Bank, good enough to purchase more than 800 books from the local Mira Mesa Barnes and Noble Book Store.

As a result, each student at Walker received a brand new book and teachers received free books to fill their classroom libraries.

Jonny Holt, Community Relations Manager at Mira Mesa’s Barnes and Noble Booksellers, and his staff, along with Walker Elementary School worked together to extend literacy opportunities by providing a Barnes and Noble Family Fun Night Book Fair and Fundraiser.

Christian Weissmann, City National Bank’s Vice President, Branch Manager, Reading is the Way Up program, has presented the school with a $4,200 certificate to purchase books from Barnes and Noble including the bookstore’s 25% institutional discount. The Holiday Book Drive is part of City National Bank’s Reading is the Way Up program.
For more information, contact Rochelle Dawes, Principal, Walker Elementary School, at  (858) 271-8050.

La Jolla High students place in national high school reading competition

A team of students representing La Jolla High School recently won highest honors in this year’s WordWright Challenge, a national competition for high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry. Participating with 582 school teams from all across the country, the school’s tenth graders tied for tenth place in the nation in the year’s third meet, held in February.

books and apple Sophomore Nika Ostovar won highest honors for individual achievement as well, being one of only 22 tenth graders in the entire country who earned perfect scores in the meet. Others at the school who excelled included sophomores Charlie Mann and Michael Penny and junior Erika Wadsworth. More than 58,000 students from across the U.S. (and from three foreign nations) participated in the meet. The students were supervised by Jewel Weien.

The premise behind the WordWright Challenge is that attentive reading and sensitivity to language are among the most important skills students acquire in school. The texts students must analyze for the Challenge can range from short fiction by Eudora Welty or John Steinbeck to poetry as old as Shakespeare’s or as recent as Margaret Atwood’s, and to essays as classic as E.B.White’s or as current as a Time opinion piece by James Poniewozik. Though the texts vary widely in voice, subject, tone, and length, they have one thing in common: style. All use language skillfully to convey layers and shades of meaning not always apparent to students on a first or casual reading.

Like the questions on the verbal SAT I, the SAT II in English Literature, and the Advanced Placement exams in both English Language and English Literature, the questions posed by the WordWright Challenge ask students both to recognize the emotional and/or rational logic of a piece of writing and to notice the ways in which a writer’s style shapes and shades his meaning. Because the WordWright Challenge is a classroom activity and not a college-entrance exam, however, it can be a learning experience, not just a high hurdle. After completing a Challenge, classes are encouraged to talk about the texts and the answers to the multiple-choice questions, and are also given additional topics for open-ended discussion and/or written response.

The texts for the third WordWright meet this year were a poem by Robert Frost for 9th and 10th graders and a prize-winning essay by Daniel Orozco for 11th and 12th graders. The students will participate in one more WordWright meet during the coming months, and medals and certificates will be awarded in June to those who have achieved and/or progressed the most in the course of the year.

Monday, April 8, 2013

School field trips to Old Town revived

IN THE NEWS: Local businesses and civic boosters have rallied around the popular fourth-grade field trips to Old Town that fell victim to budget cuts in the San Diego Unified School District. 

The Old Town Chamber of Commerce hosted the Café Coyote Historic Old Town Golf Classic last month, raising in excess of $77,000 — about double its goal — to cover bus costs for bringing fourth graders to Old Town San Diego. Read more from UT San Diego»

San Diego High Culinary Team Takes Second Place In State Competition

The team of four San Diego High School of Business Culinary Arts and Management students has taken second place the management event at the 2013 ProStart Culinary Cup competition, sponsored by the California Restaurant Association. Teams from San Diego Business, Scripps Ranch, Mira Mesa and Madison high schools competed in the two-day California event.

In addition to the Management Team award, San Diego High teacher Brian Murphy also received two $1,000 awards – one for his program and one for himself. The students on the team, Melody Montano, Andrew Ketchum, Michael Rubalcava and Jose Flores received scholarship options for culinary schools all over the United States and a beautiful chef knife for their personal use. The event was held March 17-18 in Sacramento.

Chef Kimberly Coelho of Scripps Ranch High was named the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation California ProStart Educator of the Year. Kim will receive an all-expense paid trip to Chicago, where she will meet fellow educators of the year from various states, receive a hands-on professional development day, attend the National Restaurant Association trade show and enjoy complimentary events and mixers hosted by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

The BJ’s Restaurants Management Cup teams develop and pitch a business proposal for a new restaurant concept, including a supporting menu, a marketing plan and a detailed design. They present their idea to a panel of potential investors. The Boyd's Coffee Culinary Cup  has teams competing in a series of skills tests as well as preparing a fine dining three course menu – within an hour – using only two butane burners. The teams have to bring all their equipment and food items to the competition.

Each year, more than 150 students from California ProStart high schools convene for the California ProStart Cup, an exhilarating two-day competition with demanding culinary and management components. California winners advance to the National ProStart Invitational with a chance to compete for scholarships. Participants in both events engage in a battle of skill and knowledge, with points awarded on specific criteria, such as proper cooking procedures, safety and sanitation, presentation, product taste and teamwork. More than 40 industry professionals serve as judges.

For more information, contact Angela Croce, CCTE Program Specialist, at acroce@sandi.net or the California Restaurant Association website at http://www.calrest.org/foundation/events/prostart-cup/.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Student groups embody Chavez’s values

IN THE NEWS: It will be 20 years next month since Cesar Chavez died. Yet the legacy of the late labor leader has perhaps never been more alive among many students in San Diego schools. See story from UT San Diego»

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Fun Café Brings Free Lunch to Year-Round School Students

April brings multiple opportunities for San Diego children on Spring Break to have free lunches as Spring Fun Café begins a four-week run on Monday, April 1. Lunch is free to kids age 18 and younger at 12 City of San Diego Recreation Centers, three community centers, three military housing locations and a Marine base.

Lunch time This program is a collaboration between the San Diego Unified Food Services Department and the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department. The program is funded by the Seamless Summer Lunch Program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Spring Fun Café Schedule

Park and Recreation Centers, Monday-Friday, March 29-April 26. Closed Monday April 1 (Caesar Chavez Day)
  • Adams Recreation Center, 3491 Adams Ave. 92116 1-2 p.m.
  • Azalea Recreation Center, 2596 Violet St. 92105 12-1 p.m.
  • City Heights Recreation Center, 4380 Landis St. 92105 12-1 p.m.
  • Colina Del Sol Recreation Center, 5319 Orange Ave. 92115 12-1 p.m.
  • Linda Vista Recreation Center, 7064 Levant St. 92111 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. 92014 1-2 p.m.
  • Paradise Hills Recreation Center, 6610 Potomac St. 92139 12-1 p.m.
  • Penn Athletic Field, 2555 Dusk Dr. 92139 12-1 p.m.
  • Southcrest Recreation Center, 4149 Newton Ave. 92113 12:30-1:30 p.m.
  • Willie Henderson Recreation Center, 1035 So. 45th St. 92113 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Community Sites, Monday-Friday, April 1-26
  • Bayside Community Center, 2202 Comstock St. 92111 12:30-1:30 p.m.
  • Jackie Robinson YMCA, 151 YMCA Way 92102 12:15-1:15 p.m.
  • Sherman Heights Community Center, 2258 Island Ave. 92102, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Military housing center locations, open to the public, Monday-Friday, April 1-26
  • Gateway CYP, 2741 Mendonca Dr. 92110 12-1 p.m.
  • Murphy Canyon CYP, 4867 Santo Rd. 92124 12-1 p.m.
  • Murphy Canyon Kid Connection, 3493 Santo Rd. 92124 12-1 p.m.
Open to children with Military base access only
  • Miramar Youth & Teen Center 2700 Moore Ave. 92145 12:15-1:15 p.m.