Friday, October 30, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

L: Director of Instructional Technology Dan McDowell and Superintendent Swenson at the White House
This week I have been in Washington, DC, along with our Director of Instructional Technology Dan McDowell, for the kick-off event of the U.S. Department of Education's Open Education Symposium and the launch of #GoOpen. 

We're meeting with other Future Ready school leaders at the White House to engage with senior administration officials and demonstrate the positive impact that openly licensed educational resources can have on teaching and student learning. For our district, Open Educational Resources (OERs) serve as a major piece of the bigger puzzle, which is balancing the financial challenges of maintaining updated curriculum and giving students a viable education that prepares them for a digital world. GUHSD is excited to explore this new opportunity.

In the last few years, a movement called Open Educational Resources has started gaining traction. Various organizations and districts have been pooling digital content resources together in dynamic units and making them available online at no cost. Teachers are able to use this curriculum, modify, add to, and even share it with others. As part of the national Future Ready program, the Office of Educational Technology in the White House is developing a program called #GoOpen to better harness and grow these resources across the country. They are building partnerships between tool providers and school districts to start expanding this program. 

Traditionally, we have relied upon textbooks and other printed materials, but FutureForward and Chromebooks are changing the educational culture of GUHSD. As students gain increased access to a device and a web of resources, teachers are starting to think differently about content creation and delivery.

I look forward to communicating with you more on this important initiative. 

In the meantime, click here for a summary of our 2015 Goals and Objectives, which underscores the progress we are making in ensuring that our students are prepared for their future.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, October 23, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

Grossmont High School Celebrates 95th Anniversary

2015 Inductees into the Grossmont High School Hall of Honor
Our flagship school, Grossmont High, celebrated its 95th Anniversary at homecoming last Friday. Grossmont is the oldest high school in San Diego County to have its original school building still standing in what is now the District Office. The granite “Castle,” an East County landmark since its construction, has been beautifully restored.

That afternoon I led a tour of the renovated original school that included many members of the Class of 1955. It was a pleasure to hear tales as they relived their memories while wandering the halls.

The 95th Anniversary included the induction of six alumni and two faculty members into the Grossmont Hall of Honor. Six inductees were present along with the families of Merle Donahue and “Woody” Clarke. Each were presented with a commemorative plaque. The 2015 Hall of Honor Induction Ceremony included performances by Grossmont's Red Robe Choir and Royal Blue Regiment Band.

The eight inductees included:

Jean Landis, Class of 1936, WASP (Women’s Air Force Service Pilot) during WWII

Timothy Miller, Class of 1956, Reconstructive Plastic Surgeon for Combat Wounded through Operation Mend

Bill Woolman, Class of 1962: Grossmont High School Benefactor

Brian Sipe, Class of 1967, NFL MVP Quarterback for the Cleveland Browns

“Woody” George Clarke, Class of 1969, SD Superior Court Judge and National DNA expert

Julia Stewart, Class of 1973, Chairman and CEO of DineEquity, Inc., Restaurant Businesswoman

Merle Donahue: 1929-1962 GHS Choral Director

Jim Nichols: 1959-1988 GHS Instrumental Music Director

The event program is available here. Grossmont High School also has a museum, which opened in 2008. It celebrates the traditions and the pride that have distinguished Grossmont since it began in 1920. More information is available here.

El Cajon Valley Students Explore STEM Careers

An El Cajon Valley science student examines a marine invertebrate
On Thursday, October 5, Health Pathway students from El Cajon Valley High School participated in three fields. They interacted with STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) professionals at the High Tech Fair on the the Del Mar Fairgrounds, toured Grossmont College, and Torrey Pines State Beach, where students connected learning about ocean ecology to an actual ecosystem.

The High Tech Fair, hosted by San Diego Science Alliance, is designed to excite and inspire students through hands-on demonstrations from colleges and STEM industry professionals. Our students were exposed to dozens of careers in STEM, while connecting what they are learning in the classroom to the world around them. 

GUHSD Health Pathways Students Participate in Breast Cancer Walk 

GUHSD students participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk
GUHSD Health Pathways participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Balboa Park last Sunday. The team, comprised of health pathway students, parents, and staff, joined over 25,000 participants to walk the four-mile course. The team was thrilled to be a part of the monumental event. Students were particularly excited to have the chance to march on a closed section of the 163 freeway.

Save the Date: GUHSD Marching Band and Color Guard District Fall Showcase on 11/19

I’d like to inform you of an upcoming student performance you won’t want to miss: the GUHSD Marching Band and Color Guard District Fall Showcase on Thursday, November 19, 2015, at 6:00 p.m. at West Hills High School Stadium. This annual fundraiser by the Parent Music Advocacy Group (PMAG) features spectacular musical performances by students throughout the district. Tickets are $8.00 at the gate.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, October 16, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

L: 2014/15 Teacher of the Year John Berray with 2015/16 nominees Matt Norris, Andrea Cooke and Superintendent Swenson
On Saturday, October 10, two of Grossmont’s finest educators were honored at “A Salute to Teachers,” the San Diego County Teacher of the Year awards. Representing GUHSD in the competition were this year’s nominees, Matt Norris (West Hills) and Andrea Cooke (El Capitan), who competed against many outstanding teachers countywide. Also present was 2014-15 San Diego County Teacher of the Year from West Hills High School, John Berray.

The annual event honors San Diego County’s public school teachers and was televised live on Channel 4 San Diego from the Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego. This year’s telecast marks 41 years of honoring teachers in San Diego County. 

The culminating event of the evening was the naming of the five San Diego County Teachers of the Year.

The San Diego County Teacher of the Year Awards program is the official stepping-stone to the California Teacher of the Year and National Teacher of the Year events. The five Teachers of the Year selected last week will represent San Diego County in the California Teacher of the Year program, which will be announced later this year. Nominees for San Diego County Teacher of the Year were selected based on student achievement, teaching philosophy, familiarity with current issues in education and community involvement.

El Capitan Hosts Halftime Ceremony to Honor Synthetic Field Contributions

L: Travis Lyon (EC Foundation), Clifford LaChappa (Barona), Supervisor Jacob and Rich Hurst (EC Stadium Association) are recognized for donations
A brief halftime ceremony took place on Friday, October 9, to honor those whose contributions resulted in the replacement of the synthetic turf playing field at El Capitan High School over the summer. Asphalt sealing work was also completed, with a total construction cost of $430,000.

The synthetic turf stadium field was replaced with grants awarded by: The County of San Diego Neighborhood Reinvestment Grant - $200,000, El Capitan Stadium Association - $60,000, The Barona Band of Mission Indians and the El Capitan High School Foundation - $30,000, and the Grossmont Union High School District - $140,000. 

The Field Turf synthetic field features CoolPlay infill, which is made of cork instead of rubber, reducing the surface temperature on the field. 

Jason Van Named First Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee

Jason Van is honored by the Governing Board
At the Governing Board meeting on Thursday, October 15, 2015, Jason Van was recognized as the First Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee of 2015-2016.

Jason serves the Grossmont District as a Special Education aide at REACH Academy. He is recognized for his exceptional dedication in the classroom and his ability to motivate and lead students to success on the sports fields.

Classified employees provide critical support to our educational mission and programs. Congratulations, Jason Van, on being selected as the First Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee of 2015-2016!

Ambassador to Senegal Addresses Granite Hills Students

US Ambassador to Senegal James P. Zumwalt talks with students at Granite Hills
On Tuesday, October 13, advanced level IB/AP Spanish and French classes gathered in the new College/Career Center at Granite Hills to hear from a distinguished guest, U.S. Ambassador James P. Zumwalt. An El Cajon native, he is the brother of teacher Fran Zumwalt and is currently serving as the United States Ambassador to Senegal. He has an extensive career in Foreign Service and spoke to students about foreign service, the importance of learning a second language, and he told interesting tales of his service to our country. 

Jim Zumwalt was sworn in as United States Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Guinea Bissau on January 9, 2015.  Previously he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Japan and Korean affairs from 2012-2014 and as Embassy Tokyo’s Deputy Chief of Mission from 2008-2012.

Academic League Season Schedule

The 33rd Academic League season schedule is here. Matches begin on Wednesday, November 5. All schools play each other at least once during the ten-game season. The team with the best record will advance to the County Championship in May. 

I hope you will find an opportunity to view a Wednesday afternoon match at your school before the season draws to a close.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, October 9, 2015

What's New in GUHSD

Got Plans? is TOMORROW!

The East County Education Alliance is hosting our twelfth annual Got Plans? Career & College Fair for high school students and parents tomorrow, Saturday, October 10, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Grossmont College in El Cajon.

The annual event awakens students to the many opportunities available to them after high school, both locally and across the country. Once they make contact with college and career representatives at Got Plans?, students begin to think more seriously about their options after high school.

At the event, 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. Additional information will be available regarding NCAA eligibility for student-athletes, updates and changes to the SAT and ACT tests, transfer options and more. Workshop information is available here.

Grossmont College is located at 8800 Grossmont College Drive in El Cajon. Admission to the fair is free and open to the public. 

We hope to see you there! 

Celebrating 25 Years of Saluting Teachers

GUHSD nominees Matt Norris and Andrea Cooke
Saturday, October 10, is the 25th anniversary of "Cox Presents: A Salute to Teachers." The annual event celebrates and honors the county’s 26,000 public school teachers.  

We will cheer on GUHSD’s nominees Andrea Cooke (El Capitan) and Matt Norris (West Hills). Of the 44 nominees, five finalists will go on to represent the region at the California Teacher of the Year program later this year.

The Academy Awards-style extravaganza will be held at 8:00 p.m. at the Balboa Theater in downtown San Diego. The show will honor the county’s hardworking teachers and feature student performances. The host this year will be Emmy Award-winner Sherri Shepherd of “The View.”
The show will air live on Channel 4 San Diego.

Best wishes to Andrea & Matt!

District Advisory Council (DAC) Parent Forum

Superintendent Swenson discusses recent District achievements
On Tuesday, October 6, at the District Office, I delivered a State of the District report at the District Advisory Council meeting. My report is available here.

The forum was open to all parents of the Grossmont Union High School District. Representatives from parent groups on all campuses attended, including PTSA, PTO, ELAC, foundations, school site councils, and parent booster organizations.

Proposition U Bond Program Update

In closing, click here to view Proposition U Bond program updates from several of our schools, including a spotlight on the major renovation underway at Valhalla High School.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, October 2, 2015

New Scholarship to Offer Free Year of Community College

Smiles Abound as the Higher Edge Scholarship is Announced
Can college really be free?

It can for our students under a new scholarship program announced this week in which all qualifying graduates of Grossmont Union High School District schools will be offered a free year of classes at Grossmont or Cuyamaca College.

The scholarships, known as the Higher Edge, will first be offered to Class of 2019 graduates within the Grossmont Union High School District.

In addition to the scholarships, high school students will be offered support services and opportunities to explore careers to help them discover a field that excites them and obtain the education they need to meet their goals.

The Higher Edge scholarship program is the first in San Diego County to offer high school students a year of free community college classes. It was created through the East County Education Alliance, a partnership between the GUHSD and the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

Students who qualify for the scholarship will be able to take up to 30 units of college coursework without paying a fee, normally $46 a credit unit. They will also receive a free laptop, and free tutoring, counseling, support services, and student success workshops.

A college degree has become increasing important both for the East County workforce needs and for students. Studies have found that by 2021, about 15,000 of the jobs in East County will require at least an associate degree or advanced technical training. And community college graduates earn on average $560,000 more in their lifetimes than someone with a high school diploma.

This is an incredible opportunity for our high school graduates. Every graduate can now have college and career training within their grasp, no matter their economic background.

To qualify for the scholarship, students must have lived in the high school district for at least two years, have at least a 2.0 grade point average, and obtain their diploma from a GUHSD high school. They are also required to fill out a federal financial aid form, begin college within a year after they graduate from high school, and take at least six credit hours of college classes per semester.

To help the new graduates be successful, they also must undergo an orientation and assessment and develop a plan for their college education. Scholarship recipients will also be expected to complete a summer program before starting at Grossmont or Cuyamaca that will better prepare them for college.

Although scholarships will not be available to current juniors and seniors in the GUHSD, they will be eligible for free tutoring, counseling, support services and priority registration through the Leading Edge scholarship.

The scholarship program will cost about $500,000 a year, and much of the money for the first year has already been raised. To donate, go to

District Advisory Council (DAC) Parent Forum on 10/6

Please join us on Tuesday, October 6, 2015,  from 6:00 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. at the District Office where I will deliver a State of the District report at the District Advisory Council meeting. This forum is open to all parents of the Grossmont Union High School District. Representatives from all parent groups on all campuses are encouraged to attend, including PTSA, PTO, ELAC, foundations, school site councils, parent booster organizations, etc.

The District Office is located next to Grossmont High School at 1100 Murray Drive in El Cajon.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson