Friday, March 18, 2016

What's New in GUHSD

I begin this issue by wishing you a safe and relaxing Spring Break as we commence our annual week-long spring recess. As a reminder, Spring Break is from March 21 through March 25, 2016, with school resuming on Monday, March 28. 

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 2016

El Cajon Police Officer Louie Michael facilitates a discussion with students about the importance of ethics and character
The San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce and the Grossmont Union High School District presented the annual Ethics in Business Conference for 160 advanced CTE students from seven district schools on Tuesday, March 15, at Cuyamaca College. 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.

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. Back by popular demand was keynote speaker Jeff Bramstedt, former US Navy Seal and film/commercial stuntman. He discussed the value and importance of ethics and how individuals can make a difference. 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: Cindie Wolf, Steve Devan, Teri Sprecco, Jeff Wood, Eric Lund, Rosemary Reed, Linda Hoffman and Debbie George.

Special thanks are extended to the following event sponsors: Foothills Christian Church, San Diego Gas & Electric, Sharp Grossmont Hospital, Grossmont Cuyamaca Community College District, Subaru/Mazda of El Cajon, COX Communications, DSD Business Systems, Leidos, East County Schools Federal Credit Union, Junior Achievement, First Citizens Bank, New Cars, Inc., Aflac (Becky Burgstiner, Agent), El Cajon Rotary Club (Erik Lundy) and GUHSD’s CTE Department.

Granite Hills Celebrates Academic Success 

Granite Hills honors the Top Ten scholars of the senior class
Granite Hills High School held its annual Academic Hall of Fame gathering on Friday, March 11. The Academic Hall of Fame was established to recognize current students for high academic achievement and honor Granite Hills’ alumni who have gone on to make significant contributions in their chosen field.  

Since its inception in 2004, Granite Hills has inducted 19 alumni into their Academic Hall of Fame. The august group includes individuals who have furthered their education at UCSD, SDSU, the Naval War College, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Harvard, and Brown and secured careers as lawyers, corporate leaders, mechanical engineers, physicians, surgeons, and this year, Granite’s first rocket scientist.

The 2016 inductees are Dr. Jenna Sopfe (Class of 2005) Pediatric Hematology/Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant Physician in Denver, CO, and Dr. William Nollett (Class of 2004), Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Engineering, Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO. 

Dr. Nollett was present for the ceremony. He shared fond memories from his time at Granite Hills, spoke to his advanced education and proffered advice to the current crop of budding young scholars.

After paying tribute to these two accomplished individuals, a Top Ten Celebration recognized the top performers in each class. 

Monte Vista Cosmetology Pathway students visit Paul Mitchell The School San Diego

Monte Vista Cosmetology Pathway students learn from the professionals at Paul Mitchell
On March 8, Monte Vista High School Cosmetology Pathway students and teachers Angie Trujillo and Michelle Munoz attended Paul Mitchell The School San Diego’s international open house event. Students toured the campus and visited booths where they met with staff, teachers, students and salon owners who are prospective future employers.

The professional booths had many examples of work-based experience of working with the community and using the soft skills needed to work in the Cosmetology field.  The information conveyed by the professional development team included working with salons, spas, and hotels that offer the salon experience and how to become a community leader in the process. Students benefited by receiving information that will assist them in making choices in their future education. 

GUHSD School Board Elections Hearings

The Governing Board of the Grossmont Union High School District is taking steps toward changing the trustee election process from an at large system to the establishment of trustee areas. This responds to the changing demographics of East County and reduces our legal exposure. 

The San Diego County Committee on School District Organization continues to hold Public Hearings on this topic throughout our District. Future hearings will be held at 6:00 p.m. on March 28 (East County Regional Education Center - GUHSD Board Room); April 4 (Joan MacQueen Middle School); April 5 (Jamul Intermediate School Library) & April 11 (Lakeside Union School District - Administration Center). 

The hearing notice and additional information regarding this process is available on the GUHSD website at:

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Friday, March 11, 2016

What's New in GUHSD

GUHSD School Board Elections Update

At a Special Board meeting on February 25, the Governing Board of the Grossmont Union High School District adopted Map Option #1, as the next step toward changing the trustee election process from an at large system to the establishment of trustee areas. This responds to the changing demographics of East County and reduces our legal exposure. 

The Governing Board also voted unanimously to seek a waiver from the California Department of Education of the formal requirement that the change of a school district’s electoral system be submitted to the voters for approval before it may be implemented. The election requirement, if not waived, would prevent GUHSD from implementing new trustee areas for November 2016, thereby subjecting the District to the very litigation we seek to avoid by making these changes. The State Board has granted hundreds of waivers of this requirement over the past few years for this very reason. 

The San Diego County Committee on School District Organization will now consider the GUHSD plan, including Map Option #1, after conducting Public Hearings in four locations throughout our District. Hearings will be held at 6:00 p.m. on March 17 (La Mesa/Spring Valley School District Board Room); March 28 (East County Regional Education Center - GUHSD Board Room); April 5 (Jamul Intermediate School Library) & April 11 (Lakeside Union School District - Administration Center). The hearing notice with more detailed information is available here.

Additional information regarding this ongoing process (including Map Option #1) is available on the GUHSD website here.

Mount Miguel JROTC Instructor Receives Leadership Award

First Sergeant Brian Bennett Receives Ashford Leadership Award
At the Governing Board meeting last night, Mount Miguel High School’s JROTC Color Guard presented the colors. Following a presentation of school highlights by Principal Dr. Kimberlee Hedrick, JROTC Instructor First Sergeant Brian Bennett was presented with the Ashford Leadership Award for his service to the program. He was nominated for the award by me and was presented with a $1,000 check from Jim Bernet of the San Diego Army Advisory Council.

Annual Academic League Spaghetti Dinner

Santana High School Captures Varsity Academic League Championship
Helix Charter High School hosted the 2016 Annual Academic League Awards Dinner on Monday, March 7. 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.

Santana High School’s Varsity and JV teams both completed undefeated seasons, winning their respective League Championships. 

Coaching recognitions went to Valhalla’s Lisa Collins for her years of extraordinary service. Santana’s Brooke Crocker and Becky Short shared Coach of the Year honors. 

Special thanks are extended to Helix Charter for hosting the event, which was enjoyed by so many students and their families that evening.

GUHSD Staff Represented at Educating for Careers Conference

Educating for Careers Conference
GUHSD was well represented at the annual statewide Educating for Careers Conference in Sacramento earlier this week. Superintendent Ralf Swenson joined 54 GUHSD teachers and administrators from eight sites, including a team from Adult Education. GUHSD teams had the opportunity to connect with 2,500 educators, presenters and professionals to share best practices in Career Technical Education, college and career readiness, and Linked Learning.  

Participation was funded through a combination of Carl Perkins grant monies and private funding. The conference included dozens of high-quality breakout sessions covering topics including: Assessment & Accountability, California Partnership Academies Model, Career Pathways Development, Curriculum & Instructional Strategies, Employer & Community Partnerships, Mentor & Internship Programs, Marketing Activities, and Work-Based Learning Opportunities for Students. 

The event conference highlights came from keynote speakers Dr. Eric Mazur and teacher Fredi Lajvardi. Dr. Mazur is an internationally recognized Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University, and Fredi Lajvardi is the inspiration behind the documentary Underwater Dreams and the feature film, Spare Parts.  Both films focus on Fredi's work with a group of at-risk students as they competed against top universities in the area of underwater robotics.

After CTE, Adult Education, Special Education, administrators and academic teachers participated in a variety of workshops, they then came together as a GUHSD team to share insights and discuss next steps for promoting college and career readiness for all students. The major concepts discussed by those at the conference included the use of digital portfolios, how to better market CTE pathways at school sites and in the community, and how to ensure students are truly college ready and career focused. Teams were energized to bring back specific ideas and innovations as CTE pathways continue to gain momentum districtwide.

With major funding increases for CTE from the California Department of Education, and a growing demand for college and career-ready students, the Educating for Career Conference was a unique opportunity for GUHSD teams to connect, collaborate and challenge themselves to meet the diverse needs of students today and be prepared for the changing needs of the GUHSD students of tomorrow.

Dave Langston Named Fourth Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee

Dave Langston Honored as 4th Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee
At the Governing Board meeting on Thursday, March 10, Dave Langston was recognized as the Fourth Quarter Outstanding Classified Employee of 2015-2016. Dave has served the Grossmont District as a Swimming Pool Technician for over 34 years. He is recognized for his expertise in repairing and maintaining the District's pools, troubleshooting mechanical problems and mentoring new technicians.  

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

Superintendent Ralf Swenson

Monday, March 7, 2016

What's New in GUHSD

This year GUHSD’s Career Technical Education (CTE) program has expanded by leaps and bounds. With 40 pathways and 55 CTE courses representing 13 industry sectors districtwide, CTE has offerings for every student. CTE is not only providing rigorous academic and technical skills, but is also preparing students for further education and the workplace. 

This work-based learning program offers industry tours, guest speakers, industry advisors, job shadows, community service, and student participation in regional and national competitions. Additionally, industry level certifications, meeting A-G requirements at UC/CSU, and articulation credit is available through GCCCD. Check out CTE at and click here to view our recent accomplishments.

GUHSD Students Attend San Diego Hospitality Student Conference

El Cajon Valley Students Dressed for Success at the Hospitality Student Conference
On Thursday, February 18, El Cajon Valley and Mount Miguel High Schools were among 11 schools countywide participating in the Hospitality Student Conference. The conference was held downtown at Golden Hall. Students also toured the Omni Hotel and Donovan's Steakhouse to learn about the booming career opportunities in the hospitality sector in San Diego. The event also included insights from guest speakers Sam the Cooking Guy, as well as GUHSD’s CTE Work-Based Learning Specialist, Jeff Wood.  

Students spent the day experiencing a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be successful in the fast-growing hospitality industry. Throughout the day, students also visited with industry professionals to learn about the challenges of their profession and the growing demand for the unique skills associated with the hospitality industry. Our students from El Cajon Valley and Mount Miguel came away with a perspective few high school students experience.

GUHSD Pre-Veterinary Students Visit Health Occupations Center

Pre-Vet Students at GUHSD's Health Occupations Center
More than 20 pre-veterinary Health Careers Pathway students from across the district joined the Veterinarian Assistant class at GUHSD’s Health Occupations Center (HOC) on February 18 to learn from practicing veterinarian, Dr. Ortega. Students learned about college programs in vet and animal science, gained insight about the field and were exposed to the many careers available in this industry. 

Students and their families asked questions of practitioners in the field, teachers and current vet assistant students related to the field of vet science. HOC Director Carol Otjens, a former animal trainer at the San Diego Zoo and registered vet tech, was also present to share her unique perspective.  

Santana Teacher Jason Kay Named CTE Gold Apple Winner 

Santana Teacher Jason Kay with Students
Santana teacher Jason Kay was selected as the 2016 CTE Golden Apple award winner for his leadership with the CTE engineering courses.  Mr. Kay's dedication to his students, positive approach to teaching, and his innovative lessons have helped make the pathway an important part of student success at Santana High School.

He teaches two levels of engineering including Introduction to Design and Principles of Engineering. In these classes, students work both with computer-aided design platforms and hands-on tools to design and engineer projects.  From concept to design to production, students engage in the kind of learning that blends skills from other subjects in a seamless and meaningful way.  It takes a special kind of teacher to make this pathway accessible to students, and Jason Kay uses his special talents every day to bring rigorous and relevant education to our District.

Superintendent Ralf Swenson