Friday, March 27, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

I begin this issue by wishing you a safe and relaxing Spring Break as we embark on our annual week-long spring recess. As a reminder, Spring Break is from March 30 through April 3, 2015, with school resuming on Monday, April 6. During this time away, it is my hope that our students, staff and families will enjoy some well-deserved rest, relaxation, and quality time spent with loved ones.

Ethics in Business Conference 2015

Business leader Steve Devan facilitates a discussion with students
The San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce and the Grossmont Union High School District presented the annual Ethics in Business Conference for 180 advanced CTE students on Tuesday, March 24, at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon. The annual event’s goal is to train the next generation to become principled leaders. The half-day conference challenged students to consider ideas and situations that are designed to help them think critically about ethics in business situations.

Sample ethical dilemmas the students explored included:

Does your set of rules change frequently based on what’s easiest for you to do at the time, or is it consistent and based on a strong set of rules that never varies?

If your manager was training you for a new position that included embezzling money or hiding company property, what would you do? What would you say? Who would you tell?

The award-winning Ethics in Business Program, which is presented by the Chamber’s Business Education Committee, was developed in 1992 to educate our high school seniors about situations and ethical dilemmas that occur in the workplace. This year’s keynote speaker was former US Navy Seal and film/commercial stuntman Jeff Bramstedt. Many San Diego East County Chamber members participated in the program by facilitating table discussions with groups of high school students.

I thank our many business partners who served as facilitators and the Ethics in Business subcommittee members who planned the event for our students. Special thanks are extended to the following event sponsors: San Diego Gas & Electric, Foothills Christian Church, California Metals/OneEarth Recycling, Team Kia of El Cajon, San Diego East County Chamber Foundation, Cox Communications, DSD Business Systems, Grossmont Schools Federal Credit Union, Cindie Wolf Photography, Grove Pastry Shop, Junior Achievement, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Aflac (Becky Burgstiner, Agent), Grossmont Healthcare District and First Citizens Bank.

El Capitan Agriculture Wins State Awards

El Capitan Principal Laura Whitaker and students showcase their awards
The Southern Region FFA State Degree and Proficiency Awards Banquet was held on Saturday, March 21, 2015, at Sonora High School in La Habra. The event included a barbeque luncheon and ceremony.

Eighteen El Capitan High School students were bestowed the high honor of the Golden State FFA Degree Award for their outstanding accomplishments. An additional 20 Proficiency Award winners were recognized, including eight Region winners:

Dustin Suttles, Ag Mechanics, Design, and Fabrication
Ralph Eastham, Ag Mechanics, Design, and Fabrication
Blake Jackson, Agricultural Sales Entrepreneurship
Daniel McMullen, Agriscience Research Integrated Systems
Kennady Wagner, Diversified Agricultural Production
Brock Roland, Environmental Science & Natural Resources
Aaron McCranie, Outdoor Recreation
Tatiana Woliung, Poultry Production

El Capitan students also won awards for Star in Agriscience (Daniel McMullen) and Star Farmer (Kennady Wagner.)
Additional school awards included Gold Star Counselor (GIS, Frank Quinones) and Gold Star Administrator (Principal, Laura Whitaker).

Congratulations, El Capitan FFA students and staff. The Grossmont Union High School District and Southern Region FFA are very proud of your outstanding accomplishments.

Annual District Airbands Competition

Steele Canyon's "Candy Men" take the top prize 
Since the 1980s, ASBs around San Diego County have provided opportunities for students who possess the talent for knowing precisely how to mouth the words to songs of practically every genre, giving birth to the phenomenon of Airbands.

On Wednesday, March 18, Grossmont High School was home to the annual Grossmont District Airband Championships. The top two winners from eight participating GUHSD schools went on to compete for cash prizes in the District competition. Traditionally, District Airbands has been a battle between Helix and Grossmont, but lately Steele Canyon and newcomer Valhalla have found the winning combination of tight lip-synching, choreography, dance, originality, creativity, costume and set design, and the right montage of songs mixed into a clever story line.

Though Granite Hills, El Cajon Valley, Grossmont and El Capitan performed well this year, Mount Miguel captured fifth place with “M-Unit’s” performance reenacting the top vines from last year. Valhalla, made its first appearance in a number of years, taking third place with a game show themed group called “Synonic.” Second place went to Steele Canyon’s “Toxic Honey.” The first place prize went to Steele Canyon’s “Candy Men” team.

Congratulations to all. The packed house at this event each year shows that Airbands are alive and well in East County!

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

Annual Academic League Spaghetti Dinner

The Academic League Awards Dinner is a fitting close to the season
Valhalla High School hosted the 2015 Annual Academic League Awards Dinner on Wednesday, March 11. The evening included an awards banquet and meal for nearly 300 players and their parents.

The dinner event was held to honor and thank the students, parents, organizers and moderators, as well as the coaches of the Academic League program.

High honors went to Helix Charter’s Varsity team for their League Championship. On the JV front, Santana High School was honored for their championship, 10-0 season.

The team designated as Most Improved this year went to Mount Miguel High School and coach Beverly Jones. The Rookie Coach of the Year award went to Cory Biggerstaff at West Hills High School. Coaching Longevity awards went to Brooke Crocker at Santana and Tina Colera of Helix Charter, for a record-busting 13 years of service. In further news, longtime coordinator Richard Beach is retiring after 23 years of service to the Academic League program.  

Special thanks are extended to Valhalla Principal Mary Beth Kastan for hosting the event, which was enjoyed by so many students and their families that evening.

Campus Clean-Up at El Cajon Adult Center

El Cajon Adult Center Clean-up Volunteers
On Saturday morning, February 20, over sixty-five students, family members, and staff joined together to clean the El Cajon Adult Center campus, including the parking lot, gardens, classrooms, and office.  It was a very productive morning with sweeping, scrubbing, raking, pulling weeds, picking up trash, removing gum from under the desks, and cleaning windows and carpets!

Students from the GED/High School Diploma Program teamed up with students from the ESL Program to complete everything on the “To Do” list in two hours. They shared a sense of pride in their combined efforts to make the school and community a better place.

Board Recognition of Jo Willson as Fourth Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee

Board recognition of Jo Willson as Fourth Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee
At the Governing Board meeting on Tuesday, March 10, Josephine "Jo" Willson was recognized as the Fourth Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee of 2014-2015.  Jo serves as Principal's Secretary at Valhalla High School, and she is known for her professionalism, attention to detail and ability to put others at ease. She is a highly respected member of the Valhalla administrative team and an outstanding contributor at her school site.

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

Grossmont ASB Holds Annual Convention

Grossmont's Annual Convention was marked by enthusiasm and colorful costumes
Grossmont High School’s ASB held its annual convention on Friday, March 13. The “Old Gym” was packed with candidates’ elaborate booths. This year’s theme was Cartoon Network vs. Nickelodeon.

A few weeks prior to convention, a schoolwide primary election was held to narrow each position to two candidates.

More than 300 delegates were present in the Old Gym to vote on the final candidates for ten ASB positions. Students had the opportunity to participate in delegation group competitions, cheers and other activities. They also listened to the candidates answer questions and debate prompts, viewed candidates’ campaign videos and watched the commissioners perform activities.

Afterward, each delegation group voted on the commissions, and the votes were counted. At the end of the day, the winners for all ten positions were announced. Delegates also participated in a fashion show of costumes and instructional dance videos were played for entertainment. Overall, it was an engaging and exciting day that taught students about democracy through participation in the political process.

GUHSD Staff Hone Skills at Educating for Careers Conference

Members of the Santana Environmental Design Pathway presented to a standing room only crowd
GUHSD was well represented at the annual statewide Educating for Careers Conference in Sacramento earlier this month. Over 30 GUHSD teachers and administrators were on hand to learn about promoting Career Technical Education, college and career readiness, and Linked Learning.

Participation was funded through a combination of Carl Perkins grant monies and private funding. Its goal was to provide high-quality professional development with breakout session themes that included: Assessment & Accountability, California Partnership Academies Model, Career Pathways/Industry Sectors, Curriculum & Instructional Strategies, Employer & Community Partnerships, Mentor & Internship Programs, Secondary-Postsecondary Connections, and Work-Based Learning.

CTE, Special Education, and academic teachers participated in a variety of workshops and then came together as a GUHSD team to share insights and discuss next steps for promoting college and career readiness for all students. Teams were energized to bring back specific ideas and innovations as CTE pathways continue to gain momentum districtwide.

One of the most popular workshops of the conference this year was presented by GUHSD’s own CTE Environmental Design Pathway team from Santana High School.  Eileen Bagg-Rizzo, Teresa Stanley, Emily Snipes, Howard Rose, Paul Rupp, Clayton Madrid, Lucas Riley and Doug Coffin presented their Linked Learning, cross-curricular projects to a standing room only crowd. They demonstrated the power of engaging students in project-based learning in a meaningful, real world context.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, March 13, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

GUHSD Bus Drivers and Dispatcher receive commendations from Lakeside Superintendent Dr. David Lorden and Superintendent Swenson
Student safety is a top priority in the Grossmont Union High School District. Under the watchful eye of deputies from the Lemon Grove and Santee Sheriff’s Stations, as well as police officers from the El Cajon and La Mesa Police Departments, our students attend schools that emphasize safety first.

Earlier this month, it was widely reported that law enforcement officials called for a Lockdown at El Capitan and several schools in the Lakeside District, due to a threat against one of their schools.

Anticipating the need for a possible evacuation of El Capitan, three of our buses were staged nearby. One of the waiting GUHSD bus drivers was approached by a representative from the Lakeside School District requesting assistance in the safe evacuation of their most threatened school site, Lindo Park Elementary School. The driver acted swiftly to connect Lakeside Director of Maintenance, Operations & Transportation Todd Owens with Alison Troxler, a Dispatcher in our Transportation Department.

Ms. Troxler worked in cooperation with the three drivers, David Hall, Ramon Sanchez and Jesus Guerrero, to assist the Lakeside School District with the safe evacuation of its students. Bus Aide Beverly Weeks, was instrumental in comforting these very scared young students with her calm demeanor.

The expertise of Alison Troxler, David Hall, Ramon Sanchez, Jesus Guerrero and Beverly Weeks in assessing and effectively addressing this situation helped to de-escalate a very tense situation for these young students and their families. 

Lakeside School District Superintendent, Dr. David Lorden, joined me on Thursday, March 12, to personally thank our Transportation Department for the collective effort that ensured the safety of his students from Lindo Park Elementary School on that day. On behalf of the entire LUSD community, he commended them for their efforts on behalf of his district and its students. It was a very proud moment for me as Superintendent to herald the work of these very deserving, unsung heroes who daily oversee the safe transport of students across the district.

BurnBook App Threats Disrupting Teaching and Learning 

I've been reaching out through various forums to make parents aware of a mobile app called BurnBook that is causing serious disruption at high schools throughout San Diego County and nationwide.

There has been a recent dramatic increase in the number of students using social media to engage in cyberbullying and make threats against schools. Many students believe, incorrectly, that they can anonymously bully, harass, threaten, and hurt other students and staff – they are wrong, and they will be made known.

When students post threatening or inappropriate messages for purposes of harassment or bullying, they can and will face serious consequences at their school and may face arrest and prosecution by local law enforcement. Threats are not jokes, and the perpetrators will not remain anonymous. Their identities are indeed discoverable, and BurnBook’s developer is now warning that vulgar and threatening posts will not remain anonymous and that an individual’s IP address can and will be tracked down and shared with legal authorities.

We are encouraging students to delete the BurnBook app, and we need your help to reinforce this message. In addition to periodically reviewing the content on your students’ phones, including apps and photos, please talk with them about the need to guard their online reputations because privacy is an illusion, and it is wrong to assume that you will remain anonymous in the digital realm.

In our schools, we have blocked the access to BurnBook and other similar applications on our district internet.  The responsibility to monitor students’ inappropriate use of social media use rests on all of us – parents, teachers, and school administrators alike. While our district is blocking these apps on our network, students are primarily accessing BurnBook and similar apps on their cell phones, using their family’s phone/internet service provider – outside of District control.

Thank you for your assistance in helping us to stop the disruption these behaviors are causing on our campuses. Parents with questions should contact school administrators with additional concerns.

Working together we can keep our students and schools safe and focused on learning.

Grossmont Middle College Information Night on Saturday

Grossmont Middle College is currently recruiting for next year's 11th grade class. They are hosting a one-hour information session in Griffin Gate, located in the new Griffin Student Center on the Grossmont College campus on Saturday, March 14, at 11:00 a.m. The application deadline is Friday, April 3.

Located on the Grossmont College campus, Grossmont Middle College High School (GMCHS) is a WASC accredited alternative high school designed for 11th and 12th grade students who are college capable. Its mission is to assist students in the successful completion of high school graduation requirements while concurrently completing college coursework that meets college entrance requirements and also earns college credit.

Save the Date: Latina Women’s Empowerment Conference on 3/21

On Saturday, March 21, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Mount Miguel High School will host its 9th Annual Girl's Empowerment Conference in the school cafeteria. Girls ages 14-18 of all ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to attend the event which will focus on breaking through the cultural barriers that prevent girls from reaching their educational dreams. The keynote speaker for the one-day conference is Carol LeBeau.

For reservations or questions, please contact Sylvia Sposato at (619) 667-6451.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, March 6, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

CTE Spotlight: Metal Masters Pathway

El Cajon Valley welding students showcase their welder certifications
The two-year Metal Masters Pathway at El Cajon Valley High School is enabling students to begin careers in the welding/metal fabrication industry and is preparing them for college-level metals programs.

On Thursday, February 26, 41 Advanced Welding and Fabrication students at El Cajon Valley High School were awarded with Welder Certifications from the American Welding Society. The students practiced for the test daily from the beginning of the school year and completed testing in January. Certificates were awarded to the students by Jeff Davis, Chairman of the San Diego Section of the American Welding Society as well as Southern California District Chairperson Sam Lindsey. Certification by the American Welding Society is the international standard of welder certification and is the first step toward gaining employment in a welding career.

Welding teacher, Nick Williams, spoke about the program's partnerships with local industries which include shipbuilding, fabrication and construction. The welding program has and continues to develop strong industry partnerships with local businesses such as US Joiner, QCMI, NASSCO, BAE and Flexider USA. Welding students who graduate with the requisite skills and certifications are being offered entry-level welding careers starting at $15-$25 per hour.

Following the presentation, families were served refreshments. I compliment these students for their dedication to achieving competent welding results and teachers Nick Williams and Ashley Wolters for the success of this growing program.

El Cajon Valley High School Hosts Russian Educators

Russian Fellows Elena and Olga spoke to El Cajon Valley students as part of the Open Doors program
On Thursday, March 5, El Cajon Valley High School hosted visiting Russian educators, “fellows,” as part of the US - Russia Open Doors program. Two of the fellows arrived in San Diego and are visiting exemplary schools and youth organizations throughout San Diego and Orange County.

The Russian fellows toured the campus and visited several classrooms to experience the educational process in the United States. They also presented on education and cultural life in Russia, followed by a Q & A segment with students at the end of each period. Students learned about Russian life and culture as the fellows shared their expertise and experiences abroad.

The conversation often revolved around how young people in Russia feel about the issues our students care about. The visit culminated in making plans for a future joint project that will involve an international collaboration of video production classes telling stories on video and sharing them back and forth with their new Russian friends.

Carolyn Heintz Scholarships Awarded to Health Occupations Center Students

Scholarship recipient Gina Martinez
Recently, four deserving students at the Grossmont Health Occupations Center (HOC) were each awarded a $500 scholarship to aid them in continuing their healthcare education. 

The scholarship fund was established by the Health Occupations Center in memory of former HOC teacher and Assistant Director, Carolyn Heintz.  As a nurse herself, Carolyn was passionate about teaching and working with students seeking further education and employment in the medical field. 

Criteria for the scholarship includes: current enrollment in a medical program at HOC, high academic standing, community service, and future plans in healthcare education.

Congratulations to these scholarship recipients:

•          Gina Martinez: Pharmacy Technician student
•          Tonilyn Garegnani: Medical Assisting student
•          Kimberly Huynh: Vocational Nursing student
•          Cherisa Archuleta: Vocational Nursing student

Save the Date: 3/21 Girl’s Empowerment Conference

Mount Miguel High School will host its 9th Annual Girl’s Empowerment Conference on Saturday, March 21, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The free, annual event is open to girls ages ninth grade and up. This year’s keynote speaker is Carol LeBeau. More details will follow.


In closing, come join us this weekend as eight of our athletic teams compete for seven CIFSDS Championships in Basketball and Soccer.

The schedule is as follows:


11:00 a.m. - El Capitan Boys - USD Gymnasium - Division IV Basketball
  1:05 p.m. - El Capitan Girls - USD Gymnasium - Division IV Basketball
  7:30 p.m. - Helix Charter Boys - Madison High - Division V Soccer
  8:00 p.m. - Mount Miguel Girls - USD Gymnasium - Division I Basketball


11:00 a.m. - El Cajon Valley vs. Valhalla Boys - USD Gymnasium - Division III Basketball
  4:30 p.m. - Steele Canyon Girls - Mesa College - Division I Soccer
  7:00 p.m. - Valhalla Girls - Madison High - Division II Soccer

Superintendent Ralf Swenson