Friday, June 17, 2016

Superintendent's Farewell Message

As I began my time as superintendent of the Grossmont District in 2010, I published an introduction to the school community that described GUHSD as ". . . one of the most widely respected and historically rich districts in California." That statement is still true. During my six years as superintendent I have been witness to the rich learning experiences of our students, the dedication and tireless commitment of our teachers, and the broad base of support offered by our East County community.  

Together we have faced a number of challenges, not the least of which were the economic recession and a pattern of declining enrollment. We made a series of difficult decisions to respond to those challenges, and through it all, our schools continue to improve their academic performances and sustain their place as true sources of pride to the communities they serve. A thorough review of the ongoing successes and numerous recognitions received by our schools confirms that the Grossmont Union High School District is among the finest in California.

Our Governing Board has stayed committed to providing the very best for our students and staff. They asked me to work with our teachers and staff members to increase rigor, expand educational options, and provide opportunities for our students to achieve even higher levels of success – and we have been successful in doing so. Our Board has also been steadfast in its commitment to keeping our campuses safe and maintaining a clean and orderly learning environment. Their support of the incredible facility improvements made possible through our Proposition H/U school bond program has touched every campus. 

I will retire on July 1, marking the end of my 39-year career in public education. I began as a social studies teacher and football coach in a small school in North Dakota, came to California in 1989 to become a vice principal and then a principal, spent three years as a superintendent in Northern California, and these past six years as the proud superintendent of this great school district.  

I extend my sincere gratitude to all of you. I have truly enjoyed my time with Grossmont and am confident that even greater accomplishments lie ahead for our schools. Please click here to review a document entitled Looking Forward. It provides a summary of where we are at this point in time and outlines some of our ongoing initiatives that will help to shape an even brighter future. 

As a reminder, classes resume on August 15.

Ralf Swenson

Friday, June 10, 2016

What's New in GUHSD

2015-16 Gold Star Parent Volunteers Recognized

GUHSD Gold Star Parent Volunteers for the 2015-16 School Year
At the Governing Board meeting last night we honored Gold Star Parent Volunteers. The Gold Star Parent Volunteers program was developed in 2011 to recognize a parent from each school site who goes above and beyond to assist our schools in a variety of different ways.

It was wonderful to hear the stories of service to our schools as each principal introduced their Gold Star Volunteer. We thank you for your efforts on behalf of our students.

2015-16 GUHSD Gold Star Parent Volunteers:

Chaparral High School – Tangerine Risberg

El Cajon Valley High School – Abraham Muheize

El Capitan High School – Yvonne George

Granite Hills High School – Corrie Shein

Grossmont High School – Wella Campbell

IDEA Center – Charity Lacey

Monte Vista High School – Nanette Rojas

Mount Miguel High School – Deborah Childers

Santana High School – Kim Whitacre

Valhalla High School – Heide Doss

West Hills High School – Melissa Smith

Santana Students Ace Mentorship Program 

Santana High School's ACE Team
Santana's Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (ACE) mentorship is a year-long after school program where any student interested in pursuing a career in the STEM field can participate. Students who participate develop a mock design that would benefit the community.  Mentors from industry visit with the students once every two weeks to help guide the students with their design, ensuring that the students take everything into account when managing a public works project.  At the end of each year, schools from around San Diego present their designs to architects, engineers, and contractors from industry.  

This year's ACE banquet was held at San Diego State University on Saturday, May 21. The Santana ACE team's design for this year was a Green Shores Energy Research Center, which would be built next to the lagoon in Carlsbad.  

This research center would be available to the public, businesses, schools, colleges, and universities to conduct research on sustainable energies. The overall design must include detailed site, floor, and landscape plans, architectural concepts, environmental impact, schedule, and cost. Tristan Glunt, Alejo Favero, Pierce Howell, Andrew Pelowitz, Zack Strange, Cole Stromberg, Brandan Taing, Sophia Stepp, Diego Gomez, and Daniel Wilcox all participated in the presentation. 

Following the presentations, members from industry award scholarships to individuals based on academics, professionalism, and commitment throughout the year.  This year Santana students were awarded $12,500 in scholarships, the most of any of the other schools that presented this year.

GUHSD Students Receive COX Cares Scholarships

2016 COX Scholars Kayla Peters, Jessica Board & Kira Bunker
On Wednesday, June 8, I attended the Cox Scholars Awards Luncheon. The Cox Scholars Program rewards academic excellence and personal perseverance by granting scholarships to graduating high school seniors. Scholarship recipients were chosen from hundreds of applicants based on their personal commitment to scholastic achievement and community involvement.  

The following Cox Scholars from the Grossmont Union High School District will receive scholarships to attend a California college or university of their choice:  

Hannah Romano – Steele Canyon Charter High School
Dakota Betz – West Hills High School
Kira Bunker – Mount Miguel High School
Jessica Board – El Capitan High School
Kayla Peters – Grossmont Middle College High School

First Annual GUHSD Health Career Pathways Awards and Student Expo

Health Pathway students from Granite Hills. Credit: Kendall Lowry
On Wednesday, June 1, health career pathway students from across the district were recognized and celebrated at the First Annual GUHSD Health Career Pathways Awards and Student Expo. Preceding the awards ceremony, which took place in Grossmont College’s prestigious Griffin Gate, student leaders showcased their unique programs for administrators, teachers, families and the Grossmont Healthcare District at the Student Expo. 

Following inspirational speeches from successful health career pathway alumni, GUHSD health career pathway seniors were recognized for successfully completing their programs of study by both our pathways' program and by Senator Joel Anderson's office. 94% of our health career pathway Seniors reported they will be attending college or university in the fall, and the majority have committed to pre-med, pre-health or science programs in colleges and universities across the country ranging from North Carolina, Tennessee, Iowa, Utah, and Arizona to dozens of schools here in California.

GUHSD’s Health Career Pathways have grown from a three-school, 200-student program in 2005, to a six-school, 2,000+ student program eleven years later. Now, nearly one in ten GUHSD students are enrolled in a health career pathway, affording these students the opportunity to connect their science curriculum to real-world learning experiences through participation in a plethora of work-based learning opportunities ranging from guest speakers to intensive hospital internship programs. These students will be prepared to make up our healthcare workforce in the future thanks to the generous support of the Grossmont Healthcare District and industry partners.

Santana Holds Academy Awards Recognition Event 

Academy Awards Night at Santana
On Thursday, June 9, Santana teacher Charles Zepf’s Arts, Media and Entertainment (AME) pathway students filmed their Academy Awards Program. Award categories mirrored those in the film and entertainment industry today, such as Best Script Writer and Best Sound Editing. 

Awards were also presented for Santana’s news broadcasting program, including Best Male and Female News Anchor and Best News Team. Each category included the memorable lines "May I have the envelope please..." and "The winner is..." This program recognized student achievement in a fun and entertaining format.

Mount Miguel Academy of Medical and Health Sciences Graduates

Mount Miguel Academy of Medical & Health Sciences Graduates. Credit: Gonzolo Leon
The Mount Miguel High School Academy of Medical and Health Sciences will graduate 15 students this year. These students completed extensive community service, and participated in a job shadow, hospital internship or hospital volunteer program. These dedicated health career pathway students were recognized for their achievements at a ceremony on Tuesday, June 7. 

\All of these students will be enrolled in science, nursing and pre-med programs next fall at: Grossmont College, Southwestern College, CSU San Marcos, USD, UCSD and UCLA. Best of luck to each of them as they journey toward their careers in health and medicine.

Monte Vista Students Reel in New Skills

Monte Vista student beams after reeling in a fish
Monte Vista Automotive Pathway students attended their third and final fishing trip for the year. It was a beautiful day with calm seas and no breeze with the morning fog burning off during the boat ride back to shore. A total of five students caught 12 bass and five mackerel. They had a fantastic time and realized that their teacher Mr. Fleming knows much more than just auto shop. This is the fourth year of fishing trips for the automotive pathway, and Mr. Fleming is unbeaten in catching the first fish of the trip. Each student took home about 1 1/2 lbs. of fish for dinner!

Summer Classes for Graduates at Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges

Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges are offering more than 400 classes this summer, the biggest summer ever at the two East County colleges. If you’re graduating from high school this spring, taking a class at Grossmont or Cuyamaca College is a great way to get a taste of college and earn some extra credits.

Classes begin June 13, and four-, six- and eight-week classes are available, in addition to online courses. For students wanting to learn how to be successful in college, both campuses are offering College and Career Success (COUN-120) in class and online, teaching study skills such as note-taking, listening to lectures, managing time, studying for tests and improving memory. Also covered are topics such as stress management and discovering motivations and personal strengths.

Go to to apply and register.


In closing, the end of another school year is fast approaching as final exams are underway and commencement exercises conclude next week. I extend congratulations to the Class of 2016 and their families. We trust our students leave us prepared for a great future and with many fond memories of their educational experience.

Following is a number of student recognitions, primarily from last night's Governing Board meeting, showcasing academic achievements and athletic accomplishments of our talented students:

Recognition of El Cajon Valley Gates Millennium Scholars Jeffrey Rodriguez & Gustavo de Santiago

Recognition of Granite Hills Boy Baseball Team - CIF-SDS Div. I Champions

Recognition of Grossmont Girls Softball Team - CIF-SDS Div. III Champions

Recognition of West Hills Girls Gymnastics Team - CIF-SDS Champions

Recognition of outgoing Student Board Representative Jayden Anderson

Recognition of Golden Artistry Jewelry Designs Competition winners with Terry Whyte

Recognition of CTE Student Ambassadors

Grossmont NJROTC marches in the La Mesa Flag Day parade

Adult School students earn high school equivalency certificates at the East County Transitional Living Center

Superintendent's Art Award winner Samantha Ryan (West Hills)

Friday, June 3, 2016

2016 Graduation Information

Helix Charter's Class of 2016 Celebrates on June 2. Credit: Dianne Damschen
Throughout June, approximately 4,696 students earning a high school diploma from nine comprehensive high schools, two charter high schools and three alternative high schools in the Grossmont Union High School District will be donning caps and gowns for commencement exercises.

The breakdown includes: 

2016 Graduates
El Cajon Valley
El Capitan
Granite Hills
Helix Charter
Monte Vista
Mount Miguel
Steele Canyon
West Hills
Grossmont Middle College High
Alternative & Special Education
Adult School

Following is a schedule of graduation dates, times, locations, listing of valedictorians and salutatorians by school, and a list of the valedictorians including parent names and communities. 

Graduation Schedule

SCHOOL                                                     Date                                       Time          Location

El Cajon Valley High School                       Wednesday, June 15                  6:00 p.m.   Stadium

El Capitan High School                               Wednesday, June 15                  6:00 p.m.  Stadium 

Granite Hills High School                            Thursday, June 16                      8:00 a.m.   Stadium

Grossmont High School                              Thursday, June 16                    10:00 a.m.   Stadium

Helix Charter High School                           Thursday, June 2                       6:00 p.m.   Stadium

Monte Vista High School                             Thursday, June 16                     6:00 p.m.   Stadium

Mount Miguel High School                          Thursday, June 16                      6:00 p.m.   Stadium

Santana High School                                  Wednesday, June 15                  6:00 p.m.   Stadium

Steele Canyon High School                        Wednesday, June 8                   6:00 p.m.   Stadium

Valhalla High School                                    Thursday, June 15                     5:30 p.m.  East Lawn

West Hills High School                                Thursday, June 16                     8:30 a.m.   Stadium

IDEA Center                                                Friday, June 10                          6:00 p.m.   Outdoor Quad

Grossmont Middle College                          Monday, June 6                          5:30 p.m.   Grossmont College Quad

Adult Education                                           Tuesday, June 14                       6:00 p.m.   Foothills Adult School

REACH                                                       Wednesday, June 15               10:00 a.m.   REACH Facility

ELITE Academy                                          Wednesday, June 15                 2:00 p.m.   ELITE Facility

MERIT Academy                                         Tuesday, June 14                      1:00 p.m.   MERIT Facility


The Grossmont Union High School District has announced the names of the valedictorians for the senior class of 2016. Twenty-two students have attained this high honor. The student names, parent names and communities, and schools are as follows:


El Cajon Valley High School

Jeffrey Rodriguez

Marybelt Montoya

El Cajon

El Capitan High School

Cameron Gritz

Mr. & Mrs. Eric Gritz


Granite Hills High School

Gillian Wedge
Joseph Miller
Braxton Silva
Dana Bakke

Mr. & Mrs. Dale Wedge
Mr. & Mrs. Douglas Miller
Mr. & Mrs. Brad Silva
Mr. & Mrs. Victor Bakke

El Cajon
El Cajon

Grossmont High School

Bradley Justice

Mr. & Mrs. Scott Justice

El Cajon

Helix Charter High School

Navin Pot
Spencer Pham
Filemoni Filemoni                
Julia Ryan                         
Rachel Orey

Navy Pot & Bunheng Phann
Cuong Pham & Belinda Ho
Mr. & Mrs. Simeaola Filemoni
Mr. & Mrs. Peter Ryan
Mr. & Mrs. Carl Orey                                                   

La Mesa
La Mesa
Lemon Grove
La Mesa
Spring Valley

Monte Vista High School

Tyler Lopez

Mr. & Mrs. Tom Lopez

Spring Valley

Mount Miguel High School

Michelle N. Tran

Mr & Mrs. Michael Tran

Lemon Grove

Santana High School

Catelyn Renna
Jordan Tockstein

Mr. Morris Renna & Mrs. Cheryl Bowden-Renna
Mr. & Mrs. Chuck Tockstein                    

El Cajon

Steele Canyon High School

Jerin Brust

Mr. & Mrs. Jason Brust

El Cajon

Valhalla High School

Lucas Walz

Mr. & Mrs. John Walz

El Cajon

West Hills High School

Lily Demangos
Iris Hinh
Carrie Sanders

Mr. & Mrs. Matthew Demangos
Mr. & Mrs. Thuan Hinh
Mr. & Mrs. James Sanders

San Diego

Grossmont Middle College

Ruvarashe Mubaiwa

Idzai & Hannington Mubaiwa

El Cajon


El Cajon Valley High School
326 Graduates (including 4 January grads)

Valedictorian:     Jeffrey Rodriguez – 4.69

Salutatorian:       Denisse Aparicio – 4.674

El Capitan High School
321 Graduates
Valedictorian:     Cameron Gritz – 4.854

Salutatorians:     Marjaa Tiffany Manuel – 4.795
                             Milena Kufa – 4.718

Granite Hills High School
510 Graduates (including 1 January grad)

Valedictorians:   Gillian Wedge – 4.864
                            Joseph Miller – 4.833
                            Braxton Silva – 4.792
                            Dana Bakke – 4.741

Salutatorian:       none

Grossmont High School
468 Graduates

Valedictorian:     Bradley Justice – 4.833

Salutatorians:     Antonina Contreras – 4.786
                             Mattelyn Wadley – 4.780

Helix Charter High School
485 Graduates (including 5 January grads)

Valedictorians:   Navin Pot – 4.78
                            Spencer Pham – 4.74
                            Filemoni Filemoni – 4.73
                            Julia Ryan – 4.69
                            Rachel Orey – 4.65
Salutatorian:       none

Monte Vista High School
347 Graduates (including 2 January grads)

Valedictorian:     Tyler Lopez – 4.786

Salutatorian:     Ursula Victorino Gomez – 4.721

Mount Miguel High School
253 Graduates

Valedictorian:     Michelle N. Tran – 4.711

Salutatorian:     Breanna Camille San Jose Cayabyab – 4.652

Santana High School
299 Graduates

Valedictorians:  Catelyn Renna – 4.76
                           Jordan Tockstein – 4.75
Salutatorian:       Sophia Stepp – 4.738

Steele Canyon High School
502 Graduates (including 18 January grads)

Valedictorian:     Jerin Brust – 4.711
Salutatorians:     Kenneth Lautner – 4.702
                             Lindsey Snyder – 4.683
                             Mariah Chappell – 4.674

Valhalla High School
445 Graduates

Valedictorian:     Lucas Walz – 4.864
Salutatorians:     Tyler Davis – 4.75
                             Anthony Bajoua – 4.729

West Hills High School
512 Graduates (including 1 January grad)

Valedictorians:   Lily Demangos – 4.762
                            Carrie Sanders – 4.725
                            Iris Hinh – 4.714
Salutatorian:       none

Grossmont Middle College High School
35 Graduates

Valedictorian:     Ruvarashe Mubaiwa – 4.582
Salutatorians:     Vincent Rafael Seguin – 4.569
                             Abraham Cabral – 4.56

Alternative Education & Special Education
106 Graduates

Grossmont Foothills Adult School
87 Graduates