Friday, February 27, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

Motivational Author Stedman Graham Presents Leadership Workshop for El Cajon Valley Students and Staff

Stedman Graham inspires students to transform their lives by pursuing their passions
Bestselling author, educator and motivational speaker Stedman Graham hosted a leadership workshop for El Cajon Valley students and staff on Thursday, February 12, at El Cajon Valley High School as part of Graham’s Live Sonima Tour. Graham spoke with students and then hosted a special afternoon workshop for staff.

Graham focused on key identity and leadership traits for young people and emphasized the many tools that tomorrow’s leaders will need to help them navigate challenges and opportunities. Included in the day’s activities was a musical performance from songwriter Caroline Jones.  

This was a great opportunity for our students and staff to hear Mr. Graham deliver his unique and highly effective messages regarding leadership and how educators can work to develop bright young minds into future leaders.

Mount Miguel’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Program

Mount Miguel Hospitality & Tourism Management students
On Thursday, February 19, Superintendent Swenson and his wife, Chris, attended the 10th Anniversary Celebration Mixer for the Multi-Cultural Convention Services Network (MCCSN). The MCCSN supports minority-owned businesses within San Diego's hospitality and tourism community. MCCSN owner, Clara Carter, has been an active Hospitality & Tourism Management (HTM) advisory board member for over eight years.

The event was held on the patio of the Coronado Island Marriott Resort and Spa on a beautiful February evening.  HTM students representing the junior class volunteered to assist at the event. Additionally, the students were given a project by Ms. Carter so that they could actively engage with attendees. The students designed a “virtual vendor exhibit” for the event sponsors. 

Students greeted attendees as they arrived and provided them with a “vendor tour” using their iPads. Vendors also donated gift items to support the HTM Academy Program. These items were auctioned off and the funds were donated to help HTM student club activities and travel.

Helix Charter Tops Academic League

The Varsity playoff match took place in Grossmont's Library
On Wednesday afternoon, the Varsity Academic League teams from Helix Charter and West Hills High Schools went head to head to determine the first-place Varsity team. Moderated by Ruth Weiss, the match was intense, and our students were impressive.

The Helix Highlanders, coached by Kirsten Schmidt and Tina Colera, overcame efforts of the West Hills’ Wolf Pack, coached by Michelle Liddell and Cory Bickerstaff. The final score was Helix 101 - West Hills 81. Congratulations to both teams!  

With this win, Helix will now host the District’s All-Star match on Wednesday, March 4, at 3:30 p.m. in Room 1600.

CTE Spotlight: The Education Pathway

Education Pathway students at San Diego Safari Park
Students in Mount Miguel High School’s Education Pathway recently went for a walk on the wild side to learn about teaching Common Core standards. The CTE Education Pathway is a two-year program for students who are interested in teaching and other careers in the education field. Both the beginning and advanced Teaching and Learning classes traveled to the San Diego Safari Park to research curriculum topics and to learn more about career options in education outside of a school setting.

Students in both classes are currently placed in internships at local schools and are working with a specific grade level. Before traveling to the Safari Park, the students researched the Common Core standards for their specific internship placement. While at the park, students selected and researched a curriculum topic involving animal life, ranging from specific animals to endangered species, conservation, etc.  After the field trip, students referenced their grade-level standards and research from the Safari Park in order to create an assignment for the students in their internship classrooms.

In addition to providing an outstanding work-based learning experience, the trip was also a great team building time for beginning and advanced students to work together and build community. Education Pathway classes are offered at Mount Miguel, Granite Hills, and Grossmont High Schools.

Save the Date: March 3 Presentation on Impact of Alpine Lawsuit

Next week I will be addressing a joint meeting of the District Advisory Committee and the District English Language Advisory Committee on the topic of the Alpine lawsuit and its impact on planned upgrades at many GUHSD schools.

I invite parents to attend this meeting which will be held on Tuesday, March 3, at 6:00 p.m. at the District Office, located at 1100 Murray Drive in El Cajon.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Monday, February 23, 2015

Alpine Lawsuit Update

Please click to view an update detailing how the Alpine Lawsuit threatens to halt GUHSD school projects.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

Annual PTA Founders Day Celebration

Superintendent Swenson, Teacher of the Year John Berray and PTA Leaders at the Founders Day Celebration
On Wednesday, February 18, I joined school administrators, principals, teachers, school board members, superintendents and Parent Teacher Association (PTA) leaders from across San Diego County to celebrate the founding of the PTA and its rich history of accomplishment.

This year’s Ninth District PTA Annual Meeting/Founders Day Celebration Brunch was held at the Scottish Rite Center. Several of our local PTSA presidents were in attendance including Foothills Secondary Council PTA President Beth Bacting. We deeply appreciate our local PTSA leadership and its service on behalf of our youth.

The Founder’s Day event included recognition of the San Diego County Teachers of the Year, including West Hills High School’s John Berray. Monte Vista High School was also named the recipient of a Ninth District 2014-15 PTA Grant in the amount of $500 toward an eight-week parent program.

The Founder’s Day event underscores the dedication and commitment that the members of our school PTAs offer. Parent involvement and presence makes a positive difference at our high schools.

If you are not a member of your school PTSA, I encourage you to get involved.  Membership forms are located in your school office and on your school or PTSA website.  Please join today.

Monte Vista Students Bring Home Gold

Monte Vista Auto Students with Teacher Mike Fleming
The Monte Vista CTE Transportation Team walked away with the gold in the Intro to Automotive Technology competition at the SkillsUSA Regional competition, which was held on Saturday, January 31, at Universal Technical Institute in Rancho Cucamonga. In this competition, students used precision measurement tools, scanners and a digital volt-ohm meter to diagnose and test a variety of automotive challenges.

There were ten stations that included both written and hands-on skills tests from eight automotive ASE testing areas. Team members Cynthia Locke (12th), Eric Palomares (11th), and Colin Donaghue (12th) are all in the CTE Transportation pathway at Monte Vista High School. They competed successfully against 12 other teams from the southern half of the state and will advance to the state-level competition on April 11 at the Town and Country Hotel in Mission Valley.

Two advanced students from the CTE Transportation Pathway, Johnny Jones and Andreas Beas, also competed in the Automotive Service Technology advanced competition. They demonstrated their ability to diagnose electrical circuits, use precision measurements tools and identify a wide variety of systems and related parts. These events are important for students because they show the relevance of the skills learned in the classroom.

The CTE Transportation Pathway at Monte Vista High School is a four-year program that integrates core academics (math, English, and science) with Career Technical Education classes in the area of Transportation and Automotive Technology, providing a real world context for academic learning. CTE pathway students benefit from a rigorous academic curriculum infused with guest speakers, field trips, and job shadow opportunities that allow them to prepare for college and career.

Laurels for Leaders Luncheon

ASB Presidents from GUHSD Schools attend Laurels for Leaders
On Tuesday, February 17, GUHSD principals, ASB Presidents and Advisors and District Administrators attended the 58th Annual San Diego County Laurels for Leaders Luncheon. The event honors San Diego County’s high school student body presidents.

School ASBs enhance campus life. They are concerned with the entirety of the high school experience and maximizing student activities and options while on campus. During the event, leadership awards were presented to high school ASB presidents.

I am very proud of our ASB students for their participation in the 6th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. High School ASB Food Drive Challenge. Grossmont High School was recognized as the third place winner for its number of cans donated for needy families. Their efforts, combined with other participating county schools will provide nutritious meals to San Diegans in need.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, February 13, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

February is Career Technical Education Month

R: Outgoing Chair Renae Arabo presents Teri Sprecco with the San Diego East County Chamber's Business and Education Person of the Year award
Students, faculty and community partners across the San Diego region will join others across the nation during the month of February to celebrate national Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month.  This year’s theme is Recognizing Classroom Innovators. CTE Month provides CTE programs across the country with an opportunity to demonstrate how CTE educates students to be college and career ready and prepares them for high-wage, high-demand career fields. These careers may require varying levels of education—including industry-recognized credentials, postsecondary certificates, and two- and four-year degrees.

The San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce has been a long-time partner and advocate for Career Technical Education in the Grossmont Union High School District. Last week, our Assistant Director of CTE, Teri Sprecco, was honored as the Business and Education Person of the Year at their Annual Awards Celebration. This recognition honors Teri's leadership and her collaborative efforts with many teachers, students, support staff, school board members, and business partners in our East County region.

CTE in Action

Floral Design students showcase their work
Chaparral High School's CTE Floral Design classes have been especially busy this week preparing for Valentine’s Day, one of the most important floral holidays of the year. Students in the floral classes practiced their skills by preparing and designing a lovely variety of fresh floral arrangements. The students were pleased to offer these beautiful and affordable arrangements to Chaparral teachers, district staff and the El Cajon Police Department. Some of the beautiful designs included nostalgic Victorian style floral heart designs, cheerful red baskets, vase bouquets with dozens of red roses, rustic ivy heart topiaries and single roses and carnations. 

Floral Design is part of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Industry pathway offered at Chaparral and El Capitan High Schools. This pathway provides many hands-on opportunities for students to experience working with flowers and provides training for entry-level positions in a flower shop. Students can receive college credit and are also eligible for UC art credit.

2015 East County TechFest

Student Alexandra Bockert delivered the keynote address at TechFest
On Saturday, February 7, 2015, over 200 educators from districts across East County gathered at West Hills High School for 2015 East County TechFest. This event focused on the integration of technology in the classroom.

Alexandra Bockert, a junior at Grossmont Middle College High School, keynoted the event. In her dynamic presentation she shared her school experiences with technology and challenged the teachers in the theater to provide a wide array of technology-driven opportunities. She emphasized that students need to be prepared for a digital world and our schools are an essential part in that development. You can watch a recording of the keynote here.

The over 30 conference-style sessions included a wide variety of innovative instructional strategies, technology tools, and best practices were presented by teachers. Topics included Chromebooks, Google tools, gamification, online research, iPads, digital photography, flipping the classroom, and more.

TechFest was organized by members of the Cajon Valley Union School District, Grossmont Union High School District, Lakeside Union School District, and Santee School District.

Academic League: Battle of Santee

Santee Vice Mayor John Minto awarded the trophy to West Hills following a close match
In Academic League news, of special note this week was the Santana at West Hills Varsity match where the winner won the right to display the Santee City Council's Perpetual Trophy for a year. The match was moderated by El Cajon Valley High School's Steve Montgomery. 

After a nail-biting competition, Santana Coach, Brooke Crocker, relinquished the trophy to West Hills Coach Michelle Liddell. On hand to present the trophy on behalf of the Santee City Council was Vice Mayor John Minto. Also present to accept the trophy was Wolf Pack interim principal Robin Ballarin. Congratulations to these two Santee teams for their intellect and sportsmanship.

Robin Pistole Named Third Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee

Board recognition of Robin Pistole as Third Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee
At the Governing Board meeting on Thursday, February 12, Robin Pistole was recognized as the Third Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee of 2014-2015.  Robin serves the Grossmont District as a Budget Specialist in the Fiscal Services Department and she is known to consistently go above and beyond her regular duties. Robin is a highly respected team member and an outstanding contributor her department.

Classified employees provide critical support to our educational mission and programs. Congratulations, Robin Pistole, on being selected as the Third Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee of 2014-2015!

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, February 6, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

2015 District Cheer Competition Results

Grand Champions: Granite Hills. Credit: Rob Riingen
The 29th Annual Grossmont District Cheer Competition, also known as “Districts,” was held on Saturday, January 24, in the West Hills High School Gymnasium.

The competition featured teams competing at the Junior Varsity and Varsity levels, in restricted, unrestricted, and co-ed classifications. The Granite Hills varsity team took home the District Grand Champion Award, which is given to the school team with the highest overall points. 

“Districts” offers a unique opportunity for the teams to come together to compete and showcase their skills in the same venue. It encourages school spirit, promotes school morale and crowd sportsmanship, supports interscholastic athletics and demonstrates high standards of leadership.

JV & Varsity – Restricted, Unrestricted, and Co-ed Awards Follow:

Junior Varsity:


1st Place – El Capitan
2nd Place – West Hills
3rd Place – Steele Canyon


1st Place – Granite Hills



1st Place – El Capitan
2nd Place – Mount Miguel
3rd Place – Santana


1st Place & Grand Champion – Granite Hills
2nd Place – Valhalla
3rd Place – West Hills


1st Place – Steele Canyon

Proceeds from the competition are split among participating teams. I thank the community for the support of this district program.

Mount Miguel Hosts Young Men’s Leadership Conference
San Diego Deputy District Attorney Agustin Pena delivers keynote address. Credit: Boyd Anderson
Mount Miguel High School’s Tenth Annual East County Young Men’s Leadership Conference was held on Saturday, January 24. The theme was Protect and Defend Your Dream. Eighty-five students, parents, activists, school administrators and mentors from throughout Southern California attended the annual event. In addition to a number of students from Mount Miguel High School, a large contingent from Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley was also in attendance. 

Student workshops and breakout sessions included: Increasing Parent Awareness: The Voices of Successful Men of Color, The Road Map to Success: Educational Tools to Assist Your Men on Their Journey, Differences Between Men and Women, GEYM: Growing Exemplary Young Men, Empowering Students and Parents to Succeed, STUNT 101 (Stuff To Undergo Necessary Transformation), Let Your Presence Be Known, JUSTICE, Creativity and Mental Advancement Through Lyrical Expression, and The N-Word: An Analytical and Historical Look.

The keynote speaker was Mr. Agustin Peña, Deputy District Attorney for the City of San Diego. Presenters included Alejandro Castillo (school counselor), Michael D. Love (community college counselor), Timothy Shaw (high school counselor), O’Neal Stidum (San Francisco State University student), Jerome Payton (college professor), Michael E. Love (Mount Miguel teacher), Shakira Williams and Jerome Williams (Mount Miguel High School alumni and community activists), Dr. Mark Jeffers, Ed.D. (Mount Miguel teacher), Dr. Carlton Floyd (University of San Diego Associate Professor), Mr. Brett Fisher (Engineer), LTJG Jorge Colon (Naval Officer, Instructor), LT Dario Brooks (Pilot, Instructor), Mr. Randy Jones and members of the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) from San Diego State University.

The young men in attendance left with a number of skills and strategies to keep their dreams alive through self-empowerment, enlightenment, heightened awareness, and good decision-making. The conference was sponsored by the Brother 2 Brother club of Mount Miguel High School. Mount Miguel High School, the Lemon Grove Collaborative, the Grossmont Union High School District, Dr. Nicodemus Watts, M.D. and Mr. Luis Castro provided support for this event.

East County Career Center Links Employers with Job Seekers

Job seekers queue up for a hiring event
On Tuesday, January 20, the East County Career Center teamed up with the Spring Valley Library to host a hiring event for Smart & Final. There is a new store opening in the community, and they were looking to 30 people for the new location, as well as 20 others for current openings at other County locations.

Business Services Coordinator Susan Roberts-Egley, coordinated and promoted the event in collaboration with Spring Valley Library’s Branch Manager Jennifer Teitelbaum. Smart & Final brought 25 employees to assist with the paper screening, interviews, and preliminary reference checks that were all done on the spot. 

The East County Career Center is part of the Grossmont Union High School District, under the direction of the Adult Education Department. It is the first career center created in San Diego County to provide a one-stop shop environment for career planning and job search assistance.

Save the Date: Grossmont College Open House on 2/21
Grossmont College will host an open house from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., on Saturday, February 21. The event is designed for prospective students and will feature free application and financial aid workshops, campus and department tours, program and department information, and live entertainment.

Faculty, staff and student volunteers will be present to help prospective students learn about the variety of academic programs, including certificate and associate degree programs, and student services provided on campus, such as counseling, financial aid and scholarships, among others. Workshops are designed to assist incoming students with completing the college’s free online application and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The event schedule includes:
  • 10 a.m. – noon: Application and Financial Aid Workshops
  • 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Information Fair on Academic Programs and Student Services
  • Noon – 2 p.m.: Academic Information Sessions and Specialized Tours
  • Live entertainment and campus tours will be available throughout the event
The event is free and open to the public; parking is also available for free that day. Grossmont College is located at 8800 Grossmont College Drive in El Cajon.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson