Friday, September 26, 2014

GUHSD Dedicates Two New CTE Buildings at Chaparral

A ribbon cutting ceremony marks the completion of two new CTE buildings at Chaparral 
Construction has been completed on two new Career Technical Education (CTE) buildings on the campus of Chaparral High School in El Cajon. A ribbon-cutting and building dedication ceremony was held for the new facility on Wednesday as numerous CTE business partners attended the dedication.

With a construction cost of $7.5 million, the project included the construction of two new steel-framed buildings, totaling 14,555 square feet of space. The buildings feature specialized classrooms for the school’s entrepreneurship-focused programs including: cosmetology, floral design, culinary arts, technology, art and construction technology, as well as student and staff restrooms. Roughly one-quarter of Chaparral’s students participate in CTE’s four sequenced pathways for a two-hour instructional block each day. CTE classes utilize higher levels of academic and applied skills in preparing students for college and careers, and all CTE teachers have California teaching credentials and industry experience.

The buildings take advantage of natural daylighting throughout, with high clearstory windows and Solatube skylights, which were designed to meet the energy efficiency standards of the Savings by Design program. Site upgrades included a new quad/courtyard area, wrought iron fencing, drought-tolerant landscaping and a water-saving drip irrigation system. The new classrooms are furnished with state-of-the-art equipment and replicate real-life business practices.

The building dedication included remarks by GUHSD Superintendent Ralf Swenson; David Napoleon, principal of Chaparral High School, Brenda Davis-Landini, floral design teacher; Miranda Harle, 12th grade floral student; and Harriet Bossenbroek, immediate past-president of Rady’s Children’s Hospital Auxiliary and a GUHSD business partner.

CA High School Exit Exam Results Released

The districtwide first-time time passing rates for 10th graders on the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) remained the same in 2014 in both English Language Arts (ELA), where 83 percent of students passed, and mathematics, where 87 percent of students passed.

Several sites posted strong gains in the year-over-year passing rates. Chaparral High School increased its first-time passing by almost eight points in English Language Arts (ELA) and by nearly four points in mathematics. El Capitan High School also gained nearly four points in the ELA passing rate. El Cajon Valley High School realized the biggest gains in math, with a five point increase in the passing rate. West Hills High School also demonstrated growth in both CAHSEE subjects, with a nearly three point gain in ELA and a two point gain in math.

GOT PLANS? Career & College Fair on Oct. 11

In partnership with the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, we are hosting our eleventh annual Got Plans? Career & College Fair for high school students and parents on Saturday, October 11, 2014, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Cuyamaca College, located at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in El Cajon.

Students and parents will be able to interact with admissions representatives from public and private universities, community colleges, vocational schools, and the military.
Free workshops will be presented on topics including financial aid and career opportunities. Admission to the fair is free and open to the public. More information is available by calling Jason Martinez at 619-593-2713.

Friday, September 19, 2014

US Joiner Partners with Welding Program at El Cajon Valley High School

El Cajon Valley High School welding students pictured with teacher Nick Williams on the final day of their internship at US Joiner, just prior to receiving offers of employment.
Strong business partnerships are vital to Career & Technical Education programs. Last school year, El Cajon Valley High School teacher Nick Williams met with several local businesses seeking to make connections to promote the El Cajon Valley High School welding facility and provide opportunities for our student welders. One company that was particularly receptive was US Joiner. US Joiner is a multinational ship repair and refit company with facilities across the United States, Europe and Asia.  US Joiner spoke to us of their aging workforce and the current global lack of skilled welding and fabrication candidates.

Representatives from US Joiner management worked with us to build a curriculum to augment the current welding and fabrication curriculum offered at El Cajon Valley High School to teach our student/welders the skills needed to be successful in the military ship repair industry.  Eight hard-working, highly-skilled seniors participated in the pilot year of what was essentially an on-campus internship.  Students worked with US Joiner welding documents to complete their welds to stringent military specifications. Following graduation, all eight students were invited to participate in a paid, ten-day internship at US Joiner's Lemon Grove facility.  Seven El Cajon graduates accepted the opportunity and all were offered (and accepted) full-time employment upon completion of the internship.  Their employment includes competitive entry-level salaries ($14-17 hourly), with full medical, retirement, leave and vacation benefits.

Monte Vista Launches Game Design and Development Pathway

The Monte Vista Game Design and Development Pathway team visit Sony Online Entertainment
Monte Vista High School is implementing a new Game Design and Development Pathway with a cohort of its tenth grade students. Pathways integrate rigorous academic instruction with a demanding technical curriculum and field-based learning. This Game Design and Development Pathway will be implemented with the Linked Learning approach, which includes students taking their Game Design and Development class together with English, World History and Biology classes as a cohort. Integrating technical and academic content ultimately deepens student understanding and makes learning more exciting and relevant.

The teacher team participated in a two-week Linked Learning Summer Institute where they designed interdisciplinary projects to engage students through authentic, client-driven, real-world challenges. 

The Monte Vista Game Design and Development Pathway team also visited Sony Online Entertainment here in San Diego for an industry tour. The team was able to meet with professionals from all aspects of the Game Design Industry including: Customer Service, Quality Assurance, Production, Design, Programming, Community, Marketing and Public Relations, and Art. The industry professionals shared specific skills needs in Game Design and Development, as well as the work readiness skills of effective communication and teamwork. Thank you to Sony Online Entertainment for arranging this tour and to the Monte Vista team who brought the pathway to fruition for our students. 

Santana Named 2013-14 Combined Sports School Champions

L: Santana Athletic Director John Bobof, Vice Principal Larry Oedewalt and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Theresa Kemper
At the September 16 Grossmont Athletic Conference meeting at the La Mesa Community Center, Santana High School was recognized as the Grossmont Athletic Conference 2013-14 Combined Sports School Champion.
This prestigious award is presented annually by the Conference to the GUHSD school that wins the most league championships in a given year. Santana High School won twelve championships, eight outright and four shared.
The awards were presented by Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Theresa Kemper and Conference President Brian Wilbur. Also present was the CIF-SDS Assistant Commissioner John Labeta. Santana representatives, Vice Principal Larry Oedewalt and Athletic Director John Bobof were present to accept the awards.
Click here to view all 2013-14 Grossmont Athletic Conference League Champions. Congratulations to the Santana Sultans on being named the 2013-14 Combined Sports Champion!

Save the Date: GOT PLANS? Career & College Fair on Oct. 11

In partnership with the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, we are hosting our eleventh annual Got Plans? Career & College Fair for high school students and parents on Saturday, October 11, 2014, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Cuyamaca College, located at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in El Cajon.

Students and parents will be able to interact with admissions representatives from public and private universities, community colleges, vocational schools, and the military.
Free workshops will review information on four-year universities, two-year colleges, financial aid and career opportunities. New workshops this year will update parents and students on changes to the SAT and ACT, as well as cover transfer options from two-year colleges to four-year universities. Some workshops will be offered in Spanish and Arabic.
More information will follow. In the meantime, please mark your calendar and plan to attend. Admission to the fair is free and open to the public. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

GUHSD Strongly Opposes Alpine Unification Initiative

The Mount Miguel High School JROTC Color Guard presents the colors as the Governing Board paused to pay tribute to the lives lost on September 11, 2001.
Last night was our first school board meeting for the 2014-15 school year. The Mount Miguel High School JROTC Color Guard presented the colors as we paused to pay tribute to the lives lost on September 11, 2001, a day that we will always remember.
During the meeting, our Governing Board passed Resolution 2015-02, expressing serious concerns about the proposed Alpine unification initiative.  
We were deeply disappointed that the County Committee on School District Organization recently supported a petition for unification of the Alpine School District. This decision may have a very devastating impact on the students, staff and communities within our District.

The Grossmont Board took action to reaffirm its opposition to the Alpine unification petition because of the obvious limitations a unified Alpine district would face in being able to commit the financial resources needed to build and operate a high school that could provide educational and co-curricular programs comparable to those presently offered in the Grossmont District. We believe that the additional financial complexities associated with construction and staffing of a high school, meeting the increased operating expenses, and funding the more expensive programs necessary in a comprehensive high school, are beyond their financial capacity. 

Our Governing Board has responsibly concluded that the Grossmont District cannot afford to incur the additional fixed costs of over $1 million annually, required to operate a new school at this time.  Our Board has further indicated that it will proceed with the construction of a new school in Alpine when enrollment numbers increase to the level identified in the Proposition U Bond language.  That bond language included an enrollment “trigger” of 23,245 in our comprehensive high schools (including our two charter high schools).  We are currently 2,400 students below that number, with further declines projected. 
More concerning, is the action taken by the County Board in their decision to ignore the legally prescribed process for the division of assets and liabilities, and to instead accept the emotional appeals of the petitioners to liquidate up to $70 million dollars in assets (existing schools and classrooms) and then hand them over to Alpine.  Should the process ultimately yield such an outcome, it would significantly disrupt the educational programs presently offered throughout the district, and dramatically limit the educational options available to our students.  It is hard to believe that the group of elected members sitting on the County Board would support a recommendation that would devastate the learning experiences of the students at all GUHSD schools. I am deeply troubled that the County Board of Education has taken an action that disregards the educational programs for the students who make up 96% of the high school students residing in East County.

The legal process I am referring to is defined in Education Code 35560.  In the definition of how assets are to be divided in the unification process, the law states that property will be retained by the District in which territory it resides. Therefore, the land currently owned by Grossmont in Alpine (valued at $23 million) would be transferred to an Alpine Unified School District. All other district-owned property would remain with Grossmont.  All district fund balances except for capital would be divided based on enrollment. Currently, approximately 4% of students in the Grossmont district reside within the proposed new Alpine Unified district.  Total funds transferred would be less than $6.0 million.

The petitioners persuaded the County Board to deviate from this approach, proposing that all of Grossmont’s assets be considered in identifying Alpine’s “share”. This is not possible in that the assets they suggest be transferred do not exist in monetary form.  Ed. Code 35560 stipulates that real and personal property are divided pro rata, as explained above.  By following the petitioners’ thinking, the County is sending a recommendation to Sacramento that could lead to fiscal insolvency for Grossmont.
The County Board’s decision to forward this unification proposal to the California Department of Education, and ultimately the State Board of Education, may one day bring the question of unification and the division of assets and liabilities before the voters for final approval.  Our Board believes that all registered voters residing in the Grossmont Union High School District should be entitled to participate in a decision that will impact our school community.
The County Board is recommending that only voters in Alpine should be allowed to vote.  On behalf of the families in our district (especially the 96% that would not have a voice in the fate of their district), I strenuously object.  Should this election eventually come to pass, I will be urging the State Board of Education to recommend an area of election that includes all of the Grossmont District. Given the significant impacts to both districts and their communities, Alpine and Grossmont, it is imperative that the territory of election include the areas of both districts. All stakeholders should have a voice in the ultimate outcome, in the unlikely event that the State Board one day approves this ill-advised petition.
We will be taking all necessary steps to stop this process from being endorsed by the State Board of Education in Sacramento. I will keep you informed on future developments.

Ralf Swenson

Friday, September 5, 2014

Welcome to the 2014-15 School Year!

Welcome to the 2014-15 school year! I look forward to another exciting and educationally rewarding school year in the Grossmont District. It is my privilege to continue to serve the students and families of this wonderful district as I enter my fifth year as Superintendent.

As we welcomed your students back to school this week, we reaffirmed our commitment to making your child’s educational experience the best it can possibly be. We share a common vision with our parent and community partners to provide an educational experience that builds on our students’ strengths, that encourages them to pursue their dreams, and that will enable them to move on after high school equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and leadership qualities to be successful.

I feel a deep sense of pride in our strong reputation as a school district. A Grossmont Union education is designed to prepare all of our graduates to be college and career ready. In the months ahead we will continue to infuse the new Common Core State Standards into our instructional program, to provide an ever increasing number of our students with the rigorous academic offerings needed to gain admittance to the UC-CSU system, to expand the Career Technical Education offerings across the district, and to build and renovate outstanding facilities in support of our mission to provide greater results for our students.

Whether you are a long-time member of our school district community or new to Grossmont Union, you will see reflected in my weekly communications, a deep commitment by our staff toward excellence and a strong desire to deliver our very best each day.

Construction teams have been busy in preparation for our students’ return. Following, is a bond program spotlight on the new physical education building that was recently completed at El Capitan High School as well as an update on the many other Proposition H/U school bond projects from around the district.



A ribbon cutting ceremony marks the completion of the new physical education building
On August 29, the District celebrated the completion of the new physical education building at El Capitan High School with a ribbon-cutting and building dedication ceremony.

The new 18,405-square-foot facility replaces a dilapidated locker room building that served the campus for 55 years. The modern facility features boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, showers, wrestling/aerobics room, fitness/weight room, team rooms, training room and coaches’ offices. The project included demolition of the old locker room building, new basketball courts, multiple shade structures for outdoor fitness, a new sand volleyball court and site landscaping.

The dedication event included remarks by Superintendent Swenson, El Capitan Principal Laura Whitaker, Athletic Director Sandy Martinez and Governing Board President Robert Shield. Football players, dance and cheer team members, and other student athletes took part in the event, lifting weights in the new weight room and performing in the new aerobics room. Enjoy your new building, Vaqueros! 

Chaparral – Construction has been completed on two new Career Technical Education (CTE) classroom buildings, with a construction cost of $10 million. The CTE classrooms will house the campus’ culinary arts, construction tech, art, science, floral design and cosmetology programs.

El Cajon Valley – The new two-story Physical Education facility has opened to students as crews wrap up remaining work on the $6.4 million project in October. The project also includes demolition of the 60-year-old structures that previously served as the boys and girls P.E. buildings.

ELITE Academy – Construction is complete on the new special education facility on the district’s former Work Training Center site. The two custom modular buildings, totaling 23,000 square feet, feature seven classrooms, administrative offices, kitchen, fitness center, multi-purpose/gathering room and separate restroom buildings. The project had a construction cost of $5.6 million.

Granite Hills – Work has begun on the new Student Support Building. The first phase includes removal of hazardous materials, demolition of Buildings 90 and 100, and electrical/utility upgrades. Modernization plans for Buildings 30 and 80 have been submitted to the California Division of the State Architect (DSA) for review.

Grossmont – Grading and demolition work is underway in preparation of the new Student Support Services and Arts Classroom Buildings. Construction is expected to begin in May/June 2015.
Helix Charter – Modernization work is underway on the Physical Education buildings, as well as the pool and pool deck areas. The projects are expected to be completed by mid-September.

Monte Vista – The old Physical Education building is currently being remodeled in order to make way for a new $6.3 million P.E. facility, which should be completed for the start of the 2015-2016 school year. Planning is also underway for a “summer sprint” in 2015, to include Buildings 700, 800 and 800-A, which house the school kitchen, music program and CTE classrooms for automotive and metals.

Mount Miguel – Final punch-list items are being completed for the modernization of Building 700 West. The $5.6 million project includes performing arts classrooms, a black box theater, choir room, band room, ASB offices and a kitchen modernization.

Santana – Construction has begun to modernize three classroom buildings, with a construction cost of $6.3 million. The project includes Building 400 (culinary arts and video production classrooms), Building 500 (weight room/gymnastics classroom) and Building 700 (two special education suites, 3D/2D art classroom with an outdoor kiln, nurse’s suite, psychologist and speech therapist rooms, and two restrooms).  Completion is scheduled for December.

Steele Canyon – Crews have completed the installation of 60-foot safety nets on the varsity baseball field and a new 5,000-square-foot athletic storage facility is currently in design. These were not bond-funded projects.

Valhalla – Modernization of the four-story Main Building is currently in DSA for review. Construction is anticipated in 2015-2016. The project will include approximately 50 classrooms, as well as restrooms and new administrative and guidance counselor offices.

West Hills – The design phase is approximately 50% complete for modernization of the special education suites and ADA upgrades. Construction is expected to begin in June 2015.

Deferred Maintenance – New roofing has been installed on El Capitan’s Buildings 400 and 500, as well as the warehouse building at Helix Charter. Hazardous materials abatement is now underway for El Capitan’s concession building.