Friday, April 24, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

I begin this issue of Newsline with the announcement of two leadership changes:

Robin Ballarin was appointed as the new Principal of West Hills High School at the Governing Board meeting last week. During her 21-year career with the District, Robin has served as a teacher, Vice Principal and Director II, Curriculum. Robin is recognized as a leader both in the District and in the educational community. Her experience as an educator and administrator will enable Robin to be successful in leading West Hills High School.

Dr. Kimberlee Hedrick has been appointed as the new Principal of Mount Miguel High School. Dr. Hedrick’s start date is July 1, 2015. She is currently serving as the Principal of Kenmore Junior High School in Bothell, Washington; she also was a Vice Principal at Lynnwood High School. She earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, Education Specialist Degree in Education Administration, Masters in Teaching, Master’s in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication.

Congratulations to both!

Annual AVID Student Leadership Conference

Valhalla students complete a "Home Group" poster at the start of the AVID Conference
On Thursday, April 16, I delivered opening remarks to GUHSD’s Annual AVID Student Leadership Conference, which was held at the Ronald Reagan Community Center. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It is a post-secondary, college readiness system that is designed to increase schoolwide learning and performance for all students, focusing on those students in the academic middle. Monte Vista High School has been recognized as a National AVID Demonstration School.

The AVID Student Leadership Conference focuses on developing leadership skills and exploring ideas on how to become student leaders on their campuses. This year’s theme was, “AVID is my Superpower!” Annual keynote speaker Steve Gonzalez, Founder and President of Dream Weavers, guided students through a series of team-building activities that challenged them to solve problems and work collaboratively.

I’ve witnessed firsthand the difference that this vibrant program can make in the lives of students. I thank our Categorical Programs office and AVID site coordinators for their commitment to this vital program.

Granite Hills Brings the Heat

The "Mean Beans" culinary team from Granite Hills
The recent record-breaking radiating heat in San Diego County was also felt at the annual chili cook off at Granite Hills High School. On Wednesday, March 25, teams of students from teacher Jill Enright-Stewart’s CTE Culinary Arts pathway presented their creations to a panel of judges made up of teachers, administrators, and members of the El Cajon Police Department.

There was a tie for first place between “Mean Beans” (Sarah Black, Emily Wujek, Brianna Swenson, and Karena Sanchez) and “Afterburn” (Jazz Phillips, Blake Branvall, and Alicia Vargas). Third place went to “Fiery Flame” (Tilea Armstrong, Sofia Medina, Marcos Dobia, and Marissa Ackerson).

The Afterburn team will be entering their winning chili in the City of El Cajon’s Chili Cook-Off on May 16, where they will represent the El Cajon Police Department.

“Bowls of Steel” (Johnathon Francis, Angelica Sarenana, and Kyler Gilliland) won for best cornbread.

The Culinary pathway at Granite Hills High School prepares students for post-secondary educational opportunities and careers in the Hospitality and Culinary industries. For more information about this and other Career Technical Education programs in the district, visit the CTE website.

El Cajon Valley Students Examine US Legal System

An El Cajon Valley student tries on the robe aside Hon. Janis Sammartino
Twenty-two students in El Cajon Valley teacher Brad Sheffer’s government class participated in the Open Doors to the Courts program. This national program welcomes thousands of students into local federal courthouses around the country. The annual event was divided into three segments: Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE) hosted by experts in the field of bankruptcy law; a Legal Careers Panel; and a mock trial in which students took on the various roles.

Bankruptcy Court Judges Laura Taylor and Margaret Mann discussed the ramifications of using credit and how to wisely use credit cards. They also discussed the pros and cons of student loans. The goal of the CARE program is to train young men and women to intelligently manage their credit and to keep them from ever seeing the inside of a bankruptcy court.

Students also heard from an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Federal Defender, as well as  a U.S. probation officer, courtroom deputy, court reporter, interpreter, and Deputy  U.S.  Marshal, who each discussed their individual roles. These professionals also shared information about the education and experience required to attain these positions.

Finally, the students participated in the culminating event: a scripted Mock Trial presided over by U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino. The trial  explored  the  real-life  hazards  of texting while driving. The day emphasized the importance of civic responsibility, good citizenship and impartiality to these young men and women preparing to leave high school and enter the adult work force.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, April 17, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

GUHSD 2015-2016 Teachers of the Year with the Governing Board and Superintendent Swenson
2015 – 2016 Teacher of the Year Recognition Ceremony

At the Governing Board meeting on April 16, we recognized the Teacher of the Year nominees from each of our schools. This is a great honor, as each nominee was selected by their peers. 

School site nominees are interviewed by a panel comprised of previous Teachers of the Year and District personnel. The panel selects two representatives from this distinguished group to recommend to our Board of Trustees for consideration for the San Diego County Teacher of the Year competition. If selected to represent the County, the next step is the California Teacher of the Year Competition. 

These GUHSD teachers are representative of the quality of our educators. I am pleased to present to you the GUHSD 2015-2016 Teachers of the Year:

El Cajon Valley High School:
Franz Ruiz – Biology, AP Environmental Science

Granite Hills High School:
John Houston – Social Science, AP US History

Grossmont High School:
Tom Eklund – Physics, AP Physics

Monte Vista High School:
Marisa Alvarado – Biology, AP Environmental Science, Science 1C

Mount Miguel High School:
First Sergeant Brian Bennett – JROTC Army Instructor

Santana High School:
Donna A. Small – Culinary Arts, Foods and Nutrition

Valhalla High School:
Shoshana Adams – Humanities II

Alternative Education/Chaparral High School:
Brenda Davis-Landini – CTE Floral Design

And our two 2015 - 2016 GUHSD Teachers of the Year who advance to compete at the County level for San Diego County Teacher of the Year:

Matt Norris & Andie Cooke, GUHSD Teachers of the Year, who advance to the County Competition

Andrea (Andie) Cooke – Representing El Capitan High School

Andie is a Spanish and AP Spanish Teacher as well as the Chairperson of the World Language Department at El Capitan High School, where she has been teaching since 2005.  Andie reports that teaching the Spanish language and culture is her passion. She enjoys teaching the beginning classes and watching her students grow to comprehend the language and participate conversationally.

According to Principal Laura Whitaker, “Andie pours her heart and soul into her teaching and she genuinely cares about her students.”  A colleague shared, “She is dynamic and full of motivational energy that really inspires her students.”

Matthew Norris – Representing West Hills High School

Matt is a Social Science, AP World History Teacher and the Infinite Campus Trainer/Teacher Coach at West Hills High School, where he has been teaching since 2003. Matt was inspired to become a teacher after a six-week trip to Mexico, where he visited factories, mines, businesses, farms, and presidential palaces. There, he saw the power of education in changing lives.

Principal Robin Ballarin describes Matt as organized, diligent and extremely dependable. He cares deeply about his students and their learning. A colleague shared, “Matt is an extraordinary teacher, who consistently pushes himself to provide the best learning experience for his students on a day-to-day basis, year after year.”

Please join me in congratulating Andrea Cooke and Matthew Norris, as well as our other inspirational Teachers of the Year! We are very proud to have these fine teachers represent their school sites and our district as our 2015-2016 Teachers of the Year.


In closing, I share with you a number of board recognitions, many of which showcase the academic achievement and athletic prowess shown by our talented students:
Varsity Academic League Champions, Helix Charter High School

Junior Varsity Academic League Champions, Santana High School

Retiring Academic League Coordinator, Richard Beach

2015 Fall CIF-SDS Girls' Basketball Division IV Champions, El Capitan 

2015 Fall CIF-SDS Boys' Basketball Division III Champions, El Cajon Valley

Director of Information and Technology Services, Rick Roberts, Receives State Recognition

Friday, April 10, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

El Cajon PD recognizes Grossmont students and staff
Grossmont High School was highlighted in the news this week to showcase how the El Cajon Police Department is working to utilize students’ innovative minds to work collaboratively on an issue as important as school safety.

Earlier in the school year, Grossmont’s School Resource Officer, Jeannine Johns, developed a classroom competition for students and staff to create "Emergency Preparedness Kits."

The competition was a voluntary effort with staff and students to develop emergency kits and plans that could be used in multiple, “shelter in place” emergency situations including natural disasters, fires, active shooter, etc. The plans were to include basic items such as water and sustainable foods, but also plans of action and other innovative ideas. 

El Cajon PD, El Cajon Fire Department and school administrators judged the preparedness kits last month. Two classrooms were selected as winners and the El Cajon Police Officer's Association sponsored a luncheon for them on Wednesday.

The overall goal of the pilot project was to be a more prepared campus for any type of critical incident. We will determine viability for possible implementation at other schools and explore a variety of funding options.

Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee Issues 2014 Annual Report

The independent Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) has issued its 2014 Annual Report to community.

It is publicly accessible via this web site link. Print versions of the report are being distributed to PTAs this month. It will also be available in all school offices, county libraries within the district, and at CBOC and Governing Board meetings.

CBOC community volunteers met a total of 28 times last year. They reviewed all planned projects and expenditures, the district’s Deferred Maintenance program, and annual performance and financial audits completed by an independent auditor. They also reviewed a 2013 Grand Jury report concerning the planned high school in Alpine.

The CBOC annual report provides a comprehensive review of the CBOC’s role as well as challenges and accomplishments of the Prop H/U program. Included in the report is a review of the financial status, projects, and results of the latest audits.

We appreciate the work of these volunteers’ steadfast commitment to actively review and report on the proper expenditure of taxpayers’ money for school construction. I also extend our appreciation to 2014 outgoing CBOC members Nick Marinovich and John Pagenkopp.

Grossmont Healthcare District Awards Scholarships

2015 Grossmont Healthcare District scholarship recipients
At a recent board meeting, the Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD), a public agency that supports various health-related community programs and services in San Diego’s East County region, presented $85,500 in scholarships to 38 high school students interested in a career as a healthcare professional.

The students from 19 high schools in the East County were selected by school administrators for their academic excellence, outstanding citizenship and a desire to improve our world in the healthcare field. Two students from each high school will receive a GHD scholarship of either $3,000 or $1,500. Students will receive checks from GHD at the end of their first semester of college, contingent on completing at least nine units with a grade point average of 2.0 or better.

GUHSD scholarship recipients include:

Chaparral: Martin LaRue, Julia Genovese
El Cajon Valley: Jesery Mendez, Mustafa Haleem
El Capitan: Leslye Santiago, Torie Rogers
Granite Hills: Joshua Kurtz, Holly Benoit
Grossmont: Kaitlyn Moreno, Sean Dawson
Grossmont Middle College: Ryan Zentmyer, Ivan Jebrael
Helix Charter: Vivian Kimberly Hua, Jennifer Lee Sung
Monte Vista: Cierra Johnson, Diana Gonzalez
Mount Miguel: Cinthya Gonzalez, Cierra Conwright
Santana: Kayla Hayes, Samantha Pazo
Steele Canyon: Linh Cook, Brandon Sanchez
Valhalla: Madelyn Dow, Noemi Barragan
West Hills: Iona Vestemean, Jules Hinderliter

GHD has honored local high school students interested in a healthcare career with scholarship grants since 1999. Over the years, hundreds of local high school students have received individual scholarships totaling $962,000.

Thank you for providing financial support to our students so that they may pursue their dream of working in the healthcare arena.

Students Learn About WWII through Visual Presentation

West Hills' teacher Dan Sutton in uniform
At West Hills High School on Friday, March 20, students in Social Science teacher Dan Sutton’s class were transported back to the World War II era as part of an annual living history presentation. The day-long presentation was held in the school’s outdoor amphitheater and provided an opportunity for students to gain a greater understanding of the largest conflict in the history of mankind.

This was the eleventh year of the World War II Living History presentation, which included original vehicles, weapons, Hollywood props and first-person presentations by historical reenactors. The presenters were dressed in original uniforms as they portrayed actual combatants from various countries.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson