Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New multi-purpose track and field opens at Whittier K-12

Whittier K-12 IN THE NEWS: A multi-purpose tack and field was dedicated Tuesday at Whittier K-through-12 school. However, it isn't your ordinary track. It's customized for special needs students. The promise of leaving "no student behind" isn't just lip service for the San Diego Unified School District, and thanks to tax payer money, school officials turned a dirt lot into a true field of dreams. On Tuesday, district leaders, teachers and parents joined students to celebrate the completion of a new multipurpose, synthetic field. Watch more at CBS 8.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lindbergh Schweitzer students visit plane that will fly around the world

When pilot Robert DeLaurentis called Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary Principal Victoria Peterson a few weeks ago to introduce himself and talk about his plans to fly solo around the world, she was thrilled at the prospect of her students being included in his historic endeavor.

Lindbergh Schweitzer students The natural connection of Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight and the school’s namesake is what brought the pilot and the principal together. Eager to share the project with students and answer questions, DeLaurentis arranged a trip to Landmark Air, Hanger 3, located near Lindbergh Field, to show the students the actual plane that he will be flying around the world for the next 90 days.

Eager fourth-grade students from Mrs. Catarius’ and Mrs. Bennett’s classes got to try on his survival suit as well as enter the cramped quarters of the plane and see the equipment he will use to help him navigate around the globe. When the students asked if he was afraid, Delaurentis told the students that he has only been a pilot for five years, and fear is what prepares us to face challenges.

On the plane’s outer shell is a sticker of the school’s mascot, which happens to be a tiger sitting on top of the world. As part of the around-the-world flight, he will also retrace the flight path that Charles Lindbergh flew back on May 21, 1927 when he became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

The students sent him off with a rousing cheer of his flight-themed phrase, “I can fly through life!” Delaurentis left San Diego on May 17, and his solo flight will officially end when he lands in San Diego sometime in late August.

The now fourth graders will then be fifth graders, and will be ready to have the pilot return to their school with his stories from his trip around the world.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Inside the Local Control Funding Formula

California is in its second year of using the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to fund K-12 education.

This change was considered by many to be revolutionary in that it streamlined the state’s funding formula to allow school districts to exercise greater discretion in deciding how funding should be used to serve local needs and better support the neediest students.

LCFF With LCFF, the allocation has changed from the state’s former flat, per-student allocation to one that has equity at its core. Now, California school districts that have higher concentrations of students with greater needs, such as low-income students, English learners, and foster youth (referred to as “focus” students in San Diego Unified), receive proportionately more funding to support those students. And, although there are some important guidelines with this funding model, the state does not dictate how the funds must be spent; that decision is left up to local districts. Under LCFF, the number of categorical funds – those with ‘strings’ attached for their use – was cut from 30 to 14, allowing districts far greater flexibility in determining how to support their respective student populations most effectively.

Under LCFF, districts receive two types of allocations per student. One is called “base funding” and is received for all students. The second type of funding, “supplemental and concentration funding,” is allocated based on the concentration of focus students (low income, English learners and foster youth) at each school.

As required by LCFF, extensive community engagement is conducted to ensure transparency in the process and to help all stakeholders more fully understand the new model. In addition to presentations conducted throughout the year, the Board of Education conducted a special workshop focused on LCFF on May 6, 2015. Superintendent Cindy Marten, Chief Financial Officer Jenny Salkeld, and other district leaders presented information to explain how the district receives and spends LCFF dollars.

Superintendent Marten emphasized that the LCFF supports a district focus on equity that began several years ago.

“Our Vision 2020, developed in 2009 with its 12 indicators for quality schools in all neighborhoods, reflects a moral imperative that one’s zip code should not dictate a student’s access to or success in a rigorous college- and career-ready education,” she said.

The superintendent also stressed that LCFF funding supports strategies and actions that are prioritized by data analysis and community feedback. Given that over 63 percent of district students are considered focus students, many supports are provided districtwide; however, they are designed to principally benefit focus students.

Some strategies —ones that emerged as top priorities from community feedback— not only benefit focus students but all students. These include lowering class sizes and increased counselor support. In addition to these districtwide strategies that provide additional resources at each school campus, schools also receive funds to implement site-specific strategies.

During discussion, board trustees emphasized the need for clear communication to continue reaching out to all stakeholders in the San Diego Unified community. Vice President John Lee Evans suggested including “equity” in the name for the new funding model, thereby coining a new acronym, LCEFF. Trustees noted that there are positive trends for some of our metrics (e.g., improving graduation rate and decreasing dropout rate); however, continual data analysis is needed to understand where some student groups need additional support.

Superintendent Marten indicated that this year’s data analysis has identified three student groups (English learners, students with disabilities, and African American students) for which specific, focused supports need to be implemented. Trustee Richard Barrera stressed that our core belief in equity will only be realized with a corresponding investment in equity.

More information about LCFF is available on the district website at All of the LCFF workshop materials are available at the Board Docs meeting site at The video of the meeting is available at

Early Childhood Education program enrollment starts this month

Starting this month, the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program is enrolling children for the 2015-16 school year.

Early childhood education provides children with the critical foundational skills, strategies, and experiences that promote success in school and beyond. Extensive research shows that students who participate in high-quality early childhood education programs:
  • Engage in more complex activities with peers and materials
  • Enter kindergarten with necessary skills for school tasks
  • Show greater knowledge of numerical concepts
  • Are less often retained or placed in special education classes
Children showing off their artwork Approximately 3,000 students are registered each year in the State Preschool program. Numerous program options are available to qualifying families to enroll their children:
  • State Preschool Head Start Extended Day Classrooms (6.5 hours) at 17 different locations across the district
  • Three-hour State Preschool Programs, with both morning and afternoon sessions at 43 different elementary school locations
  • Full-day care is offered for families who qualify and meet both income and needs requirements at Child Development Centers (CDCs) in 12 different locations across the district.
This year, there are more than 1,200 students who entered preschool at age 3 and are eligible for priority enrollment to attend in the coming 2015-2016 school year. Priority enrollment will enable returning families to make early school and program choices. Qualifying families have been notified by their child’s classroom teacher and provided priority enrollment appointment request forms, allowing them to schedule appointments now and eliminate the need to attend the open enrollment fairs planned for June and July.

These enrollment fairs will be conducted at middle and high schools in the communities served by the State Preschool programs. The calendar of enrollment fairs will be finalized May 18 and will be posted on the ECE program website.

Each registration event will provide for both scheduled appointments and walk-ins. The enrollment fair calendar will include an appointment hotline families can use to schedule appointments at their convenience.

For additional information, please contact the Early Childhood Education Programs office at 858-496-8126.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Three district schools honored with 2015 Gold Ribbon Schools Award

Henry, Scripps Ranch and Serra high schools have been honored as 2015 California Gold Ribbon Schools. Health Sciences High and Middle College, Preuss and San Diego Vision Academy Middle charter schools also appeared on the 2015 list of Gold Ribbon schools released by the California Department of Education on May 5.

CDE Logo This is the first year that the California Gold Ribbon Schools Awards Program has been implemented. The program is temporarily taking the place of the California Distinguished Schools Program, which is on hiatus while the state transitions to new assessment and accountability systems.

The Gold Ribbon awards recognize California schools that have demonstrated exemplary achievements in implementing the academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education – including the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, California English Language Development Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

“These schools are academically successful, vibrant and innovative centers of learning and teaching,” State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said. “They provide great examples of the things educators are doing right—embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school climate.”

Schools apply for the Gold Ribbon awards based on a model program that includes standards-based activities, projects, strategies and practices. The new award is recognizing middle and high schools this year and elementary schools in 2016.

In addition to receiving a Gold Ribbon Award, Serra High School and the three charter schools were distinguished as Title I Academic Achieving Schools. This recognition is given the schools on the list receiving federal Title I funds that assist in meeting the educational needs of students living at or below the poverty line.

"It is a great honor and privilege to become a Gold Ribbon School Award Recipient," said Serra High Principal Vincent Mays. "I am so proud of our dedicated faculty and staff members, they embodied the true spirit of professionalism. They have worked tirelessly with our student body to push them to greater academic heights. I know that our parents and community members also celebrate this special honor."

For more information and a complete list of recipients, please visit the California Gold Ribbon Schools Program on the California Department of Education’s Web site.

Versatile Special Education Technician named Classified Employee of the Year

Although his title says “Special Education Technician,” Rodel Agpaoa’s role at Pacific Beach Middle School is far more wide-reaching.

Rodel Agpaoa His versatility and involvement in the school community are two of the many reasons he has been named San Diego Unified’s Classified Employee of the Year for 2015.

“The students and adults that he works with directly know how much he cares; but the kids that don’t know him that well know that he is caring, positive open and understanding person who sets a positive example as a contributing member of the community,” teacher Don Wood wrote in a recommendation letter. “Students recognize that he is someone who not only has a wide variety of skills, but he is enthusiastically willing to share his skills with others.”

While Agpaoa works mainly as a special education technician with students in a mild moderate special education class, he consistently goes above and beyond his job description inside and outside the classroom.

He spends his own time researching and preparing materials for his students in order to maximize their learning. While in general education classrooms, he not only assists his special education students, but makes himself available to any student that needs assistance. He regularly helps out in both the health and front offices, and with other school wide activities.

He also strives to make connections with students and families throughout the school. He’s involved with Super Friends, which pairs students from special education with students from general education classes for school and community activities, and also started a fishing club. Agpaoa partnered with the San Diego Sports Fishing Association to schedule approximately five trips per year, many at no charge to students.

“This club continues to provide student with an opportunity to learn life-long skills, and Rodel has demonstrated outstanding leadership in developing and realizing the club,” said Nurse Mary Gantz.

Gantz added that Agpaoa is constantly seeking new opportunities for professional growth and development. Last year, he attended Incident Command Support training; he studies nutrition and hygiene to help students with special dietary needs; and studies geometry so he can help out in the advanced math classes.

“Rodel is a leader at Pacific Beach Middle School,” wrote Principal Kimberly Meng in a recommendation letter. “He works hard, is proactive in a crisis, calm under pressure and confident in his knowledge and experience. He exemplifies the ideal employee and human being.”

Agpaoa will be honored along with Classified Employee of the Year runner up Torri Wright from Valencia Park Elementary at the Classified Employee of the Year celebration on May 19 at Ibarra Elementary School.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Graduation rate rise, dropout rate decline continues five-year trend in San Diego Unified

San Diego Unified School District once again has the lowest dropout rate and second highest graduation rate in 2014 among the state's largest districts according to statistics recently released by the California Department of Education. The district-wide dropout and graduation rates surpassed both the statewide and countywide percentages.

With the Class of 2014 results, the dropout rate continued its decline maintaining the district’s status as having the lowest rate among large, urban districts in California. The 2014 dropout rate was 4.5 percent, a 0.7 percentage point decrease from 2013. Rates in other large, urban school districts ranged from second-place Sacramento with 5.3 percent, to Oakland with 24.1 percent. The statewide percentage was 11.6 and the countywide percentage was 9.7.

San Diego Unified also remains the district with the second-highest graduation rate among large urban school districts in California. Among the district’s 7,096 students in the 2014 cohort—students who started high school together in 2010—89.6 percent of the seniors graduated. That is an increase of 1.7 points from 2013. Only Garden Grove Unified School District had a higher rate, narrowly edging out San Diego Unified with 89.7 percent of its 3,644 student cohort graduating. Sacramento, with 85.1 percent of its 2,802-student cohort was third. The statewide 2014 graduation rate was 80.8 percent and countywide was 79.6 percent.

“As part of our Vision 2020 to create quality schools in every neighborhood, we made a promise and commitment to the community to advance and accelerate student achievement, to improve graduation rates and to decrease the dropout rate. To once again be at the top among the state’s largest school districts in these important areas is an incredible validation of the hard work and commitment of our teachers, staff, families and students to ensure all students will graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary for academic and career success," said Superintendent Cindy Marten. "The data show that our high expectations for all students are being met and that we are on the right course to make even greater progress across all student groups.”

Graduation rates between ethnic groups continued to narrow, although there was still a gap. The increases in the 2014 graduation rates for African American and Hispanic students groups, compared to 2013, were 3.8 and 3.4 points respectively. These increases in graduation rates doubled the district overall rate increase of 1.7 points from 2013 to 2014.

Although graduation rates for English Learners, students with disabilities, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students are much lower than the district-wide rate, the one-year increase in graduation rates for English learners was 5.5 points., students with disabilities was 6.8 points, and socially disadvantaged was 2.5 points.

Since 2010 when the first cohort dropout rates were released, the rate for African American students has dropped by 57 percent, the rate for Hispanic students has dropped by 42 percent, and the rate for English Learners has dropped by 37 percent.

"To see our graduation rates continue to rise at the same time we are raising academic standards is a testament to the hard work of our students and our staff, and, as a Board, we could not be more proud," said Board of Education President Marne Foster. "We will continue to focus on providing a world-class education and ensure equity, access and success for all students.”

Marten and Foster cited programs and interventions that have been successful in making sure students stay in school and graduate: the Check and Connect program, graduation coaches at all high schools, expanded summer school, San Diego Community College District partnership, online learning interventions, Linked Learning Initiative, and the College Career and Technical Education pathways program.

For specific school results, go to the California Department of Education website,

San Diego Unified recognized by City for recycling efforts

San Diego Unified was recently named one of the Recyclers of the Year by the City of San Diego based on its school and facility waste diversion and recycling efforts. The district was honored at an awards ceremony at the San Diego Zoo in April.

Recycler of the Year award Each year, the City’s Environmental Services Department selects businesses and organizations located within the City that have implemented or expanded innovative and successful waste reduction, recycling and recycled product purchasing programs during a one-year time frame.

Overall, the district diverts nearly 583 tons of material each month from the landfill and saves approximately $21,000 in disposal costs each month. Recycling savings include:
  • Mixed recyclables (paper, plastic and metal containers etc.) and shredded paper from schools and facilities at approximately 257 tons per month
  • Construction and demolition material (157 tons/month)
  • Wood and landscape material (84 tons/month)
  • Asphalt (48 tons/month)
  • Scrap metal (16 tons/month)
  • Electronic waste (13 tons/month), and
  • Other materials, including pallets, universal waste lamps and batteries, and used oil, antifreeze, and oil filters (totaling 7.6 tons/month)
 Janet Whited and Char D'Ambrosia
Janet Whited and Char D'Ambrosia
The District has had waste and source-separated recycling collection service with EDCO for more than 20 years, including hundreds of commingled recycling bins throughout the District. Moving forward, the district’s goal is to achieve an additional 15 percent reduction in solid waste disposal by enhancing current waste-diversion programs from schools and administrative offices this school year.

As part of the partnership, EDCO publishes information about recycling, and has also created a dedicated website for San Diego Unified ( staff and students to inform them of ways to reduce waste and increase recycling, and it provides resources, tools, and incentives to support these efforts at all district schools.

San Diego Unified was one of several businesses citywide to receive the Recycler of the Year award. The award evaluation focused on waste and recycling collection systems; the amount and types of materials recycled or diverted from landfill disposal; purchase of environmentally preferable products, education and outreach programs and activities; recycling policies or procedures that have been incorporated into daily operating procedures; and incentives that encourage waste reduction and recycling practices.

Devoted educators honored at Day of the Teacher celebration

 2015 Teachers of the Year
 Brenda Mueller, Ronald Lancia, Michelle Yepiz, Shirley Miranda, Mary Lou Baranowski, Supt. Marten and Simone Kincaid

San Diego Unified School District's 2015 Teachers of the Year, Michelle Yepiz from Zamorano Fine Arts Academy, Brenda Mueller from De Portola Middle School and Ronald Lancia from Mission Bay High School, were honored at the Day of the Teacher celebration on May 5.

“Teaching will always be a part of my heart, and as a former teacher, I know the commitment to your craft and the love of your students is what led you here today – and I thank you for that,” Superintendent Cindy Marten said. “Today’s recognition allows us an extraordinary opportunity to celebrate and recognize all of our teachers and dedication to their students, families, schools and each other.”

During the celebration, more than 140 Teachers of the Year from individual school sites along with district Teacher of the Year runners-up were honored.
In a message to all teachers, Board President Marne Foster expressed her appreciation for the district's educators.

 Media Coverage
“I want to thank you for the work you do – day in, day out – to touch the minds, hearts and lives of our students and their families.” Foster said. “You have dedicated yourselves to making our students successful, caring, literate, contributing members of our community. With you, we are creating improved and broader measures of student achievement and ensuring that all students will graduate with the skills and motivation needed to succeed academically and socially.”

Yepiz, Mueller and Lancia, along with the three runners-up, will go on to compete in the county-wide competition for the San Diego county Teacher of the Year, part of the process leading to the national Teacher of the Year. This year’s runners-up are Mary Lou Baranowski from Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School, Simone Kincaid from Creative Performing and Media Arts Middle School and Shirley Miranda from Morse High School. The county Teacher of the Year ceremony will be held this fall and is organized by the San Diego County Office of Education.

The Day of the Teacher celebration is a traditional event on the Board of Education calendar in which all Board members and senior district staff are scheduled to attend. A pre-event reception was catered by culinary students from Scripps Ranch, Morse and Madison high schools, and music was provided by the Madison High School String Orchestra. New to this year’s event was a dance performance by students from Creative, Performing and Media Arts Middle School.

Sponsors of the event were San Diego Gas and Electric Co., AXA Advisors, California Coast Credit Union, California Schools VEBA,, Mission Federal Credit Union, NTA Life, the San Diego Education Association, the San Diego Education Fund, The Standard, the San Diego Padres and College, Career and Technical Education.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

District seniors receive scholarships from retired teachers

Even after retirement, teachers are still helping students.

CAl RTA Logo Members of the California Retired Teacher Association (CalRTA), Division 4, will be awarding 10 San Diego Unified high school seniors $1,500 scholarships at their senior awards assemblies.

High school seniors were judged on their academic achievement, school leadership, extra-curricular activities, community and volunteer service, work and home activities, and financial need.

The 2015 scholarship recipients in the district are:
  • Feliz Avitia, Gompers High
  • Vania Bailon-Casarrubias, Point Loma High
  • Aurora Espinoza, Patrick Henry High
  • Iman Farahani, La Jolla High
  • Kien Nguyen, Hoover High
  • Quynh Duy Nguyen, Crawford High
  • Sankaran Ramanarayanan, Mira Mesa High
  • Samantha Rizzuto, High Tech High
  • Sarabi Rodriguez, Preuss High
  • Aracely Zeferino, Kearny High School of International Business
The scholarship recipients have an average grade point of 4.64 and have been accepted at the following universities: Columbia University, Mills College, Loyola Marymount University, San Diego State University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, San Diego, University of San Francisco, Washington University, Whittier College and Yale University.

The students’ diverse areas of study include: behavioral neuroscience, biochemistry, business management and administration, computer communication, English literature – pre-med, journalism, linguistics, psychology, special education, speech language pathology and structural and aerospace engineering.

The Scholarship Foundation of CalRTA, Division 4 has awarded over $450,000 in scholarships to more than 300 seniors attending four-year universities since its establishment 30 years ago.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Scripps Ranch High String Orchestra earns top honors at National Orchestra Festival

The Scripps Ranch High School String Orchestra earned a Superior rating, the highest possible rating, at the American String Teachers Association National Orchestra Festival held at Abravanal Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah this March.

Their performance earned great acclaim from judges, parents, students and the chair of the event, Valerie Palimeri. This is the first time the 50-member orchestra has competed on a national stage, making its success even more impressive.

“Earning this puts us in the conversation as one of the best orchestra programs in the state, if not the country,” Director Russell Shedd said. “This is a huge honor for our kids, the program and the district.”

The National Orchestra Festival is an annual festival held in conjunction with the ASTA National Conference. In addition to receiving placement, ratings and comments based on their performance, each festival group receives personalized feedback and an educational clinic from leading clinicians and adjudicators in the industry.
Festival participants are also able to attend all 180 conference sessions and workshops at the ASTA National Conference, some of which are designed at a student level specifically for National Orchestra Festival attendees.
To qualify for the competition directors must submit recordings of their groups, as well as several years of programing, one year in advance of the festival. Only nine orchestras in the country were selected by ASTA to compete in this year’s competition.

The Scripps Ranch High School String Orchestra is part of the school’s music program and is open to students of all grade levels.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Miller Elementary students learn about healthy eating, gardening

In the News IN THE NEWS: More than 3,000 students in the San Diego Unified School District are learning valuable life lessons through gardening. The school district received $2.5 million in grant money for the three year program. Miller Elementary is one of five schools to take part in the program to help the kids learn to link what they grow in the garden to what they eat at the dinner table. Angier, Chesterton, Hancock and Mason elementary schools will also participate in the program. Watch more at 10 News.

May Harvest of the Month is the organic Peewee Avocado

The Harvest of the Month for May is the organic Peewee Stehly Farms Organics in Valley Center, CA Find this super veggie on school salad bars every Wednesday during the month of April.

To help educate students on where the Harvest of the Month produce item comes from, San Diego Unified has 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. We encourage parents and students to watch as well!

May Harvest of the Month Virtual Field Trip video links:
PeeWee Avocado Farmer Card