Saturday, December 20, 2014

San Diego Unified spends more than an hour on the "Hour of Code"

Last week during Computer Science Education Week, more than 8,500 San Diego Unified students participated in The Hour of Code, a global movement to expose students to coding. In San Diego Unified, however, it is more appropriate to call it Hours of Code. Students spent hours developing many of the talents they will need to succeed after graduation. Writing computer code as a team teaches them how to work together, think through problems logically, identify solutions, and persist until they reach their goals—all valuable skills in the world and the workplace.

Here are some of the highlights of the week:
  • Steve Stawski from Sony Electronics spoke to Lori William’s Criminal Justice students at Lincoln High School about the importance of coding in the world of criminal justice and how coding is an important field for our national security.
  • All of the teachers and students at Innovation Middle School took part in the Hour of Code for the entire week. In addition to learning about the benefits of coding and computer science, students created their own computer programs using Scratch and Hopscotch. Elijah Galbraith-Knapp, from the San Diego Sockers along with a representative of Congressman Scott Peters came to see student programs and play some of the games students created. One group of students walked to Hawthorne Elementary School to teach their younger peers how to code.
  • At Angier Elementary School, the students in Mr. Olsson’s after-school coding club were Hour of Code ambassadors for the third grade.
  • The Control Group and Junior Achievement partnered to teach code to the Hoover High School Academy of Information Technology students. These students in turn, taught code to students at Wilson Middle School and Rosa Parks Elementary School.
  • Kearny High School students in CorriAnne Burgess’s Geographic Information Systems class created an interactive map to display all the schools and the students in San Diego Unified that participated in The Hour of Code. See the map.
  • Qualcomm hosted training for administrators and teachers at their Thinkabit Lab.
  • Computer Science Principles teachers Barbara Adams, Morse High School, and Ray Kinne, San Diego High School of Business and Leadership, were invited to be part of the national celebration in Washington, D.C. at the 100 Teachers Meeting. They joined the students invited to the White House to do the Hour of Code with President Obama and Vice President Biden.

“With careers in computers slated to be some of the fast-growing jobs in the upcoming years, it has become increasingly important to provide young people with both exposure to these opportunities and the skills necessary to acquire jobs in computers,” said Sean Sharokhi of The Control Group. “We hope this event will encourage the students to continue to work hard and to ultimately consider pursuing a post-secondary education and/or career in computer sciences.”

For more information contact Gail Lake, program specialist, Office of College, Career & Technical Education, at .

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

IN THE NEWS: Computer science program opens world to Hoover High students

Hoover High School student Josecruz Morales knows the importance of computer science. After learning computer coding, Morales said a whole new world opened up to him. Read KPBS article >>

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Foods Services supervisor receives honor for contributions to school nutrition

Congratulations to Food Services Area Supervisor Christine Holmer who was recently honored with the Louise Sublette Award for Manager of the Year by the California School Nutrition Association. This award, in honor of Louise Sublette, recognizes school nutrition managers for the contributions they have made throughout their school nutrition career.
This award is presented to a person who is has achieved outstanding accomplishments in one or more specified areas in a period of three years:
•  Increasing food acceptability
• Teaching/promoting nutrition education
• Interpreting the needs of the school food service program
• Increasing student participation
• Training personnel, promoting members professional growth
• Increasing public awareness
• Involving students in decision making
• Securing adequate funding for the school food service program
• Cooperating with allied associations to promote child nutrition and/or professional growth opportunities

The Manager of the Year Award is named after Louise Sublette, a leader in school nutrition during the mid-twentieth century. For over 40 years, Louise Sublette worked in many areas of food service and nutrition, including public schools, colleges, hospitals and elderly feeding programs. Her name is given to this prestigious award because throughout her life, Louise Sublette emphasized that the success of school nutrition depends upon those professionals who work in school nutrition programs. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

District Participates in K-8 Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementation Initiative

NGSS  To get a jump-start on the implementation in California of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), eight school districts, including San Diego Unified, have been selected to participate in the California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative.

Developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, in collaboration with the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education and Achieve, this initiative will be a fast-start demonstration project to build local education agency (LEA) capacity to fully implement the Next Generation Science Standards in grades K-8. The initiative began its work August 4-8, 2014 with a weeklong academy in Southern California.

The LEAs will engage with the K-12 Alliance in the initiative over a four-year period to collaboratively develop and participate in leadership training for teachers and administrators, and in teacher professional development in content and pedagogy to meet the conceptual shifts required by NGSS.

Selected in a competitive application process, the other California include: Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, Kings Canyon Unified School District, Lakeside Union School District, Oakland Unified School District, Palm Springs Unified School District, Tracy Unified School District, and Vista Unified School District.

The members of the district’s NGSS Core Leadership Team (in photo, bottom to top) include Michael Goodbody, science resource teacher; Rosemary Cruz, principal, Ross Elementary; Felicia Ryder, Wangenheim Middle; Joe Frescatore, principal, Carson Elementary; Rachael Tarshes, Mann MS; Sharon Schmidt, Tierrasanta Elementary; Sara Church, Dingeman Elementary; Juliette Solis, Valencia Park Elementary; Christy Compton-Hall, Bethune K-8; Karal Blankenship, Emerson-Bandini Elementary; Rodger Ashworth, Washington Elementary; and Don Whisman, science program manager.

For more information, contact Don Whisman, science program manager and project director, NGSS Early Implementation Initiative, at or (619) 725-7345.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2015-16 academic calendars finalized, transition plan approved

The San Diego Unified Board of Education voted at the Dec. 9 Board meeting on the final academic calendars for the 2015-16 school year and approved the plan that will transition all schools to a common traditional calendar.

The Board approved the 2015-16 academic calendars with a start date of Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, for all schools. The last day for students who attend traditional calendar schools is June 20, 2016; schools on year-round schedule will end on July 21, 2016. Both academic calendars have 180 instructional days and are posted on the district website.

The start date for the 2016-17 school year is yet to be decided. At the recommendation of the district Calendar Committee, the district will explore the possibility of starting future school years in August, which would better align with other school districts in the county and have benefits for high school students. The district will be reaching out to various stakeholders in the next several months to get input on the possible change.

In addition, the Board approved the plan to transition the district’s 54 schools currently on year-round calendar to a common traditional calendar over the next four years beginning with the 2015-16 school year. Year-round schools that will transition to traditional calendars in 2015-16 include: Dewey, Ericson, Hancock, Hardy, Jerabek, Johnson, Mason, Miller, Porter, Sequoia, Tierrasanta, Valencia Park and Walker elementary schools along with Farb and Knox middle schools.

Transitioning all schools to a single calendar offers a variety of positive benefits and supports for families. Currently, some families have siblings in both traditional and year-round schools, which can pose challenges for childcare, vacations and other activities because students are not on break at the same time. A single calendar also serves families who rely on older siblings to look after younger children.

The move to a single calendar will be especially beneficial to military families since they often get reassignment orders in June while their children are in school through late July. In addition, the transition supports stabilizing enrollment as attendance data shows that absences can increase at year-round schools during the summer months and some schools, particularly those who serve military families, can lose enrollment.

More information about the Calendar Transition Plan is available at .

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

$1 million grant to support military students with disabilities

DoD United States Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) recently awarded San Diego Unified School District a grant for $1 million, over four years, for Operation Special Education Achievement (Operation SEA).

"The Department of Defense is committed to ensuring that all children of military families have access to quality educational opportunities,” said Kathleen Facon, Chief of the DoDEA's Educational Partnership Program.  “DoDEA Educational Partnership grants have the power to transform learning experiences for military children and we are looking forward to working with the San Diego Unified School District to leverage success and learn from their expertise."

The goal of Operation SEA is to increase grade 3 to 5 students' achievement in English/Language Arts at six elementary schools within the district that have a high concentration of students with special needs from military families: Juarez, Kumeyaay, Miramar Ranch, Perry, Tierrasanta and Vista Grande.  In 2013-14 these six schools served 752 students from military families representing close to a quarter of their total enrollment, of these 112 (15%) were identified as having special educational needs.

Project strategies designed to achieve this goal are:
  1. Professional development through consultation, planning time, and summer workshops provided to grade level professional learning communities comprised of general education and special education teachers from all grades at all six schools (130 teachers).
  2. Access to research-based classroom curriculum and instructional materials that will help teachers across all grades align IEPs to Common Core State Standards in ELA and support students with special needs within all grade levels.
  3. Implementation of an innovative three-year professional development and classroom instruction program – Collaboration: Teachers and Artists (CoTA) in all 3rd and 5th grade classrooms as a way of engaging students who may be struggling academically or socially.
This grant builds upon the success of a current DoDEA funded project Operation Learn & Thrive which includes professional development to support implementation of a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, co-teaching model and the integration of technology to support students with special needs. 

“We are so appreciative of the Operation Special Education Achievement grant and our ongoing partnership with the DoDEA in support of our military families,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “This four-year grant will ensure that students with disabilities have the same access as general education students to the Common Core State Standards curriculum in English Language Arts. The funds will provide the resources and supports for our teachers that will ensure equity for all.”

 DoDEA awarded a total of nearly $32 million in grants this year. The grants were awarded to 25 military-connected public school districts to strengthen family-school-community relationships and enhance student achievement for military connected students.

To be eligible for participation in the grant, the district must have an active military-connected student population of 5% or more, with a population of 15% or more military-connected students at the school level. Although funding levels are related to military student enrollment, the proposed programs will serve all students at the target schools.

Monday, December 8, 2014

La Jolla High students win high honors in WordMasters Challenge

WordMasters Challenge A team of students representing La Jolla High School recently won high honors in this year’s WordMasters Challenge, a national competition for high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry.

Participating with 600 school teams from all across the country, the school’s 11th graders tied for 15th place in the nation in the year’s first meet, held in October. The school’s participation was supervised by Jewel Weien, Mary Maycock, and Amy Kuehl. Read more on La Jolla High's website.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Harvest of the Month is Organic Bloomsdale Spinach

The Harvest of the Month for December and January is Organic Bloomsdale Spinach from Go Green Agriculture in Encinitas, Calif. Find this super veggie on your school salad bar every Wednesday during the months of December and January.

Spinach Go Green Agriculture is a pioneer in growing organic greens using hydroponics and has been recognized on the local state and federal level for their innovative model of farming. Farmer Pierre was invited to the White House this summer to receive the Champion of Change award in the Future of Agriculture.

To help educate students on where the Harvest of the Month produce item comes from, we have created monthly Harvest of the Month videos that act as virtual field trips to the farm. These videos are an opportunity to connect students to their food and local farmers. We encourage principals to have their teachers share the videos in the classroom so students can experience the full circle of their food.

Please share these Virtual Field Trip Video links with teachers, staff and students:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Winter Fun Café offers free lunches and snacks during Winter Intersession

Food Services will be offering free lunches and snacks for children 18 and under during Winter Intersession, Jan. 5-16, 2015. The Winter Fun Café will be open at 16 community locations (see below). There is no application or proof of income needed to participate. Winter Fun Café is a Food Services program that is funded through the USDA Seamless Summer Feeding Option. San Diego Unified is one of few districts in the U.S. offering meals during Winter break intercession for year-round schools.

Location Address Zip Lunch Time
Bayside Community Center 2202 Comstock St. 92111 12-1
City Heights Rec. Center 4380 Landis St. 92105 12-1
Colina Del Sol Rec. Center 5319 Orange Ave. 92115 12-1
Jackie Robinson YMCA 151 YMCA Way 92102 12-1
Linda Vista Rec. Center 7064 Levant St. 92111 12:30-1:30
Logan Heights Branch Library 567 So. 28th St. 92113 12:30-1:30
Malcolm X Branch Library 5148 Market St. 92114 12-1
Mt. View Rec. Center 641 So. Boundary St.  92113 1-2
North Park Rec. Center 4044 Idaho St.  92104 1-2
Paradise Hills Rec. Center 6610 Potomac St.  92139 12-1
Southcrest Rec. Center 4149 Newton Ave.  92113 12:30-1:30
Willie Henderson Rec. Center 1035 So. 45th St. 92113 12-1
Military Connection - Open to the Public: 
Location Address Zip Lunch Time
Gateway CYP 2741 Mendonca Dr. 92110 12-1
Murphy Canyon CYP 4867 Santo Rd. 92124 12-1
Murphy Canyon Kid Connection 3493 Santo Rd. 92124 12-1
Open to children with military base access only:
Location Address Zip Lunch Time
MCAS Miramar Youth 2700 Moore Rd. 92145 12-1

State of the District Address highlights successes, future goals

Supt. Marten and President Beiser
 View all event photos

Improving educational opportunities for all students, investing in professional development for teachers and laying the groundwork for Restorative Justice practices are just some of the district’s accomplishments highlighted by Board President Kevin Beiser at the annual State of the District Address Monday night at Lewis Middle School.

“We have so much to be proud of in advancing Vision 2020 and demonstrating innovation, equity and excellence in all we do,” Beiser began. “Every one of you in this room is invested in doing what’s best for our students, and you’re helping make sure students aren’t seen as a test score but as the whole child.” (Read President Beiser's Remarks)

More than 200 employees, parents and community members gathered at the event to hear from Superintendent Marten and Board President Beiser about the district’s accomplishments and what’s in store for the coming year.

Superintendent Marten highlighted several areas of focus, including strengthening the outcomes for Latino and African American students and Long-Term English Language learners, growing partnerships with local social services agencies and pursuing equity and adequacy in public education funding.

“We hope our definition of appropriate funding levels will be a model to be used throughout the state,” said Marten. “We do not believe the student-teacher ratio in K-3 should be 25.5 to 1. For an elementary school with 600 students – we believe adequate funding would reduce the ratio to 20 to 1. It should be 16 to 1 in high needs schools.

“As we advance this conversation with the legislature, we will be calling on all of our stakeholders to join this call to action and get California off the bottom of the list in adjusted per-pupil spending and do what’s best for all of California’s kids,” Marten said. (Read Supt. Marten's Remarks)

The event was preceded by a reception catered by the district’s Food Services Department. Entertainment during the reception was provided by Lewis Middle School’s String Orchestra while Patrick Henry High’s Bel Canto Ensemble performed the National Anthem and sang “No Man Is An Island” mid-way through the event. Watch the video

Media Coverage
NBC San Diego

Friday, November 21, 2014

Kimie Lochtefeld Named Area 3 Superintendent

Kimie Lochtefeld, principal at Dingeman Elementary, has been named the new Area 3 Superintendent. The announcement was made at the Nov. 18 Board of Education meeting.

Kimie Lochtefeld She will oversee the Kearny, Mission Bay and Point Loma clusters. She replaces Julie Martel, who is taking on a new role as Executive Director, Facilities, Planning and Design.

Lochtefeld has been an employee of San Diego Unified School District since 1992 in the positions of teacher, vice principal and principal. Since 2008, she has served as principal of Dingeman Elementary, located in the northernmost area of the district, where she has worked with stakeholders to create a school vision and mission statement, developed a grassroots STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) program, and re-energized teacher-led professional learning communities. Under her leadership, Dingeman Elementary received the 2013 California Distinguished School Award.

From 2003 to 2008, Lochtefeld served as the principal of Audubon Elementary, which became Audubon K-8 under her leadership, located in the southernmost area of the district. In addition to organizing and implementing the middle school grade levels, Lochtefeld worked closely with community partners such as the YMCA, Evoke Dance, San Diego Children’s Choir, and the San Diego Opera to provide enrichment opportunities for all students.

As principal of Hearst Elementary from 2000-2003, Lochtefeld worked with the school’s foundation and city representatives in eastern San Diego to develop a Parks and Recreation joint-use field agreement.

As a site administrator, Lochtefeld has demonstrated exemplary practices in developing instructional leadership teams and creating a professional culture that focuses on the inter-relationship between curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

As a teacher, she has worked with GATE/Seminar, English Learners, and a student with disabilities in grades 2 through 5, served as grade level chair for literacy, math, and science, and was an SSC chair and ASB advisor.

Lochtefeld received her bachelor’s, master’s and multiple subject teaching credential from San Diego State University and a Clear Administrative Services Credential from the University of San Diego/Educational Leadership Development Academy.

Board President's Scholarship Recipients

 Since 1994, San Diego Unified has presented the Board President’s Scholarship to monthly, classified district employees who are currently enrolled in a college and have a goal of becoming a teacher. 

The scholarship award is presented annually by the President of the Board of Education to four monthly classified employees interested in becoming a teacher and who are already enrolled in a college program. Each recipient receives $1,000. Scholarship funds are to be used for tuition, fees or books at any local two- or four-year accredited college or university.

Long-time district Partners-in- Education , California Coast Credit Union and Mission Federal Credit Union, support the scholarships with donations of $2,000 per financial institution.

The 2014 Board President's Scholarship recipients were announced and recognized at the Nov. 18 Board of Education meeting.
Each recipient received a plaque and check for $1,000 from the respective credit unions:

2014 Mission Federal Credit Union Awardees

Vanessa Jackson

Vanessa Jackson Vanessa is currently a special education assistant at Jones Elementary School. Although Vanessa has always wanted to become a teacher, she questioned which grade level and subject to pursue. After working with special needs students during her college internship she had found her calling.

“I am filled with enthusiasm to have the opportunity to concurrently work with special needs children and gain knowledge to become an effective special education teacher," Vanessa stated.

Vanessa’s colleagues describe her as a self-starter who is devoted to her students. She is currently attending National University to earn her Special Education Mild/Moderate teaching credential.

Kadie Shedd

Katie Shedd Kadie is a special education assistant at Scripps Ranch High School. Kadie plans to use this scholarship award to continue her education in Arizona State University’s online Bachelor’s program.

“Teaching is not a profession one chooses to be involved in," Kadie said. "It is a calling; a deeply rooted understanding and passion that cannot be learned in a classroom.”

Her colleagues think she has already proven her effectiveness as a teacher and added “she has innate teacher instincts, and she is always finding ways to help give students the extra guidance and motivation the need to meet each day’s objectives.”

2014 California Coast Credit Union Awardees

Cynthia Jackson

Cynthia Jackson Cynthia is a special education technician at ALBA Community Day School. Since beginning her career with the San Diego Unified in 1987, she has held several positions within the Special Education Department helping the students that needed her the most.

“My passion for giving back to the community motivates me to give all that I can to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to the powerful role models from my youth who inspired me to become a teacher, Cynthia stated.

Cynthia’s colleagues describe her as a dedicated professional and an “invaluable asset to all.” She currently attends San Diego City College to earn her Degree in Liberal Arts and African Studies.

Craig M. Williams

Craig Williams Craig has been employed at Silvergate Elementary as a noon duty assistant since 2010 and a science assistant since 2012. He plans to use this scholarship award to complete his education and earn his teaching credential.

Craig believes that with this opportunity he will be able to, “continue to touch the lives of students in my care.”

Craig’s colleagues admire his ability to reach out to students as individuals and take a personal interest in their success. One teacher writes, “He genuinely pays attention to each child and is responsive to individual needs.” Craig believes that with this opportunity he will be able to, “continue to touch the lives of students in my care.”

For more information about the Board President's Scholarship, visit .

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Engagement, expectations key to helping students

Kamphet Pease Wilson Middle School teacher and San Diego Unified Teacher of the Year, Khamphet "Pet" Pease, was recently named a 2014 San Diego County Teacher of the Year. She shares her love of teaching and her students in a recent UT San Diego commentary. Read the article.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Loma Portal Elementary receives grant from Barona Band of Mission Indians

Loma Portal Elementary was recently awarded a $5,000 Education Grant by the Barona Band of Mission Indians.

Beth Glasco, Heather Nelson, Mindy Fenska, State Senator
Marty Block and Principal Rebecca Penh
The Education Grant will be used to purchase new books for the school’s library. Each book will have a special bookplate honoring the Barona Tribe for this generous grant award.

"We are thrilled to fulfill the wishes of so many students by being able to supply the library with new series and books,” said librarian Mindy Fenska. “There are books for students at all reading levels.”

State Senator Marty Block sponsored Loma Portal Elementary and was on campus for the check presentation along with Barona Councilwoman Beth Glasco.

Heather Nelson, grant writer for Loma Portal, reached out to Senator Marty Block, who wrote a letter of support for the school in order to be considered and chosen for this grant.

For more news on Loma Portal Elementary School, please visit their website.

Hoover High counselor named Counselor of the Year finalist

Tawnya Pringle Tawnya Pringle, a full-time counselor at Hoover High School, has been named one of the five finalists for 2015 Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor Association.

The award honors the professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates - and often lifesavers - for the nation's students. Pringle is the only finalist from the state of California.

The other finalists include Jennifer Degruise from Montegut, La; Jennifer Diaz, from Sugar Hill, Ga; Cory Notestine, from Alamosa, Colo; and Liz Parker from Laurel, Va.
Nominations for the School Counselor of the Year awards program were submitted by the state counselor associations.

The School Counselor of the Year awards panel was composed of representatives from the School Superintendents Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, No Kid Hungry and school counselors.

The panel selected the finalists based on several criteria, including: school counseling innovations, effective school counseling programs, leadership and advocacy skills and contributions to student achievement.

"School counselors make significant contributions to the overall well-being of students and their success," said Richard Wong, Ed.D, executive director, American School Counselor Association. "They have unique qualifications and skills that allow them to address students' academic achievement, personal/social and career development needs."

Pringle, Principal Joe Austin and a representative from the California School Counselors Association will be flown to Washington, D.C., in January 2015. They will join the other finalists for three days of celebratory events. The honorees will have meetings with their members of Congress, attend a congressional briefing, be honored at the White House and be formally recognized at a black-tie gala.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Secretary of Education visits Angier Elementary

US Dept of Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits Angier Elementary in San Diego Unified US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently visited Angier Elementary School to see how the school is preparing students for high school and ultimately college and careers.

Duncan’s visit started with a stop in Katie Finlay’s fifth-grade classroom to talk with students and observe their learning. The visit also included a roundtable discussion in which Duncan asked participants about their successes and challenges in transitioning to the new standards and assessments.
Participants included district resources teachers, classroom teachers, an Angier parent, Superintendent Cindy Marten, Board Vice President Marne Foster, Angier Principal Andrew Gergurich and SDEA President Lindsay Burningham.
Duncan was in San Diego to take part in an education policy forum. For more details on Secretary Duncan’s visit to Angier, please read the following media stories.

UT San Diego: Education secretary checks in on common core

KPBS: U.S. Secretary Of Education Visits San Diego To Talk Common Core

NBC-7: Education Secretary Arne Duncan Visits to Talk Common Core

CW 6: Secretary of Education Visits Angier Elementary

'Zero tolerance' doesn't help students deal with toxic stress

This commentary was published in UT San Diego on Nov. 6, 2014

by Godwin Higa

In line after recess, Jacob gets antsy and starts poking Marcos. Marcos tells Jacob to stop, and when he doesn’t, Marcos pushes Jacob. An altercation ensues.

At a school with a zero-tolerance discipline policy, Marcos and Jacob would be sent to the principal’s office and suspended based on guidelines set by the district. Tens of thousands of elementary school students were suspended last year statewide. The numbers grow as students advance to middle and high school. Most of the students suspended are children of color and males.

At Cherokee Point Elementary School, where I am principal, the story would have a different ending. After three years of declining rates, we have had no suspensions since the 2012-13 school year. The fight might be handled by a teacher who has been trained to understand how a child’s brain reacts to ongoing stress. She might call in a counselor to talk to the students. They would ask not just “what had happened in line?” but also “what’s going on at home?”

At our school, the staff would know that Jacob’s mother is terminally ill. They’d know that Marcos’ father had just moved out. Staff would hold the students accountable by helping them calm down and try to touch each other’s hearts. The students would decide together how to make it better.

Overwhelming evidence now shows that school suspension does not change student behavior for the better. It also does nothing to help kids who are acting out because of toxic stress, the kind of stress that comes from chronic exposure to trauma and adverse experiences like abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. In my early years as an administrator, I picked up one of my third-grade students walking from a fast-food establishment with a bag in his hand, unsupervised and alone. Suspension had done him no good, and possible harm.

At Cherokee Point, we have been able to come together around a vision of a school that does not ignore the trauma in many children’s everyday lives, but rather understands how it impacts their ability to learn. Toxic stress damages the developing brains and bodies of kids, and may make it difficult to sit still in school or to control emotions in challenging situations.

Lest we think “trauma-informed” schools such as ours are only for a few kids going through tough times, studies show that a majority of Californians have been exposed to at least one adverse childhood experience. At Cherokee Point, teachers, parents, San Diego State professors, college students and community advocates all work together to address these stressors and ensure that our kids’ education is not interrupted by outside factors. That includes offering everything from counseling services to parenting support groups to fresh produce, clothing, and shoes for those who need them.

Increasingly, we are not alone in our efforts to reduce the impact of trauma on children. This year, the San Diego Unified School District is rolling out a new school discipline strategy aimed at resolving the issues that lead to student conflicts. Known as restorative justice, this strategy will help teachers and principals districtwide to look behind the conflict at what was going on for the affected parties, and how it can be made right.

The efforts in San Diego don’t stop with children. San Diego County Health and Human Services also is offering training to help its entire staff become more aware of the impact of trauma on the lives of those they serve. This year, I was appointed by the mayor of San Diego to serve as a Human Relations commissioner. My goal is to help change policies throughout the city to create more trauma-informed schools and compassionate communities.

My hope is that our work in San Diego can serve as a model for other parts of the state and nation. In December, I presented at a summit in Anaheim on “Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court,” where 30 counties were represented. This week, I’ll be speaking at the first-ever statewide summit on adverse childhood experiences. Convened by the Center for Youth Wellness, the summit in San Francisco is bringing together policymakers, educators and health professionals to address this threat to our children’s well-being.

By working together and bringing the resources of our state to bear, we can create more compassionate schools and communities where all children are able to learn, grow up healthy and become productive members of our society.

Higa is principal of Cherokee Point Elementary School in San Diego.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ashford University donates $10,000 to district's Children and Youth in Transition

Representatives from Ashford University recently presented the district’s Children and Youth in Transition Department with a check for $10,000.

Encanto Encanto Elementary was selected to receive more than 500 backpacks filled with school supplies that were purchased with the university's generous donation. Encanto is a high needs school with 100 percent of the student population receiving free breakfast and lunch.

Dr. Tony Ferrell, Executive Dean for the College of Education at Ashford University, is an alumnus of San Diego Unified and was on hand at the Encanto celebration. He spoke to the students about the importance of working hard in school and being prepared to learn. Board Vice President Marne Foster; LaShea Collins, District Office Director for Assemblywoman Shirley Weber; and Monica Montgomery, Senior Policy Advisor, for Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, were also in attendance to participate in the celebration.

This is the third year that Ashford University has underwritten efforts to provide children in need with essential school supplies. This partnership exemplifies Vision 4 of the district's Vision 2020 that community involvement with school volunteers and business partnerships add to the success of our students.

Ashford University is headquartered in San Diego, California and is the largest educational holding of Bridgepoint Education, Inc. The University offers associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees in more than 50 degree programs on campus and online.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Broad and Challenging Curriculum: 'a-g' requirements for high school graduation

Graduates As part of the district's monthly reports detailing progress with implementation of the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), a presentation on 'a-g' requirements for high school graduation was provided to the Board of Education on Oct. 28, 2014.

To be considered for admission to a University of California or UC campus, students must complete what are called “a-g” requirements. A study conducted by San Diego Unified in 2009 showed that our students were graduating from our schools and could not apply to UC or California State University (CSU) campuses because some of the a-g requirements were not on their transcripts. In 2010-11, the 'a-g' Task Force began developing implementation plans based on the audit results. The Board of Education approved the Task Force recommendations to: align district graduation subject requirements with UC/CSU 'a-g' subject requirements and require new graduation requirements to be implemented with the Class of 2016.

“This initiative ensures access for all students in our schools and makes sure we have courses available and the necessary supports for our students,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten at the Board meeting.

“The initiative is one that I am very proud of.”

Since 2011-12, district staff have been laying the 'a-g' implementation groundwork to ensure success for the Class of 2016 and beyond. Implementation has included assisting high schools in developing master schedules that include 'a-g' courses; working with high school principals, counselors and registrars on the 'a-g' course sequences; providing additional supports for students; developing four-year plans with 8th grade students to ensure they will be on track to graduate; and establishing a High School Resources Office to coordinate implementation efforts.
A study of the implementation of the new 'a-g' requirements shows that approximately 59% of juniors (Class of 2016) are on track to meet them. Actions are underway to make sure the remaining 41% are able to catch up. Manual reviews of transcripts are underway to look at each student’s progress individually. Aggressive alignments of master schedules are in progress for next semester to ensure course offerings are consistent with the needs of students at individual campuses. Realignments of pathways from middle school into high school are also underway to ensure coursework supports 'a-g' requirements, especially in regards to world language offerings.
“Teachers understand the importance of access; they understand that we want students to have exposure to higher-level material,” said Marten. “We also need to make sure we provide sufficient support classes and interventions so that our teachers have what they need to help students be successful.”

Related Resources

Family engagement helps students achieve

Did you know that students whose parents or guardians are engaged in their education achieve at higher levels?

Research shows that these students traditionally have higher grades and graduation rates, better social skills, behavior and attendance, and a more positive attitude.

Engaging families in support of student achievement is a collective effort among parents, teachers and administrators that starts at home and extends to school and the school community.

Whitman ES Mom and Student “What is important is how much support parents provide at home, whether it’s reading with their child, or going to the school to learn about a-g or Common Core,” said Bea Fernandez, program manager for the district’s Parent Outreach and Engagement Department. “There are a lot of things that parents can do to give their child the message that school is important.”

According to a recent report by EdSource, students whose parents promoted academic achievement at home scored better on academic tests. In addition, parents that were more involved with their child’s education “became aware of homework assignments and tests and were able to reinforce good study habits in the home.”

To help guide parents in working with their children at home, the National, State and Local PTAs offer a variety of materials, including information on literacy, tips for reading with your child and how to make healthy lifestyle choices. They also offer parents guides on Common Core that provide tips on talking to your child’s teacher and how to help your child learn at home.

Encouraging and facilitating parent engagement is a key component of the district’s Vision 2020 and Local Control Accountability Plan to increase overall student achievement. The district works with schools, principals and teachers to facilitate communication with parents and increase engagement across all socio-economic levels for all students.

Through the Parent Outreach and Engagement Department, the district works with school sites to offer more than 90 free classes for parents, including “Destination College,” “Mathematics Today,” “Raising Skilled Readers,” and “Common Core.” Most classes are taught in both English and Spanish.

“Our responsibility is to reach out to families and help build relationships between parents, teachers and school sites,” Fernandez said. “There are great opportunities for parents to get involved, like the workshops and parent advisory groups. But it’s important that parents take the opportunities that are provided by their schools, especially those that are linked to student learning. Picnics and carnivals are great, but the opportunities that are linked to student learning are the opportunities that will impact how their student does in school.”

Whitman Elementary PTA President Celeste Ozaki agrees.

“Parent engagement isn't just about sending the child to school or if the parent attends a school activity, but how active the parent is in the education process, such as homework, meeting with the teacher, attending school meetings, as well as learning and understanding the education process,” Osazki said. “As a PTA leader, I probably take it to the extreme in the level of involvement; however, I have seen a difference when I observe parents just taking their level of engagement beyond just sending their child to school.”

Horton Elementary Principal Nassersa Mitchell says that they engage parents by listening and responding to family needs and personally inviting them to campus.

“Parents asked for more training on Common Core so now we host a monthly workshop,” Mitchell said. “We noticed that we were not getting as many fathers as we would like on campus, so I explicitly reached out to them. Their interest prompted us to start a Dad's Club this year, which now has more than 50 dads attending.

“They were so excited to be targeted in a positive light. Many are supporting our site after hours and are going to start helping after-school clubs with gardening, art, and music.”

The school’s efforts resulted in nearly 90 percent of Horton families attending Open House-Curriculum Night and about 150 parents attending Family Fridays.

Ozaki said that one reason Whitman Elementary has been successful in engaging parents is that staff, teachers and administrators have created an open and friendly school environment. Both the principal and teachers communicate regularly with parents, including one-on-one conversations, which Ozaki feels goes a long way in helping parents understand how much of an impact they truly have on their child’s education.

Creating opportunities for engagement as well as environments in which parents feel comfortable approaching the school is essential to the partnership and to overall student achievement.

“Students’ success depends on the strong working relationship between the school and family for students to grow emotionally, academically, and socially,” Mitchell said. “Relationships are everything. At Horton we strive to build long-term healthy relationships with mutual trust, respect, love and supports with accountability for all of us for the best interest of all students.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Farm to School program joins California Thursdays pilot project

food services San Diego Unified’s Farm to School Program has been “growing” strong since 2010 and is now looking beyond the salad bar.

As part of the California Thursdays pilot project, Food Services will expand its focus to sourcing the entire school meal, not just the salad bar, from California farms. California Thursdays launched at 27 elementary schools on Oct. 23 with a special kick off event and lunch at Pacific Beach Elementary School (right). Lunch featured a freshly prepared school meal sourced entirely from California growers and producers.

Media coverage from PB Elementary

   NBC7 San Diego, watch video
   CBS8 San Diego, watch video.

The California Thursdays menu will be served every Thursday and will highlight Mary’s Chicken Drumsticks from Pitman Family Farms located in Sanger, CA, where they raise free-range, air-chilled and antibiotic-free chickens. In addition, our locally grown salad bar, milk from Southern California cows and a whole grain roll will be offered. The goal is to expand to all elementary schools within the district.

To learn more about the district's participation in California Thursdays, watch this video.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Development of transition plan to align all schools on a single calendar is underway

San Diego Unified is in the early stages of transitioning all district schools to a single traditional academic calendar to replace the current system in which there are 118 traditional and 54 year-round schools.
Transitioning schools to one calendar offers a variety of positive benefits and supports for families. Currently, some families have siblings in both traditional and year-round schools, which can pose challenges for childcare, vacations and other activities because students are not on break at the same time. A single calendar also serves families who rely on older siblings to look after younger children.

In addition, a single district-wide calendar will better accommodate students who transfer from one site to another without loss of instructional days due to mismatched calendars. Students of military families who receive orders in June will not lose instructional time due to leaving before the year-round schedule ends. Read more.

John Muir celebrates new fitness center

Nobody really enjoys doing push-ups, but when you’re doing them at a fitness station on rubberized material instead of dirt, they’re almost bearable.

Student at Muir Student at John Muir Magnet School are more excited about exercise, even push-ups, thanks to their new fitness center built with funds from a San Diego Chargers Champions grant. Students, staff and dignitaries were recently joined by Chargers’ personnel and linebacker Donald Butler to celebrate the new facility.

The new fitness center occupies a large section of the school’s dirt field, and includes an area with rubberized material and grass for fitness stations, as well as a practice area for the school’s archery program. Fitness equipment was also purchased using funds from the grant.

Hundreds of students attended the dedication ceremony, highlighted by a question and answer session with Butler and a dance by the school’s third graders to the San Diego SuperChargers song. Butler participated briefly in the dance number and tried his hand at archery with the help of the school’s top archer, Angelica Marasigan.

Physical education teacher Caryn Maroni spearheaded the effort to apply for the Chargers Champions Grant. The school was awarded the grant in the amount of $45,000 in 2013.

The district’s Physical Plant Operations staff, led by Tom Tomovich, helped build the Fitness Center. It was completed in June of this year.

Funds allocated to Chargers Champions are administered through the Chargers Community Foundation, the San Diego Chargers’ charitable foundation. The Foundation was established in 1995 by Dean and Alex Spanos to “help” San Diego build on its strengths by supporting individuals, activities and organizations that work to make the city a better place to live.

Chargers Champions consistently provides more support for schools than any other private company in the county. In 14 years, more than 100 schools have received funding for projects ranging from outdoor fitness trails, weight rooms, running tracks or fitness equipment.

For more information on the Fitness Center and grant, please contact Muir Principal Laura Bellofatto at 858-268-1954.
Video (San Diego Chargers)
Photos (San Diego Chargers)
For photos, visit the district website

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

United States Marines inspire and motivate Lindbergh Schweitzer students

The United States Marines have been important partners with the students and staff of Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary Magnet School in Clairemont for more than three decades.

Marines at Lindbergh Schweitzer Every two weeks, four service members arrive to spend the day helping students in various classrooms, rotating to all different grade levels as part of the Adopt-A-School Program. They may start the day with P.E. teacher Mary Lou Baranowski-Drews and her musical “Movin’ with Mary Lou” morning P.E. class or visit other classes during English or Math.

Some service members return year-after-year to visit the students and are amazed at the technology used in the classrooms.

New this school year will be a sign-in wall, which includes a map of the United States and North America, where the service members will sign in and show where they are from. This display will be posted at the end of the year Multi-Cultural Fair showing the parents and community how Lindbergh Schweitzer provides opportunities for student engagement with these heroes who arrive from all over the country to serve in the military.

Lindbergh Schweitzer’s Magnet focus is Service Learning, and what better examples and role models than these military heroes!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Loma Portal Elementary celebrates its centennial with Living History Day

Students at Loma Portal Elementary School in Point Loma experienced what school was like in 1914 by participating in a Living History Day on campus earlier this month.
 Loma Portal Living History Day
In collaboration with Old Town State Historic Park, students enjoyed authentically historic lessons, crafts, and playground games. Teachers at the school dressed in period attire and adapted their classes to create an atmosphere reflecting school days of years past. Highlights included making pioneer dolls, playing marbles on the playground, and the presence of Miss Grace Evelyn Farley, Loma Portal’s first teacher.

Congratulations to Loma Portal Elementary School on 100 years of service to the Point Loma community.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Miramar College and Mira Mesa High team up for proposed Early College pilot program

San Diego Community College District
San Diego Miramar College is working with Mira Mesa High School to provide college credit classes to local students. The early college pilot program is expected to start in Fall of 2015.

“This program will allow high school students to experience a higher education. Our goal is to keep students motivated and encourage them to continue pursuing their education right here at San Diego Miramar College,” President Patricia Hsieh said.

This new pilot program is expected to provide academic achieving high school seniors from Mira Mesa High School the opportunity to experience a high quality education in college level courses at San Diego Miramar College. The program will also improve academic preparation of potential incoming students to San Diego Miramar College and transfer students to four-year colleges/universities.

Mira Mesa High School will recommend 10-15 students for the pilot program and a final decision will be made by San Diego Miramar College counselors and subject area experts.

San Diego Miramar College will then offer an early college experience to a total of five Mira Mesa High School students. They will apply to the program and be selected by Mira Mesa High School and San Diego Miramar College in Spring of 2015.

In the 2015-16 academic year, seats will be reserved and dual credit will be received in the courses below for up to five selected students who place at a college level in the Math and English assessments:
  • Calculus (Math150-151) Fall and Spring semesters
  • Political Science (PoliSci 101-102) Fall and Spring semesters
To be eligible to apply for the program, the student would need a 3.8 overall GPA, have completed honors pre-calculus with a B or higher or take and pass the Miramar Math Department challenge test to clear the prerequisite for Math 150. They will also need to take the English Accuplacer to assure they are ready to take on college level coursework. A program application would also need to be submitted.

The program was approved by the San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees on Oct. 9, 2014, and has been proposed to the San Diego Unified Board of Education. If approved, it would be the fourth joint project between the school district and community college district. The two districts currently collaborate on the MET program at Mesa College, the Early Middle College program at San Diego City College and the new STEAM Middle College at Lincoln High School.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Students at Rosa Park celebrate Mexican Independence Day

Students at Rosa Parks Elementary danced and read poetry in celebration of Mexican Independence Day while learning the historical significance of September 16 from special guests.

Rosa Parks Students from various grade levels performed dances and read poetry in both English and Spanish. These students practiced their dances all summer long with parent volunteers who worked every day to ensure the students knew their dances and would provide their audience an amazing and festive celebration.

After the dances and readings had concluded, representatives from the Mexican Consulate’s office spoke with students about how Mexico earned its independence from Spain in 1810.

Parent volunteers also created an artifact table representing Mexico’s cultural and provided beautiful decorations to create a festive atmosphere.

Superintendent Cindy Marten and Area 6 Superintendent, Fabiola Bagula, were also in attendance.

To learn more about the celebration, contact Rosa Parks Elementary Principal Carolanne Buguey at 619-282-6803.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

2014-15 signals first year of Local Control and Accountability Plan implementation

In June 2013 a new era of school finance in California was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The new funding model, known as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), represented the biggest change to funding K-12 public education in California in decades.

Students at Benchley Weinberger “It reshapes school funding, with the promise of additional funding, trying to return to the funding levels of six or seven years ago, and provides us more flexibility in determining how state funding will be used to achieve our academic priorities,” said Jenny Salkeld, Chief Financial Officer.

The LCFF ensures that more money is attached to meet the needs of school districts’ most at-risk students. The three categories of students requiring greater resources include students who qualify for free or reduced priced meals, students who are English Learners, and foster youth.

As part of the LCFF, school districts, county offices of education and charter schools are required to develop, adopt, and annually update a three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCAP is required to identify annual goals, specific actions, and measure progress for student subgroups across multiple performance indicators, including student academic achievement, school climate, student access to a broad curriculum, and parent engagement. The academic priorities must be aligned to the district’s spending plan.

As part of the district’s focus on transparent communications on the LCFF and LCAP, Superintendent Cindy Marten will provide monthly LCAP Implementation Reports to the Board of Education that include the alignment of Vision 2020, the 12 indicators of a quality school in every neighborhood, and which details LCAP Year 1 activities. The reports will include actions, services, and baseline data. These reports will then be shared with cluster and advisory groups to provide an opportunity to provide input and feedback on the current implementation and suggested next steps.

The first report was provided to the Board at the September 23 meeting, and focused on Quality Indicator 12 – Safe and Well-maintained Facilities and how this indicator helps us achieve a goal of creating physical, social and academic environments worthy of our students.

“We have developed metrics to show what we are doing with the funding, how we allocated it, and what the results are,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “We have more than 30 measures to indicate how we’re doing for every funding allocation and every decision we’re making for our dollars.

“My monthly reports will allow me the opportunity to share where we are in implementing our LCAP so our community can hear each month how we’re doing and provide us feedback,” Marten said.

Video clips of the presentations, excerpted from the Board meetings, will be posted on the LCAP web page under the Resources section.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Common Core settles in across district

San Diego Unified and other districts across the nation continue to prepare students to compete in the global marketplace as they teach students to think critically, learn independently and communicate better in order to meet the new guidelines outlined in the Common Core State Standards.

Science at Kearny HS These standards align with the district’s goals set forth in Vision 2020 to create a quality school in every neighborhood, and more specifically, provide students with a broad and challenging curriculum.

Adopted in 2010, the Common Core State Standards are a set of academic standards that establish clear and consistent guidelines for what every K-12 student across the country should know and be able to do in math and English language arts. Implementation of the Common Core, including how the standards are taught, the curriculum developed, and the materials used to support teachers as they help students reach the standards, is led entirely at the state and local levels.

“It’s important to remember that Common Core is not a curriculum,” said Jim Solo, executive director of leadership and learning. “It’s a shift in how subjects are taught to students and a change in what we expect students to do with the material we teach. How we assess students is also changing. “

The district’s focus this year is twofold: there is continued emphasis on making sure principals and teachers receive guidance and materials needed to teach students the way the standards demand; and schools are preparing students for the new assessment under Common Core, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), which will be administered for the first time this year starting in May.

Last year, the district hosted numerous professional development sessions for principals to support them in their understanding of Common Core so they could lead it at their site as well as provide support for their teachers. This year, the district has scheduled more than 100 professional development sessions for teachers that are organized around four themed learning cycles.

Teacher participation in Professional Learning Communities, which allow teachers to share best practices at the ground level, has also proven effective in preparing teachers to teach to the Common Core Standards.

As teachers become more proficient in delivering the content, student progress will continue to advance as well.

There is concern, however, that as the district transitions to more demanding curriculum and new assessments are put in place, students may be missing out on valuable instruction and test scores may appear lower than they have in the past.

Solo recognizes these concerns but thinks that the Common Core curriculum is so much more rigorous than the previous material and the demands are so much more that we are more likely to see growth in student knowledge rather than any loss in instruction.

“You have to remember the tools [for measuring] are extremely different than any tools that have been used in the past,” Solo said. “It’s not just simply asking students multiple choice questions, which was what you had with the CST (California Standards Tests). Now, they have to respond in writing, they have to do tasks with their peers, then come back and write about it. In addition, there will be some multiple choice questions as well as short and longer answer questions. We’ve never assessed students this way in California on a state exam.”

Students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 will take the CAASPP during the testing window that stretches from April to June. Parents will be notified by schools when testing will occur for each grade level, but can check the district’s website now for general testing dates.

To prepare students for May assessments, the district has been continually updating and refining the curriculum that is being taught to meet the Common Core Standards. It spent the last several years strengthening the integrated math curriculum and will do the same with English language arts over this year. History is integrated with the English language arts portion of the Common Core Standards while science standards are being revised and will ultimately follow the Next Generation Science Standards.

“The integrated math curriculum is very strong and will prepare students for college,” Solo said. “It offers multiple pathways at the secondary level that will enable students to reach calculus by their senior year.”

Common Core allows for a deeper understanding of a subject while at the developmental stages. Rather than learning a little about a lot of topics, the curriculum is setup to allow more time for understanding the fundamentals. For instance in math, K-3 level students focus heavily on numbers, being able to break apart numbers and understand numbers in multiple ways. In grades 4-5, there is heavy emphasis on fractions. Probability, which used to be part of elementary school, is not addressed until middle school.

“They’ve done a lot of shifting around of the topics,” Solo said. “A great deal of the research from around the world shows that many countries with really smart math students go really deep in the things that matter at the developmental stage. Then it progresses from there.”

Ultimately, the goal with Common Core is to prepare all students for the global workplace.

“We have a lot of jobs in the country right now that American students are not qualified for. Engineering jobs being one example,” Solo said. “When you think about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Common Core aligns itself very well to STEM. We are trying to produce students who are ready for the jobs of the future.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Edison ES library gets well-deserved makeover

Edison Elementary School Principal Derek Murchison was speechless when he saw his school’s library for the first time after its makeover.

Edison ES Target Library Makeover The once drab and monochrome environment had been transformed into a colorful, vibrant space with 2,000 new books, furniture, carpet and shelves, and a complete technology upgrade, including new iPads, interactive white board and more.

“Thank you Target and The Heart of America Foundation for this wonderful gift for the wonderful students and staff at Edison Elementary,” said Murchison once he found his voice. “Your dedication to the love of reading for students, not only here, but across our country is priceless.”

Edison Elementary School is the fifth school in San Diego Unified to receive a library makeover over the past five years. Other recipients include Miller, Kimbrough, Angier, and Hancock elementary schools. The official unveiling and ribbon-cutting of the Edison library was held Sept. 26. Students, staff and parents were joined by Superintendent Cindy Marten to celebrate the opening of the library after a month of secret renovations.

“These library makeovers play an important role in the district’s Vision 2020: Creating Quality Schools in Every Neighborhood,” said Supt. Marten. “Quality schools have quality libraries. Quality schools serve as neighborhood centers.

“This amazing program breathes new life into elementary school libraries,” Marten added. “We could not be more appreciative of our partnership with Target and the Heart of America Foundation.”

Since 2007, Target team members have dedicated their time and talent to transform 175 public school libraries across the country through the Target School Library Makeover program. Target works in partnership with The Heart of America Foundation to create fun and inviting spaces for students to read. This is one of the many programs Target supports as part of our commitment to give $1 billion for education by the end of 2015. By the end of this year, Target expects to celebrate a big milestone: 200 School Library Makeovers completed and more than 113,000 students impacted since the program began in 2007.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Farb Middle Students Shine at Board Meeting

More than 15 students from the Farb Middle School Advanced Choir sang the National Anthem at the Sept. 23 Board of Education meeting.Watch the video.

Farb MS Choir The students were joined by the Patrick Henry High Navy JROTC, who presented the colors, to kick off the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and Star Spangled Banner.

The choir was led by teacher Robyn Dye. Farb Principal Courtney Rizzo also attended to support of her students.

The students were invited by Board President Kevin Beiser. Each month, one of the board member selects students from one of their schools to present or perform at a regularly-scheduled Board of Education meeting.

Friday, September 26, 2014

District adding text messaging capabilities to mass notification system

San Diego Unified will soon have a new way to communicate with its employees and families.

On Oct. 22, the district will be adding text messaging capabilities to SchoolMessenger, the mass notification system it now uses to deliver important information by phone and email to its stakeholders.

The system will be configured to send text messages to cell phone numbers in SchoolMessenger whose recipients have agreed to receive them. Employees and parents are encouraged to opt-in now to receive texts.

“We have heard from principals that some parents would like to receive texts so we are making this option available to school sites as another means of communication,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “This new tool aligns with the Board of Education’s focus in 2014 on enhancing communications and parent engagement as outlined in Vision 2020.”

The district and its school sites currently have the option of sending recipients either a voice or email message, or both. Now they will also have the ability to send text messages, expanding the tools they can utilize to communicate with parents and staff. It is important to note, however, that recipients will only receive text messages if they opt-in, have a cell phone number on file with the district and the message sender provides content for a text message.

The district will likely limit its use of text messaging to emergency situations, such as lockdowns, in which short, quick communication is helpful. Texts may also direct individuals to an email or a website for more information.

“SchoolMessenger uses short code texting, which is highly reliable and fast because it’s regulated by the wireless carriers,” added Jennifer Rodriguez, the district’s SchoolMessenger liaison. “Our goal is to make sure that the district and its schools have all the tools they need to effectively communicate each day, but especially during emergencies.”

The district will be encouraging all stakeholders throughout October to opt-in to receiving texts. To do this, recipients can text “Yes” to 68453 from each mobile device at which they wish to receive text messages. Should you opt-in and no longer wish to receive messages, or vice versa, the process for switching preferences is simple; either text “YES” or “STOP” to 68453.

For those that have not opted-in on their own, a reminder message will be sent district-wide Oct. 22 to all cell phone numbers on file reminding individuals to opt-in. The message will read “San Diego Unified text messages. Reply Y for aprx 3 msgs/mo. Txt HELP 4info. Msg&data rates may apply. See”

The reminder text message is sent on the same day, Oct. 22, that district and school sites can start sending text messages to individuals that have opted-in.

The district will send reminders throughout the school year to encourage recipients to opt-in. Information about text messaging is available on the district’s Communications Department webpage.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pacific Beach Middle Unveils Safe Routes to Schools Mural

Young artists, school staff, community leaders, school district and elected officials joined residents and Beautiful PB on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 4 p.m. to unveil the inaugural “Safe Routes to Schools” mural at Pacific Beach Middle IB World School.

The award-winning mural, located at the intersection of Diamond and Haines, was designed by former PB Middle and current Mission Bay High student Ciara Gray. Her design symbolizes the beach area students and serves to highlight the community’s commitment to establishing safe routes to schools through high-traffic areas.

“This project engages students and the public in practicing a safe commute – something we cannot take for granted with so many children walking to school through busy streets,” said Kristen Victor, Beautiful PB Board President.

PB Middle Safe Schools Mural  

Friday, September 19, 2014

National honors for San Diego Early/Middle College

San Diego Early/Middle College earned the ranking of 90 out of 500 schools nationwide among Newsweek’s 2014 America’s Top Schools for low-income students. It is the only San Diego County school to earn a ranking.

Newsweek's Best Colleges In its “Beating the Odds” list, Newsweek sought to recognize schools that are performing better than statistically expected for their level of poverty.

“Our college readiness score is 93 percent and we are the only school south of Los Angeles to earn this distinction,” noted Principal Elizabeth Larkin. “We are very proud of our students and out staff for their hard work.”

For this list, Newsweek ranked schools on how well they prepare their students for college, taking students’ socio-economic background into account. The list is the magazine’s way of recognizing schools that narrow the achievement gap.

In addition to the Newsweek honor, San Diego Early Middle College also earned a Silver Medal for U.S. News and World Reports’ 2014 Best High Schools. For more details on this distinction, please visit U.S. News and World Report.

For a complete list of Newsweek honorees, please visit Newsweek’s website.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Keeping parents in loop helped district find its way

IN THE NIn the News EWS: Parents of special-education students in San Diego may not always agree with how the school district educates their children, but they know whom to call when they have a problem, and their phone calls are routinely returned. And when the school district wants to get information out to those families, it has several tools to do so — including emails, texts and robocalls — so that everyone gets the same information at the same time. Read more from the Seattle Times.

Monday, September 15, 2014

District dietitian recognized by FoodService Director Magazine

Jessica Keene IN THE NEWS: FOODSERVICE DIRECTOR Magazine has named San Diego Unified dietitian, Jessica Keene, R.D., to its list of 30 rising young stars in the industry under the age of 30. Jessica has made an impact on foodservice by aligning menus to new regulations, managing special diets and implementing the TrakNOW system.Read more in FOODSERVICE DIRECTOR Magazine.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Minimum Day Schedule on Monday, September 15 for Schools Without 100% Air-Conditioned Classrooms

Minimum Day Info

En Español

Weather Updates
San Diego Unified is implementing minimum day schedules at schools without air conditioning in every classroom (See list) on Monday, Sept. 15, due to the continued heat wave in terms of temperatures, humidity and the heat index. The schools on a minimum day schedule are those which lack air conditioning in 100% of the classrooms. Schools with 100% A/C in the classrooms (see list) will have regular day schedule and are expected to operate under our Hot Weather Plan guidelines.
The decision to operate these schools on a minimum day is based on information and guidelines from the National Weather Service (NWS) indicating local temperatures of 95 and higher, with a heat index of 103 and higher – a combination terms by the NWS as “dangerous” health conditions (See the latest regional advisory here) and our strong commitment to the safety and well-being of our students. Analysis conducted by a cross-sectional team at several schools on Friday also informed this decision.
The district will closely monitor forecasted conditions for Tuesday, using these same parameters, to see if a minimum day for these same schools on Tuesday – a decision that will be made by noon on Monday. Again, this is only schools without 100% classroom air conditioning.

Schools on Minimum Day Schedule

Schools on Regular Day Schedule

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lindbergh Schweitzer hosts Resource Fair for parents

The PTA and staff at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School in Clairemont welcomed returning and new parents to their first day of school by hosting a Family Resource Fair.

Lindbergh Schweitzer Resource Fair The fair was aimed at giving parents valuable information for health care, afterschool programs and childcare, as well as contacts for other services in the community.

“Providing resources that can help our students be successful in their lives is a way for Lindbergh Schweitzer to welcome families and connect them to the community – their neighborhood schools,” said Principal Deanne Rohde.

A variety of local organizations were in attendance, including the Boys and Girls Club, S.A.Y. San Diego, United Cerebral Palsy, the National Foundation for Autism Research, and San Diego Unified’s Special Education Division, among others.