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By Lindsay Mineo


Last November, after three and a half years as Assistant Principal, Benjie Walker was named Principal of Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts. As she’s getting started in her new role, we checked in to see how things are going, what she’s most excited about this year, and where she sees Vista Academy in the long run.


Principal Walker came to Vista Academy during the second year of the school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) candidacy process. In her first role as Assistant Principal, she jumped right into the IB coursework with the teachers and even created her own teaching unit using the IB method. She saw how passionate and hardworking the teachers and the rest of the staff were, and was excited to be in the trenches with them. 


When the previous principal, Mrs. Hancock, moved on to a new position, Walker was very excited for the opportunity. “The school community was so supportive of me being the new principal,” says Walker. “I had already experienced a lot of the tasks required of a principal, but I am still very much learning my new role. There’s a lot to take on, but I feel so supported and that it was meant to be.” Hanging on her door is a sign with the phrase, “do what you love and love what you do.” She feels she is truly living this sentiment as principal, being out there every day with students and teachers and cheering them on.


Principal Walker’s philosophy is that it’s important as a leader to know where the school has been and where the school is going. Her number one goal is to maintain the momentum that was already in place and continue to make the transition to her leadership as seamless as possible. “When you have an outstanding program being developed, you want to keep it going,” she says. “I want everyone to know I’m here to support and listen to them and to put our students at the center.” Like all teachers and staff at Vista Academy, Walker is determined to make decisions that are in the best interest of all students.


What can we look forward to from Principal Walker? She wants the IB, arts-integrated program to be maintained and bloom for years to come. She’s proud to be principal and excited to see what’s possible for the Vista Academy school community in the future. IB is a constantly evolving and growing program, and Vista Academy will be there to meet the needs of all students.


Principal Benjie Walker at VAPA
Principal Walker high-fives a student at Vista Academy.


At the same time that Walker was named principal, a new assistant principal was named: Melanie Paliotti. Paliotti has been an educator for 20 years and has experience in a variety of grade levels and settings. She is also involved in the IB community and teaches IB coursework at the university level at CSUSM. Paliotti taught teachers at Vista Academy, Casita Center and Vista Magnet Middle School courses culminating in the official IB certificate in Teaching and Learning. During this process, she quickly fell in love with the Vista Academy community, the school’s philosophy, and the passion of the students and teachers. Paliotti was thrilled to become Vista Academy’s IB Magnet Coordinator. She attended every collaboration and helped teachers through the IB candidacy process. “I was like the bee that pollinates,” she says. “I’d fly from one grade level to the next to help teachers improve instructional plans and outcomes and to align the curriculum.” 


Together with Walker, Paliotti worked with the prior principal, and she was happy to move into the assistant principal role after Walker became principal. One of the primary benefits of this move is that the school is able to maintain consistent leadership. It takes time to build relationships with teachers, staff, and parents.


So what’s Assistant Principal Paliotti’s leadership style? “I believe my role is to be a servant leader,” she says. “I am ready and willing to roll up my sleeves and do what needs to be done to help teachers make the magic happen for their students. I’ll do whatever it takes: set up tables and chairs, clean up after events, plan and collaborate with teachers - anything to give back to my community and move our program forward.”


Paliotti has never seen a group of teachers more dedicated and passionate about what they do at any level and in any of the states she’s worked in. “They love what they do,” she says. “You feel it when you walk on campus.” She loves to give tours and share the dynamic program with visitors to the campus. “It’s an honor and privilege to be among such passion.”


For both Walker and Paliotti, it’s not about the titles. They believe principals and assistant principals are educators, like the teachers, and they are here to support the students, staff, and the community. Walker and Paliotti want to encourage teachers to take risks and try new strategies. They believe that it’s OK if something doesn’t work because that’s how students, and teachers, learn. Both Paliotti and Walker want the teachers to feel comfortable being open and sharing what they’re trying. “We’re more than willing to jump in, brainstorm, and have that open conversation with our staff. This high level of collaboration is what makes Vista Academy’s program flourish!”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/26/18

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Special education classrooms can be limiting in the sense that they don’t always allow students with special needs to interact with their general education peers. One school, however, is changing that. In a recent WAVEpod episode, Rachel Schmidt, Principal of California Avenue Elementary School in Vista Unified School District, spoke about why her school and her students are so great.


California Avenue Elementary School is a comprehensive, fully integrated preschool and elementary school for children with special needs and general education students. Principal Schmidt could not be more proud of what her school accomplishes. “I am so blessed to be the site leader here. I work with a remarkable group of staff members, parents, and children, and we’re very fortunate to be able to make such a difference in their lives each and every day.”


California Avenue Elementary - home of the cubs

California Avenue Elementary has drawn rave reviews from students and parents. Students with special needs share classrooms with students in general education, and over the last several years the number of general education students has increased. All students receive the education they need to move into kindergarten, thanks to the district equipping each classroom with developmentally appropriate preschool technology and implementing a comprehensive preschool curriculum that is aligned with the state’s standards. 


California Avenue is comprehensive not only because there are general education and special education students in the same classroom, but also because students have access to a full range of specialists right on campus. The school shares a building with California Children Services (CCS) Medical Therapy Unit. Available specialists include speech and language pathologists, adaptive PE teachers, and occupational and physical therapists. Schmidt believes this is a benefit that sets California Avenue apart since “other districts around us don’t have that comprehensive center. Instead they have their students on elementary campuses where the provision of services looks very different.” 


Celebrating student growth

California Avenue’s philosophy is “never say never”. Students have, for example, arrived being nonverbal, with their doctors cautioning that they may never talk. But because the students are so young, teachers assume the best and set high expectations. Parents tend to be pleasantly surprised with the progress their children make under the right circumstances and with early intervention. Principal Schmidt is proud of her staff and her students. “We celebrate successes all the time,” she says. 


Kids in a wagon at California Avenue

Early intervention is critical. “We made quite an effort to bring more general education peers to California Avenue because we know that children with delays need to be in the least restrictive environment possible,” says Schmidt. “This means being with their general education peers.” 


The benefits to students is clear. Children with special needs are in classes with peers who are age appropriate in verbal, social and play skills, who can be a model to the students with delays. 


And some of the most significant benefits are to the general education students. There’s no better proof of the character development of California Avenue students than the kindergarten teachers at other schools, who can tell which students are coming from California Avenue because of their social/emotional skills and their overall readiness for kindergarten. 


Principal Schmidt says, “General education students leave this program kinder, more patient, more gentle, and with a lifelong perspective of inclusion and being comfortable around individuals that they meet with special needs.” Teachers are actively creating more empathetic and compassionate students, who will carry that empathy for others to kindergarten and, hopefully, through their whole lives. The integrative programs at California Avenue are a win-win for all students.


The California Avenue Community

California Avenue hosts parents on campus on a regular basis. There are trainings, tours, teacher meetings, and other events that help the school have a community feel. Parents are comfortable on campus. 


Swimming in a therapy pool at California Avenue Elementary

There are a number of other features that make California Avenue an optimal pre-school environment. One of the most unique is the indoor therapy pool at the neighboring Mary Lou Clack Center. An aquatic specialist, who is also a lifeguard, is on staff so that kids can swim in their adaptive PE classes. (Though the pool is at California Avenue, it’s open to all students in Vista Unified. There is even a monthly family day at the pool!) 


In addition to the therapy pool, there are three different sensory rooms, a K9 companion program that brings in therapy dogs (unsurprisingly, it’s a huge hit), and a student computer lab. Schmidt says, “We’ve been able to maintain a model preschool for our North County community.”


Anyone who is interested in California Avenue is welcome to schedule a visit. Tours are conducted regularly, and the teachers are comfortable having observers in the classroom. Just talk to Principal Schmidt and she’ll be happy to escort you around the campus.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/16/18

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Two individuals in the Vista Unified community have recently donated close to $600 to help clear outstanding meal accounts for students at three Vista Unified Schools: Beaumont, Maryland and Olive elementary schools.


One donation arrived just before the winter holiday, while the other occured at the end of February. Both are no doubt meaningful gifts to the families impacted.


The first gift, by an anonymous individual in Vista, helped clear outstanding meal accounts for 67 students at the three Vista Unified schools.


The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, had heard of similar generosity in other parts of the country and decided that she wanted to do something similar. "It was my pleasure to give a gift that will have an impact on our students,” said the donor. "I read about the idea on social media and I thought, 'what a great idea!”



Fox 5 News visited Olive Elementary School to learn more about the story. Click on the image to watch the story.


The second gift was made by Beaumont Elementary school aide Isabel Xochihua on her last day of work before taking time off due to a recurring cancer battle. Xochihua explained that she wanted to do something to help children whose families may be having a difficult time getting caught up. She  is described by her coworkers as having “a heart of gold.”



"Imagine our surprise when we had a donor offer to pay the negative balances for our students,” says Maryland Elementary Principal Carol McKane. “What a wonderful way to support the students at Maryland and make an impact in their lives. We don't always think about the things that may be affecting families, such as a negative food balance. To know that this is off their plate is a relief for them."



Click the image to read the story in The Vista Press.


While Vista Unified serves more than 13,000 students as part of the national Free & Reduced Price Meals program, there are children whose families encounter financial difficulties and fall behind in their payment for school meals. These delinquent accounts have added up to an annual shortfall of close to $15,000 that the district is required to pay out of its general fund.


“Any time a student’s account becomes delinquent we attempt to contact their family,” says VUSD Director of Child Nutrition Services Jamie Phillips. “We realize that people sometimes  aren’t aware of their account’s status, and sometimes families just need to know that they have options. We will work with any family to design a plan to help them get caught up. It’s our goal to find solutions and work together with the families we serve, and we want families to know that we are here to help.”


Phillips adds that students whose accounts are delinquent are never singled out or identified in any way, and that communication happens between the school district and parents / families.


Olive Elementary Principal Stephanie Vasquez adds, “It’s truly a generous gift. Being able to share with a family the good news that a lingering debt has been paid sends a positive message that their child’s success matters. It’s what living in a thoughtful and caring community is all about.”


Click image to read about the story in Patch.


“School meals continue to be a vital component of ensuring the nutritional health of our children,“ says VUSD’s  Amy Haessly, a Registered Dietitian and the district’s Nutrition Education & Training Supervisor. “And with the work of our Farm To School program to source more and more local foods, we also see that schools are places that offer equal access to fresh, even organic, fruits and vegetables and nutrient-dense foods.”


All parties agree that the donors exemplify the generous spirit of the Vista Unified community and its expression by the district: WAVE, meaning We Are Vista Every Day.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/14/18

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For Mission Vista High School Principal Nicole Miller, change and innovation are as baked in to the school’s culture as a commitment to develop critical thinkers with strong foundational learning skills.


"We place a high value on intellectual curiosity, and also in developing self-directed learners. Students can fill their schedules based on their interests and values, and at the same time, all of the classes are reinforcing core skills of language, literacy and numeracy.”


The school, in just its ninth year, models those values for its students by cultivating a staff and culture that lives out those values. In preparing for the 2017-18 school year, the staff realized that the vision, mission and values that the school was founded on had shifted as teaching, learning, and understanding how to do both had shifted. The staff began a process of re-evaluating and defining those components.


“As we created various learning pathways for students, we realized that those same pathways were the things that we valued most as a staff,” says Mrs. Miller. “In order to go through that process you have to be very intentional, and we have teachers that are challenging themselves to do it.”


The pathways that the team designed are Discovery, Innovation, and Growth. The class structure allows for students to explore various academic disciplines deeply (as evidenced by the four levels of computer science offered as just one example), or broadly, by taking advantage of the wide range of elective classes across a range of disciplines.


At first, the word, “elective” was somewhat loaded to Mrs. Miller and her team. She explains, “we don’t like to use the term elective because that can imply that they’re not as rigorous as traditional classes, but our classes are just as rigorous, and sometimes even more rigorous than traditional classes.”


An example of this that has become high profile at the school is the class, "The Sociopolitical History of Rock & Roll,” which is a US history class that explores the 1950s through to modern times, using music and cultural trends as a reference point.


Developed by a MVHS teacher in collaboration with a professor at Cal State San Marcos, students quickly learned that what seemed like a lightweight approach to history was anything but. In fact, students began to take the class before the AP History class, seeing that the rigor of Rock & Roll prepared them better for the AP class.


Mrs. Miller explains the reasoning for the swap in sequence of the history classes. “Students who take that class [The Sociopolitical History of Rock & Roll] score higher on the AP exam, because they’ve really dug deeply into the history and truly understand it.”


Teachers aren’t the only ones to innovate, as the school hosts an official TEDx club that was started by a first year student during the 2015-16 school year. who wanted to do the event. Says Mrs. Miller, “The student had 2 teachers willing to help, and together they created a club and produced an event that year; we did the event last year as well, and are working on this year. We have incredible kids doing amazing things, and the beauty of MVHS is being able to say ‘Yes' a lot.”


Mission Vista staff have regular collaboration time, which extends beyond individual departments, as one of the staff’s goals is that every classroom has relevancy in the world and is not limited to that classroom, but connects to something else on campus. That time is teacher-led, which thrills Mrs. Miller. "It’s much more effective when it’s teachers guiding each other and not coming from a Principal.”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/6/18

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Pride isn’t just a feeling or a slogan at Roosevelt Middle School, it represents the foundational principles of the school and the path for students. Says the school’s new Principal Heather Golly, "At Roosevelt Middle, we have P.R.I.D.E., which means that we value Personal Learning, Relationships, Ingenuity, Development of Character, and Exploration.


This PRIDE Promise Statement communicates our mission to provide a safe, nurturing learning environment in which students feel welcomed and supported to succeed in school and in life.”


Mrs. Golly joins the school, which has a rich history of academic performance and inclusion of the arts, at a time when Roosevelt is taking its next step, implementing a new learning model called Artful Learning.


Roosevelt is one of just 17 schools in the country to adopt the Artful Learning model, which was founded by American music icon Leonard Bernstein, to strengthen education by preparing educators to use the Arts and the artistic process to learn across all academic subjects.


Bernstein had a vision that music and other fine and performing arts – in combination with a concept-based, interdisciplinary construct – could be used to improve academic achievement and instill a love of learning in students.


Implementing this approach is a three year process. As for how it affects students on a daily basis, Mrs. Golly says, "Our students engage in hands-on learning through arts-based skills and strategies in all of their subject area classes.


This spring, they will experience a cross-curricular unit of study incorporating project-based learning following the Artful Learning Model in every Pride team on campus.” Mrs. Golly is particularly excited about the ways that students are able to craft their learning paths. "Students will exercise voice and choice in developing a unique product of their choosing during this Artful Learning Unit of Study.”


And just as students are working with this new model, so are teachers. Explains Mrs. Golly, "Teachers are co-planning and collaborating in their Prides to develop this cross-curricular unit of study. They are experimenting with the infusion of arts based skills and strategies and working with our Artful Learning consultants to ensure successful delivery of their unit. And as part of this unit, they are developing Inquiry Centers that will help the students experience, inquire, create, and reflect as part of their Artful Learning sequence.”


The Artful Learning model is seen as an extension of one of Roosevelt’s core strengths through the years. “We have a strong tradition of spectacular arts-based programs,” says Mrs. Golly. "Artful Learning complements this tradition and is helping us to enhance our strengths and increase student engagement and motivation for learning.”


With pride for its history and P.R.I.D.E. guiding its path forward, Roosevelt Middle School is no doubt building on a strong foundation and rich guiding principles to carry it forward through the 21st century.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/1/18

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by Michelle Sybert


“Our students are thinking big, to what issues are impacting people worldwide, and how they fit into that global context,” says Steve Post, the principal of Vista Magnet Middle School. Post recently sat down for an interview to talk about the International Baccalaureate program at VMMS and how global citizenship plays a vital role in student education.


As a magnet school serving children in grades six through eight, VMMS offers a dedicated program centered on a specific academic focus area and offers specialized instruction in that area. For VMMS, the area of focus is STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.


Vista Magnet is also an International Baccalaureate school. “We are one of only a few thousand schools worldwide who use the IB curriculum and model to design our school,” proudly shares Principal Post. The curriculum is rigorous and expectations for student global citizenship are high.


Fostering community service, participating in service projects, giving back, and cultivating a global mindset culture play an integral role in each student’s education. The combination of STEM and IB creates a dynamic education for each student.


Global citizenship is part of every class at Vista Magnet. As such, students are encouraged to think beyond themselves, beyond their local communities, and consider the issues that are impacting the world and how they fit into the larger narrative. Students utilize the IB curriculum to connect to other parts of the world whether it’s through science and technological innovation or cultural and personal expression.


“It grounds their work in a real world context,” says Post.


Teachers receive dedicated team curriculum and lesson planning time every day. They work together to design lessons that have a global and real world context, and are essential in guiding, encouraging and preparing each child with the tools they need to reach their educational goals.


“Our curriculum works in global events, global realities, learning about different cultures, and diverse ways of life,” shares Post. “Many of these lessons have service built into them, so there are service projects where students can then take action based on their learning.”


“We’ve had connections with groups in other countries where we’ve done donations, or created artwork, and even done webcasts with other school and other cultures across the world,” elaborates Post.


The school consistently brings global impact straight to the classroom. Last year the school was able to have webcasts with both Peru and Pakistan. They also hosted a group of international exchange students from China. Fourteen students from Shanghai attended Vista Magnet for a full week.


Another inspiring accomplishment has been the ability of Vista Magnet student’s experiments tested out in space on the International Space Station as part of winning a prestigious science competition. They participated and won the competition twice. Real world connections are being made and having a profound impact on the students.


“We make sure student learning is in context and meaningful so they can apply it to their real lives,” says Principal Post. “Our goal is that they take what they have learned and put it into action.”


VMMS students in eighth grade participate in a large year-long individual service project where they take their gifts, interests and learning and put together a community or global project from start to finish. Students are then able to reflect on the impact their project has made.


Post shares that not only does the individual student project make an impact, but collectively Vista Magnet is making a big difference. “It’s amazing to put all of the projects together and see the cumulative impact our students can make,” says Post. “The sky’s the limit for them if they continue on this path.”


When asked if there was one thing he’d like to share about Vista Magnet Middle School he answered with praise. “What I am most proud of are our students. They aren’t afraid to learn deeply. Our students stand out.” When they get to high school he says, the teachers recognize VMMS students in the classroom as being set apart. “They are organized, articulate, well-prepared, and hard-working...It makes me so proud to know that our students are arriving to high school prepared and achieving success. We are going to make sure Vista Magnet continues to lead the way.”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 1/23/18

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Student Support Services Bulletin


DACA Applications for Renewal Are Being Accepted Now – Time Sensitive

January 22, 2018


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has recently announced that the agency is accepting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal applications from certain individuals at this time.


NOTE: USCIS is only accepting requests from individuals who have previously been granted deferred action under DACA.


Any individual who needs to file a DACA renewal application and did not file a renewal application prior to October 5, 2017, should file a renewal application immediately. The Government is seeking a reversal of the recent federal court order. Should the order be reversed, the renewal process will be closed immediately.


Here are the current guidelines for which individuals may renew their DACA application at this time.


1) If your DACA expired on or after September 5, 2017, you may send USCIS DACA renewal applications. This means you must fill out the latest versions of Form I-821D, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-765WS Worksheet.


2) If your DACA expired before September 5, 2017, you must reapply through an initial application. Individuals under this condition must include the expiration date on Part 1 of the Form I-821D.


3) USCIS will not accept any first-time DACA applications. No new or first-time DACA applications will be accepted by USCIS.


4) Requests for advance parole from DACA recipients will not be accepted.


For the official page on the USCIS website, with links to the renewal applications, please click HERE for English version and HERE for Spanish version. Please note that the 2016 dates found in these announcements would appear to be an error, and should read 2017.


Please contact Student Support Services should you have questions.




Boletín del Departamento de Servicios de Apoyo Estudiantil


Se están aceptando renovaciones para DACA - Urgente

22 de enero de 2018


El Servicio de Inmigración y Ciudadanía de Estados Unidos (USCIS, por sus siglas en inglés), que forma parte del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional de Estados Unidos, recién anunció que la agencia volverá a aceptar solicitudes para renovar el permiso de Acción Diferida para los Llegados de Infancia (DACA, por sus siglas en inglés) de determinados solicitantes.


AVISO: El USCIS solamente está aceptando solicitudes de personas a las cuales se le ha previamente concedida la acción diferida bajo DACA.


Las personas quienes necesiten presentar una solicitud de renovación de DACA y no presentaron una solicitud de renovación antes del 5 de octubre de 2017, deberán presentar su solicitud de renovación inmediatamente. El Gobierno está buscando una revocación de la reciente orden judicial federal. Si esta orden es revocada, el proceso de renovación se cerrará inmediatamente.


Estas son las pautas actuales para aquellas personas que deseen renovar ahora su solicitud DACA durante este periodo.


1) Si su DACA caducó en o después del 5 de septiembre de 2017, puede presentar su solicitud de renovación de DACA a USCIS. Esto significa que usted debe completar las últimas versiones del formulario I-821D, el formulario I-765, la solicitud para la autorización de empleo y la hoja de trabajo del formulario I-765 WS.


2) Si su DACA caducó antes del 5 de septiembre de 2017, usted debe volver a solicitar a través de una solicitud inicial. Las personas bajo esta condición deben incluir la fecha de caducidad en Parte 1 del formulario I-821D.


3) El USCIS no aceptará solicitudes de DACA de parte de personas que están solicitando por primera vez. El USCIS no aceptará solicitudes nuevas de DACA o presentadas por primera vez.


4) No se aceptarán las solicitudes de permiso adelantado presentadas por los receptores de DACA.


Favor de hacer clic AQUÍ para visitar la versión en inglés de la página oficial del USCIS, con enlaces a las solicitudes de renovación, para la versión en español favor de hacer clic AQUÍ. Por favor tome en cuenta que las fechas con el año 2016 encontradas en estos anuncios parece ser un error y deberán decir 2017.


Favor de comunicarse con Servicios de Apoyo Estudiantil si usted tiene alguna pregunta.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 1/22/18

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


by Michelle Sybert


“At Olive, we think big and we nurture thinking big,” shares Stephanie Vasquez, principal at Olive Elementary School in Vista.


Olive is living out the model of excellence and innovation as set forth by the Vista Unified School District. The elementary school shares a campus with Vista Academy of Innovation and Design (also known as VIDA). This year, Olive is focusing on many new improvements to its school this year including a shift to a Montessori-inspired method of teaching and learning, the addition of an all day preschool program and updates to the school’s facilities and daily structure.


The updates to the school infrastructure are a labor of love for Olive Elementary. As a community school of 350 students, they know the value of teamwork spurred on by a commitment to their students. “We are a hard working school family here. We care about our school. We care about our kids and we just want to give them our best,” says Principal Vasquez.


Research shows that investments in school in infrastructure pay off. And Olive is  “We have been focused a lot on infrastructure building this year,” says Vasquez.


“One of the things that is new this year is looking at how we collaborate. Creating a voice for students has been a part of that as well as for our teachers. We really want to empower our teachers to be the innovators within education.”


One of the ways the school innovates and empowers is through school schedule. The school is on what’s called a “Team Week” and “Goal Week” schedule. This schedule allows for students to get targeted one-on-one instruction and access to classes in a variety of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) categories.


“Through our personalized learning approach we were able to bring in a STEAM teacher this year,” shares Principal Vasquez. “And that’s a newer position for us here at Olive.” Teaching kids that inquiry-based process is important to Vasquez. Also important is the collaborative professional development for teachers with someone who has a STEM mindset.


The school has a team of educators and staff that bring specialized instruction to the collaborative process. Along with a dedicated STEAM teacher, Olive also has a music instructor, performing and visual arts instructor, a counselor and librarian. So, when they have team week, students are getting opportunities, real world opportunities, with these teachers and teams. They work not only on STEAM themed activities, but also on character-building and digital citizenship.


During that time, their classroom teacher then has time to collaborate with other staff in many different ways. That’s increased time for teachers to plan.


“This brings about time to research best practices and change up our approach to meet the needs of our students,” emphasized Vasquez.


Goals Week then, is a time for teachers to work on individual goals with each student. While students are in their enrichment opportunities, teachers are able to work in small groups and with individual students. Teachers are able to celebrate their student’s successes and also talk about ways to stretch themselves academically and discuss potential challenges a student might have. They are able to empower and inspire kids individually and discover ways for them to continue to grow.


Olive is also improving its physical structures. Last year, they opened up a welcome center in front of the school to provide a welcoming place for their families. This puts the front office personnel and community liaison in a prominent welcoming position to be available for families.


Within the classrooms, they have been focusing on mindfulness. That led to the implementation of “peace corners”.  Teachers can provide needed “brain break” opportunities for kids. Kids are learning how to self-advocate for those opportunities. A clear and dedicated space makes it easier for the kids to step away, give themselves that break and then get right back in to the learning process that day. “What we are seeing is students becoming managers of their own learning,” mentions Principal Vasquez.


This is part of the inspiration from the Montessori method, which includes time for students to discover their own learning potential and empowerment. This can be seen through a variety of classroom layouts, and time for students to explore on their own through an inquiry-based approach to learning.


You won’t see traditional seating in many of the classrooms at Olive. They transitioned to more flexible seating options including exercise balls, bean bags and even the floor. Some students prefer to work in groups and some prefer to work alone. Every child is different. This provides students with options. “It’s lending to students having more choice and voice in their education,” says Vasquez.”


The response to these changes has been positive. According Principal Vasquez there is increased engagement and students are staying on task. “Students are excited about learning and they want to learn more. Wonderment has increased and they are delving deeper into the content,” she relates. Students are taking ownership of their learning and this has paired well with the implementation of student-led conferences. As a result of infrastructure changes, students have been more invested, more engaged, and willing to learn than ever before at Olive.


“We are excited about this journey that we are on right now,” shares Principal Vaquez.


If want to find out more about Olive or are interested in taking a tour, you can visit Olive Elementary School website at https://ol-vistausd-ca.schoolloop.com and click on schedule a tour. Their dedicated staff leads the tours.


For a more in-depth conversation with Mrs. Vasquez, listen to an episode of our district podcast, WAVEPod, with Mrs. Vasquez, by clicking on either of these links:


PodBean: https://vusdwave.podbean.com/

iTunes Podcast Store: http://apple.co/2z64SJo


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/20/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


December 18, 2017 


From the beginning of this school year, the Student Support Services Department has worked with school sites to provide support for our students in the areas of social and emotional systems of support, suicide prevention, cyber-safety, anti-bullying, and healthy lifestyles. In light of recent incidents involving VUSD students using controlled substances, we have developed this safety bulletin in order to share with you our ongoing efforts to support our students in making healthy choices and describe how you can support VUSD in this work. 


Within the past several weeks at our high schools, we have observed an increase of students that have been determined to be under the influence of controlled substances, such as Xanax and marijuana, during school hours. As a result, there has been an increase in number of students suspended, and in some cases, expelled for reasons related to the possession and / or use of controlled substances.


In each situation, our school staff and administration teams have responded swiftly by taking appropriate safety measures such as contacting parents, law enforcement, and paramedics. It is important to note that the increase of teens using controlled substances has been reported throughout San Diego County and the nation. The use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs has increased substantially over the past decade, otherwise known as the “Opioid Crisis”. 


Please understand that VUSD is working closely with law enforcement agencies (Vista Sheriff and Oceanside P.D.) to address these challenges. As we increase supports and supervision related to controlled substance use, we will continue to follow all state and federal regulations regarding student privacy. A few examples of increased supports and supervision that VUSD is putting into place are: 


 Working with law enforcement to increase the presence of officers on and around school campuses in order to mitigate the recent resurgence of controlled substance use. 


 Planning additional events for students and parents at each high school to build awareness while addressing the increase of substance use. 


 Developing and distributing student / parent informational materials in order to build awareness of the importance to promote healthy choices and lifestyles. 


 Expanding nurse, counselor, and social worker support as needed. 


We are committed to maintaining a safe school environment for all students. We need your help in order to accomplish this commitment. Please remind your student and family members to utilize practices that ensure student health and safety.


Please take time to review with your student the seriousness of using any controlled substances and the harmful effects that may lead to emergency medical attention. It is important that we are careful not to feed rumors, speculation, or hysteria as this only creates more uncertainty for our students.


Finally, please use our anonymous tip webpage called PSST World (click HERE) to report any instances related to student safety or substance abuse. Together we will be able to keep all students safe. 


Please contact Student Support Services should you have questions or concerns. 





18 de diciembre de 2017 


Desde el comienzo de este año escolar, el Departamento de Servicios de Apoyo Estudiantil ha estado trabajando con las escuelas para ofrecerles apoyo a nuestros estudiantes en las áreas de sistemas sociales y emocionales, prevención del suicidio, ciberseguridad, contra el acoso escolar, y estilos de vida saludables.


A raíz de los recientes incidentes relacionados con el uso de sustancias controladas por porte de nuestros estudiantes, hemos desarrollado este boletín para compartir con usted nuestras iniciativas continuas para apoyar a nuestros estudiantes en la toma de decisiones saludables y explicarles como ustedes pueden colaborar con VUSD en esta labor. 


En las últimas semanas, las preparatorias del distrito han sido testigos del aumento en el número de estudiantes que han decidido estar bajo la influencia de sustancias controladas, tales como Xanax y marihuana, durante el horario escolar. Como resultado, han aumentado el número de suspensiones y en algunos casos, expulsiones por motivos relacionadas con la posesión y/o el uso de sustancias controladas.


En cada situación, nuestro personal escolar y equipos administrativos han respondido rápidamente mediante medidas de seguridad apropiadas tales como, comunicación con los padres de familia, las autoridades, y paramédicos. Es importante destacar que se ha observado en todo el Condado de San Diego y la nación un aumento en el número de adolescentes que usan sustancias controladas. El uso de medicamentos opiáceos con o sin receta ha aumentado considerablemente en la última década, también conocido como "la crisis de opiáceos". 


Por favor tengan en cuenta que VUSD está colaborando estrechamente con las autoridades locales (Vista Sheriff y el Departamento de Policía de Oceanside) para abordar esta situación. A medida que aumentamos el apoyo y la supervisión con el uso de sustancias controladas, seguimos cumpliendo con todos los reglamentos estatales y federales relacionados con la privacidad de los estudiantes. Los siguientes son algunos ejemplos del aumento del apoyo y supervisión que VUSD ha puesto en práctica: 


 Colaboración con las autoridades locales para aumentar la presencia de oficiales en y alrededor de los planteles escolares a fin de mitigar el reciente resurgimiento del uso de sustancias controladas. 


 Planificación de eventos adicionales para los estudiantes y padres de familia de cada escuela preparatoria para crear conciencia y a la vez abordar el aumento del uso de sustancias. 


 Desarrollo y distribución de material informativo a los padres de familia y estudiantes para crear conciencia sobre la importancia de promover decisiones y hábitos saludables. 


 Ampliar los servicios de apoyo de las enfermeras escolares, consejeros, y trabajadores sociales, según sea necesario. 


Estamos comprometidos a mantener un ambiente escolar seguro para todos los estudiantes. Necesitamos de su ayuda para cumplir con este compromiso. Les pedimos que por favor les recuerden a sus hijos y familiares la importancia del uso de prácticas saludables y seguras. Por favor tómense el tiempo para hablar con sus hijos acerca de la gravedad del uso de las sustancias controladas y los efectos nocivos que pueden causar atención médica de emergencia.


Es importante que tengamos cuidado de no alimentar los rumores, especulaciones, o la histeria, ya que esto sólo crea más incertidumbre para nuestros estudiantes. Por último, favor use nuestra página web anónima llamada PSST World (haga clic AQUÍ) para reportar cualquier caso relacionado con la seguridad estudiantil o abuso de sustancias. Juntos podemos mantener seguros a nuestros estudiantes. 


Favor de comunicarse con los Servicios de Apoyo Estudiantil si tiene preguntas o inquietudes.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/19/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


December 18, 2017 


Dear Vista and Oceanside Community Members, 


The Vista Unified School District Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Linda Kimble as our new Superintendent. With the appointment of Dr. Kimble, the board concludes an extensive search process which began with the selection of The Cosca Group to assist in our search for a new leader. 


The search process was very thorough and conducted numerous stakeholder meetings to identify the traits and qualities our community wanted to see in their new superintendent. All the information gathered from the process was compiled and shared with the board members. The Board carefully considered the input from our community and ensured that each candidate was screened and reviewed using this information. 


The top characteristic from all stakeholder groups was successful experience as a superintendent. This qualification was at the top of our list in reviewing candidates. Our community also thought it was important to find someone from the southern California area to ensure knowledge and experience with California Education Code and various state regulations. 


In using this criteria as a guide for selection, we discovered that our current salary from our previous superintendent was much lower than superintendents in surrounding districts in southern California. As the Board discussed the situation and wanted to satisfy our top priorities for selecting a new superintendent, we determined it was necessary to offer a contract comparable to similar school districts in the southern California area.


As a Board, we feel strongly that providing fair and competitive salaries for all employees is the highest priority. With that end in mind, we have worked to increase compensation for all employee groups whenever fiscally possible. 



Vista Unified School District 

Board of Trustees 



18 de diciembre de 2017 


Estimados miembros de las comunidades de Vista y Oceanside, 


El Consejo de Administración Escolar del Distrito Unificado de Vista se complace en anunciar el nombramiento de la Dra. Linda Kimble como nuestra nueva Superintendente. Con el nombramiento de la Dr. Kimble, el Consejo concluye con el extenso proceso de búsqueda el cual comenzó con la selección del grupo Cosca (The Cosca Group) quienes nos ayudaron en la tarea para encontrar un nuevo líder. 


El proceso de la búsqueda fue bastante riguroso y estuvo compuesto de numerosas reuniones en las cuales participaron las partes interesadas con el objetivo de identificar las características y cualidades que nuestra comunidad deseaba ver en su nuevo superintendente. Toda la información recopilada durante el proceso se compartió con los integrantes de la Mesa Directiva. El Consejo consideró cuidadosamente la información entregada por la comunidad y procuró que esta información fuera utilizada durante la evaluación de los candidatos. 


La característica principal identificada en todos los grupos de interés fue una experiencia exitosa como superintendente. Esta cualificación fue nuestra prioridad al examinar los candidatos. Nuestra comunidad también expresó que era importante encontrar a alguien del área del sur de California para garantizar el conocimiento y experiencia con el Código de Educación de California y los varios reglamentos estatales. 


A través del uso de este criterio como guía en el proceso de selección, nos dimos cuenta que el salario de nuestro Superintendente anterior era mucho menor en comparación a los de los superintendentes de distritos aledaños.


El Consejo analizó esta situación y, con el deseo de satisfacer nuestras prioridades principales para la selección de un nuevo superintendente, determinó que era necesario ofrecer un contrato comparable al de los distritos escolares parecidos al nuestro ubicados en el área del sur de California.


Como Consejo de Administración, creemos firmemente que nuestra mayor prioridad es la oferta de sueldos competitivos y justos para todos los empleados. Con esto en cuenta, hemos trabajado para aumentar la compensación de todos los grupos de empleados cuando sea posible de punto de vista fiscal. 



Vista Unified School District 

Consejo de Administración Escolar 

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/18/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


by Michelle Sybert


VUSD’s Facilities Committee Sees Long Term Success


Have you ever wondered how all of the various special projects at your local school get completed? Behind the scenes at the Vista Unified School District you’ll discover a hard-working team who meets to solve each schools’ most pressing building, facility, and special project needs.


In a recent podcast interview with the school district, Donna Caperton, Assistant Superintendent of Business Affairs shared how the group got started just four years ago.


“About four years ago,” shares Mrs. Caperton “We decided to reach out to our school sites and we formed a Facilities Advisory Committee to talk about ‘What are the school’s priorities? What are their short term needs and what are their long term needs?’”


In a district where there can be 2,000 open work orders at a time, it’s essential to have this committee to ensure that the most important needs at school sites are addressed. In conjunction with the maintenance operations and grounds department, the district compiled an annual list of needs for each school. The facility advisory committee meets four times between September through December to work together and talk over needs.


“We meet every year (in the fall), and sites submit project needs to the Business Services Division each year.” Mrs. Caperton goes on to say, “The Business Services team reviews the projects with our facilities and maintenance staff and determines if funding is available for projects on the list.” Then depending on how much money is available the projects are completed after approval from the board in January.


“We make sure every school gets something. We try to be consistent so that we can make improvements over time,” says Mrs. Caperton.


The Facility Advisory Committee helps organize each school’s priorities into a list that they can then change as needs arise. Often times projects become more urgent as time goes by. When the district sees a repeat project that moves up the priority list for a particular school they are able to facilitate the implementation quicker because of the clear communication of the advisory committee.


Mrs. Caperton says school principals also play a vital role in getting their school’s needs met. “They look at what they need and what is going to make their school climate better for the students and staff.”


A snapshot of just some of the projects have included: a new track at Empressa Elementary School; shade structures at Breeze Hill Elementary; and remodeling all of the bathrooms at Rancho Buena Vista High School.


They’ve also done design work for improving safety-related features in schools. For example, they were able to modify school entrances at five different schools in the district that were structurally similar so that there is now a single point of entry. The possibility of intruders is significantly reduced and only those authorized to come on campus can do so.


Some of the bigger projects to be addressed include a pool at Rancho Buena Vista High School and a new performing arts center at Vista High. The biggest project that has been completed in the last four years was the stadium remodel at Vista High School, which had received little attention since 1972.


Mrs. Caperton made sure every school in the district got a portion of the Proposition 39 funding. “We applied early for Prop 39 funds, which are energy efficiency funds so that we could improve lighting. We were able to get LED lighting as well as energy efficient air conditioning units in schools.”


Mrs. Caperton credits the committee with the streamlining and effectiveness in getting projects done. “We do a wide variety of projects, but it’s really through the facilities advisory committee (and the cooperation of teams) that we are able to get so much done.”


What’s next for the committee? The Facility Advisory Committee is currently in meetings, working on projects that will be submitted to the board in the new year. Those projects will be completed in the summer of 2018.


For a deeper conversation with Mrs. Caperton regarding infrastructure and the district’s work, listen to our district podcast, WAVEPod, which can be found at these locations:


PodBean: http://bit.ly/2ynFYER

iTunes: http://apple.co/2wbMygB

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/14/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Ask any Vista kindergarten teacher about the benefits of a preschool education and they will sing its praises. And it’s no wonder, considering the research that backs up the positive returns. According to research, children who attend some form of preschool before they enter kindergarten increase their reading readiness, cognitive skills, language acquisition, social-emotional aptitude, and much more.


The early childhood education programs at Vista Unified elementary schools fall under the umbrella of services in the district’s P-3 program. The “P” stands for prenatal and the three is for 3rd grade. After 3rd grade, students go from learning to read to reading to learn, so it is vital to reach students earlier than ever.


That means reaching out to young and even pregnant mothers in the community and offering information and assistance in accessing early childhood education. It also means providing that essential preschool education for those in need in the community.


VUSD’s goal is to close educational achievement gaps before they open and give every student in the district the best chance for success, both in school and in life. That goal led to a community partnership with Educational Enrichment Systems.


Educational Enrichment Systems, also known as EES, is a partner with the Vista Unified School District. They provide on-site part-day early childhood education programs at eleven Vista Elementary schools throughout the district (22 total throughout San Diego County).


The district’s community partnership with EES began with the implementation of part-day preschool programs at three elementary schools, and has grown to the current number of eleven. Beaumont, Monte Vista, Bobier, Vista Academy, Casita Center, Foothill Oak, Grapevine, Hannalei, Mission Meadows, Temple Heights, and Maryland Elementary all have preschool classrooms on site.


Families find out about the preschool program in myriad ways. There is a strong word of mouth component, as well as proper signage at the school sites, and partnerships with local community organizations to get the word out to the community. Families qualify for the part-day preschool program based on parent salary and financial need.


Family Liaisons at each elementary school are also resources for parents to learn about enrollment in preschool programs. Families can enroll their child at any time during the school year, but are encouraged to enroll during the summer so that they get the most educational benefit from attending.


Sara Hernandez is a program director at EES, and has been with the organization for almost 25 years. She sees firsthand the benefits of the partnership with Vista Unified School District.


“Walk into any kindergarten class on one of our sites and you will see the difference in children who have been through our program or have had any form of preschool prior to kinder,” says Hernandez. “It’s amazing.”


“Having preschools on the campuses of elementary schools is a win-win for the families, for the students, and for the Kindergarten teachers,” shares Hernandez.


When it comes to individual education goals for each student, says Hernandez, having a preschool on campus is a huge benefit. “Teachers are very in tune with the children’s needs.”


Once enrolled and attending, the academic and social-emotional progress of each student is assessed and monitored by teachers and trained staff. Interventions, if necessary, can take place, and positive outcomes achieved with earlier attention to each child’s learning abilities.


“With our program,” says Hernandez, “because we are in the district, it’s much easier to connect parents with specialists who are able to provide services.”


One of the many interventions is with children who are English language learners. Attendance in the program means they will acquire one to two years of English and begin kindergarten ready to learn.


All children who attend the program are able to participate in the daily school routine and become familiar with the expectations of going to school and being in a classroom. The Preschools are a part of the school’s community.


Vista Unified School District’s partnership with EES is providing a nurturing atmosphere and solid foundation for Vista’s children.  If you think EES might be right for your child, you can visit http://www.educ-enrichment.org or contact the elementary school in your neighborhood.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/12/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/11/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Superintendent Updates - Santa Ana Winds and Fire Evacuation


Community Updates


Update #3 - December 10, 2017


This is Dr. Doyle, Interim Superintendent of the Vista School Unified District. I am calling with a highly important message.


Tomorrow, Monday, December 11th, all schools in our District will be open and resume their regular schedule including extra curricular and sporting events. All transportation routes will resume normal services as well.


According to CalFire, the Lilac wildfire is 60% contained and the advancement has been halted. All roads into and out of Vista Schools have been cleared of danger and are currently open.


According to the Air Pollution Control District of San Diego County, the air quality forecast for Monday, December 11, 2017 is good to
moderate throughout the day. Please check our district website for more details.


Vista Unified custodial/grounds crews have been working over the weekend to clean the school campuses and ensure all air filtration systems are clean and in proper working order. For schools located on or near Highway 76, Vista Unified has brought in an air quality specialist (ServePro) to clean the air in all classrooms.


Most importantly, we care deeply about supporting all students, families and staff in our district. The Student Support Services Department is working proactively with counselors, school social workers, our community partners, and the district crisis management team to support any students, families and staff who have been evacuated as a result of the Lilac wildfire.


Please visit our district webpage for more details. You can also call
760-726-2170 ext. 92922 to speak to a bilingual VUSD School Social Worker who can assist you with resources for housing, food and counseling.


Again, all Vista Unified schools will be open tomorrow, December 11th for school.


I would like to extend my most sincere appreciation to all of the firefighters, police officers, support staff, and community members who dedicated themselves to helping others in this time of need. I would encourage everyone to continue to reach out to our fellow community members who have been impacted by the wildfires
as they begin the process of healing.


Thank you





Buenas tardes,
Les habla el Dr. Doyle, Superintendente escolar interino del Distrito Unificado de Vista. Les estoy llamando con un mensaje de extrema importancia.


Mañana, lunes 11 de diciembre, todas las escuelas en nuestro
Distrito estarán abiertas y reanudarán su horario regular incluyendo eventos extra curriculares y deportivos. Todas las rutas de transporte también reanudarán los servicios normales.


Según CalFire, el incendio forestal de Lilac está contenido en un 60% y el avance se ha detenido. Todos los caminos dentro y fuera de Vista Schools han sido eliminados de peligro y actualmente están abiertos.


De acuerdo con el Control de Contaminación del Aire del Condado de San Diego, el pronóstico de calidad del aire para el lunes 11 de diciembre de 2017 es bueno hasta moderado durante el día.


Por favor, consulte nuestro sitio web del distrito para más detalles.
Los equipos de manutención / terrenos del Distrito Unificado de Vista han estado trabajando durante el fin de semana para limpiar los planteles escolares y garantizar que todos los sistemas de filtración de aire estén limpios y en buen estado de funcionamiento.


Para las escuelas ubicadas en o cerca de la Carretera 76, Vista
Unified ha traído un especialista en calidad del aire (ServePro) para limpiar el aire en todas las clases.


Lo que es más importante, nos preocupa profundamente apoyar a todos los estudiantes, las familias y el personal de nuestro distrito. El Departamento de Servicios de Apoyo Estudiantil está trabajando
proactivamente con consejeros, trabajadores sociales escolares, nuestros socios comunitarios y el equipo de administración de crisis del distrito para apoyar a los estudiantes, familias y personal que hayan sido evacuados como resultado del incendio forestal de Lilac.


Por favor visita nuestra página web del distrito para
más detalles. También puede llamar al 760-726-2170 ext. 92922 para hablar con un trabajador social escolar bilingüe de VUSD que puede ayudarlo con recursos para vivienda, alimentos y asesoramiento.


Una vez más, todas las escuelas del Distrito Unificado de Vista estarán abiertas mañana, 11 de diciembre para clase.


Me gustaría expresar mi más sincero agradecimiento a todos los bomberos, oficiales de policía, personal de apoyo y miembros de la comunidad que se dedicaron a ayudar a otros en este momento de necesidad.


Animo a todos a que continúen acercándose a los miembros de nuestra comunidad que se han visto afectados por los incendios forestales a medida que comienzan el proceso de recuperación.







You can help, too, by following the guidance below provided by the San Diego County Office of Education. 


The link below has articles on What to Do During a Power Outage and Protect Yourself from Smoke During Wildfire from the San Diego County Emergency Site:



Additionally, there are several resources/templates available on the SDCOE website (below): 



Wild Fire 

o    Coping with Shelter in Place Emergencies - American Red Cross (PDF)

o    Helping Children After Wildfire - NASP (PDF)

o    Parents Wildfires (PDF)

o    Parents Wildfires - Spanish (PDF)

o    Recovering from Wildfires (Word)

o    Responding to Natural Disasters - NASP (PDF)

o    SAMHSA Guide (PDF)

o    Wildfires Media (PDF)

o    Wildfires Media Spanish (PDF)


·         The Environmental Protection Agency page has detailed information regarding air quality with current and forecasted air quality for San Diego County and can be found  at https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_city&cityid=321


We also have documents attached to this message that address:

- Protect Yourself From Smoke (English & Español)

- What To Do During A Power Outage (English & Español)


Finally, you can download the “Ready San Diego App” which gives you the latest details on emergencies and disasters throughout the county.  Additionally, there are resources and guidance for disaster planning and recovery.


As always, we are committed to supporting you in whatever you need during this difficult time.



Matt Doyle, Ed.D.

Interim Superintendent of Schools

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/8/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


A Message From

Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle:


Good Evening,

This is Dr. Doyle, Interim Superintendent of the Vista School Unified District. I am calling with a highly important message.  Tomorrow, Friday, December 8th, all schools in our District will be closed, due to the fires in the area. 


This decision was made in the best interest of all employees and our students.  As neighboring communities face devastating fires, we have been asked to consider the following: Keeping traffic off the roads and out of the way of our first responders; staffing classes and schools is a concern because many employees’ homes are evacuated so they would not be able to make it to school tomorrow, and we must consider the health implications of exposure to the intense smoke, which is unhealthful for staff and students.


Again, this message is to notify you that schools in the Vista Unified School District will be closed tomorrow, Friday December 8th, 2017,  due to the fires and related fire concerns throughout our school community.


Please join me in hoping that all members of our staff and the hundreds of others who live in the evacuated areas are safe from harm’s way.


We will continue to keep you informed as needed.

Thank you

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/7/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Vista USD Hosts Teacher’s Guild “Innovation Summit”

Event To Showcase Over 20 Teacher-Designed Innovations

AtScience Fair Meets Block Party Meets Hackathon, But Way Cooler”



Vista, CA | Dec. 5, 2017 -- Vista Unified School District is prepared to host its inaugural Teacher’s Guild Innovation Summit on Thursday, December 7th from 3:30 – 6:30 PM at the Vista Innovation Center. Vista USD is one of just four school districts nationally to be granted a chapter of The Teacher’s Guild, an offshoot of world-renowned design firm IDEO, created to “activate teachers’ creativity to solve the biggest challenges in education today.


The event will showcase more than twenty innovation design projects created by VUSD teachers in an event that organizers describe as, “science fair meets block party meets hackathon, but way cooler.”


The participating educators began the process by being asked the question, “How might we radically engage student curiosity so students can connect what they care about to what they do in school every day?”


Teachers were able to work individually as well as in teams to approach the question, and this summit is just the first step of refining and prototyping concepts. The summit will be an opportunity for participating educators to share stories of success and failure, engage with new ideas that have emerged from student insights, and build on the creative work of their colleagues.


The Innovation Summit is open to the entire VUSD community: teachers, administrators, students, families, and community members. It's for anyone interested in using the design thinking approach to create better solutions for VUSD students.


WHAT: Vista Unified /  The Teacher’s Guild Innovation Summit

WHERE: Vista Innovation Center 826 Olive Ave. Vista, CA  92083

WHEN: Thursday, December 7, 2017 3:30 – 6:30 PM

Schedule Of Events

3:30 - 4:45 pm: Exhibition & Design Journey Storytelling 

4:45 - 6:30pm: Rigorous Prototyping (VUSD teachers only)


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/5/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/1/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


by Michelle Sybert

On a crisp November morning, Principal Rafael Olavide greets students outside Grapevine Elementary School. It’s there he sees a familiar former Grapevine student dropping off her kindergartener for the day. Principal Olavide says that scene is not uncommon at Grapevine. There is a strong family presence. Roots run deep in Grapevine’s tight knit community.


“We have seen a tradition of families coming to our school. It would not be a surprise to see a student being picked up by Grandpa who actually was a student here back in the day,” says Olavide. This multi-generational tradition provides Grapevine the opportunity to build long-term lasting relationships with families and trust with parents and family members.


Grapevine serves the community as one of the oldest elementary schools in the Vista Unified School District, having been around for more than 50 years. Grapevine has strong and deeply woven roots in the neighborhood. Under the leadership of Principal Olavide over the last six years and the school’s partnership with Educational Enrichment Systems preschool program (EES), Grapevine is a also leader in early childhood education.


The preschool program at Grapevine falls under the umbrella of VUSD’s P-3 plan. P-3 stands for Preschool to 3rd grade and it’s the idea that providing students with a strong foundation during early education leads to children becoming competent readers bridging the gap between learning to read and reading to learn. Olavide shares that children who have had some amount of formal education in preschool (both academic and social-emotional) benefit them as they enter kindergarten.


“We know we are going to see those students (who have attended preschool) closing the academic achievement gap faster,” says Olavide. “That’s why in our school community we have a preschool model that’s very integrated with the rest of the learning environment. It is critical that we have the foundation to build up students before they enter kindergarten.”


Right now half of Grapevine’s students have attended preschool. Principal Olavide’s goal? One hundred percent. He’d like to see every single kindergartener that walks through Grapevine’s doors have access to and attend preschool to give them those cornerstone skills in language, literacy and numeracy that are essential for success.


To reach that goal, the Grapevine kindergarten team works with educational partner EES staff in what’s call a “vertical collaboration” to ensure each student who transitions from preschool to kindergarten is on a pathway to success. There are also regular meetings between Principal Olavide and the preschool site director at Grapevine. “There are many levels of communication that happen between us and the preschool,” says Olavide.


Preschool families are also encouraged to participate in activities and to be involved in the process. There are opportunities for parents to volunteer, visit and see first hand how their children are learning and interacting. Participation from families is seamless from preschool to kindergarten as a result of the foundation of trust that Grapevine continues build day in and day out.


The school’s comprehensive approach to early childhood education is seeing success. Next up for Grapevine is the promising dual immersion program that will immerse students in both Spanish and English language environments to develop not only bilingual students but also fully bi-literate students, which is an asset in today’s diverse global community.



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/30/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

by Michelle Sybert


“I’m making ice cream,” Andrea exclaims as she plies the soft playdough in her hands and molds it into a plastic cup. Andrea is one of the dozens of children who attends a part-day preschool at Bobier Elementary School in Vista, California.


Vista Unified School District continues to be strongly committed to providing children access to critical early childhood education programs so that they can acquire the foundational level skills needed to be successful students and thriving community members. Bobier Elementary is an example of that commitment in action.


The preschool located within Bobier is one of 11 North County San Diego locations under the umbrella of Educational Enrichment Systems (EES) that provides at-risk children the opportunity to grow and learn in a safe, nurturing environment.


Preschool student Andrea molds play dough into ice cream at the EES preschool hosted at Bobier Elementary.


“We are always trying to promote access to the program in any way we can because we know how valuable the preschool experience is to our kids,” says Dr. Jenifer Gordon, principal at Bobier Elementary.


Community members are given access to and made aware of the benefits of early education through prominent signage, postcard mailers, partnerships with community clinics, social media, letters to current parents, and word of mouth. Students are selected for the program based on a variety of factors, including financial need.


Dr. Golden has been the Principal at Bobier for three years, and in that time she has seen a jump in desire for the program from interested parents. It’s easy to see why. The partnership is a win-win for both EES and the elementary school.


“I love that we have a partnership with EES,” says Golden. “We have seen that most of our students are more kinder-ready when they enter kindergarten as a result of the preschool program. It’s our goal to close the achievement gap and give all of our students the same resources and opportunities as other children in potentially more affluent areas.”


Dr. Golden sees how the EES program also benefits the whole family.


“At our school, we have seen a lot of parents coming in with younger siblings,” says Golden. “We are constantly reaching out, letting them know that we have a preschool program through our partnership with EES.”


“There is just this sigh of relief,” she says, “when parents find out they qualify for the preschool, and then the preschoolers are so excited when they learn that they will be on the same campus as their brother or sister.”


“One of the other things I love about having the EES program” Golden shares, “is that it allows our parents time with the parent liaison on campus. Parents can attend workshops and have time to get their needs and concerns met.”


Golden also meets with Anamaria Zamudio, the EES on-site preschool director for Bobier Elementary, once a month to assess student progress and goals of the program. The partnership between EES and Bobier allows access to the students in preschool so that teachers can target the skills needed for kindergarten readiness. As a result, interventions, if needed, are in place before a child’s first day in elementary school.


Anamaria Zamudio, EES preschool director at Bobier Elementary (left), and Bobier Principal Dr. Jenifer Golden


Parental involvement is an essential component to the program. Each parent is required to volunteer in their child’s classroom during the school year. That involvement has a positive impact on the children says Director Zamudio. “Having the parents volunteer at school, children feel more motivated and excited to come to school. When children see their parents being involved in their classroom activities they feel more comfortable and secure about themselves. They also connect home with school when they see their parents being part of the school routines and rules.


Parent involvement in the preschool also has a ripple effect on the culture of the elementary school. PTA membership at Bobier is currently at 250 members, up from just five the first year Golden was principal.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/27/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


On October 10, 2017, 60 educators from across the country converged on Vista for a full day touring and learning with and from VUSD staff and student leaders. The educators were part of the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), a "community of forward-leaning educators who are working in their communities and together as a network on the most urgent challenges in public education today.” The non-profit organization brings educators together and has helped to fund over $40 million in transformational learning leaders.


This is the second straight year that a team of NGLC leaders has visited Vista USD, and this year the focus was on learning about the district’s short to personal learning. Explained Vista Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle, the NGLC visitors were, “celebrating with us this transformation from a teacher-centric model of learning to a student-focused model where students gain control of their learning.” 


NGLC participants kicked the day off with some overview information at the Vista Innovation Center before spreading out to visit elementary, middle and high schools across the district, before returning to the Innovation Center to collaborate and process their day.


Visitors had glowing words about what they have experienced and learned from the Vista team. Mayra Gende of Boston's Josiah Quincy Upper School said, “They were able to look at the bigger picture and say, ‘OK, if we want to do personalized learning, what do we need?” And they have this plan, they have a foundation where they need families and communities to be engaged.”


Added Springfield Empowerment Zone’s Matt Brunell, “I have yet to see a district that is approaching personalized learning in such a way where there’s such cohesion that goes form the top down and the bottom up."


Beyond the strategic planning that the district has done and continues to do, student work and engagement was an area that stood out to the NGLC guests. "It was inspiring to hear the kids talk about it because you could tell that they were more invested in their education,” explained Josh Charpentier of MAP Academy.


His thoughts were echoed by jenny Curtin of the Barr Foundation, who marveled at student work by saying, “to see MS students engaged in that level of depth of work and quality of work and really owning their own projects in such a deep way is really inspiring."


A video recap of the day can be seen here.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/15/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/15/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

On this episode we speak with Dr. Jenifer Golden, Principal of Bobier Elementary School. Dr. Golden leads a team that has developed an inspiring culture of engaging students, families and the community in a holistic effort to provide opportunities to students that are second to none.


You can download the episode and subscribe  at either of these places:


PodBean: https://vusdwave.podbean.com/

iTunes: http://apple.co/2wbMygB


You’ll hear the student excitement in the background, as we recorded this interview during lunch time. 


You’ll also hear about how the school engages with its community, about their preschool and TK programs, and academic opportunities that give Bobier students chances to tour the world form their classrooms, and how opening students and families up to opportunities has created a dynamic learning and growing environment. Enjoy!

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/14/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

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Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/7/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


by Michelle Sybert

When asked if she was looking forward to getting eyeglasses, Vista Unified first grader Emily said “Yes!” as her eyes lit up. Emily had been having blurry vision and eyestrain, so a unique opportunity with a global vision non-profit visiting Vista schools came at just the right time.


On October 25th – 27th, Rancho Minerva Middle School hosted students from across the school district as part of a free vision care clinic put together by OneSight. Students in grades K-8 attended the vision clinic, took part in exams, and received free eyeglasses if needed.


Prescreened by school nurses to assess need, students were invited to participate in the vision care clinic over the three-day period last week. Over 600 VUSD students were able to receive a comprehensive eye exam and new pair of eyeglasses during the clinic, most going home with glasses the same day.

The One Sight Mobile Vision Clinic was a welcome sight for VUSD students and families


Many students, having never worn glasses before, were seeing clearly for the first time. This is all thanks to OneSight and a research project funded by Verizon to measure the impact of eyeglasses on student learning.


OneSight is an international non-profit organization providing vision care and eyeglasses to children in need in nine different countries including the U.S. Volunteers from across the globe sign on to be a part of this opportunity as optical technicians, optometrist, ophthalmologists, and eyewear manufacturing specialists.


The OneSight Mobile Clinic has the capability to handle everything from a preliminary eye exam to the final production and distribution of the eyeglasses. This means that students can benefit almost immediately.


Students progressed through 10-12 different stations throughout the clinic, assessing their needs and formulating a plan to address those needs. The final station, where students were able to choose from over 150 styles of frames, was a critical final step in the process.

Students browse more than 150 styles of frames for their glasses.

Students chose the frames they liked the best a custom pair of glasses custom was made for each student on sight.


OneSight has found that when students are able to choose the frames themselves, they are more likely to wear them consistently and receive the benefits of the eyewear.


Students were eager to take part in the clinic and educators and staff were thrilled to see the students getting the necessary vision care and eyewear they needed.


District Nurse Lisa Roundtree, one of the many staff members available to support and assist students at the clinic, said of the students, “They love it! The kids have all been super excited about getting eyeglasses.”

Just a few of the 600+ students to receive glasses over the three-day clinic.


Community Liaison Nancy Ramirez shared the financial importance and family impact of the free eyeglasses program “Just the fact that they are able to get free lenses is fantastic. It helps the entire family.”


OneSight volunteer Melissa said one of the most rewarding experiences is when she sees a student’s eyes light up and a smile emerges as a result of being able to see clearly for the first time.


Students visit a number of stations for tests and assessments.


One Sight brings top quality equipment to conduct their examinations.

The volunteers from One Sight assure students that the process is painless.

One Sight volunteers come from across the country.

Students take their time trying on different frame options before their glasses are sent to the lab.

The mobile lab custom fits and tests each pair of glasses before delivery.

Finished, custom pairs of glasses are delivered to anxious and excited students.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/2/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

by Michelle Sybert


Situated along Oceanside Boulevard, Temple Heights Elementary School is a neighborhood school serving the surrounding community with about 680 students and over 40 teachers and staff members. Temple Heights believes in a learning environment that meets the needs of every child.


The bedrock of meeting the needs of every child’s education begins with community involvement. The school reaches out to the families in the community through events and partnerships with local community organizations. Temple Heights wants to reach each child in the community before they even set foot in the school. That can mean everything from ensuring the care for the prenatal needs of expectant mothers to preschool and kindergarten readiness.


This foundation of community involvement sets the stage for not only early interventions if necessary, but also for parent and family engagement as children in the community become students. Trust is built with families early on, reinforcing the commitment of the school to every child.


An area outside a classroom sets a friendly atmosphere at Temple Hts. Elementary


Temple Heights is engaging parents and families in a variety of ways. The school employs Community Liaison Patricia Landeros (Patty as she’s known to most) to build a stronger partnership with parents. Individual school liaisons are part of a larger district-wide Family and Community Engagement Network. Community Liaisons work to facilitate effective communication between parents, parent committee groups and school leadership. They encourage parents daily to be partners in the educational journey of each child.


One of the many ways families stay connected to the school is through a weekly email. Landeros sends a weekly email to parents every Sunday with information about everything they need to know for the week, upcoming school events and special school specific information.


Landeros notes, “Parents appreciate the weekly communication, it's consistent and they can go back to their email throughout the week.”


Parents also receive monthly emails with relevant community information such as free family-friendly events, Kids free local dine-out coupons and more. Temple Heights wants to give families affordable and accessible ways to bond together.


Landeros is a vital part of the family and parent engagement at Temple Heights.


“Temple Heights is a diverse school with a huge appreciation of our cultures,” says Landeros.


“The cultural/language barrier has decreased through our efforts in making the school a welcoming campus. I stand in front of the school every morning before school. I welcome our families and make sure I'm available to answer any questions. This is also a great opportunity for me to translate a document or a teacher's newsletter for a parent, almost like a roaming information booth."


That diversity is celebrated every year with an annual International Festival. On festival day, families come together and learn about each other’s cultures through crafts, foods and performances.


Temple Heights also reaches parents through a monthly coffee talk. The coffee talk is hosted once a month so that parents can connect with the principal, assistant principal, school counselor and community liaison.


Among it’s many events geared towards parents and families throughout the year, Temple Heights is hosting several “7 Habits Family Nights”. 7 Habits Family Nights are evenings where parents will learn about the 7 habits (taken from author Steven R. Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and how the concepts are integrated into the school.


“The idea behind these nights is to have the parents understand the habits their kids are learning at school,” says Ms. Landeros. “This will bridge the same vocabulary from school to home and get us all on the same page!”


The school engages families in meaningful connection through parent-staff partnerships, events, and effective communication. It’s this enthusiasm and relentless pursuit of parent involvement that helps Temple Heights achieve their goal of meeting every child’s needs.



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/30/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Please be advised the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for San Diego County (coastal and valleys) for today, Monday10/23, Tuesday 10/24, and Wednesday 1/25. 


Take appropriate actions to protect students and staff to avoid heat related illness. Reduce outdoor activities, ensure everyone stays hydrated, and be observant for signs of heat related illness and take appropriate actions. 


Please follow rainy day schedule. 


Coordinate with your CNS Site Lead to facilitate indoor lunch service.


Link below to NOAA advisory message.



National Weather Service Los Angeles/San Diego/Orange Counties

630 AM PDT Mon Oct 23 2017







A moderate Santa Ana wind event is expected to bring northeast

winds gusting to 40 to 60 mph over much of Ventura and Los

Angeles Counties Today through Wednesday. The winds should be

strongest on Tuesday...with isolated wind damage and power outages



Strong high pressure in combination with the offshore winds will

produce record setting high temperatures across southwest

California. The hottest days will be today and Tuesday when highs

between 95 and 105 will be common, even within a few miles of the

ocean. People living in coastal plains without air conditioning

should take precautions to avoid heat illness and heat stress. Low

temperatures will remain in the 70s to lower 80s in some locations.

This is a very unusual late season heat wave and should not be

taken lightly!





Take extra precautions Monday and Tuesday if you work or spend

time outside. When possible, reschedule strenuous activities to

early morning or evening. Know the signs and symptoms of heat

exhaustion and heat stroke. Wear light weight and loose fitting

clothing when possible and drink plenty of water. Never, ever,

leave people or pets in enclosed vehicles, even for a short

period of time.


When driving, use extra caution. Be prepared for sudden gusty

cross winds.


Santa Clarita Valley- Including the cities of Santa Clarita, Newhall, and Valencia

630 AM PDT Mon Oct 23 2017






* TEMPERATURES...Highs from 93 to 98. Overnight lows in the 70s.


* Winds...Northeast 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 45 mph today and

  20 to 30 mph with gusts to 55 mph Tuesday before gradually

  weakening into Wednesday.


* Impacts...The very high temperatures create a dangerous

  situation in which heat illnesses are possible. Temperatures

  inside vehicles, even if the windows are partially open, can

  quickly rise to life-threatening levels. Gusty winds could

  create travel difficulty for high profile vehicles.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/23/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

“When parents are involved at school, the kids are so happy,” explains Tracy Zachary, Principal of Hannalei Elementary School.


A younger school, open for just 14 years, Hannalei has done remarkable work in creating the family environment Mrs. Zachry talks about. "We are very closely connected with the community. We have many staff members whose children are here, and we take that connection to the community seriously, and take pride in that family environment.”


A significant part of creating that environment has been working with diverse groups of parents and family members to ensure that all students and families are represented. Leaders of the school’s PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) and ELAC (English Learner Advisory Committee) groups gathered to work on ways that each group could support one another.


The groups generally had different schedules and tended to meet at different times. Mrs. Zachary and her team were intentional about creating a formal invitation to both groups to gather. “For whatever reason, though we’ve always welcomed parent and family input, we’d never formally invited all of the groups to meet together. When we did, we received overwhelming support and response to that formal invitation.”


A key member of the Hannalei team that helped to extend the formal invitation was the school’s Community Liaison. Says Mrs. Zachry, "Our community liaison has been a pivotal staff member in bringing our family groups together. Both groups, ELAC and PTA, have the same vision that I do in terms of making sure we all work together. I like having parent meetings and events with everyone; I don’t like to separate."


Once the groups were able to meet, the collaboration took off. "Our liaison was able to bridge the gap with language barriers so that we could meet together with both parent committees and stakeholder groups,” says Mrs. Zachry. "We all shared what we wanted out of the school and how we wanted students to be supported and how we could support each other. And because of those gatherings, we became a better team that just operated in different areas of the day. But when the end of the day happened, we all worked together."


Hannalei works daily to develop students as readers and seekers of knowledge. “Being a reader is the most important skill in opening our kids up to opportunities,” says Mrs. Zachry. “Once we establish them as great readers, they see that anything is possible.”


The school is an active participant in the district’s WAVE Pact Wednesdays, encouraging students to explore the things that a college education can open up for them in life. Having opened up a world of opportunities for students, the school has expanded to creating opportunities for parents to be involved on campus as well.


Last year, the school established “Volunteer Power Hours” on Tuesdays and Thursdays to invite parents and family members to be present on the school campus, assisting with everything from classroom readers to lunchroom tasks. The response was overwhelming and the program has continued in the new school year. Mrs. Zachry says, “Having their families there makes kids feel proud, and safe, and engaged, and our families take pride in the family environment.”




For a deeper dive into Hannalei Elementary, listen to our WAVEPod podcast episode with Principal Tracy Zachry.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/11/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Take Our Magnet School

Application Process Survey


Magnet School Admission Procedures Community Feedback



To receive critical insights from VUSD community members which is related to the VUSD Magnet School Admission Procedure with a focus on a clear, fair, and balanced approach. Feedback will provide further clarification from community members that will inform the procedures we follow for Magnet School admission for the 2018 – 19 school year. All responses are open-ended, so please feel free to share your thoughts on the followings topics and current procedures.


Proceso de admisión a las escuelas Magnet en VUSD: Sugerencias de los miembros de la comunidad Propósito:


Para recibir comentarios de parte de los miembros de la comunidad de VUSD relacionados con el proceso de admisión a las escuelas Magnet, de manera de abordarlos desde un punto de vista claro, justo y equilibrado. La información recopilada le proporcionará una mayor claridad a VUSD para conformar el proceso de admisión a seguir para las escuelas Magnet en el año escolar 2018-2019. Todas las respuestas son abiertas, por favor no dude en compartir sus ideas sobre los siguientes temas y procedimientos actuales.



Survey - English

Survey - Español



Summary of VUSD Magnet School Admission Procedure:

Community Forum Vista Civic Center - Morris Vance Community Room VUSD Magnet Schools: Casita, VAPA, VIDA, VMMS, MVHS Thursday, September 21, 2017, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.


Proceso de admisión a las escuelas Magnet en VUSD:

Vista Civic Center - Sala Morris Vance Community Escuelas Magnet en VUSD: Casita, VAPA, VIDA, VMMS, MVHS Jueves, 21 de septiembre de 2017 de 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.


Feedback - English

Feedback - Español



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/10/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

October 6, 2017


Esteemed Parents, Students, Staff and Community Members,

As we begin to settle into a new school year focused on keeping students at the center of our collective work, please keep in mind that in December 2016 our School Board passed “Make Schools A Safe Place” resolution for students and families. A key excerpt of this resolution states: “Whereas the Vista Unified Board of Trustees urge the superintendent to continue to work collaboratively with all community partners who share our commitment to safe and open school communities to ensure a quality educational experience for all students.”


This resolution sends a clear message to our community, parents and students that Vista staff has a collective commitment to keeping our focus on student safety and learning. Indeed, it is very reassuring to me over these past two months to see evidence across all campuses that teachers and staff recognize the challenges students and families are faced with locally and nationally and are responding by creating safe, caring, nurturing, respectful and tolerant environments.


The recent natural disasters in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico were met with an impressive demonstration of caring and love among students and teachers at Vista High School and Rancho Buena Vista High School by organizing events to gather disaster relief supplies and donations.


Recent national situations such as immigration, protests, and the tragedy in Las Vegas can lead to fear, lack of hope, uncertainty, and more questions than answers for everyone in our community, including our students. As I visit schools and speak with staff, I continue to be impressed with how teachers and staff are addressing heightened fears and emotions related to recent events with empathy, caring and patience.


This speaks to the true heart of our profession - a child-centered commitment to creating learning environments built on a foundation of trust, respect, safety and acceptance. As a district and community, I encourage everyone to pull together to continue our collective commitment making school a safe place to learn and grow. We acknowledge the challenges that are in the months ahead. Difficult times can inspire hope and determination. The hard work of our administrators, teachers, and support staff, in all of these areas is greatly appreciated.


Our students, more than ever before, need us all to live by, model and promote our district values of trust, respect and collaboration. Our Blueprint for Educational Excellence and Innovation has deliberately included two strategies dedicated to creating safe, secure campuses and social/emotional systems of support for all students. We have developed robust security systems at all of our schools that include fencing, security cameras, campus security personnel, and strict visitor procedures.


We have hired the finest teams of family liaisons, counselors, psychologists and other support staff to ensure that teachers and staff are not alone in creating safe, nurturing environments for all students. We have teamed up with the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) to monitor our collective efforts to build a strong culture focused on our district values. Our team has expanded opportunities for students and parents to learn about cyber safety, anti-bullying strategies and character education programs that underscore the importance of building and promoting a strengths-based culture that celebrates every child’s potential to succeed academically and socially.


It is important to note, however, that we cannot do this work alone. You are a valuable part of our community. We need your support to find ways to help all students through these challenging times. If you or your family members have questions, concerns or ideas, we welcome feedback and are ready to listen. Please call our Student Support Services Department at 760-726-2170 Ext. 92180 or contact the Family and Community Engagement Liaison at your school.


In my role as Interim Superintendent, I am committed to visiting campuses across the district every week to listen to and support students, parents, teachers, staff. This is the time for us all to deepen our commitment to creating a learning climate that is empathetic, safe, secure, supportive, tolerant, non-discriminatory and joyful for all students. Our collective actions every day will create a district culture that we can all be proud of. Let’s keep schools a safe place to learn for all students.



Matt Doyle, Ed.D.

Interim Superintendent




6 de octubre de 2017


Estimados padres de familia, estudiantes, miembros del personal escolar y de la comunidad. A medida que empezamos a establecernos en un nuevo año escolar con la mira de mantener a nuestros estudiantes como el centro de nuestro trabajo colectivo, por favor tengan presente que en diciembre de 2016 nuestra Mesa Directiva pasó la resolución Conseguir que las escuelas sean un espacio seguro” para los estudiantes y familias. Un pasaje clave del texto de la resolución dice: «Considerando que la Mesa Directiva del Distrito Unificado de Vista insta al superintendente a continuar el trabajo colaborativo con los socios comunitarios que comparten nuestro compromiso de una comunidad escolar abierta y segura, con el fin de garantizar una experiencia educativa de calidad para todos los estudiantes.»


Esta resolución envía un mensaje claro a nuestra comunidad, padres de familia y estudiantes, que el personal escolar de Vista tiene el compromiso colectivo de mantener nuestro objetivo centrado en la seguridad estudiantil y en el aprendizaje. De hecho, me ha reconfortado ver pruebas de esto en los últimos dos meses, en todas las escuelas, de cómo los maestros y personal escolar reconocen los retos que enfrentan los estudiantes y las familias a nivel local y nacional y están respondiendo mediante la creación de entornos seguros, cálidos, acogedores, respetuosos y tolerantes.


Los últimos desastres naturales en Texas, Florida y Puerto Rico, fueron enfrentados con una impresionante demostración de afecto y cariño entre estudiantes y maestros en Vista High School y Rancho Buena Vista High School donde se organizaron eventos de recolección de suministros y donaciones para estos desastres naturales.


Las recientes situaciones en el país, tales como la inmigración, las manifestaciones y la tragedia en Las Vegas, pueden provocar temor, desesperanza, incertidumbre, y generar más preguntas que respuestas dentro de nuestra comunidad, incluso en nuestros estudiantes. En mis visitas a las escuelas y conversaciones con el personal escolar, me impresiona la manera en que los maestros y el personal escolar abordan con empatía, cariño y paciencia el aumento de estas emociones como resultado de estos últimos acontecimientos.


Esto refleja el verdadero llamado de nuestra profesión - un compromiso centrado en el niño para crear entornos de aprendizaje en base a la confianza, respeto, seguridad y aceptación. Como distrito escolar y comunidad, los invito a todos a que se unan para continuar nuestro compromiso común de hacer de las escuelas un espacio seguro para aprender y crecer. Sabemos los desafíos que nos esperan en los próximos meses. Los momentos difíciles pueden generar esperanza y determinación. Se agradece el esfuerzo de nuestros administrativos, maestros y personal de apoyo en todos estos aspectos.


La confianza, el respeto y la colaboración son los valores del distrito, y hoy más que nunca, nuestros estudiantes necesitan que todos seamos una viva representación, demos el ejemplo y promovamos estos valores. El modelo para la excelencia educativa e innovación ha incluido deliberadamente dos estrategias dedicadas a crear escuelas con un buen nivel de seguridad y sistemas de apoyo socioemocionales para todos los estudiantes. Hemos desarrollado fuertes sistemas de seguridad en todas nuestras escuelas los cuales incluyen cercados, cámaras de seguridad, personal de seguridad en las escuelas y estrictos procedimientos a seguir por las personas que visitan las escuelas.


También hemos contratado excelentes equipos de enlace comunitario y familiar, consejeros escolares, psicólogos y personal de apoyo para asegurar que los maestros y el personal escolar no sean los únicos encargados de crear entornos de educación seguros para los estudiantes. Nos hemos asociado con la Universidad de California San Diego (UCSD, por sus siglas en inglés) para monitorear nuestros esfuerzos colectivos de crear una cultura bien establecida, enfocada en los valores de nuestro distrito. Nuestro equipo ha ampliado las oportunidades para los estudiantes y los padres de familia de aprender sobre seguridad cibernética, estrategias anti acoso escolar y programa de educación sobre los buenos hábitos que enfatizan la importancia de construir y promover una cultura en base a los aspectos de mayor dominio, la cual celebra el potencial de cada niño para lograr el éxito, académico dentro de la escuela y la sociedad.


Sin embargo, es importante destacar que no podemos desempeñar solos este trabajo. Ustedes son una parte valiosa de nuestra comunidad. Necesitamos de su apoyo para determinar maneras de ayudar a todos los estudiantes durante estos momentos difíciles. Si ustedes o miembros de sus familias tienen preguntas, inquietudes o ideas, estamos preparados para escucharles y les invitamos a compartirlas. Por favor, comuníquense con el Departamento de Servicios de Apoyo Estudiantil al 760-726-2170, extensión 92180 o comuníquense con el Enlace Comunitario y Familiar de su escuela.


Durante mi cargo como Superintendente Interino, he adquirido el compromiso de visitar semanalmente todas las escuelas del distrito y apoyar a los estudiantes, padres de familia, maestros y personal escolar. Ahora es el momento para que todos profundicemos nuestro compromiso de crear un clima de aprendizaje que muestre empatía, seguridad, protección, apoyo, tolerancia, libre de discriminación y lleno de alegría para todos los estudiantes. Nuestras acciones colectivas diarias crearán una cultura dentro del distrito de la que nos sentiremos orgullosos. Mantengamos las escuelas como un espacio seguro de aprendizaje para todos los estudiantes.



Matt Doyle, Ed.D.

Superintendente Interino

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/6/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Bill Porter had a good job that paid well selling medical rehabilitation equipment.


That was until he went to an elementary school to show how the equipment would work for a student with disabilities. “When I started walking on campus, the whole feeling came back,” Porter said.


The feeling was Porter’s abandoned dream to become a teacher. “It sparked that thought again, this is what I really want to be,” Porter said.


He had given up on his dream in the early 1980’s, when friends who were teachers got laid off, or couldn’t find work.


When the dream resurfaced, Porter quit his job, became a stay-at-home dad during the day, and went to night classes at California State University (CSU) San Marcos to earn his teaching credentials.


It’s a decision that Porter has never regretted as he went from being a special education classroom teacher in Del Mar to principal of Mission Meadows Elementary School in a portion of Oceanside that’s included in the Vista Unified School District. About a third of the students in Vista Unified live in Oceanside.


“The biggest thing that makes this school special is, we have a caring environment,” Porter said. “Everybody on campus goes above and beyond to make everyone feel special.”


That includes Porter, said Marla Williams, a fifth grade teacher who’s been at Mission Meadows for 21 years.


“Of the principals we’ve had here, he’s got to be one of the easiest to talk to,” Williams said. “He feels like his job is to support us, not tell us what to do. It’s, ‘How can I help you do your job?’”


Cardie Edgar, a library technician at Mission Meadows for the past six years, said that Porter makes it a point to get to know the families whose children attend the school.


“I would say he’s very caring and he’s a compassionate person. He’s pretty upbeat, and supportive,” Edgar said. “The supportive thing matters very much.”


That support shows in the school library, which is bigger than those at some other elementary schools.


Before Porter arrived, two classrooms were combined to create the library, but Edgar said that from his first day on the job, Porter has made the library a priority, making sure that there’s money in the budget for library supplies and encouraging her drive to make it an inviting place for kids, with furniture that lets them sprawl on the floor or sit in comfy chairs instead of desks.

“We’re really pushing reading,” Edgar said.


The school’s motto, as cited by Porter, is that Mission Meadows is, “The school with an inclusive heart, where you are able to be your authentic self in an inclusive environment.”


With an enrollment of 585 students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade, Mission Meadows is one of five schools in Vista Unified that has classrooms for children with moderate to severe learning disabilities – one for students in kindergarten through second grade and one for children in third through fifth-grades.


The school also has a learning center for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities, who spend most of their time in general education classes.


“We have an amazing special education program here,” Porter said. “We are the model.”


During the 2015-2016 school year, Mission Meadows converted a former computer lab into a MakerSpace, where students learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lessons by tinkering.


“We put them in an environment where they feel they’re scientists, they feel they’re engineers,” Porter said.


Mission Meadows is tucked away in the quiet neighborhood of Jeffries Ranch on the eastern edge of Oceanside.


“Jeffries Ranch does a lot to support us. A lot of families are involved,” Williams said. “We even have families involved that no longer have students at the schools.”


Edgar described Mission Meadows as “the small town school in a big city.”


“It’s a hidden gem,” Williams said.


Jeffries Ranch is a horsey community, with riding trails threaded throughout the neighborhood – a feature that  made Porter feel he’d found the perfect place when he was appointed principal in August 2013.


Horseback riding is one of Porter’s passions. Three times a week, he rides a Friesian gelding named Uther Pendragon along trails in Poway. “I grew up with horses,” Porter said.


Growing up in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego, Porter said he was a regular at nearby stables, where he learned how to train horses. The stables have since closed.


A graduate of San Diego’s Madison High School, Porter earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing from San Diego State University after serving four years in the Navy on active duty and three years in the Navy Reserve as a senior hospital corpsman.


“I joined the Navy to see the world,” Porter said, but he wound up stationed at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.


It was there that he met his wife, Monica Joynt, who is human relations director at Acadia Pharmaceuticals. At the time, she was stationed at Balboa as a nurse.


They have three sons – Conor, 22, who just graduated from the University of Kansas, where he studied political science and journalism; and 27-year-old twins Colin, a second lieutenant U.S. Marine Corps logistics officer, and Keegan, a Benedictine Catholic monk at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon.


Porter has a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in school administration from CSU San Marcos. He also received a doctorate degree from the joint doctoral program at the University of California San Diego and CSU San Marcos in educational leadership.


He is fluent in American Sign Language – a skill he picked up at Madison High School after seeing other students signing in the cafeteria during lunch.


In 2016, Porter was named General Education Administrator of the Year for Special Education by the North County Consortium for Special Education.


“I been called a Renaissance man by friends and family, because I was always looking for something new and interesting to learn, which is probably a great trait to have in the education profession,” Porter said. “I’m also working on my Spanish skills.”


He’s also fond of singing, although he’s never sung professionally.


“I’m always singing in the car and around the house,” Porter said, bursting into song to demonstrate as he sat in his office.

He also sings at school assemblies and welcomes new students with the school song


“Then, they become official Mustangs, when they hear that song,” Porter said, referring to the Mustang school mascot.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/2/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

*** UPDATED January 18, 2018 ***



Dear Parents and Guardians,


This is the time of year when many people in our community become ill with influenza, also called “flu.”


The flu is widespread earlier and more severe this year in San Diego and throughout the nation.  The flu is not just a bad cold. Although the symptoms may be similar to colds and other respiratory illnesses, flu can make people very ill.  Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, severe muscle or body aches, shaking chills, headache, and fatigue. Children may also have nausea and vomiting with the flu.  The very young and very old are most vulnerable to serious flu illness.  Often, when school-age children become ill, they bring home the virus to other family members, including young infants and grandparents.  


The best way to protect yourself and your family from flu is to get vaccinated.  It is not too late for this season!  Everyone in your family who is 6 months and older is recommended to get the flu vaccine. Vaccine is available at your medical home, community health centers, public health centers, and retail pharmacies.  For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.


Here are some additional ways you and your children can help prevent the spread of flu:


Even if your child has had the flu vaccine, if your child has symptoms of the flu, it is important to seek medical attention for your child.  A child with influenza should not attend school until at least 24 hours after fever ends or your provider indicates that the child is no longer contagious to others. 


Help your children stay healthy in school by getting them vaccinated for flu.  You can learn more about the flu and how to prevent it by going to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Flu Information for Parents website here.


If you have any questions, please contact the school nurse, at your child’s school.  Together we can have a healthy school year!



Kyle Ruggles, Ed.D.

Executive Director, Student Support Services





Estimados Padres o Guardianes:


Esta es la temporada del año en que mucha gente se enferma con la gripe, también llamada “influenza.” La gripe se ha extendido más temprano que de costumbre y es más severa este año en San Diego y por todo el país.


La gripe no es solo un resfriado severo. Aunque los síntomas son similares a los resfriados y otras enfermedades respiratorias, la gripe puede ser una enfermedad grave. Los síntomas incluyen fiebre, tos, dolor de garganta, dolores musculares o corporales, escalofríos y fatiga. Los niños podrían sentir nausea  o vómito debido a la gripe. Los niños y bebés y las personas de edad avanzada son los más vulnerables a enfermarse seriamente debido a la gripe. Con frecuencia, cuando los niños de edad escolar se enferman, llevan el virus a su casa y exponen a otros familiares, incluyendo a bebés y abuelos.


La mejor manera de protegerse a sí mismo y a su familia de la gripe es vacunándose. ¡No es tarde para vacunarse esta temporada! Se recomienda que todos los miembros de su familia de 6 meses o mayores se vacunen. La vacuna está disponible a través de su médico particular, clínicas comunitarias, centros de salud pública y farmacias locales. Para una lista de ubicaciones, visite www.sdiz.org o llame al 2-1-1.


A continuación aparece una lista de maneras en la que usted y sus hijos pueden evitar que la gripe se propague:


Si su hijo(a) has sido vacunado(a), pero tiene síntomas de la gripe, es importante que busque atención médica. Su hijo(a) no debe ir a la escuela hasta después de 24 horas que le haya desaparecido la fiebre o cuando su médico le indique que ya no podría contagiar a otros.

Ayude a que sus hijos estén saludables en la escuela vacunándolos contra la gripe. Puede aprender más sobre la gripe y cómo prevenirla visitando el sitio de los Centros para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades y haciendo clic en Información sobre la gripe para padres de niños pequeños.



Si tiene alguna pregunta, comuníquese con la enfermera de la escuela.  ¡Juntos podemos tener un año escolar saludable!



Kyle Ruggles, Ed.D.

Executive Director, Student Support Services




Original Post: September 30, 2018


Dear Parent or Guardian:


We are entering the time of year when we see influenza (flu) and other respiratory viruses at school. We want to let you know what steps we are taking to keep our school community healthy and how you can help.


Respiratory infections, such as the flu and common colds (colds), are spread when people come in close contact with sick people and inhale airborne droplets, or come in contact with contaminated surfaces. Flu and colds symptoms can sometimes be difficult to tell them apart, but consider this:

If symptoms persist or worsen, make an appointment with your healthcare provider for an evaluation. The flu can be serious for children of all ages, causing them to miss school, activities, or even become hospitalized.


We take the health of our students seriously and work very hard to keep these viruses from spreading. We regularly clean frequently touched areas such as door knobs, stair rails, telephones, computer keyboards, and bathroom faucets and fixtures. We also instruct students and staff to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Take 3 approach to fight the flu:


1. Get the flu vaccine every year


2. Take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs:

 Wash hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available,

 Cover coughs with a disposable tissue or cough into their sleeve,

 Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth,

 Avoid close contact with sick individuals,

 Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils, and

 Stay home when sick.


3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your healthcare provider prescribes them.

You can help us maintain a healthy school environment in a variety of ways:

 Make sure your children receive all recommended immunizations, including an annual flu vaccine,

 Reinforce all of the above preventive behaviors practiced at school,

 Make sure children get plenty of exercise, sleep, and healthy food, and

 Keep sick children home, especially if they have a fever above 100o F, diarrhea, vomiting, or a severe cough.


A couple additional important points:

 Notify your child’s healthcare provider if your child develops difficulty breathing or a new onset of wheezing, and

 If your child has asthma, please make sure we have a copy of your child’s Asthma Action Plan.


Important information about preventing the flu can be found at these websites:

 http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/children.htm and 2

 www.preventchildhoodinfluenza.org/school.

 Find a place near you to get the flu and other vaccines at http://vaccine.healthmap.org/.}


If you have any questions, please contact the school nurse, at your child’s school. Together we can have a healthy school year!



Kyle Ruggles, Ed.D.

Executive Director, Student Support Services




Estimado padre o tutor legal:


Estamos entrando en la época del año en que comenzamos a ver casos de influenza (gripe) y otros virus respiratorios en la escuela. Queremos informarles acerca de las medidas que estamos tomando para mantener saludable a nuestra comunidad escolar y lo que usted puede hacer para ayudar.


Las infecciones respiratorias, como la influenza y los resfríos comunes (o resfriados) se transmiten cuando las personas entran en contacto cercano con personas enfermas, respiran las gotitas contaminadas que hay en el aire o tocan superficies contaminadas. A veces puede ser difícil distinguir entre los síntomas de un resfrío y los de la influenza, pero tenga en cuenta lo siguiente:

Si los síntomas persisten o empeoran, haga una cita con su proveedor de atención médica para que lo examine. La influenza puede ser grave en los niños de todas las edades y puede hacer que falten a la escuela, a sus actividades o incluso que sean hospitalizados.


Tomamos la salud de nuestros estudiantes muy seriamente y trabajamos arduamente para prevenir la propagación de estos virus. Limpiamos regularmente las áreas que se tocan frecuentemente como las manijas de las puertas, los teclados de las computadoras y los grifos y demás instalaciones del baño. Además, instruimos a los estudiantes y al personal que sigan el enfoque Tome 3 de los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC) para combatir la influenza.


1. Póngase la vacuna contra la influenza todos los años.


2. Tome medidas preventivas diarias para detener la propagación de microbios:

 Lávese las manos frecuentemente y con agua y jabón, o use limpiadores de manos a base de alcohol cuando no haya agua y jabón disponibles.

 Cuando tosa, cúbrase la nariz y la boca con un pañuelo desechable o la manga.

 Evite tocarse los ojos, la nariz y la boca.

 Evite el contacto cercano con las personas enfermas.

 Evite compartir vasos y cubiertos.

 Quédese en la casa cuando esté enfermo.


3. Tome medicamentos antivirales contra la influenza si su proveedor de atención médica se los receta

Usted puede ayudar a mantener saludable el entorno escolar de varias maneras:

 Asegúrese de que sus hijos reciban todas las vacunas recomendadas. Esto incluye la vacuna anual contra la influenza.

 Refuerce todos los comportamientos preventivos descritos más arriba que se practican en la escuela.

 Asegúrese de que los niños hagan suficiente ejercicio, duerman y se alimenten bien.

 No deje que los niños enfermos salgan de la casa, especialmente si tienen fiebre de más de 100 oF (37.8 oC), diarrea, vómitos o tos intensa.


También es importante:

 que notifique al proveedor de atención médica de su hijo si su hijo presenta dificultad para respirar o un episodio nuevo de sibilancias;

 si su hijo tiene asma, que se asegure de tener una copia del plan de acción para el asma de su hijo.


Puede encontrar información importante sobre la prevención de la influenza en los siguientes sitios web:

 http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/children.htm y 2

 www.preventchildhoodinfluenza.org/school.

 Encuentre un lugar cercano donde vacunarse contra la influenza y obtener otras vacunas en http://vaccine.healthmap.org/.}


Si tiene alguna pregunta, comuníquese con la enfermera de la escuela. ¡Juntos podemos tener un año escolar saludable!



Kyle Ruggles, Ed.D.

Executive Director, Student Support Services



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/30/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Mission Vista High School Named Nationally Certified Demonstration Magnet School


Joins First National Cohort of Magnet Schools to Meet Rigorous Standards of Excellence and is one of ten schools in the nation to be recognized as a Demonstration Magnet School


Mission Vista High School has been named a Nationally Certified Demonstration Magnet School by Magnet Schools of America (MSA), the national association for magnet and theme-based schools.


Mission Vista High School was among the first 55 schools located in 12 states (AL, CA, CT, FL, LA, MD, NC, NV, SC, TN, TX, and WI) to successfully complete an approximately nine month evaluation process and demonstrate through evidence, reflection, and strategic action that it has established the best practices entailed in the Magnet School Standards of Excellence


“In an increasingly complex school choice environment, parents, families, students, and local communities can be confident that each nationally certified magnet school is held to the same high standards,” said MSA Executive Director Todd Mann. “The certification process is groundbreaking and the first of its kind. It was created to recognize our most exemplary magnet programs.”


The national certification process is based on the Magnet School Standards of Excellence and the five pillars of magnet schools (diversity; innovative curriculum and professional development; academic excellence; high quality instructional systems; and, family and community partnerships). These pillars and standards define the essential elements and characteristics of high-quality magnet programs.


"To have Mission Vista High School be recognized as a national model is a tremendous point of pride for Vista Unified,” says Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle. “This recognition reinforces our commitment to becoming the model of excellence and innovation."


To become nationally certified, Mission Vista High School submitted a detailed application and participated in a rigorous evaluation conducted by the National Institute for Magnet School Leadership (NIMSL). The application process required the school to submit evidence demonstrating how it met each of the multiple indicators included in the Standards of Excellence. This included providing specific examples of how the school is promoting school diversity, closing the achievement gap, integrating a theme-based curriculum throughout the school, and encouraging parent and community involvement. 


Among the first cohort of nationally certified schools, Mission Vista High School was one of ten identified as National Demonstration Schools.  These schools exceeded the criteria outlined in the Standards of Excellence and are models that should be closely studied and replicated.  The Demonstration Schools will serve as learning laboratories for school innovation and improvement for others to observe and follow.


“This is an important opportunity to showcase the transformative leadership and instructional best practices that are integrated into these exceptional schools,” said Kelly Bucherie, National Director for Magnet School Leadership. “The bar has been set very high for magnet schools and other choice programs. Achieving this prominent status should inspire others to strive for similar levels of excellence.”


Mission Vista High School, a comprehensive, dual-magnet high school that opened in 2009, and after several years of rapid growth, the school currently serves 1690 students.  MVHS offers a total of 62 unique, magnet-themed courses and pathways in the areas of Arts, Communication, Science and Technology.  In addition to this, the school hosts more than 35 visual and performing arts performances for our community each year, and students enrolled in various magnet-themed programs have opportunities to work with community partners, including the University of California at San Diego, AT&T, Genentech Laboratories, local Apple stores, and a variety of local organizations. 


MVHS operates on a 4x5 block schedule in which students take eight classes each year.  This allows them more opportunities to explore their strengths, interests, and values through our vast and unique program offerings. In 2017, MVHS was awarded the California Department of Education Gold Ribbon Award for its magnet programs.


Mission Vista High School will be recognized during a ceremony held at Magnet Schools of America’s 36th National Conference in Chicago, Illinois April 25-29, 2018. The school is also eligible to order a National Certification banner to display at the school and will receive an electronic seal to place on its website and on other appropriate school materials.


To learn more about the Magnet Schools of America Standards of Excellence Certification program, please visit www.magnet.edu


To read a recent article about the award in the San Diego Union-Tribune, click here. 

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/27/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/26/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


For Breeze Hill Elementary School Principal Lori Higley, “those lightbulb moments” are what makes her profession special.

The best part is “seeing that light bulb go on” when a student understands something.


It took Higley a few false starts, working as a dental assistant and in a law office, before she found the career she loves. “After much thought, I decided I wanted to become a teacher, to hopefully encourage and inspire future generations,” Higley said. “Teaching is one of those special professions, where you are constantly working with children and their families on a daily basis.”


She’d worked as a dental assistant and in a law office first, but with her appointment as Breeze Hill principal, she’s back to where she started, where she found her calling.


Breeze Hill is where Higley got her first teaching job in 1996, and where she stayed for 10 years, teaching kindergarten and first grade.


As principal, Higley sees many of her former students, now as parents, with children of their own coming to the same classrooms in which Higley taught. “It’s kind of scary, but cool too,” Higley said.


In many ways, the school is much the same as when she left it.

The student population has grown slightly, with an enrolment of about 800 students, about 30 percent of whom are English learners.


But many of the teachers who were there when Higley started teaching remain.


“It’s kind of a special place. I don’t want to leave,” said Sandy Piperato, a second grade teacher who’s been at Breeze Hill since 1994.


“It’s our home away from home,” said Laura Blackwell, a second grade teacher who’s been at Breeze Hill for 21 years, adding that,  “I really feel like it’s a family environment.”


“There’s a group of us that do things outside of school together,” Blackwell said. “There’s groups that go on vacations together. We know that we all care about each other and the kids. We trust each other.”


Higley’s appointment as Breeze Hill’s principal was celebrated by many of her former teaching colleagues who saw it as of one of their own making good.


“We were all so excited because she really represents and does what’s best for kids. That’s always at the heart of every conversation she has,” Piperato said. “She’s just grown over the years. It’s just been amazing to watch.”


Higley left Breeze Hill in 2004 to become a literacy coach at Grapevine Elementary until 2007, when she moved on to become a reading and literacy coach, training other teachers in the district. She returned to Breeze Hill in 2013 and served as assistant principal before becoming principal.


“She has mentored so many people at our school,” Piperato said. “You can’t help but be sucked in by her enthusiasm. She’s been that way since she stepped on campus day one – bubbly, enthusiastic.”


Joining Higley this year as Breeze Hill’s assistant principal was Letty Cimino, who also has a history at Breeze Hill as a former resource teacher training other teachers at the school.


The two make a strong pair, Piperato said. “I call them the dynamic duo, because they really are powerful together,” Piperato said.


Like Higley, Cimino initial career choice wasn’t teaching. “I originally wanted to be a marine biologist,” Cimino said. “I taught classes at SeaWorld, and that’s what sparked my interest in actually becoming a teacher.”


Cementing her career choice was a stint practice teaching at Mission Elementary School in Oceanside.


“I was taking a marine biology class at Mira Costa (College) and was told for my final, to go teach at an elementary school,” Cimino said. “That was the confirmation for me, so I changed my major from a science major to liberal arts with a teaching credential.”


Cimino said that her job, “first and foremost,” is “to support my principal with the mission and vision for the school, which is that we are becoming an AVID (Advancement in Individual Determination) elementary school.”


Started by a San Diego High School teacher in 1980, AVID uses teaching practices to get students thinking about college, especially those who come from backgrounds where college wasn’t considered an option.


Students learn how to take effective notes, organize their work, and collaborate with each other. “It gives them a step up,” Higley said.


In addition to establishing Breeze Hill as an AVID school, Higley said, “My number one goal is literacy.”


“We have to get these kids reading,” Higley said. “If you can’t read or write, your life is going to be much harder.”


Underlying everything at Breeze Hill is a culture centered on what Higley said are five pillars, as described in the book, How to Create a Culture of Achievement, by Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey and Ian Pumplan. They are “welcome, do no harm, choice words, never too late to learn, best school in the universe.”


“One of the things we’re super proud of is, we practice these things every day,” Higley said. “We will be and we are the best school in the universe.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/24/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage
Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/18/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


In the six years that he’s been principal at Grapevine Elementary School, Rafael Olavide has transformed the school, according to teachers he works with.


“Teachers want to be here,” says fifth grade teacher Monica Davila. “We even have teachers from other schools that are interested in coming to [Grapevine] to work here. It’s definitely because of him. He’s very respectful of teachers. He treats us like professionals, and he’s very much for students’ success.”


Kindergarten teacher Lara Sims, who’s been at Grapevine for three years, said that Olavide “really has a passion for our kids.”


“He’s definitely the face of our school,” Sims said. “It’s a caring place, where we are a family.”


That sense of family is one of the things which defines Grapevine Elementary.


“We’ve been able to create a system where our families trust us,” Olavide said. “We’re in the community. This is a community school, so we want them to be part of it.”


As Olavide sees it, Grapevine’s transformation is ongoing as he sets out to establish the school’s brand as a model for language development.


“From an academic standpoint, I think our students need to get some good foundations in language and literacy,” Olavide said. “I believe the community will benefit from a strong academic language environment.”


About 85 percent of Grapevine’s 660 students are Latino, and many of those are English learners.


Grapevine teachers have been trained in a language teaching method known as GLAD, which stands for Guided Language Acquisition Design. GLAD uses a variety of methods to reinforce the vocabulary students learn, such as singing songs using the words they're learning, and visual supports, like posters.


“We do a lot of chants, chants and songs about what we’re studying, all these fun chants that incorporate the vocabulary we want them to learn,” Sims said.


The school also is developing a dual language immersion program, to begin in the 2018-2019 school year.


Although the details are still being worked out, the idea is that English-speaking students will be taught part of their lessons in Spanish and Spanish-speaking students will be taught in English.


“We’re going to have a path for the student who wants to learn Spanish,” Olavide said. “That student who starts in kindergarten, by fifth grade, will be fluent.”


Under Olavide’s direction, Grapevine also has adopted a behavior philosophy called Positive Behavior Intervention Support that emphasizes positive actions and expectations over punishment.

For example, if a student is running down a hallway, a teacher will ask him to walk instead of saying don’t run, Olavide said.


Students also earn Grizzly Dollars for good behavior. The grizzly bear is Grapevine’s mascot, and Grizzly Dollars can be redeemed every Friday for cafeteria treats, school supplies or toys.


A native of Spain, came to the United States in 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the University of San Diego and a master’s degree in bi-literacy from California State University San Marcos. He earned his teaching credentials at the University of San Diego.


Olavide studied law in Madrid, and thought his career would be something to do with law.


All that changed when he got a summer school job coordinating an English language development program, which also was how he met his wife Debra, a fourth-grade teacher in Oceanside.


The couple have two children – Victoria, 20, a junior at California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, and Michael, 17, a senior at San Marcos High School.


Part of Olavide’s summer job in Madrid was recruiting teachers from the United States and elsewhere to teach English in Spain, and one of the teachers he recruited was the woman who became his wife.


“I hired her over the phone,” Olavide said. “I picked her up at the airport, and 25 years later, here we are.”


His summer job also included some teaching, “And, I said, ‘you know what, I like this.’”


Olavide began his teaching career at Grapevine, then moved to Temple Heights Elementary School, where he was a teacher, then administrative designee before becoming Grapevine’s principal. “I always wanted to come back here,” Olavide said. “This is a very special place.”


Much about Grapevine is the same as it was when he first came to the school, Olavide said.


“The needs are the same. The demographics are the same,” Olavide said. What’s different, he said, is, “We have more and more committed parents.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/14/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Vista USD Selected As 1 of 4 National Chapters of The Teachers Guild

Kickoff Event For Teachers/Administrators Scheduled For Sept. 28


Vista Unified School District has been selected as one of four national chapters of The Teachers Guild, an offshoot of world-renowned design firm IDEO, created to “activate teachers’ creativity to solve the biggest challenges in education today.


Starting in late September 2017, VUSD will host a series of teacher training workshops to form collaborative groups across the district. Groups will be trained by Teachers Guild designers in the process of Design Thinking, and be led in a district-wide design challenge focused on creating solutions related to Personal Learning.


All teachers and administrators in VUSD are invited to participate in this district-wide challenge. The first event will be held Thursday, September 28th.


"How Might We...?"

According to Michelle Snyder, an Online & Blended Learning teacher in the district, “For VUSD schools this means that participating teachers will receive training in the design process and in using that process to generate solutions to implement in their classrooms. We do this by starting with a district ‘How might we ...?’ question that relates to solving a challenge around Personal Learning in VUSD.”


The vision is to empower teams of teachers to thoughtfully design solutions to real challenges related to personal learning, and to provide teachers the support they need to scale and sustain those solutions at the site and district level.


The partnership is also powerful in that District Design Leaders (a team of 10 teachers from 9 schools across the district) will first be trained by IDEO/Guild, and will then lead teams of teachers in this design process - enabling a creative leadership culture to emerge from the ranks of teachers.


RSVP Today

The kickoff event, dubbed The Creative Leadership Institute, will be held Thursday, September 28th, at The Innovation Center (836 Olive Ave.) from 3-7pm and is open to all teachers and administrators in VUSD. 


Click To Attend the Creative Leadership Institute!


Who: Vista USD Chapter of The Teachers Guild invite all VUSD teachers and administrators.

What: Teacher’s Guild Kickoff Event: The Creative Leadership Institute

When: Thursday, September 28, 2017 from 3-7 pm

Where: Vista Innovation Center - MPR. 836 Olive Ave.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/12/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard

As a student growing up in El Cajon, Steven Bailey got so-so grades. “I was a kid that wasn’t engaged in school,” Bailey said. “I wasn’t inspired or felt I had the potential to do any better.”


As the new principal at Madison Middle School in the Vista Unified School District, Bailey wants to give his students the inspiration that eluded him – to show students they have “the ability to do whatever they wanted to.”


“Going through the system, I realized there were a lot of kids like me out there and I wanted to change that,” Bailey said.

He didn’t start out to be an educator.


“When I was a young kid, I wanted to help people – nursing, medicine – I just knew I wanted to help human beings,” Bailey said. “At some point, in my mid-20’s, I realized I could do that in education.”


That was after he toyed with the idea of becoming an astronaut. “Every boy’s dream in the ‘80’s was, we wanted to be astronauts,” Bailey said.


Space exploration aside, “I just found my passion in education.”

Bailey came to Vista Unified from the Cajon Valley School District, where he was most recently principal of Emerald STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Middle School. In 2015, he received a Classroom of the Future Foundation Innovative Principal Award.


Amber Walsh, a sixth grade math and science teacher at Emerald STEAM, said that Bailey “gave me a lot of freedom to explore in my classroom and do what’s best for kids.”


“It was nice, because I came from a school that was very limiting on what I could do,” Walsh said. “He was very encouraging. I wasn’t afraid to take risks for student learning.”


For example, toward the end of the 2016-2017 school year, Walsh wanted to create a maker space at the school where students could tinker and learn by building things.


“He helped get it started,” Walsh said. “It’s a small step, but just having that encouragement, a lot of principals wouldn’t let that extra space be used.”


Steven Bailey with Madison Middle School students Alyson Alvarez, Lillian Eury and Kimberly Nava (L to R)


Although Emerald had been designated a STEAM school before Bailey got there, it was Bailey who really made STEAM come alive at the school, said Heather Pentico, also a sixth grade math and science teacher at Emerald STEAM .


“He changed it from a traditional school into this dynamic, 21st century learning experience for kids,” Pentico said. “He’s really excited to try out some new things.”


Walsh and Pentico said that Bailey also made it a point to build a strong rapport with students and parents.


“Vista should know that he gives 1,000 percent. He just gives it his all, he gives it his heart,” Pentico said. “You guys sure are lucky.”


As a newcomer to Madison Middle School, Bailey said, “First and foremost, I want to really get to know the community, really get to know the students, really get to know the staff.”

Beyond that, Bailey said that he wants to “put Madison on the map, really define what we’re going to be the best in the world at.”


“Are we going to be a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) school? What is it that’s going to make Madison stand out? That is something we’re going to be working on,” Bailey said. “I would like to see us continue working on personalizing education for students, increasing students’ exposure to the world of work as an engagement tool for our kids.”


A graduate of Valhalla High School in El Cajon, Bailey has a bachelor of arts degree in social sciences from San Diego State University, a master’s of science in special education degree from National University, and a masters of arts in educational leadership from San Diego State University.


Bailey is an avid gardener and cook, plays the guitar, surfs, and likes “tinkering around with building stuff.”


“I cook a lot,” Bailey said. “I find a cuisine that I’m not familiar with, then I’ll learn the basics. I’m really into making homemade pasta.”


Along with gardening, cooking is a passion he’s passing on to daughters Rowan, 9, and Savannah, 7.


“I love gardening with the girls, with the whole family,” Bailey said. “I find not only is it therapeutic, but it’s also a way to really build family. It’s really cool.”


Bailey said that he and his wife, Angela, had an extensive garden with “tons of fruit trees” along with cacti and stone fruits in El Cajon.


They’re just getting started in their Carlsbad home. “By next spring, we’ll have a garden,” Bailey said.


The family moved from El Cajon to Carlsbad early this year when Bailey’s wife got a job with Fidelity Bank.


“I said, ‘You’ve been following me around for the last 17 years, let’s sell our house. We’ll move up to where you’re going to be working,’” Bailey said. “We sold the house in four days, moved to Carlsbad May 1.”


Soon after, Bailey connected with Visa Unified when the principal’s spot opened at Madison.


As a teacher, Bailey said that he liked “helping students discover their inner strengths and their interests and what they valued in life, really building off that and empowering children as learners.”


Bailey said that he moved into administration because he could reach more students than he could as a classroom teacher. “My goal is to really fundamentally and positively impact kids,” Bailey said.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/11/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Vista Unified Launches Podcast

With Half of all US Households as Regular Podcast Listeners,

District Leads With A New Communication Channel


Vista, CA | September 7, 2017 - Vista Unified School District has launched WAVE Pod, a new podcast designed to share deeper conversations about the district's schools and leaders with listeners. According to a recent Nielsen Research study, half of all US households are regular podcast listeners, making the format a growing source of information and entertainment.


With this in mind, the district has added this new communication channel to its mix, complementing existing ways of informing and engaging with the communities the district serves. The podcast can also be a vehicle to share stories of the impact the district is having across the county, state, and country, as well as internationally, by hosting conversations with partners that the district works with regularly.


“We understand that the parents and families that we serve gather information in a number of ways,” says Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle. “Adding a podcast to the mix shows that we are adapting to the shifts in communication, as well as offering our community a chance to delve deeper into the insights and motivations of those who are guiding our district and our students’ learning.”


The first episodes feature conversations with various school principals in the district, giving each the opportunity to share their vision, how they approach learning, and the culture that each school has developed.


Rancho Buena Vista High School’s Chuck Schindler speaks about the school’s traditional strengths in performing arts and the school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma program, as well as more recent developments in computer sciences and robotics, among others.


Lake Elementary’s Krista Berntsen tells a moving story of how the entire school team rallied to help a student going through rough times as an example of the strength of the culture and community at the school.


She also outlines new training for teachers and how the shift to a Personal Learning model plays out in the classroom.

The podcast is available via the iTunes Podcast store, as well as from podcast hosting service PodBean. Links for the podcast are available here:


iTunes: http://apple.co/2wbMygB

PodBean: https://vusdwave.podbean.com/


The district anticipates three shows per month.


Read the Union-Tribune's article about the podcast launch here.

Read the Vista Press article about the podcast launch here.






Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/7/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


An all-girls team from Vista Magnet Middle School won the North County Mission 11 competition in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), and visited Open Source Maker Labs in Vista for a launch party to watch their experiment lift off in the SpaceX CRS12 headed for the International Space Station.

Vista Magnet Middle School students visiting Open Source Maker Labs


Their experiment involves the use of a special kind of flatworm (D. japonica) to test the regeneration of stem cells in microgravity, while they run an identical control experiment here on Earth. After about six weeks in space, the experiment will be returned to them for comparison between the two groups.


Earlier this summer, the girls also travelled to the Smithsonian Institution to present their experiment proposal. They received many compliments for a very professional presentation, and had the opportunity to meet many scientists and career-related professionals during their visit.

Vista Magnet Middle School students visiting the Smithsonian.


The SSEP has been in place for ten years, giving incredible opportunities for middle and high school students to design and run real science experiments in space.


For Mission 11, OSML initiated a partnership between several north county schools, NCPDF, UCSD, and local industry partners to support hundreds of students with a unique opportunity. We look forward to seeing the results of our winning team’s experiment, and to bring more opportunities for citizen science into our community.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/5/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

UPDATE: September 26, 2017


Event Recap From RBV Teacher Scott Bailey: 


Thank you so much for your generosity and support for the RBV PTSA Hurricane Harvey Relief Supply Drive last week. We had such support from our student leads Kylie Wilcox and Sabrina Benyo, principal Chuck Schindler, RBV PTSA President Kimmy Gillgren, the PTSA parents who volunteered to collect in the student lot, and all those staff members who let me market the drive by letting me take a photo of them with a box of tampons on their shoulder.


We collected 4,887 tampons and pads totaling 163 packages, 3,678 diapers totaling 74 packages, along with 2,200 baby wipes, 125 pairs of socks, 100 bottles of liquid soap, 40 boxes of tissue 16 bars of soap, 5 bottles of shampoo, and 4 gigantic water bottles.  Again the non-profit charity Project HoUSton will be helping to ship these items to families in need in Houston.


Please congratulate the class of 2020 for donating the most items but the reality is that RBV did a fantastic job as a team.


UPDATE: September 21, 2017


Rancho Buena Vista High School is continuing its efforts to provide long-term relief assistance to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.


Rancho seniors Kylie Wilcox and Sabrina Benyo, with support from the RBV PTSA, are collecting packaged diapers and feminine hygiene products at the school on Thursday, September 21 and Friday, September 22, as well as at the RBV football game Friday night, September 22nd. The groups are working with local organization Project HoUSton to have the items delivered to shelters in Houston upon collection.


Acknowledging that young men are sometimes reticent to handle packages of feminine hygiene products, the two groups have created a campaign titled, #RealMenAlwaysManUp, posting flyers around the school and online showing male student and male staff leaders at the school posing with boxes of donated pads and tampons.



The campaign includes a contest by grade level / graduating class to see which class can have the most items donated.


While the school is aware of other recent hurricane damage, they have vowed to not let attention for Harvey fade. This latest effort is the result of the school's plans to stay engaged with Harvey victims throughout the school year.


Rancho Buena Vista High School students at their Hurricane Drive to collect and distribute much-needed items to those affected by Hurricane harvey


RBV's four current graduating classes competing to raise the largest number of donations.


The RBV community's generosity on display as they collect supplies.





UPDATE: September 8, 2017


The VUSD community continues to show its heart and generosity by expanding efforts to direct aid to those affected by  Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas.


Friday, September 8th: RBV at Vista HS Football Game

Rancho Buena Vista High School and Vista High School may be rivals on the football field, but at this year’s game both schools are working together to gather and deliver aid to Harvey victims by partnering with different organizations.


Volunteers from the Red Cross will be on hand at the game, held at Vista High School, to collect money to be used directly for Harvey relief efforts. Also in attendance will be volunteers gathering packaged diapers and packaged socks to be delivered directly to Houston via Project Houston, a San Diego-based non profit that has been coordinating efforts across the county to deliver tangible goods to those in need.


Committed To The Long Term

Beyond the September 8th game, students and staff at Rancho Buena Vista High School have been developing a months—long plan to continue to support relief efforts in Houston. Scott Bailey, a teacher at RBV, is working with Chuck Schindler (RBV Principal), a variety of different student groups, and RBV PTSA to develop a long term plan for relief.


Says Bailey, “so often we’re gripped by the immediate needs, but after a few weeks those needs fall out of view. We are committed to building a plan that keeps us engaged with communities in Houston for the long haul, and want people there to know that we’ll continue to help long after the initial rush of attention is gone.”


Bailey says that the ASB team is working on monthly events that will allow people to stay engaged, and will be working with local organizations in Houston to gauge the best ways to respond. The initial push for diapers and socks is a response to many organizations that have made a call for those things.


Says Bailey, “as a parent, I remember what it was like to be in constant need of  diapers when things were going fine, and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for parents across Houston in this time. Those are things that are no brainers in terms of needs.”


Community Effort

While RBV is leading the way for the year-long plan, and Vista High jumped into action as well, both schools stress that they are in this together, and invite the broader VUSD community to join them and build momentum for the relief efforts. “When we came up with this idea,” says Bailey, “We called [VHS Principal] Anthony Barela to coordinate something between the schools, and he was instantly on board and happy to work together. Our district has heart and character and that shows in how we’ve been able to move so quickly.”


As Bailey and the RBV team roll out their plan for the year they will share that information with schools and community organizations.



ORIGINAL STORY: September 1, 2017

The entire Vista Unified School District community is invited to support fundraising efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and southeast Texas.


Vista High School's fellow XQ Super School grantee, Furr High School, is part of the hard-hit Houston Independent School District. Students and leaders at Vista High contacted the local chapter of the Red Cross, which is providing volunteers to collect funds for the effort at two VHS events.


The school is also inviting people to donate directly to the Houston Independent School District's foundation. Information is available in the press release below, as well as in this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.


Please consider giving generously and sharing this information. #WAVE


Vista Community Reaching Out to Support Victims of Hurricane Harvey

American Red Cross donation booths at Vista High School events on Sept. 1 and 8


Vista High School, together with the broader Vista community, is supporting those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and southeast Texas.


“Our hearts are with all of those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” said Anthony Barela, Vista High School Principal. “As educators and members of a close knit community in Vista, we want to especially support the staff, students and families of the Houston Independent School District and all school districts affected by the hurricane.”


Vista High School collaborates closely with Furr High School in the Houston Independent School District. Both schools were winners of an XQ Super School grant to rethink America’s high schools; they also represent the two public high schools awarded the grant.


To support, the Vista community will work with the Red Cross to collect donations at upcoming events. Red Cross volunteers will be on campus at Vista High School for the following events with tables to accept monetary donations directed to Hurricane Harvey.


Location: Vista High School, 1 Panther Way, Vista, CA 92084

Friday, Sept. 1 - 6:00 PM during the first home football game vs. San Pasqual in the Dick Haines stadium near the concession stand.

Friday, Sept. 8 - 5:00-6:00 PM during the XQ Super School Live viewing party outside the gym.


Red Cross contributions can also be made at www.redcross.org/. The Houston Independent School District Foundation is accepting donations to support families in the district at http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/164281.




Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/1/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Good Morning,

The Heat Advisory for San Diego County has been extended through Friday evening. Please continue to ensure students and staff take appropriate, common sense measures to stay hydrated and limit direct exposure to extreme outdoor activities. 



Please share and review the attached Hot Weather Tips! published by the California Interscholastic Federation.   


County of San Diego



Heat Advisory

Issued: 2:36 AM PDT Aug. 29, 2017 – National Weather Service

... Heat advisory remains in effect until 10 PM PDT Friday...

* high temperatures... 86 to 100 near higher coastal terrain,
  cooler at the beaches.

* Impacts... those working or spending time outdoors, the
  elderly, children, and those unaccustomed to excessive heat
  will be most susceptible to dangerous heat illness. Young
  children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles
  under any circumstance.

* Outlook... some cooling will begin by the weekend, but
  temperatures will remain above average.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A heat advisory means that a period of hot temperatures is
expected which will create a situation in which heat illnesses
are possible.  Drink plenty of fluids... stay in an air-
conditioned room... stay out of the sun... and check up on
relatives and neighbors.



Attached below please find our Heat Advisory flyer in English & Spanish and a CIF document with specifics about sports & athletics.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 8/29/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

August 18, 2017 

TO: All Principals 

FROM: Donna Caperton, Assistant Superintendent-Business Services 

Jeff Geyer, Safety and Environmental Manager 

SUBJECT: Eclipse Safety Bulletin_______________________________________________


On August 21, 2017, a global solar eclipse of the Sun will visibly traverse a narrow corridor across the USA from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, So. Carolina. This event will appear as a partial eclipse when viewed from San Diego County. The eclipse begins after 9:00 a.m. locally and ends before noon. 


The primary safety issue during an eclipse is that curiosity regarding the phenomena makes it more likely people, especially children, will try to glimpse the eclipse without proper eye protection. Therefore, during the eclipse, to ensure avoidance of improper viewing, all students must be under direct supervision. This is especially true with Elementary & Middle School students. 



Looking directly at the Sun is unsafe, even during a solar eclipse. According to the American Astronomical Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the Sun; they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight. 


To facilitate this essential supervision, all Elementary and Middle schools will utilize a rainy-day schedule. (Including serving lunch indoors.) The educational curriculum leading up to the day of the eclipse must include all related eclipse safety precautions, with strong emphasis on the message: “Do not look at the Sun at any time without an appropriate, approved safe viewing device”. Provide students and staff with information about eye-safety during a solar eclipse (linked below). Restroom breaks or other necessary trips outside should be organized and escorted by adults in small student groups to ensure strict adherence to all safety guidelines. 


High Schools will limit outdoor activity as much as reasonably possible during the eclipse and will share precautions for eye-safety during a solar eclipse with students and staff (linked below). Any eclipse related class lessons and conversations with HS students must highly emphasize the extreme danger of looking at the Sun without an appropriate, approved safe viewing device, including the tragic consequences associated with not doing so. 

The official NASA Eclipse 2017 web site is linked below for important safety information about eye-safety during a solar eclipse, illustrations, and eclipse tracking updates. 



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 8/18/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Click the image above or here to watch our Welcome Back video.


Welcome Back To School Letter From Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle


August 14, 2017


Esteemed Parents, Students, Staff, and Community Members:


It is a delight to welcome you to the new school year in Vista Unified, beginning on Wednesday, August 16, 2017. Our theme for the year is “Students at the Center.” The vision of Vista Unified is to be the model of educational excellence and innovation.


Our central commitment as an organization is to provide an inspiring learning environment that is safe, secure and focused on language, literacy and numeracy. During the 2017-18 school year, we will be deepening this commitment by setting the conditions for learning to be more personalized to the individual strengths, interests and needs of each student.


Over the past 27 years as an educator in Vista, I have always been inspired by the excitement and dedication students show about learning when teachers, staff and parents work as a team to support students along their learning pathway. This strengths-based approach to learning has the power to ignite the joy of learning for all children.


Our charge as a team this year (parents, teachers, staff and administrators) is to expand strength-based learning by keeping “students at the center” of our collective efforts. Please join me in making this year a joyful learning experience for all students.

As we all prepare to jump into a new year, please keep in mind that our collective work, while complex at times, can really be summed up in three broad brushstrokes: early education, personal learning and relevant connections to the world of work. Early, Personal and Relevant!


These three brushstrokes are simple but powerful drivers towards a transformed learning experience.


Brushstroke 1: Early

Early education means that we are constantly looking for opportunities to support and even expand learning for students during the most formative growth years. Learning a language and building a foundation for literacy starts early on in a child’s life.


Vista Unified has launched a P-3 Continuum (Prenatal to Grade 3) that will provide a broad base of supports for students (even before they are born) across a wide rage of services that wrap around the student and family to ensure they have what they need to become a successful learner.


Teachers can now begin to lean on others to support their role as the experts in language, literacy and numeracy. This type of expansive service is possible now due to nine years of work with our partners in the early childhood community including Educational Enrichment Services, San Diego County Office of Education and the United Way. Together we form The Vista Partnership for Children.


The Vista Partnership is now able to align a robust set of services in the Vista community to have a collective impact on promoting the physical, social, emotional and academic development of students starting before they are born. Using a collective impact model will serve to close the achievement gap before it opens.


Brushstroke 2: Personal

Personal learning means that we are refining our instructional focus as a school district to set the conditions for students to really grab ahold of their learning and engage in more authentic ways; enabling them to leverage their strengths and interests while accessing grade level standards.


This shift expands the role of the teacher from a content expert to a learning activator, promoting greater levels of co-creation of learning activities with students. Students will have increasingly more opportunities to become drivers of their own learning as they move up through the grade levels.


As students gain more stewardship of their own learning, they increase opportunities for collaboration and self discovery. When students feel a sense of ownership of their learning, parents, teachers and staff begin to see them open up and show their full capacity as learners.


Brushstroke 3: Relevant

Relevant connections to the world of work means that students, across all grade levels, can really dig into experiencing careers in the developing priority sectors of the San Diego County economy. San Diego has been recognized as a “Smart City” around the globe with work sectors that are growing faster than anywhere else in country.


For example, work sectors like Advanced Manufacturing, Clean Energy, Health Care, Information & Communication Technology and Life Sciences have a lattice of careers available for students to learn about and explore using our Service Learning program at the elementary schools, Talent Cities model at the middle school level and the Career and Technical Education pathways at the high school level.


All of our schools are expanding opportunities for students to get a jump start on learning about the world of work through a variety of STEM Labs and makerspaces that provide hands-on activities for students of all ages. Students are more engaged in school when learning becomes hands-on and relevant to the real world.


Vista Unified has created a fantastic learning environment for students. It is with great pride and enthusiasm that I welcome you back to a new school year. As a team, We Are Vista Every Day!



Matt Doyle, Ed.D.

Interim Superintendent

Vista Unified School District




14 de agosto de 2017 


Estimados padres de familia, estudiantes, miembros del personal escolar y de la comunidad: 


Es un gran placer darles la bienvenida a un nuevo año escolar en Vista Unified, que comienza el miércoles, 16 de agosto, de 2017. Nuestro tema para el año es “estudiantes al centro”. 

La visión del Distrito Escolar de Vista es ser el modelo de excelencia en la educación y en la innovación.


Nuestro compromiso central como una organización es de ofrecer un entorno de aprendizaje seguro, protegido y con énfasis en el lenguaje, lectoescritura y aritmética. Durante el año escolar 2017-18, estaremos profundizando en este empeño mediante el establecimiento de condiciones para personalizar aún más el aprendizaje sobre los aspectos de mayor dominio, intereses y necesidades de cada estudiante.


En los últimos 27 años como educador en Vista, siempre he sido inspirado por el entusiasmo y la dedicación que demuestran los estudiantes sobre el aprendizaje cuando maestros, personal escolar y padres de familia trabajan en equipo para apoyarlos a lo largo de sus trayectorias de aprendizaje. Este método basado en los aspectos de mayor dominio tiene la fuerza de despertar la alegría por el aprendizaje en todos los estudiantes.


Nuestra obligación como equipo este año (padres de familias, maestros, personal escolar y administrativos) es aumentar el aprendizaje en base a los aspectos de mayor dominio y mantener a los “estudiantes al centro” de nuestros esfuerzos colectivos. Acompáñeme en hacer de este año una experiencia alegre de aprendizaje para todos los estudiantes. 


Al prepararnos para entrar hacia un nuevo año, por favor tomen en cuenta que nuestro trabajo colectivo, aunque a veces complejo, puede ser resumido en tres pinceladas generales: educación a temprana edad, aprendizaje personal, y conexiones relevantes al mundo laboral - ¡Temprana, Personal, y Relevante! Estas tres pinceladas son sencillas pero son potentes impulsoras hacia la transformación de la experiencia del aprendizaje. 


Pincelada 1: Temprana 

La educación a temprana edad significa que estamos constantemente buscando oportunidades para apoyar, e incluso ampliar el aprendizaje de todos los estudiantes durante los años de crecimiento más importantes. En la vida de un niño, aprender un idioma y crear la base para la lectoescritura comienza a temprana edad.


Vista Unified ha iniciado el programa de Serie P-3 (Prenatal a Grado 3) que ofrece una amplia base de apoyos para los estudiantes (incluso antes de nacer) a través de una amplia gama de servicios integrales para los estudiantes y familias con el fin de garantizar que tengan lo que necesitan para llegar a ser estudiantes exitosos. 


Los maestros ahora pueden apoyarse mutuamente para apoyar su papel como los expertos en el lenguaje, lectoescritura, y la aritmética. Este tipo de servicio expansivo ya es posible gracias al trabajo colaborativo de 9 años con socios en el ámbito del aprendizaje a temprana edad, que incluye los servicios de Education Enrichment Services, la oficina de Educación del Condado de San Diego y United Way.


Juntos formamos Vista Partnership for Children (Alianza para los niños de Vista). Esta asociación de Vista puede ahora alinear un conjunto de servicios robustos en nuestra comunidad para tener un impacto colectivo en la promoción del desarrollo físico, social y académico de los estudiantes empezando antes de nacer. Utilizando un modelo de impacto colectivo nos ayudará a cerrar la brecha de logros académicos antes de que se abra.


Pincelada 2: Personal 

El aprendizaje personalizado significa que como distrito escolar estamos perfeccionando nuestro enfoque educativo para establecer una serie de condiciones con el fin de que los estudiantes puedan verdaderamente tomar provecho de su aprendizaje y comprometerse de manera más auténtica; que les permite impulsar sus aspectos de mayor dominio e intereses mientras acceden los estándares a nivel de grado.


Este cambio amplía el papel del maestro, de ser un experto de contenido académico hacia un activador de aprendizaje, para dar promoción a niveles superiores de la co-creación de actividades de aprendizaje con los estudiantes. Los estudiantes tendrán aún más oportunidades de ser los conductores de su propio aprendizaje a medida que avanzan por los niveles de grado.


Mediante que los estudiantes adquieren más administración de su propio aprendizaje, las oportunidades para la colaboración y el descubrimiento propio aumentan. Cuando los estudiantes tienen un sentido de responsabilidad de su aprendizaje, los padres de familia, maestros y personal escolar empiezan a verlos con más confianza y demuestran su plena capacidad como estudiantes. 


Pincelada 3: Relevante 

Las conexiones relevantes al mundo laboral significan que los estudiantes, en todos los niveles de grado, pueden realmente profundizar en las experiencias de carreras profesionales dentro los sectores prioritarios aún en desarrollo de la economía del Condado de San Diego. San Diego ha sido reconocida como una “Ciudad Inteligente” alrededor del mundo con sectores laborales que están creciendo a un ritmo mucho más rápido que en cualquier otro lugar del país.


Por ejemplo, al utilizar nuestro programa Service Learning en las escuelas primarias, el modelo Talent Cities a nivel de las escuelas secundarias y los trayectos de Career and Technical Education a nivel de escuelas preparatorias, los estudiantes tiene la oportunidad de aprender y explorar los sectores laborales, tal como, la fabricación avanzada, la energía limpia, atención de salud, tecnología informática y de comunicación, y ciencias naturales, que ofrecen una red de carreras profesionales.


Todas nuestras escuelas están ampliando sus oportunidades para que los estudiantes puedan avanzar en el aprendizaje del mundo laboral a través de una variedad de laboratorios STEM y espacios de diseño que les ofrecen actividades prácticas a todos los estudiantes de todas las edades. Los estudiantes son más propensos a participar más en la escuela cuando el aprendizaje es práctico y relevante al mundo real. 


Vista Unified ha creado un entorno fantástico de aprendizaje para los estudiantes. Es con gran orgullo y entusiasmo que les doy la bienvenida al regreso de un nuevo año escolar. Como equipo, ¡estamos con Vista hoy y todos los días! 



Dr. Matt Doyle Superintendente Interino 

Vista Unified School District 

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 8/15/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 8/4/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


August 2, 2017


Esteemed Parents, Students, Staff, and Community Members:

The summer months have been a buzz of energy in Vista Unified with summer learning, student nutrition, family activities, professional development for teachers and facility improvements. Additionally, the School Board has been hard at work getting the Superintendent search started. This summer update will provide some great details about the progress made thanks to the efforts of Vista staff, teachers and administrators.


Superintendent Search Status

The Cosca Group has worked closely with the School Board to finalize the timeline for the Superintendent search. The search process is in the community input phase for the entire month of August. There are three full days of community forums scheduled for August 7, 8, and 9, 2017. Click HERE to view the locations and times of the regional community input forums and to access the online feedback survey.


Candidate recruitment will take place during the month of September. The candidate review and selection process will take place during the months of October and November. The School Board anticipates naming a new Superintendent of Schools in December 2017.


Summer Programs Success

The summer months have been busy for Vista Unified teachers and staff. We provided summer learning, summer meals, professional development, staff recruitment, hiring and facility improvements. Here are a few highlights:


Summer Learning Programs

Over 500 students in elementary, middle and high school participated in summer learning programs focusing on literacy, mathematics and STEM. 359 students with special needs were engaged in the Extended School Year (ESY) program for four weeks.


Summer Meals Program

An impressive 48,223 meals were served to students at 21 school locations in the district.


Staff Professional Development

The summer months are a great time for teachers and staff to collaborate, refresh and refine their skills. 575 teachers and staff participated in professional development this summer focusing on literacy, mathematics and next generation science standards. 105 administrators participated in a two-day leadership training in July to deepen their practice.


All 1,110 teachers will be engaged in a full day professional development session on August 14, 2017 in preparation for the new year. Based on teacher feedback, the professional development day will be held at each school location this year so that school teams have more time for professional learning and collaboration.


Staff Hiring

In preparation for a great start to the new year, the Human Relations team has been working non-stop this summer to recruit, hire and train new teachers and staff. 212 employees have been hired so far, including 121 certificated teachers and administrators and 91 classified staff.


Facility Maintenance and Upgrades

While most students and staff were off campus, the maintenance department completed an impressive amount of annual maintenance and improvements to every facility in the district.


Major work included energy/lighting upgrades, carpet replacement, painting, asphalt/concrete work, tennis court rehabilitation, design work for running tracks at Maryland and Temple Heights, bathroom upgrade at Beaumont, Marquee installations at RBV, Mission Meadows, Bobier, Casita, and Adult Education, design work for bathrooms at Casita and Grapevine, and a lunch shade structure at Empresa. The entire RBV campus was painted and received rain gutters. Front office improvements are in process at RBV, Bobier and Beaumont.


The progress of these summer programs demonstrates our commitment as a District to becoming the model of educational excellence and innovation.



Matt Doyle, Ed.D.

Interim Superintendent

Vista Unified School District



02 de agosto de 2017


Estimados padres, estudiantes, miembros del personal y de la comunidad: Los meses del verano han recibido una corriente de energía en Vista Unified con el aprendizaje de verano, nutrición estudiantil, actividades para las familias, desarrollo profesional para el personal docente y la mejora de instalaciones. Además, la Mesa Directiva de Educación ha estado trabajando sin cesar para comenzar con la búsqueda del nuevo Superintendente. Esta información actualizada de verano les ofrecerá algunos detalles sobre el progreso que se ha logrado gracias a los esfuerzos del personal de Vista, maestros y administrativos.


Estatus de la búsqueda del Superintendente

El Grupo Cosca ha colaborado estrechamente con la Mesa Directiva de Educación para finalizar el marco de tiempo para la búsqueda del Superintendente. La etapa de la búsqueda durante todo el mes de agosto será la fase de recopilación de opiniones y sugerencias de la comunidad. Hay tres días completos programados para los foros comunitarios que se llevarán a cabo el 7, 8 y 9 de agosto de 2017. Haga clic AQUI para ver los lugares y horarios de las reuniones regionales para el aporte de sugerencias de la comunidad y para acceder la encuesta de retroalimentación en línea.


El reclutamiento de candidatos se llevará a cabo durante el mes de septiembre. El proceso de examen y selección de candidatos se llevará a cabo durante los meses de octubre y noviembre. La Mesa Directiva de Educación anticipa nombrar al nuevo Superintendente de Escuelas en diciembre de 2017.


El éxito de los programas de verano

Los meses de verano han estado llenos de actividades para los maestros y el personal de Vista Unified. Durante el verano hemos ofrecido aprendizaje, alimentos, desarrollo profesional, selección y contratación de personal y la mejora de instalaciones. Estos son algunos aspectos destacados:


Programas de aprendizaje de verano

Más de 500 estudiantes de las escuelas primarias, secundarias y preparatorias participaron en los programas de aprendizaje de verano centrados en la lectoescritura, matemáticas y STEM. Un total de 359 estudiantes con necesidades especiales participaron en el programa de año escolar prolongado (ESY, por sus siglas en inglés) de cuatro semanas.


Alimentos durante el verano

Se sirvió la impresionante cantidad de 48 233 comidas a estudiantes en 21 establecimientos escolares en el distrito.


Desarrollo profesional del personal

Los meses de verano son un buen momento para la colaboración entre maestros y el personal escolar y para el enriquecimiento y actualización de sus habilidades. Este verano 575 maestros y personal escolar participaron en el desarrollo profesional con un enfoque en la lectoescritura, matemáticas y los estándares de la nueva generación. Un total de 105 administrativos participaron en la formación de liderazgo durante dos días en el mes de julio para profundizar sus prácticas.


Todos los maestros, 1110 en total, tendrán un día completo de desarrollo profesional el 14 de agosto en preparación para el nuevo año escolar. De acuerdo a la retroalimentación aportada por los maestros, este año el día de desarrollo profesional se llevará a cabo en cada recinto escolar, así los equipos escolares tendrán más tiempo para el aprendizaje profesional y la colaboración entre ellos.


Contratación de personal

En preparación para un excelente nuevo año escolar, el equipo de Relaciones Humanas ha estado trabajando sin cesar durante el verano para reclutar, contratar y capacitar a nuevos maestros y personal escolar. Hasta la fecha se han contratado 212 empleados, incluyendo 121 maestros certificados y administrativos y 91 miembros del personal clasificado.


Mantenimiento y actualización de las instalaciones

Mientras la mayoría de los estudiantes y el personal escolar estaban fuera de las escuelas el departamento de mantenimiento efectuó una cantidad impresionante de mantenimiento anual y mejoras en cada plantel escolar del distrito.


Se realizaron proyectos importantes tales como la modernización del el uso de energía/luces, reemplazamiento de alfombras, pintura, trabajos de asfalto y concreto, rehabilitación de cancha de tenis, trabajos de diseño para las pistas de atletismo en Maryland y Temple Heights, mejora de los baños en Beaumont, instalación de letreros electrónicos en RBV, Mission Meadows, Bobier, Casita, y Educación de Adultos, trabajos de diseño en Casita y Grapevine, y la estalación de una estructura de sombra para el área de almuerzo en Empresa. Se pintó todo el recinto escolar de RBV y recibieron canalones para la lluvia. Estamos en el proceso de mejorar la oficina principal de RBV, Bobier y Beaumont.


El progreso de estos programas de verano demuestra nuestro compromiso como Distrito de ser el modelo de excelencia educativa e innovación.



Matt Doyle, Ed.D.

Superintendente Interino

Vista Unified School District

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 8/3/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 7/31/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

UPDATE: August 15, 2017



UPDATE: July 27, 2017


Please join us to share your opinions about Vista Unified School District as we begin the process to select a new School Superintendent. 


1. What are the strengths of the Vista Unified School District? 


2. What do you see as Vista Unified School Districts biggest challenges ahead? 


3. What characteristics should the new School Superintendent have in order to lead our District successfully? 


MONDAY, AUGUST 7, 5:30 p.m. 

AREA 1 Residents with Trustee Rosemary Smithfield, Mission Vista High School 


AREA 2 Residents with Trustee Carol Herrera, Beaumont Elementary School 


TUESDAY, AUGUST 8, 5:30 p.m. 

AREA 3 Residents with Trustee Jim Gibson, Temple Heights Elementary School 


AREA 4 Residents with Trustee Cipriano Vargas, Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA) 

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9, 5:30 p.m. 


AREA 5 Residents with Trustee Rich Alderson, Madison Middle School 


Translation and Child Care will be available. Click here to locate your Trustee Area. 


Community Input is also welcome online. Read below to provide feedback. 




Por favor acompáñenos para recabar sus aportaciones respecto a Vista Unified School District conforme iniciamos el proceso de selección del nuevo Superintendente de escuelas. 


1. ¿Cuáles considera Ud. los puntos fuertes del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Vista? 


2. ¿Cuáles considera Ud. los mayores retos por venir para el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Vista? 


3. ¿Qué características debe reunir el nuevo Superintendente de Escuelas para liderar con éxito a nuestro Distrito? 


LUNES, 7 de agosto a las 5:30 p.m. 

Residentes del ÁREA 1 con Representante Rosemary Smithfield, Mission Vista High School 


Residentes del ÁREA 2 con Representante Carol Herrera, Beaumont Elementary School 


MARTES, 8 de agosto a las 5:30 p.m. 

Residentes del ÁREA 3 con Representante Jim Gibson, Temple Heights Elementary School 


Residentes del ÁREA 4 con Representante Cipriano Vargas, Escuela VIDA. 


MIÉRCOLES, 9 de agosto a las 5:30 p.m. 

Residentes del ÁREA 5 con Representante Rich Alderson, Madison Middle School 


Habrá interpretación y cuidado de niños. Haga clic aquí para localizar al representante de su área. 


Las aportaciones de la comunidad también son bienvenidos en línea. 


The Board of Trustees of the Vista Unified School District is collaborating with The Cosca Group to complete the process and timeline for seeking a new Superintendent of Schools for Vista Unified School District. For more information, click on the update letter below.


Your participation and feedback is requested. We hope that you participate in the process. You can participate in a live Community Stakeholder Meeting or provide feedback using the on-line survey. To access the survey, click on either of the following links:


Surveys Available Until August 18, 2017



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 7/27/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 7/20/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


More children will get a chance to go to preschool under an expanding partnership between the Vista Unified School District and the nonprofit Educational Enrichment Systems.


Educational Enrichment Systems is renovating three classrooms at the school district’s Vista Innovation and Early Education Center, 838 Olive Avenue, to be used for a full-day year-round preschool and toddler program, said Robin Layton, Educational Enrichment System (EES) president and chief executive officer.


EES’ newest center will serve 2-year-old toddlers in one classroom, and children aged 3 to 5 in the other two classrooms.


“This has been a long time coming,” Interim School Superintendent Matt Doyle said at a recent luncheon, where plans for the new preschool classes were presented.


EES offers full-day preschool year-round from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. , 250 days a year, at the David and Jillian Gilmour Early Education Campus, 735 Avenida de Benito Juarez, and at the Vista Child Development Center, 410 West California Avenue.


EES also partners with Vista Unified to offer part-day preschool for children between the ages of 3 and 5 at 11 elementary schools – Beaumont, Bobier, Foothill Oak, Grapevine, Hannalei, Maryland, Mission Meadows, Monte Vista, Temple Heights, Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, and Casita Center for Technology, Science & Math.


The part-day programs at the Vista Unified elementary schools run from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from noon to 3 p.m., five days a week following the school district calendar.


“We want as many Vista children in a stimulating environment as possible,” said Celine Krimston, EES vice president and chief operating officer.


Among other things, Doyle said that preschool is particularly helpful for children who are learning English. “More students who are English learners become proficient in English by first and second grade,” Doyle said. “That’s one of the big ingredients to students being successful, particularly in reading.”


Foothill Oak Principal Sandra Ceja said that parents have become more comfortable just being on campus, thanks to the preschool program. “EES parents get involved and stay involved,” Ceja said.


Bobier Elementary School Principal Jennifer Golden said that she’s seen similar results. “Our parent involvement has shot through the roof,” Golden said.


For the 2016-2017 school year, 421 children were enrolled in the part-day preschool programs and 142 were enrolled in the full-day programs.


Of those, 88 will be eligible for transitional kindergarten and 310 will be eligible for kindergarten, based on their age. Transitional kindergarten is for children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 and are too young for kindergarten, which is for children who turn 5 by Sept. 1.


The new EES preschool at the Innovation Center, tentatively set to open in September, is primarily for Vista children most in need. Qualifying families will be low-income, working families, Krimston said. Families can be working, looking for work, or going to school to qualify for the EES program.



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 7/14/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Soon, the sounds of music will be reverberating through more Vista Unified School District elementary schools, thanks in part to the Vista Education Foundation.


The foundation recently donated nearly $4,500 to buy equipment to help reach a five-year goal of having a full music program in every elementary school.


“It’s so awesome to get this,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Sherry Opacic. “This is a happy day.”


Foundation President John Herrera said the organization, founded in 2002, supports “those programs that have been cut by the state and not funded at appropriate levels,” and the arts have been one of them.


“We have not had sufficient music programs,” Herrera said.

A May choral performance at Vista’s Moonlight Amphitheater by about 600 students from throughout the district was a strong indication of public support for school music programs, Herrera said.


The district, in the 2016-2017 school year, hired two music teachers to kick off its plan to create a music pathway, offering music throughout a student’s time in Vista Unified, according to Shari Fernandez, director of elementary curriculum and instruction.


Those teachers divided their time between four elementary schools – Lake, Olive, Maryland and Breeze Hill. The new music teacher will be assigned to Grapevine and Monte Vista elementary schools, Fernandez said.


Some Vista Unified elementary schools, such as Empresa and Temple Heights elementary schools in Oceanside, already have music programs funded by parents, Fernandez said, but the goal of the new program will add music education to others in the district.


Vista Unified includes some neighborhoods in Oceanside, where about a third of its students live.


Empresa is the home school of music teacher Rich Cook, a trained jazz trumpet musician who is heading the district push to expand music education. Cook has taught music at Empresa since the 1997-1998 school year and leads the band at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Encinitas, which he called “the hippest Lutheran Church west of the Pecos.”


“If we’re about educating the whole child, and we’re leaving certain aspects out of that, then we’re failing,” Cook said. “Music includes everything. It includes culture and history and it includes math. It’s the one discipline that brings all the other disciplines together.”


Math has a clear connection to music, as students learn about quarter notes, half notes and full notes. “I have a teacher who won’t teach fractions until I teach them music,” Cook said.


Living in such a diverse community as San Diego County, music also is “a great place to learn, in a low pressure, fun way, about different cultures students run into contact with, or even those they don’t,” Cook said. “It’s a very important investment to make.”


The foundation donation will give a big boost expanding music programs.


Among other things, the foundation donation will be used to buy speakers and amplifiers, “so the program will be high quality,” Cook said.


“A little boom box is not going to make it,” Cook said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 7/11/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Vista Unified School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle, and educational consultant Gerri Burton of New Learning Ventures, were featured in the July 6th issue of Eduction Week, a leading publication for professional educators.


The two penned the first of a series of blog posts for the publication outlining VUSD's shift to a district-wide adoption of the Personal Learning approach to student-centered learning. VUSD will contribute findings to the publication throughout the year, sharing insights and lessons from the process of establishing Personal Learning as, "the new normal."


To read the entirety of the text, download the attached PDF document of the article.



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 7/6/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Summer Programs Keep Schools & Staff Busy.
From Learning to Facilities to Professional Development, VUSD Stays Busy Year Round


Summer is one of the busiest times of the year for local school districts, and that’s no exception in the Vista Unified School District. From summer learning programs to teacher training, facilities upgrades to specialized camps, Vista USD sees its mission of becoming the model of educational excellence and innovation at work year round.


Busy Schools In The Summer

A recent day at Maryland Elementary saw classes held in art, music, dance and health, while tutors helped in the library, fitness activities happened on the grounds, and a course on the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” designed for children was held as part of the school’s “Leader In Me” curriculum.


"Our Family Literacy program is designed to help children be successful learners who complete high school, go to college, and get good jobs,” says Maryland Elementary Principal Carol LaBreche McKane. "It is a partnership with many volunteer community members as well as middle and high school students who mentor, read, and interact with the students daily.


A violin class that involved students from across the district was one example of how schools keep entire communities active in learning all year round.


"We have Kim Stephens-Doll and her orchestra, which includes students from all over the district. She is creating a mentor program with older, experienced students teaching younger students."


Kim Stephens-Doll teaches daily violin lessons to students each day at Maryland Elementary's summer program

Other schools, like Breeze Hill Elementary, Monte Vista Elementary, and Temple Heights Elementary, join Maryland in holding Summer Support courses through July 14th, with learning opportunities including small-group reading instruction, writing development, and hands-on STEM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).


Monte Vista Elementary Summer Program Students Design & Build Roller Coasters Using STEM Skills



And then there are the facilities projects. Vista USD has $3.6 million in budgeted facilities projects across the district, ranging from paving projects to permanent shade structures, repaired and upgraded restroom facilities to new playground surfaces.


Says Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Donna Caperton, "The District is committed to maintaining school facilities and creating clean, safe, secure environments for students and staff members."


Professional Development

Planning for the new school year continues as well, as administrators prepare for their annual 2-day “Leadership Advance” sessions, where district and school site leaders gather to look at priorities for the coming year. For the coming 2017-18 school year, continued emphasis on student-centered learning environments leads the way.


Says Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle, “as we continue our moonshot goal of expanding Personal Learning to all students, we are creating the conditions for students to become stewards of their own learning with teachers working alongside them as activators of knowledge and skills. Unleashing students' strengths as learners continues to drive what we do.”


Each of VUSD’s schools is now engaged in a shift to develop Personal Learning environments, with schools being named PL Challenge sites. Teachers and staff receive training and support in the methodology, and contribute their own insights to the process.


The path to excellence and innovation continues to be traveled throughout the year, and Vista’s school sites, staff and students continue to walk the path all summer long.



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 7/6/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 7/5/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Eleven-year-old Riley Sisson wants to be a geologist, but she spent a week in June at Vista Innovation & Design Academy learning how electric circuits work.


“I like doing experiments,” Riley said.


She was among 32 Vista Unified School District middle-schoolers who took part in a Qualcomm-inspired maker camp at Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA).


For starters, the students hooked an LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulb and a battery to a string of Play-Doh that was modified to connect electricity to create a somewhat unconventional electrical circuit. “It’s pretty cool,” said Megan McDonald, 10.


During the week, Megan and the other students also played around with computer coding to make robots that could move, flash lights and make sounds.


“It’s kind of teaching them about engineering and creativity, and how they go hand-in-hand,” said David Ruiz, a VIDA English teacher who’s also a self-taught expert on engineering and electricity.


“I want kids not to be fearful about taking on new concepts,” said Ruiz, who was in charge of the summer camp. “I want them to be learning how to unleash their creativity and display some of the concepts in electricity and engineering.”


Using his own varied interests as an example for the students, Ruiz said, “It’s good to be someone who can think from multiple perspectives.”


The summer camp used VIDA’s Innovation Lab, opened in 2016 to replicate the Thinkabit Lab Qualcomm opened in March 2014 at its Sorrento Valley headquarters, where students in grades six through eight spend a day working on projects and learning about careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.


VIDA is one of three San Diego County schools to have Qualcomm-sponsored labs modeled after the company’s Thinkabit Lab.


VIDA Co-Principal Eric Chagala said that the camp gives students a chance “to express learning, to go deeper into learning” than they might during the school year. “A week is a good amount of time for the kids to really dig in and understand something,” Chagala said.


Campers were selected at random from among Vista Unified students who applied.


Tinkering and experimenting is at the heart of the summer camp, along with seeing how what they learn has practical implications.


For example, by middle school, students already have a pretty good idea of computer coding, but Ruiz said most of what they’ve been doing involves creating games or work that’s displayed on a computer screen. “I want their coding to be applied to real world, physical objects – things that go beyond computer screens,” Ruiz said. “For me, it’s more exciting than looking at a screen.”


That’s where building things at camp that move, light up and make noise come in  – all controlled by computer codes the summer camp students create.


Thanks, in part, to the summer camp, Deviree Solony, 10, is now looking at engineering as a possible career. “I think it’s fun, just creating things that could be useful to other people,” Deviree said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/29/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Two Mission Vista High School students were recently awarded top honors for achieving a perfect score in a national French language competition.


Panny Nhia Yi Ly and Amelia Oxarart were platinum winners – the highest award – in the 82nd Le Grand Concours Competition.


Amelia Oxarart and Panny Nhia Yi Ly of Mission Vista High School - platinum award winners of the Le Grand Concours Competition.


The two were among 16 students in the Vista Unified School District high school to be ranked nationally in the competition, sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French.


“It’s a huge accomplishment to be able to have a flawless score, not impossible, but it’s not very common either,” said their teacher, Jennifer Minor.


“These students really excelled, have an interest in French, and really have a good grasp of the language,” Minor said. “They deserve a pat on the back and kudos.”


Additional Mission Vista High School Winners
Mission Vista’s May Nou Nhia Yi Ly won a gold medal in the competition for scoring 95 percent in the national completion in which more than 85,000 students participated, according to Lisa Narug, national director of Le Grand Concours.


Winning silver medals from Mission Vista by scoring between 85 percent and 95 percent were Josephine Doan, Consuelo Gorospe Bustos, Sarah Kelly, Michael Lee, Evelyn Resendiz Rivera, and Alexander Sibaja.


Mission Vista students Jessica Jacinto, Skylar Mason, Hannah Thornton, and Shannon Wortel earned bronze medals for scoring between 75 percent and 80 percent, and Jayden Alton, Deirdre Estelle and Zayra Rosales Orozco qualified as Mention d’h onneur winners by scoring 70 percent.


“French students who rank nationally in Le Grand Concours demonstrate a superior level of global responsibility, integrative cultural competence, language skills, and commitment to excellence and dedication,” Narug said. “We are very proud of them and admire their commitment to both contributing to a better world and serving as exceptional ambassadors for their schools.”

This is the first year that Mission Vista has offered French, which Minor said was added to the curriculum at students’ request.


“French is the only other language, besides English, spoken on five continents,” Minor said. “More than half of the fastest growing nations are French speaking. It does us well to have French speakers.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/22/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/16/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Vista eighth grader Sarah Harden had no idea that her school project would turn into such a big deal.


Sarah thought that maybe she could get a few of her classmates at Vista Magnet Middle School to write letters to soldiers, sailors and Marines serving abroad to let them know they weren’t forgotten. “They can be lonely and having a bad day over there,” Sarah said.


Decorating her letters with drawings of American flags, Sarah said, “I just wrote how I appreciate their service and what they’re doing.”


She figured maybe she could get about 100 or so or her fellow students to join in her project.


Sarah Harden of Vista Magnet Middle School with a framed letter and certificate of thanks for her letter campaign for deployed troops.


By the end of the school year, Sarah had collected 515 letters, which were delivered through Pioneers Services and the nonprofit A Million Thanks to members of the military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and at sea.


“Those letters are now in the hands of our military around the world,” said Teri Fisher, manager of the Oceanside office of Pioneer Services, the military division of MidCounty Bank, which serves members of the military and their families.


James Green, a retired Marine master sergeant, said Sarah’s letters would go a long way toward boosting the morale of the troops. “It makes them feel special,” Green said during a recent school assembly at which Sarah was honored.


He recalled getting letters like those Sarah and her classmates wrote when he was deployed. “Just to receive those letters in combat made a difference,” Green said.


Pioneer Services President Gary McQuain was so impressed with Sarah’s project that he said that the company would donate $1,000 in Sarah’s name to A Million Thanks, a nonprofit started in 2004 by an Orange County student to do what Sarah did – write and distribute letters to members of the military serving around the world.


The nonprofit also raises money for scholarships and to grant wishes of injured members of the military.


The $1,000 from Pioneer Services will be used for two $500 scholarships that will be given to children who lost a parent killed in action.


“Your concern and willingness to help our military through your eighth grade project is admirable and inspiring,” McQuain wrote in a letter to Sarah that was read aloud at a recent Magnet assembly.


“Your parents, classmates, and teachers at Vista Magnet Middle School should be proud of the letter-writing campaign you initiated, as well as the two educational scholarships for children of fallen heroes that your hard work has now funded,” McQuain wrote.


Vista Magnet Principal Anne Green said that Sarah “exemplifies what we want our students to be.” “I am deeply proud of her, deeply, deeply proud,” Green said.


Sarah’s father, Rob Harden, said he was especially impressed by the scholarships his daughter earned from Pioneer Services for other children. “It’s really special that they want to donate in her name,” Harden said.


During the assembly, Sarah was presented with a framed copy of McQuain’s letter and a special coin, which McQuain wrote was “a sign of respect and welcome.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/16/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

The 2016-2017 school year saw achievements galore across the Vista Unified School District. Successes came in academics, in building and strengthening school cultures, in student and professional development and myriad other ways.


We asked the Principals of each VUSD school to share some of their highlights from the past school year, and to answer the question:


What Makes Me Proud?


Vista High, Mr. Barela: Winning the XQ Super School School Prize and being named to the Washington Post’s most rigorous schools in the nation.  “Re-thinking high school to help our students to be competitive globally is a large task, but we are up to the challenge. By doing this, we will be opening doors and opportunities for current and future students.  This will expose them to the world outside of Vista and will be a catalyst for our community”. 


Casita Center, Mrs. Smith: International Baccalaureate (IB) Authorization for Primary Years Program (PYP), California School Board’s Association Golden Bell Award for Personalized Learning, and being home to a California Teacher of the Year


Temple Heights Elementary, Ms. Morton: California Golden Bell Award for Personal Learning


Alamosa Park Elementary, Ms. Anderson: Winning the VUSD Track Meet


VIDA, Dr. Chagala & Mrs. Ward: Winning the Classroom of the Future “IMPACT” Award and the California School Board’s Association Golden Bell for Personalized Learning


Foothill Oak, Mrs. Ceja: Becoming Facilitators for Yale RULER and receiving a “Leader in Me” Grant


Hannalei, Mrs. Zachry: Creating a “Community of Opportunity” on Mondays for all students and supporting the “whole child” every day!


Grapevine, Mr. Olavide: We just completed the three-year phase I implementation of Guided Language Acquisition Design (Project GLAD) and we can proudly announce that all our TK-5 teachers are now GLAD certified.


Major General Raymond Murray High School, Mr. Hoover: Continuing the great work of graduating young men and women who were headed to dropping out of high school. In 2016-2017 Murray completed its 10th year in existence and we have graduated nearly 650 students in this time with at least 70 graduates in each of the last 3 years.


Monte Vista, Mrs. Smith: Continuing our focus on “Where Leaders Grow:  College, Career, Life” with our focus on the 7 Habits and The Leader in Me and No Excuses University.  Fine tuning the implementation of these programs with our focus on personalized learning.


VAPA, Mrs. Hancock: Becoming an IB PYP World School


Alta Vista, Mr. Sterner: Excited to working with our PASS program, and for our 54+ graduates in 16-17!


Empresa , Dr. McKean: Empresa kicks off the holiday season with our annual holiday musical which includes all 800+ students.  It’s our “Gift to the Community”. 


Mission Vista High School, Mrs. Miller: Winning the California Gold Ribbon Award four dual magnet programs and completing the Magnet Schools of America certification process


Roosevelt Middle School, Ms. Ochenduszko: After a “Year of Exploration”, Roosevelt Middle School is proud to announce we will be adopting Artful Learning beginning in the 2017-18 school year.  We will be one of only 17 schools in 8 states across the nation known as an Artful Learning School as we transform the way our students engage in learning! 


Breeze Hill Elementary, Mrs. D’Ambroso: Coyote College after school and summer support program focusing on ELA, Math and STEM.  Continuing our Implementation of AVID Elementary and starting our Personal Learning Challenge for the next school Year. 2016 Honor Roll School


Mission Meadows, Dr. Porter: Mission Meadows is proud of our consecutive 5 year Ability Awareness program that has been recognized in the north county by the North County Consortium for Special Education (NCCSE) organization during its implementation. Over the 5 years, our Ability Awareness program has earned awards given to Carrie Livingston, an SDC teacher, Carol Jiminez, a parent, and Dr. Porter, the principal. We are also proud and excited that our SBAC scores have grown over a three-year period both in ELA and Mathematics, and that we will begin our professional learning community journey as a staff focused on the Leader in Me program.


Lake, Mrs. Berntsen: I am most proud of our Lake community sticking with each other through celebrations and tragedies and seeing the humanity in each other. We are a connected community who are generous with their emotions, resources, and hearts.


Olive Elementary, Mrs. Vasquez: What makes me proud is our school’s commitment as a VUSD Personalized Learning Challenge School in taking the initial steps towards becoming a Montessori Inspired Public School. Our promise is to inspire and nurture the whole child within a thoughtful community where Kids Think BIG, Turning Ideas Into Reality.


This year, we have watched our classrooms transform into personalized learning environments that have shown an increase in student engagement. We have focused our work on improved first, best instructional practices in our classrooms to better enhance student success. We have increased enrichment opportunities and encouraged future thinking in our learners by offering strength based learning through Multi-Intelligence Time, Genius Hour, the integration of music education and dance, entrepreneurship, STEAM, and computer science. Great things are happening at Olive!


Vista Adult School, Mrs. O’Shea-West: Increase in the quantity and quality of relevant student support services offered to adult learners pursuing their educational and career goals as supported by Adult Education Block Grant funding.


Vista Adult Transition Center, Mr. Altona: Increasing the size of our program by close to 50% in just four years and fostering students in more paid employment than ever before with assistance from a grant through the Department of Rehabilitation.


Vista Magnet Middle School, Mrs. Green: Viper experiment going back to the International Space Station; online Global Citizenship course with friends in Pakistan; Community Projects by all 8th graders to raise awareness of global problems and create innovative solutions; rocking our 5 year International Baccalaureate re-authorization!


California Ave, Mrs. Schmidt: After 2-3 years of intensive early childhood intervention, over 120 students were successfully transitioned to kindergarten in the Vista Unified schools.  We are proud and grateful to have these students and their families in our school communities!


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/14/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Pregnant at 16, Jessica Torres dropped out of high school in her junior year, but kept meaning to go back “I always had things that stopped me, family issues,” Torres said. “I had a lot of obstacles come my way.”


Tanya De La Rosa got mixed up on drugs and, like Torres, dropped out of high school in her junior year.


Torres and De La Rosa were among 159 students who received diplomas or professional training certificates from Vista Adult School in May graduation ceremonies at Vista’s Moonlight Theater.


“I felt like I wanted to accomplish something. I thought maybe if I accomplished something, it would change my life,” said De La Rosa, 24, who received her long-awaited high school diploma.

“Everything seems to be working out perfectly,” De La Rosa said, adding that she felt “pumped and excited and happy” about earning her diploma.


“Ever since kindergarten, I struggled and I didn’t ever think I could finish, so I thought I wouldn’t be successful,” De La Rosa said. “I just love life now.”


Tanya De La Rosa is one of 159 students receiving their diplomas from the Vista Adult School in 2017.


With her high school diploma in hand, De La Rosa said she plans to continue her education and is interested in a career in psychology.


Torres, 29, received a certificate for completing the Adult School’s medical assistant program. She received her high school diploma through the Adult School in 2012.

Inspired by an older sister, who is a nurse, Torres said, “My goal is to keep going to school to become an RN (registered nurse).”


Opened in 1977, Vista Adult School is part of the Vista Unified School District and the school is open to people from throughout Southern California, said Kathy Figueroa, Career Technical Education (CTE)/ community outreach coordinator.

The Adult School is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and offers state-approved medical programs. It’s also a member of the Education to Career Network, a consortium of adult schools in North County.


The school offers high school diploma and equivalency programs, English as a second language classes and a wide range of CTE classes in the medical, business, culinary, property management and computer fields. There also are a variety of community education courses such as yoga, line dancing, cooking and photography.


The time to complete a program varies, but Assistant Principal Tara Biancamano said school programs are designed “to offer high quality, short-term and affordable career education pathways that lead to employment in high demand fields.”


Classes run from late August to mid-June throughout the day and evening. Students range in age from 18 to 80, with most between 24 and 44, Figueroa said. “As you would guess, our students come from all walks of life,” Figueroa said. “Many have been through hardships and struggles.”


The school serves up to 3,000 students per school year, with English as a second language classes accounting for the biggest share of enrollment.


Often, students come see Adult School as an alternative to community college or other educational programs, Figueroa said.


Torres and De La Rosa said that they liked Adult School for the personal attention they received.


De La Rosa said that she almost quit because she was having trouble with math, but she said that her teacher took the time to help her get through it. “It was really nice and helpful,” De La Rosa said.


Torres said the school “felt like it’s more private. It’s not like you’re going to college and there’s so many people.”


Both Torres and De La Rosa are strong advocates of the Adult School. “If you’re thinking about going, do it, because it will help you in the long run,” De La Rosa said. “I would definitely recommend it,” Torres said. “It takes time. Never give up.”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/13/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Vista Unified To Host CUE Rock Star Teacher Camp For 2nd Straight Year

Regional Conference Trains Educators In New Technology, Student Empowerment;

Showcases VUSD’s Teacher Training In Person and Online


More than 120 teachers from across southern California will converge at Rancho Minerva Middle School in Vista on June 19-20 for the annual CUE Rock Star Teachers Camp. The event, produced by CUE, a non-profit focused on education and technology, and hosted by the Vista Unified School District, conducts professional learning for teachers who want to use technology in deep, meaningful ways with the goal of transforming learning for the students with which they work.


Sessions focus on teaching and learning, and include VR (Virtual Reality) technology like YouTube 360, to coding, to formative assessment strategies designed to provide students with real-time feedback on their learning. The sessions are hands-on experiences where teachers will practice, create, and/or build a lesson that they can immediately use in their classrooms to enhance learning.


“It’s an honor for us to host the CUE Rock Star Teacher Camp for a second straight year,” says Dr. Erin English, a Director in VUSD’s Educational Excellence department. “Teachers have said that participating in these events has changed their lives and changed how they approach teaching and learning in their classrooms. We are thrilled to offer this training to many of our own educators in Vista, as well as colleagues from across the state.”


Says CUE’s Kevin Fairchild, “Rock Star Vista sold out both this year and last. I think this speaks to the readiness of teachers throughout VUSD and all of North County for innovative instructional strategies and engaging professional development.”


Adds Fairchild, "Last summer, Rock Star Camp Vista went so well, largely due to the hard work of Erin English and the Rancho Minerva school staff, that it was an easy decision to put on a second camp there in 2017. I am honored to be among the faculty again this year. We've put together a fantastic collection of sessions for teachers and I think they're going to learn a lot while having a blast!”


The two-day gathering kicks off each morning with “shred sessions” - high energy one-minute presentations by each faculty member. These are designed to give attendees more information about what they can expect to learn and do in the session. The event will offer attendees myriad course options, and time for each attendee to plan ways to implement their coursework for the coming school year.


This year’s camp theme camp is, “The Hero’s Journey,” modeling the lifelong learning process after scholar Joseph Campbell’s work on the classic story format that he named The Hero’s Journey. Sessions are taught by camp faculty, a variety of teacher-experts in their fields from across southern California, and even includes an instructor from the Singapore American School.



Vista USD will be sending 35+ teachers to the two-day camp in another example of the district’s commitment to engaging Professional Development for staff, and developing innovative avenues for that development. The district offers many in-person, collaborative development opportunities, training educators in new teaching models such as Project Based Learning, Creativity and Innovation, Maker Spaces, and Learner-Centered Design, among others.


English and her team are also building online courses for the development that allow for greater flexibility for participants. Says English, “by offering online professional development courses, our teachers have a chance to revisit the content as often as they need to ensure it transfers to their classrooms and transforms their practice.”


As with the district’s shift to a Personal Learning model for students, teachers are also empowered to take control of their ongoing development with the flexibility of the online and in-person offerings. Continues English, “The material will be accessible around the clock so that learners can access the content when they know they will be the most receptive to learning. We’ve worked with our teachers to recreate professional development in Vista Unified."


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/9/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

As the 2016-17 school year draws to a close, our Interim Superintendent, Dr. Matt Doyle, reflects on the many achievements, advancements, honors, awards and accomplishments of the students, staff and supporters of the Vista Unified School District during the past academic year.


To read the letter in full, please download using the attachments section just below this space.


We are grateful for all that our community has accomplished and given this past year. 

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/7/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Summer may seem like a time when schools are at rest, but nothing could be farther from the truth in Vista. From district-wide programs to school-specific camps, workshops and events, we continue to serve the VUSD community all year.


The following is a look at some of the many things happening around our district throughout the summer.




District Summer Programs

From Literacy and STEM support to a Math Soccer Camp, from Extended Learning Opportunities to IB and AP placement support, the Vista Unified School District has myriad programs throughout the summer to support learners of all grade levels. Click here or on the image above to learn more.


Summer Meals

Our acclaimed WaveCrest Cafe nutrition services department works to deliver the USDA's summer meals program. With 16 different locations across our district's communities, we make sure that fresh, healthy, delicious meals are accessible all summer long. Click the image above, or here for information about locations, dates, times and menus.




Special Education Extended School Year


We continue to offer special education services throughout the summer.




QCamp: Design Thinking Camp For Middle School Students


VIDA Middle School hosts this Qualcomm "Thinkabit Lab"-inspired opportunity for incoming 6th Grade students to get a high-quality Coding & "Maker" experience for free during the summer. QCamp participants will be randomly selected from application pools for each VUSD middle school. QCamp is open to incoming 6th Graders to any of the 5 VUSD Middle Schools.




Facilities Improvements

Each summer we make significant improvements and upgrades to our facilities in order to provide safe and effective learning environments for our students and staff. For a detailed list of projects, click here or on the image above. 




New Teacher Welcoming

We have new teachers joining the VUSD team every year, and making sure that they are welcomed and equipped to excel is a priority. Take a look at the various welcome sessions being offered for new teachers by clicking on the image above, or here.






(elementary - middle school - high school - in alphabetical order)


Bobier Elementary
June 19-30: Migrant Ed Summer School; Free summer meals (breakfast and lunch). Programs run 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM. 


Breeze Hill Elementary
June 12- July 14: Coyote College - for incoming grades 3-5. Provides Math and ELA support with STEM rotation classes.


Summer Support Program focusing on a blended learning opportunity that consists of small-group reading instruction, writing development, and hands-on STEM activities.


August 15: Kinder orientation with teachers.


Casita Center

June 8: Kinder meet and greet

August 11: Meet your Kinder teacher


Grapevine Elementary

July 31 - August 11: Kinder Camp

August 12: Kinder orientation


Hannalei Elementary

August 7-11: Kinder Jump Start

August 11: Kinder tea & orientation


Maryland Elementary

June 12 - July 14: Family Literacy Academy. Summer Support Program focusing on a blended learning opportunity that consists of small-group reading instruction, writing development, and hands-on STEM activities.


Monte Vista Elementary

June 12 - July 14: Summer Support Program focusing on a blended learning opportunity that consists of small-group reading instruction, writing development, and hands-on STEM activities.

August 14: Family Information Night.


Olive Elementary

June 12 - July 7: Grade 3-5 Summer Support;

Math & Soccer Camp


Temple Heights Elementary

June 12 - July 14: Summer Support Program focusing on a blended learning opportunity that consists of small-group reading instruction, writing development, and hands-on STEM activities.


Vista Academy (of Visual and Performing Arts)

Extended School Year Special Ed Services will be hosted here.

August: Kinder Boot Camp



QCamp - Summer Design Thinking camp for VUSD middle school students.


Vista Magnet Middle School

June 12 - 30: Camp Viper; Afternoon Academy


Alta Vista High School

June 12 - 30: Summer intercession / credit recovery opportunity


Major General Raymond Murray High School

June 12 - 30: Summer intercession / credit recovery opportunity

June 12 - July 21: Vista Community Clinic summer Step Up / REACH mentoring program


Vista High School

August 11: XQ Super School kick-off event for freshmen. Click here for a Save The Date flyer.




Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/7/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

The Oceanside Courier, the official newsletter of the City of Oceanside, recently featured information about Vista Unified's P-3 Bridge initiative. The P-3 Bridge is designed to provide learning resources from pre-natal to grade three that invest in a child's learning process.


According to the article, the initiative creates, "a seamless learning pathway starting before a child is born to the all-important learn-to-read/read-to-learn passage in 3rd grade."


Children's brains develop fastest between birth and age three. In fact, by the time a child enters kindergarten their brain is more than 90% formed. This research tell us that supporting families before birth to setup a home environment that stimulates learning, and providing outreach activities and support when a child is an infant, toddler and preschooler can make a tremendous difference in their future success in literacy, mathematics and social emotional skills."


Read the full letter at the link above, and be on the lookout for the launch of this program in the coming school year.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/7/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/6/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Four sophomore girls from Rancho Buena Vista High School who called themselves the “Code Queens” were in for a surprise at a recent California State University San Marcos computer hackathon coding competition


“We just wanted to go there and have fun and gain some experience,” said Liliana Vang.


They did that, but they also placed third overall among 17 high school and college teams competing, and they won the category for “user experience and functionality” by designing a webpage and game that challenged people to choose more nutritious foods.


“It was actually overwhelming,” Liliana said. “We all went in there without any experience and learned new things on the spot.”


Teammate Cindy Bui said that she was “really astonished about how much we were able to do and compete.”


“I feel very accomplished,” Cindy said. “I bragged about it to all my family members.”


Lorena Arcos was taken aback when she scoped out the competition the Code Queens faced. “I was thinking in my head, ‘We’re really not going to win this, there’s so many of them, and they look really confident,’” Lorena said.


The girls had about 10 hours to figure out how to use the proper coding and design and make their website and game. “It was pretty cool, the experience of learning things,” said teammate Eve Diaz.


Joining the Code Queens in the hackathon competition were two students from Mira Costa College and one from Miramar College.


Rancho Buena Vista robotics instructor Dadre Rudolph said that she couldn’t be prouder of her students’ accomplishment.

“I was just sending them to see what it’s like,” Rudolph said. “They’re sophomores and they had just started coding.”


Vista Unified School District students seem to have developed a knack for winning computer coding competitions.


Two years ago, two Rancho Buena Vista seniors who were Rudolph’s students – Yvette Moreno and Emily Sorger - were part of a five-girl team that placed first in a CSU San Marcos San Diego Women’s Hackathon. Sorger served as a mentor to the Code Queens this year.


In 2016, a team of nine computer science students from Mission Vista High School took first place in their category from among 10 teams competing in an AT&T hackathon.


A purpose of the women’s hackathons is to encourage more girls to take an interest in computer science, Rudolph said.


Often, girls think of computer science as little more than video games, Rudolph said. “If you’re super into computer games, that might be fine for you,” Rudolph said. “Sometimes, it seems kind of solitary, sitting in the dark, staring at your computer screen.”


The hackathons present computer science as a more social exercise, with girls working in teams on projects that have real-world applications.


Eve said she took Rudolph’s computer science class because she was curious about the field. “A lot of girls really don’t know a lot of the basics,” Eve said. “Once they learn about it, they’d be more encouraged to work in that career.”


After taking the class and competing in the hackathon, Eve said that she’s considering a career in computer science or psychology.


Lorena said that, she too, has an interest in psychology, but is now looking at computer science as an option. “I never thought about it before. Now that I’m understanding it, I do like it and I want to pursue a career in computer science coding,” Lorena said.


Liliana, whose mother works in computer science, said that she’s looking at the medical industry or computer science. “I thought I’d maybe pursue something like this (computer science), but it’s not really decided. It’s something to try.”


Nursing was Cindy’s career of choice until she took Rudolph’s class and competed in the hackathon. “I might change my career options to work in computer science,” Cindy said.







Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/6/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/5/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Two Roosevelt Middle School students have been invited to perform as part of an international choir at Carnegie Hall in New York City.


Seventh-grader Aliyah Anderson and eighth-grader Kasey Kai Leffler have been selected to sing June 25 in the 2017 Middle School Honors Performance Series sponsored by World Strides, an educational travel organization.


“When my choir teacher told me I was going to Carnegie Hall, I hugged her and picked her up and said, ‘Thank you so much,’” recalled Kasey-Kai, 13.


Aliyah said that she’s thrilled and nervous about performing at such a world-renown venue as Carnegie Hall.


“I’m very excited, because singing is something I’ve been doing since I was very little,” said Aliyah, 12. “I’ve read all about Carnegie Hall, and I think it’s going to be a great experience to be involved with people around the world.”


Their teacher, Beverly Taylor, said that Aliyah and Kasey-Kai stand out because of their ability and drive to learn. “They challenge their teachers to teach them more, that’s what really separates them from the average student, their desire to advance themselves,” Taylor said.


Roosevelt Middle School Students Aliyah Anderson (L) and Kasey Kai Leffler (R) flank their teacher, Beverly Taylor


Being selected for the Honors Performance Series is something “to be extremely proud of accomplishing,” said Nancy Richardson, performance director of the Honors Performance Series.


“We process thousands of nominations annually, selecting only the most talented performers,” Richardson said.


The Honors Performance Series was created to showcase individual high school and middle school performers on an international level by allowing them to study under master conductors and perform at Carnegie Hall, Richardson said.

Kasey-Kai and Aliyah will join students from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Taiwan in the Carnegie Hall performance.


Kasey-Kai’s mother, Nicole Leffler, said, “To see him perform on stage at Carnegie Hall, I can’t even wrap my head around it. Wow, I think I’ll be crying a lot of good tears for sure.”

Much credit for Kasey-Kai’s achievement goes to Taylor, Leffler said.


“She just opened the doors for my son to do something so amazing,” Leffler said. “Mrs. Taylor puts it into our kids’ heads, and even my head, that our kids can do extra things. They can go for it.”


Aliyah’s mother, Mavis Anguiano, also said that Taylor is an inspiring teacher. “To have to people from one school selected, that’s remarkable,” Anguiano said. “Mrs. Taylor is doing something right.”


Since joining the Roosevelt choir three years ago, Kasey-Kai said that singing has become “another way of putting my emotions out. It just helped me with my life.”


He likes composing classical music, but his favorite music to listen to is “hip hop pop, kind of rap music that talks about how life is hard” and to grab opportunities when they appear.


Music will always be an important part of his life, Kasey-Kai said, but his career goal is to join the military.


“I plan to become an officer in one branch of the military, work for 20 years to get my retirement, then work in another career,” Kasey-Kai said.


Aliyah said she’s loved singing as long as she can remember.

“I remember, I had to be about 2-years-old, I was singing in front of all my family,” Aliyah said.


Her mother said Aliyah is a born performer. “When she was a baby, she used to mumble noises that sounded like songs,” Anguiano said.


Aliyah said that when she’s not practicing for choir, she likes to sing pop songs. Her favorite group is Pentatonix, a five-member a cappella group.


Music will always be one of her passions, Aliyah said, but, “My aspiration is to go to a really good college, such as an Ivy League school, and become a doctor.”


Aliyah, who has three brothers, said that she became interested in medicine last year after her brother, Kingston, came down with an extreme case of appendicitis that required multiple surgeries and a lengthy hospital stay.


“I got to know the doctors really well and, when the doctors came in, they were calm and collected,” Aliyah said. “I just kind of realized that was my personality and I would love to help people.”


Because of Aliyah’s success in choir, Kingston wants to join the Roosevelt Men’s Choir when he’s in middle school, Anguiano said. “She’s a little bit of an inspiration to him,” Anguiano said. Taylor described Aliyah as “a little go-getter and extremely mature.”


Like Kasey-Kai, “She’s very motivated and certainly has a passion for music and is anxious to develop her own voice,” Taylor said.


Tickets for the Carnegie Hall performance are available through the Carnegie Hall box office.


The Vista Unified School District includes parts of Oceanside and about a third of its students live there.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/5/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Top awards for excellence in education were earned by Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA) and the Vista Unified School District by an organization that connects business leaders with educators.


VIDA, a Vista Unified middle school, was given the 2017 Impact Award from the San Diego-based Classroom of the Future Foundation (CFF) at the group’s Innovation in Education Awards ceremony May 24 at SeaWorld in San Diego.


The school district also earned the Foundation’s Achieve Award for the district’s program to test, refine and train teachers and administrators in using new state science teaching standards that stress critical thinking, problem solving and analysis over rote memorization.


Classroom of the Future Foundation Chief Executive Officer James Wright, in a letter announcing the awards, wrote that Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA) “improves student achievement through a highly innovative design-thinking model.”


VIDA’s program “best exemplifies CFF’s organizational goals – to inspire, innovate and achieve.”


“We feel so grateful and so blessed to be recognized,” said VIDA Principal Eric Chagala. “It’s a great honor for us to be recognized by them because they have a lot of business connections and they understand what kids need to know in the future. CFF helps push innovation in schools to better prepare kids for the economy of the future.”


The Classroom of the Future award to VIDA comes with a $10,000 grant, that Chagala said would be used to enhance the school’s engineering program and to buy supplies, such as the motors, gears, and drives which students use to build robots and for other projects.


VIDA’s design-thinking method of teaching encourages students to take risks, to experiment, and to use failed attempts at designing and building projects as part of learning.


“We try to take an entrepreneurial mindset with our school,” Chagala said. “Our whole approach to education in general is based off of creativity. We offer personalized opportunities for students to pursue their strengths, interests and values.”


Among other things, the school has a student-run business making campaign-style buttons for a variety of groups and for other schools. Profits are donated to a charity of the students’ choice.


The Classroom of the Future Impact Award is but the latest honor VIDA has received. They included Golden Bell awards in 2015 and 2016 from the California School Boards Association. VIDA also was one of only eight schools in the country to receive a grant that provides every student with an iPad to use during the school year.


In 2016, VIDA was one of three schools in San Diego County chosen as the site for an innovation lab sponsored by Qualcomm that replicates the Thinkabit Lab Qualcomm opened in March 2014 at its Sorrento Valley headquarters.


The lab includes a variety of high-tech equipment, including 3-D printers, along with basic arts and crafts material.


Chagala said that VIDA’s goal is to give students the skills they need to succeed in high school, in college, and in careers in an ever-changing work environment that expects people to be flexible, to be able to work collaboratively, and to be creative thinkers.


“All of us, as parents, want our kids to be happy when they grow up, and the only way they’re going to be happy is if they’re secure, and the only way they’re going to be secure is if they find their way in this new economy,” Chagala said.


The Foundation’s Achieve Award comes with a $5,000 grant said Sue Ritchie, project director for Vista.


So far, 68 classroom teachers along with several administrators have been trained in the California K-8 Next Generation Science Standards, and teachers and administrators are training others in the district how to use the standards and the new teaching methods they require, Ritchie said.


The award “really signifies what a great model this has been for building a capacity within the district,” Ritchie said. “We’re taking administrators and teachers, and that group has worked within the district to train more teachers and more administrators,” Ritchie said.


Teaching to the new standards requires teachers to radically change what they do in the classroom and how information is presented.


For example, in the past, students might have simply been required to memorize the periodic table of elements.


“Now, it would be understanding the elements, how the element works, what makes up the elements, why there is a periodic table, how that helps them figure out how certain materials are good for different purposes,” Ritchie said. “It’s a deeper understanding.”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 6/5/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Advancement Consultant and Master Trainer Patrick Bolek will address a community forum about the Artful Learning® Model. This informative presentation will explain how the transformative learning model uses the Arts to stimulate and deepen academic learning. 


Schools across the country have used this methodology to improve academic achievement in all subject areas, increase student engagement and motivation for learning while transforming the school culture and community.  Roosevelt Middle School leadership and faculty, Vista Unified School District administration and School Board members have been actively investigating the viability of using the Artful Learning Model for the past year.


A presentation and engaging, interactive opportunity for participants to experience a strategic approach to learning will be part of the forum. A panel discussion will immediately follow the presentation with Interim Superintendent Matt Doyle, Roosevelt Middle School Principal Elise Ochenduszko and teachers from the school leadership team, and Patrick Bolek to answer questions from the audience. The session is open to the public, parents/guardians, and interested community members.  Childcare will be provided.


The forum will be held on Wednesday, May 31, 2017 at Roosevelt Middle School, located at 850 Sagewood Dr., Oceanside, CA 92057, in rooms C-1 and C-4 beginning at 5:00 P.M.


Artful Learning

Established in 1990 and founded by American music icon, Leonard Bernstein to strengthen education on a national level by preparing educators to use the Arts and the artistic process to learn across all academic subjects.  Inspired by Maestro Bernstein’s vision that music and the other fine and performing arts – in combination with a concept-based, interdisciplinary construct – could be used to improve academic achievement and instill a love of learning.  This reformation of thought embeds the Arts in the learning process and serves as the method of response for students to convey understanding across the curriculum.


The signature education program of the Leonard Bernstein Office is based on over 20 years of intensive collaboration and refinement, field research and implementation with leading educators, researchers, and ultimately, practitioners of the model.  The Artful Learning Sequence is a framework for educators to explore and deliver their curriculum in way that revitalizes teaching, learning and leadership – grounded in the artistic process.  Extensive research-proven professional development empowers educators to use this methodology over a three-year implementation process – ultimately building a sustainable and effective learning community.

Visit www.artfullearning.org and www.leonardbernstein.com.


Patrick Bolek

Patrick Bolek specializes in creating project-based education programs that are experiential and immersive for professional, community and student audiences alike that include the Arts Education Master Plan | Napa, Nashville Music Education Project: Music Makes Us Master Plan, GRAMMY Camp, GRAMMY Pro Sessions, GRAMMY Master Class series and the Hal Leonard Corporation.


Bolek serves as Advancement Consultant and Master Trainer for Artful Learning®, the signature education program of the Leonard Bernstein Center, overseeing all aspects of the arts-aligned transformative learning model across the United States.


Formal education includes the BMI Film Scoring Scholarship and Certificate from the University of California at Los Angeles, a Bachelor of Music/Music Education degree with honors from the College of Musical Arts at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and graduate studies on scholarship from the University of Southern California.  Bolek brings nearly 30 years of teaching and administrative experience to education initiatives requiring visioning, design thinking and implementation. Currently a presenting consultant, author and program designer for education organizations with his company Momentum ProjectLab. Visit www.momentumprojectlab.com.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/24/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage




Two Vista USD Elementary Schools Approved as International Baccalaureate World Schools

Four-year long project results in certification for

both VUSD magnet elementary schools


VISTA, CA. May 18, 2017 – On May 17th, 2017, The International Baccalaureate welcomed two Vista elementary schools into the global community of IB World Schools. Casita Center For Science, Technology and Math, and Vista Academy (of Visual and Performing Arts) each received confirmation from the international organization, congratulating the two magnet schools on their achievements.


“We are thrilled to become an IB World School. It truly is magical!” explains Vista Academy Principal Catina Hancock. “This [authorization] transforms the educational experience for our students. The IB Primary Years Programme has a rigorous, research- and inquiry-based curriculum that complements our ongoing focus on developing the emotional, intellectual, and artistic potential in every child.”


As to the 48-month long process of training teachers and integrating the IB curriculum, Hancock says, “This is a validation of four years of dedication, hard work, and focus on what is best for students in preparing them for the challenges of a global community.


Adds Casita Center Principal Laura Smith, “IB sets the international bar for schools. As a California public elementary school principal, I am so proud to offer this caliber of education to our students.”


Smith is particularly pleased that the certification carries global recognition from fellow educators. “Educators world wide honor this training, and Casita is honored to be part of a global community of schools committed to developing knowledgeable, caring young people who will be ready to negotiate their futures successfully and make contributions resulting in a more harmonious and peaceful world.”


The International Baccalaureate (The International Baccalaureate Organization) is a global network of over 4,800 schools in 147 countries, serving 1.3 million students. Schools seeking to be certified go through an extensive process that includes professional development.   


Casita and Vista Academy teachers completed two years of coursework  to earn the IB Certificate in Teaching and Learning. The VUSD teachers did this through Cal State San Marcos. Teachers also gained training in curriculum development and worked collaboratively to integrate content standards into units of study.


Vista USD Board member Cipriano Vargas joins the celebration. “As a former graduate of Vista Unified schools, I look forward to the impact our IB schools will bring to classrooms. IB programs help bridge the gap between a global perspective and Vista, in particular for many of our students who often times do not know the community beyond San Diego County. All of our students have great potential, this is another avenue to help reach those minds and better prepare them beyond high school.”


“Having Casita Center and Vista Academy recognized as certified International Baccalaureate schools is another shining example of the focus, dedication and hard work that our teams are modeling as leaders in educational innovation and excellence,” says VUSD Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle. "This certification of our two elementary schools completes our goal to create an uninterrupted IB pathway for students from preschool to graduation in both STEM and the arts.


Andrew Macdonald, Chief Schools Officer for The International Baccalaureate, expressed in a letter that the IB, “Looks forward to welcoming your schools’ PYP faculty members into the IB community of educators, where they will find collaborators and a dynamic global network of professionals dedicated to the best practices in teaching students and in sharing those practices with each other.”


Elsewhere in the district, Vista Magnet Middle School offers an IB Middle Years Programme, and both Rancho Buena Vista High School and Vista High School offer an IB Diploma Programme. This makes Vista USD unique as one of the only California school districts to offer an IB pathway through all three grade levels. Vista joins San Diego Unified as the only other district in San Diego County to offer such a broad pathway.


About the International Baccalaureate:

Founded in 1968 the International Baccalaureate (IB) is a non-profit foundation, which offers four high quality and challenging educational programmes for a worldwide community of schools. For close to 50 years, IB programmes have gained a reputation for their rigour and high academic standards, for preparing students for life in a globalized 21st century, and for helping to develop citizens who will create a better, more peaceful world. Currently, more than 1,3 million IB students attend over 4,500 schools in 147 countries. For further information about the International Baccalaureate please visit www.ibo.org.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/18/17

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The 2017 Summer meals program is about to start serving at locations across the communities served by Vista Unified School District. The program, run by the USDA, ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.


Dates and locations vary across the VUSD area. In addition to the menu and location information available for download in this article, interested parties can text FOOD (for English) or COMIDA (para Español) to 877-877 to find the nearest location.


Download menus with attachments to this article.






Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/18/17

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By Ray Huard


Fatima Martin was stunned when she saw two horses no bigger than a child’s hobby horse standing in the courtyard of Major General Murray High School. “I didn’t know they existed that small,” said Fatima, a junior.


Rootbeer and Edward are two miniature horses who visited Murray High School as part of Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Pet Encounter Therapy (PET).


Major General Murray High School junior Fatima Martin walking Edward


Just being able to pet and even walk the horses and other animals has worked wonders with the students, said Principal Chuck Hoover.


Rootbeer, Edward and the other animals that come on campus through PET form a bond with the students that spills over into the students’ interaction with each other and their teachers, Hoover said.


There are fewer disciplinary problems, shy students come out of their shell, and you can just see the students relax. The miniature horses are extra special because they’re unusual and few students have seen any before, Hoover said.


“I thought they were donkeys,” said Antoni Pina, who took a turn walking a miniature horse.


“It felt like you were walking a dog, but stronger,” said Alexus Montanez after leading Rootbeer around the courtyard. “It was a weird experience.”


Rootbeer the minihorse gets some attention from students Jair Rojas, Trevor Rivera and Savannah Smith Ortiz 


Rudy Pulido declared the horses to be “pretty cool” after watching Rootbeer perform his trick – rearing back on his hind legs.


Edward’s trick was snacking on grass and hay.


Rene Townsend, who was superintendent of the Vista Unified School District from 1988 to 1994, said she likes to bring Rootbeer and Edward on campus, “to make people smile.”


“That’s their job,” said Townsend, who adopted the two miniature horses a year ago. “Everybody that walks by, everybody, smiles at them, everybody.”


Edward is 15 years old, 31 inches tall, and weighs 150 pounds, Townsend said.


Students Michael Maldonado, Catalina Limon and Kade Prouty with Rootbeer


Rootbeer, who got his name from the foamy appearance of his mane, is 14 years old, 34 inches high and weighs 200 pounds.

According to the American Miniature Horse Association (www.amaha.org), horses can be no taller than 38 inches to qualify as miniatures. The association has about 230,000 horses registered as miniatures nationally.


Although miniature horses are sometimes mistaken for ponies, they are smaller – ponies are about 60 inches tall – and have different characteristics, such as rougher manes and tails, according to the website, www.differencebetween.com.


Miniature horses also are often used as therapy animals, as are Edward and Rootbeer.


In their case, they’ve been part of PET since February, and have visited a children’s center and a retirement home, as well as the high school, said PET Manager Robin Cohen


“Rootbeer and Edward have already proven themselves to be wonderful therapy animals,” Cohen said.


Accompanying the miniature horses on their visit to Murray High School were three dogs: Zuul, a pit bull/mastiff mix who was rescued after being hit by a car; Balonee, an 11-year-old Pomeranian; and Cody, a 9-year-old mixed breed with a laid-back personality.


On past visits to Murray, PET has brought snakes, lizards, guinea pigs and rabbits, along with therapy dogs, Cohen said.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/15/17

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Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/15/17

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By Ray Huard


Not so long ago, children started school in kindergarten, or maybe even first grade.


If parents still wait that long to put their children in school, their children will start their education with “a distinct disadvantage” that often sticks with them as they progress through school, said Carol Herrera, a trustee of the Vista Unified School District.


“That’s difficult for some parents to understand, because they believe they should keep their children in the home until kindergarten or first grade,” said Herrera, a former teacher.


Don’t wait, was the message Herrera and others emphasized at the Vista Unified School District’s recent Third Annual Early Childhood Education Fair at Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts.


Over 1,300 attendees were welcomed to the 3rd annual Early Childhood Education Fair on May 6, 2017


A central theme was that preschool, which is for children 3 to 5 years-old, is where children should start their education. “It’s more than important, it’s essential for the growth of these children that we get them as early as we can,” Herrera said. “We have to make parents aware that the schools are there for them. They just have to take advantage of them.”


Vista Unified offers half-day preschool at 11 district elementary schools through the nonprofit, Educational Enrichment System. The schools with preschool classes are Beaumont, Bobier, Foothill Oak, Grapevine, Hannalei, Maryland, Mission Meadows, Monte Vista, Temple Heights, Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, and Casita Center for Technology, Science & Math.


The school district also offers full-day preschool through Education Enrichment System at the David and Jillian Gilmour Facility, 735 Avenida de Benito Juarez, and at the Vista Child Development Center, 410 West California Ave.


Other preschools participating in the fair included Children’s Paradise Preschool, Happy Times Child Development Center, and MAAC Head Start & Early Head Start.


More than 30 community partner organizations had booths to share information and resources with families


They were among more than 30 nonprofits and other groups represented at the fair, which drew about 1,300 people, according to district Family & Community Engagement Network Lead Jacqueline “Kiki” Bispo.


Interim School Superintendent Matt Doyle said that the fair is meant to draw needed attention to preschool services. “If we put more focus, attention and support into the early stages of child education, we can have a greater impact on our society,” Doyle said.


Vista Unified’s goal is to become the model of educational excellence and innovation, and Doyle said, “Excellence starts at the earliest levels.”


Activities were offered to all attendees throughout the three hour fair


Board of Education President Rich Alderson, a former teacher and former high school principal, said that the pace of learning has accelerated so much that children need the early start that preschool gives them.


“I go back and look at this from the time I taught, and the rigor has really increased from kindergarten through fifth grade,” Alderson said. “By the time kids are in kindergarten, they’re expected to know numbers and colors, and things that used to be taught in kindergarten.”


For those whose native language is not English, preschool also can give them “a leg up,” Alderson said.


(L. to R.) Vista USD Interim Superintendent Matt Doyle, Family & Community Engagement Network Lead Jacqueline "Kiki" Bispo, Vista USD board members, and Educational Enrichment Systems' CEO Robin Layton (third from right).


Among other things, preschool teaches children important social skills, such as sharing and independence and just gets them used to being in a classroom setting, said Marisa Jackson, educational coordinator for Educational Enrichment Systems.


“We read a lot of books, so they get exposed to that literacy,” Jackson said, adding that parents also get accustomed to the routine of waking their children at a certain time, getting them ready and dropping them off at school.


Along with providing information on preschool, parents at the fair could enroll their children in preschool, transitional kindergarten and kindergarten. Transitional kindergarten is for children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 and are too young for conventional kindergarten, which is for children who turn 5 before Sept. 1.


Ballet Folklorico performed at the fair


The fair also featured performances by preschool and elementary school students, including Ballet Folklorico, dancing and musicians playing guitars and drums.


Parents could also take home free books and learn about services provided by a wide range of agencies from the Boys & Girls Club of Vista and Manpower Employment Agency to Vista Storm Soccer Club and the Vista Community Clinic that have formed partnerships with Vista Unified.


The number and variety of the organizations that are working with the district and helped with the fair were impressive, Alderson said. “What pleased me the most is to see the community partners,” Alderson said.


Echoing Alderson’s comments, Bispo said the fair “brings together schools, families, and community partners to support early childhood education, collaboration and love. It’s a true celebration of unity and all of the beauty and richness in our large and extended community.”


Activities for attendees were held throughout the fair





The 3rd annual Early Childhood Education Fair was held this past weekend, on Saturday, May 6th, from 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM at the Linda Rhoades Community Center in Vista.


More than 1,300 people attended the event, which featured free refreshments from WaveCrest Cafe, mini-workshops for parents, and games and play activities for kids, as well as student performances, and information from 33 community partners.


The Early Childhood Education Fair is an opportunity for families to connect with preschool and elementary school teachers and leaders, as well as learn more about parent volunteer opportunities and resources.


“Vista Unified is committed to help support the role of parents and family members as a child’s first and best teachers,” says Jacqueline “Kiki” Bispo, VUSD’s Lead of Family & Community Engagement.


The fair was produced in partnership with Educational Enrichment Systems (EES) Preschools, the Del Norte PTA and the San Diego County Office of Education.


“Many in our community may not know that there are 11 Part-Day Preschools located on VUSD elementary school campuses, and two Full-Day EES Child Care Centers ready to help prepare children for success in school,” says VUSD Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle. 


Both the part-day and full-day preschool programs are free to families that meet income eligibility requirements as determined by the California Department of Education.


For more information about Early Childhood Education programs, click here.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/11/17

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A Letter From Interim Superintendent Dr. Matt Doyle


Esteemed Colleagues, 


It is with sincere pride and appreciation that I congratulate all Vista Unified School District Certificated and Classified team members who will be retiring this school year.


The Human Relations Department recently hosted a beautiful retirement reception to honor 179 teachers and staff who collectively have provided almost 5,000 years of service to students and families. During the ceremony, I had the opportunity to speak with many teachers and staff members about their individual stories of supporting students and families over many decades.


It is humbling to know that our staff and teachers have played such a significant role in the lives of thousands of students. 


On behalf of the Vista Unified School District, I would like to thank every retiree for their service and commitment to the students of our great District. I wish you all well in your retirement and hope to see you visit our schools in the future.  



Matt Doyle, Ed.D.

Interim Superintendent of Schools

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/10/17

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Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/9/17

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By Ray Huard


She’s the best in the country, so said Magnet Schools of America in giving its top award to Mission Vista High School music teacher Anne Fennell.


Fennell, who heads the Visual and Performing Arts Department at the Vista Unified School District high school, has been named National Magnet School Teacher of the year by the organization, the national association for magnet and theme-based schools.


There are about 4,000 magnet and theme-based schools in the country, according to Magnet Schools website.


“As a classroom teacher, Anne Fennell focuses on educating the whole student,” Magnet Schools said in naming Fennell its teacher of the year. “Mrs. Fennell is practiced in educating students as well as leading other professionals in arts integration across curricula.”


This is but the latest in a series of awards for Fennell, who won state and regional awards for innovation in music education earlier this year and who was one of 10 finalists in 2016 for the GRAMMY Music Education Award.


“It’s been crazy,” said Fennell, who was a founding faculty member at Mission Vista High School.


A classroom teacher for 30 years, Fennell said, “I just love my students and I love music,” adding that, “It’s nice to know those things I envision in my life are coming true for my students, and to get recognition for that is icing on the cake.”


Fennell, a classical flutist, said her philosophy is that, “Every human being is a musician. It’s my job is to pull that out of them.” “My goal is for every musician to be a lifelong music maker,” Fennell said.


That philosophy is reflected in the way she teaches.

“I don’t tell them what to do,” Fennell said. “I’m not the conductor in charge. I am the facilitator. They get to make decisions.”


At Mission Vista, Fennell teaches three levels of music composition through technology and three levels of steel drum ensemble.


Her introduction of the steel drum ensemble is one of the innovations that has drawn praise from colleagues. “I picked that because I wanted a world music instrument,” Fennell said. “I wanted students to be able to walk up to an instrument and be able to play something immediately.”


A steel drum enables them to do that, she said. “Then the challenge becomes, I teach them how to arrange it,” Fennell said.


Her advice to other music teachers is “be relevant.” “Meet the students where they are, continue to connect with them to discover who they are as human beings.” Fennell said. “It takes time and it takes effort and it takes the love of students and the love of music. It’s a discovery process, like mining for gold.”




Mission Vista High School music teacher Anne Fennell has scored a regional award for innovation from the California Music Educators Association.


“How cool is that,” asked Fennel, who has racked up numerous awards as creative arts chair and instrumental and music composition teacher at Mission Vista.


The CMEA award honors Fennell for showing “excellence in music education, including emerging and digital media” among music teachers in San Diego and Imperial Counties.


In 2016, Fennell was chosen as one of the top 10 finalists for the GRAMMY Music Educator Award and received the CMEA’s SBS Innovation in Music Education Award.


Fennell in 2015 won an “outstanding program” award from San Diego County’s Digital Media Arts Showcase for the music composition program she runs at Mission Vista. She also received a CMEA Illuminating Culture Award in 2013 and an association Southern Border Section Outstanding Music Educator Award in 2008.


“I feel honored to be recognized, but it always and has to be about the kids and what I can do better for them,” Fennell said.  “I believe in lifelong music making and I believe students can be lifelong musicians. That’s the most important thing, finding joy in themselves and finding that joy in the music and sharing that joy with others.”


A classical flutist by training, Fennell said that she performs herself at weddings and other venues.


Vista Unified School Superintendent Devin Vodicka said that Fennell “exemplifies educational excellence and innovation.”

“Her most recent recognition affirms her continued leadership and impact,” Vodicka said. “We are truly fortunate to have outstanding educators like Ms. Fennell who are dedicated to student success.”


Innovation is central to Fennell’s teaching style. “Everything I teach at this school is outside the traditional band,” Fennell said.


For starters, the music composition courses she teaches at Mission Vista are far from typical in a high school curriculum.

“Music composition is never taught in high school. Usually, you wait until a junior in college,” Fennell said.


About 150 students take the composition courses each year, writing their own music. “They read, write and compose at the same time,” she said.


The Mission Vista High School Steel Drum band performs throughout the county each year, and is headed to Hawaii in 2017.


Fennell also has gone beyond the typical high school band by forming a steel drum band, which performs at numerous venues throughout the region, with a trip to Hawaii planned for later this year.


About 130 students take steel drum every year.

Fennell said that she decided to teach steel drum because she thought it was a good first instrument for introduction to music and less intimidating that other instruments.


“We thought, there are too many kids who don’t choose music in middle school, and then they get to high school and they never take it,” Fennell said. “If you’ve never learned music, you can still walk up to the (steel drum) pan and find a melody on it.”


The philosophy that guides Fennell is that, “Anyone can learn music and anyone can create,” especially with the evolving technology of smart phones and computer tablets.


“That’s what’s neat about technology,” Fennell said. “You can create with a touch of a finger.”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/8/17

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Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 5/4/17

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By Ray Huard


Sophie Crawford wanted to depict the struggles and challenges she and others overcome as they work through high school.


She did it with a photograph of classmate Taylor Honore, wearing a red graduation cap-and-gown, holding what appears to be a diploma in his left hand, standing with arms outstretched on the running track at Rancho Buena Vista High School in the Vista Unified School District.


Sophie Crawford's award-winning photo


Jessamene “Jess” Perez wanted to make a statement about how people from diverse backgrounds should respect each other, “and they should be able to hang out as one and not judge one another by what they look like or where they come from.


She did it with a photograph of a soccer ball as seen from below, held aloft by several hands with a bright blue sky in the background.


Jessamene “Jess” Perez's award-winning photo


The photographs by Jess and Sophie won the state-wide Education for All photography contest, sponsored by Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost law firm and The Association of African American Superintendents.


The award comes with a $1,000 scholarship for each student.

Sophie, a senior at Rancho Buena Vista, said she was “in awe,” when she heard that her photograph was a winner.

“My jaw dropped, I thought, ‘No freaking way,’” Sophie said.


Jess, a junior at Rancho Buena Vista, said that she was “really excited and freaking out” when she got the news. “I didn’t think I’d actually win or anything,” Jess said. “When I got notified, I was really excited and happy.”

Their teacher, Kelly Moncure, said that Sophie and Jess “are both really terrific kids. It’s really nice to see them both kind of blossom,” Moncure said.


She said that Sophie’s idea of a graduating student reaching the finish line on a track “was really clever.” “She had a very strong sense of what she wanted and I think she was able to execute it.” Moncure said.


Sophie Crawford


Sophie said that running high school track for three years made her think of using the track as the setting of her photograph. “Track is really hard on your body, but you still get through it,” Sophie said. She said the same is true for high school academics and the challenges some students face outside of school.


In a written explanation of her photograph, Sophie wrote that “In high school, you run into many struggles and conflicts that may bring complications to achieving your goal. But no matter what, you still get up and push through all the way to graduation.”


Sophie wrote that crossing the finish line in a cap-and-gown represents academic achievement, “because graduation is the ultimate achievement in high school,” adding that, “I thought the perfect way to show achievement in education was through a race to the finish line.”


“The next step after crossing the finish line is what comes next in your journey of life,” she wrote. Sophie will attend Vanguard University, a private Christian school in Costa Mesa. Her goal is to become a teacher, and her dream job would be to teach at Vista Unified’s Lake Elementary School, where she interned.


Jessamene “Jess” Perez


Jess said that after watching schoolmates form cliques, she wanted her photograph to make a statement about diversity and inclusion. “Teens divide one another in social groups because they don’t look or act the same way we want them to. It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences,” Jess wrote in a note explaining her work.


“As we get older, we don’t see the beauty in diversity, we see colors and divide one another by them,” she wrote. “Young people need to be taught that diversity is OK and should embrace it.”


Moncure said that she was impressed by the way Jess staged the photograph. “I kind of like the way she’s reaching up to the sky,” Moncure said.


Jess said she gets her interest in photography from her mother, who is a professional wedding photographer. “I like capturing pictures that people don’t see with their own eyes,” Jess said, adding that, for now, photography is a hobby Jess said. She plans to study nursing at Palomar College.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/30/17

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Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/26/17

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Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/25/17

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By Ray Huard


Mission Vista High School and Rancho Buena Vista High School have been named Gold Ribbon schools by the state Department of Education for outstanding academic achievement.


“We’re super excited,” said Mission Vista Principal Nicole Miller. “I’m just super proud of our programs and our faculty and the experience that they provide to kids every day that are really unique.”


Rancho Buena Vista Principal Charles Schindler said that earning a Gold Ribbon award “is a great honor and a tribute to the staff at RBV for our academic programs we offer all students.”


With the latest round of awards, all three of the comprehensive high schools in the Vista Unified School District have been honored as Gold Ribbon schools. Vista High School won the designation in 2015.


“This is a remarkable achievement that reflects well on the hard work of our students, staff, families and partners,” said Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said that the Gold Ribbon schools “are leading the way in embracing our new rigorous academic standards and showing others how to help students succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college.”


The Gold Ribbon awards recognize California schools that have made gains in implementing the academic content and performance standards adopted by the state.


“I look forward to traveling the state to honor these schools and to help share their programs, methods, and techniques that are working,” Torlakson said.


Mission Vista High School was recognized for its programs in math, science, biomedical, engineering, theater, music, visual arts, dance, and Career Technical Education (CTE), Miller said.

The school has 17 CTE courses, from digital art to computer science, taught by professionals who worked in the field they teach.


“Our math program is really unique because we have hour-and-a-half periods, so our teachers really focus on the application of math,” Miller said. “Our kids are really looking at how the math applies to the real world. It’s a lot more than plugging numbers into equations.”


As a magnet school, Mission Vista has a class schedule that allows students to take more electives and advanced classes, Miller said.


The school is on what Miller said is a four-by-four schedule in which students take four courses in the fall semester and four different courses in the spring semester, unlike a traditional schedule in which students take six courses for a full year.

“They do a whole year in one semester,” Miller said.


Because it’s a magnet school, students must apply to attend Mission Vista and Miller said that there is a waiting list at all grade levels. Students are admitted by lottery.


Rancho Buena Vista High School was recognized for its reading and writing program that involves English and Social Studies classes.


The program “prepares students with writing strategies and techniques as well as the analysis skills needed to write complete essays on a variety of topics,” Schindler said. “The nice thing is this award recognizes a built-in program that we have been working on here at RBV for the last five to seven years and has produced very successful student assessment outcomes.”


When the program started, 71 percent of juniors were proficient on state tests that focused on reading, writing and analysis, Schindler said.


By the spring semester in the 2015-2016 school year, 75 percent of juniors were proficient on those tests.









Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/23/17

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By Ray Huard


Twelve-year-old Rachel Palmer has become a bit of an expert on aquaponics – the process of growing plants and fish in water.


She and her classmates at Madison Middle School have built an aquaponics system outside their seventh-grade classroom with the help of Eco Life Foundation, an Escondido-based nonprofit that promotes sustainable farming.


“It was really fun,” said Rachel, who was a gardening aficionado even before her class got involved in aquaponics. “I like to grow my own food and cook it.”


The system she and her classmates built will grow lettuce and raise koi fish. The waste from the koi acts as a natural fertilizer for the plants, which use the nutrients in the waste and return fresh water to the fish.


“Aquaponics is really just another way to help the environment,” said America Velasco, 12. “You recycle water instead of using new water, using the water over and over again.”


Madison Middle School student Rachel Palmer with the school's aquaponics system as it was under construction.


The project is part of seventh grade science teacher Kristina Morrow’s efforts to take students beyond supermarket shelves when they think about food. “We’re trying to get kids to understand where their food comes from, other than the grocery store,” Morrow said.


Morrow said the class chose lettuce for the aquaponics system because it’s easy to grow, and they chose koi, because koi is a hardy fish that can withstand fluctuations in temperature.


“You could do this with tilapia, or something like that if you want to harvest the fish for food, but we’re not at that point,” Morrow said. “Eventually, once this system is going, we want to build more.”


Not only do students learn about how to grow crops efficiently with the aquaponics system, but they get a taste of what it’s like to be an engineer by designing the system and building it themselves, with guidance from Eco Life, Morrow said. “We had a general idea of what we wanted, and then they helped from there.”


Working with Eco Life, the students “kind of got to go through the design and engineering process, which is something that the new science curriculum really wants to do,” she said.


The students also learned how to collaborate, how to work as a team, and rely on each other, social skills which are critical in college and in the workplace, Morrow said. “We had to research what kind of fish to get, and how to build stuff,” America said. “It was a fun, new experience.”


In addition to the aquaponics, Morrow’s students designed and planted a conventional garden, and have a composting bin outside her classroom.


Principal Susan Ford said aquaponics has been a great addition to the school. “It’s tremendous. It’s teacher initiated and student driven,” Ford said. “We have students who are considering careers in science and biology because of the work they’ve been doing.”


Aquaponics fits right in with Madison’s emphasis on science and technology, Ford said.


She said the school has 13 computer science classes, including classes in digital art, graphic design, coding and digital broadcasting, along with three marine biology classes.

“We have more kids signed up for marine biology than we can provide classes for,” Ford said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/20/17

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By Ray Huard


Second-grader Chelsea De Los Santos won’t get a birthday party this year when she turns 8.

She won’t get any presents either.


“For my birthday, instead of getting gifts for myself, I’m going to donate toys to the sick children at Rady Children’s Hospital,” Chelsea explained, reciting a talk she gave to her schoolmates at Vista Academy of Visual & Performing Arts (VAPA) in the Vista Unified School District.


So far, Chelsea has collected more than 100 toys, everything from dolls to coloring books, said her mom, Cristina De Los Santos. “My living room and dining room are full,” De Los Santos said.


Chelsea’s not finished.


“I want to collect more toys,” she said, standing outside her classroom.


Her mom said that Chelsea would like to collect enough toys so that every child in the hospital will get one.

Chelsea’s adding her own contribution, using part of her $5 weekly allowance to buy coloring books and board games to include in the toy drive


She came up with the idea of a toy drive on her own one night in January, when she and her mother started talking about what Chelsea might want for her birthday, April 20.


“Every year, we have a party for her, usually two parties, one for friends and one for relatives,” De Los Santos said.


This year, Chelsea had other ideas. “I’ve already had lots of birthday parties,” Chelsea said. “I already have lots of toys.”


When Chelsea said that she wanted to collect toys for children in a hospital, “It just caught me by surprise,” her mom said.


To be sure, De Los Santos said that she asked Chelsea over several days in January if Chelsea really wanted to give up her party and gifts.


“She was very, very insistent,” De Los Santos said.

Soon after Chelsea announced her plans and started collecting toys, her teacher, Denise Shaver, gave the class a writing assignment asking students, “If you could do anything to make a difference in the community, what would you do?”


Chelsea wrote about collecting toys for sick children, and the essay prompted De Los Santos to think about expanding Chelsea’s toy drive.


“I thought, maybe I should email Mrs. Shaver, that we’re already doing this, asking if she wanted to get the class involved,” De Los Santos said. Shaver loved the idea.


Chelsea De Los Santos, her mother Cristina, and Vista Academy 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Denise Shaver with a few of the toys collected for Chelsea's project.


VAPA is an International Baccalaureate School, part of a program that encourages children to think globally and get involved in their community.


“International Baccalaureate is all about students taking action,” Shaver said, and Chelsea was sure doing that.

Not only did Shaver’s class take up Chelsea’s toy drive, but it went school-wide, with Chelsea taking one day to make presentations to other classrooms with a simple plea – “Please help me bring happiness, hope and share a smile to the sick children at Rady Children’s Hospital.”


“She did it all herself, I’m so proud of her,” Shaver said, adding, “Chelsea’s a wonderful student. She’s one of the top students.”


Hospital Media Relations Officer Carlos Delgado said others interested in forming a toy drive like Chelsea’s or donating to the hospital can contact Rady’s Children Foundation at 858-966-4015.


Chelsea said there really wasn’t anything in particular that prompted her decision to give up her party and presents.


Smiling shyly, Chelsea said, “I don’t know how I thought of it,” although her family has a history of helping others.

When Chelsea’s 26-year-old sister, Sarah, was Chelsea’s age, the family would hand out boxes of food in their native Philippines, De Los Santos said.


Giving to others is an important value in their family. “It’s better to give than to receive,” De Los Santos said. “It opens your heart to everyone.”


In addition to the toy drive, Chelsea sold 425 boxes of cookies as a Brownie in Vista Girl Scout Troop 1925. She’s also a member of Vista Voices choir, the Music Conservatory at VAPA, and performed in two musicals through the school’s Drama Conservatory.


Chelsea’s not sure why people are impressed by her toy drive. “Really, anyone can do it, any kid,” Chelsea said.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/11/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


At Temple Heights Elementary School, third graders in teacher George Doyle’s class will welcome their parents to an April open house with a video they created on iPad computer tablets.


With Doyle’s help, they discovered through the Internet how to sketch a self-portrait that will be included in the video, write a script, and how to navigate websites they’d use to produce the video.  


“Most of it, they learned by doing it,” Doyle said. “Sometimes, when you raise expectations, kids can do more than you expect.”


A few doors down, in teacher Ramiro Santana’s third grade class, students were hard at work designing a garden they’re making on a small plot of land outside their classroom.


“They’re researching the kind of plants they want to the point that they were calling Home Depot,” Santana said. “They were learning a lot about what they wanted to put in here, including the cost, and then they wanted a water fountain.”


The students designed and made a solar-powered fountain.

All of this and more was on display during a recent Leadership Day in which Temple Heights showed off the changes it’s making through a “Leader in Me” grant and as an Apple Distinguished Program.


Temple Heights third graders build the solar-powered fountain they designed.


Temple Heights and Monte Vista Elementary School in Vista Unified were each awarded grants of $45,000 during the 2015-2016 school year from Leader.org to train teachers and put into practice a “Leader in Me Program” that teaches leadership skills, such as being proactive, setting goals, and listening before speaking.


Temple Heights also was recognized as an Apple Distinguished Program for 2016 to 2018 for its use of iPads to support personalized learning from kindergarten through fifth grade.


Principal Kim Morton said that it’s taken six years, but every student now has an iPad to use in the classroom, and those in the second through fifth grades can take them home.


“We’re really proud of what we’re building,” Morton said. “We want to offer things that stand out from the traditional.”


With about 650 students, Temple Heights is a neighborhood school serving families who live nearby, but Morton and Assistant Principal Kerry Perez said that they wanted to make Temple Heights something special.


“We feel very passionate about doing something extraordinary out of the ordinary,” Perez said. “We wanted to get at what captures our kids’ hearts.”


As part of that, Temple Heights is piloting a move from traditional teaching methods to personalized learning in which lessons build on the strengths and interests of each student, guided by teachers.


“We just want them to love school. We want them to jump out of bed in the morning and want to get to school,” Morton said. “We’re trying to get away from getting everyone to do the same thing at the same time.”


As part of the Leader in Me Day, students served as ambassadors, showing guests around the school.


Fourth-graders Trevor Cobb and Emily Macias made a point of showing off the unconventional furniture Temple Heights is using, from stand-up desks and bouncy stools to picnic tables and outdoor sofa-like covered seating areas where students can stretch out and work on their iPads. “They help you relax,” Emily said.


Trevor said that he’s fond of the outdoor couches. “We sit in these couches and think,” Trevor said. “We can find our own comfort.”


Fourth-grader Trevor Cobb delivers his self-designed class presentation on an iPad.


Fifth grade teacher Rya Hege brought in some wooden lawn furniture, which has turned out to be the most popular spot in her classroom. Her class is far from the traditional setting, where desks were arranged in rows and the teacher lectured from the front of the room.


Students roam about Hege’s class, iPads in hand, sharing information as Hege guides their research. “They don’t really have an assigned seat,” Hege said. “It depends on the project they’re working on.”


Perez and Morton said the personalized approach to learning is paying off, with improved student reading scores, Perez.

“It’s really about the kids,” Morton said. “You can see how excited they are, and engaged.”



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/7/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


A Vista High School senior described by one of his teachers as “the real deal” has been named San Diego County March student of the month by the San Diego County Office of Education and San Diego NBC7.


“I never thought this would happen,” Kevin Medici said as he was greeted by cheering friends, teachers and family members at a recent surprise award ceremony at the high school.


Kevin was picked from among thousands of high school students “for making a difference” in his school and the community at large, said Music Watson, chief communications officer at the Office of Education. The monthly award is sponsored by Mission Federal Credit Union.


Among other things, Kevin is an honor roll student, a member of the school Character Leaders program, co-president of the Environmental Club, a leader of the school Buddies Club which works with special needs students, and is a member of the Outdoors Club. He also helps run the campus recycling program and is involved with a variety of off-campus activities, said teacher David Hanlon, who nominated Kevin for the award.


“He is kind, humble, leads by example, and is dedicated to making the world a kinder, gentler place for people, animals and our natural environment,” Hanlon wrote in nominating Kevin.


Principal Anthony Barela described Kevin as “an amazing kid. As a student leader, he’s always there for the benefit of others,” Barela said. “He’s just been awesome.”


Caught off-guard by the recognition, Kevin said, “I’m trying to be the best I can be for others.”


Kevin Medici gives his friends the thumbs-up sign as he's surprised with his Student of the Month award, as his sister, Marissa, looks on.


One way he does that is by helping to put on a prom for students with special needs and by working with a volunteer soccer organization for children with special needs. “He really enjoys helping the developmentally disabled kids, which is nice,” said his mother, Rebecca Medici. “We’re all very proud of him.”


Kevin said that his work with special needs kids is no big deal. “To see them happy makes me happy,” Kevin said. “We should all care for each other.”


Kevin’s sister, Marissa Medici, said that her brother was “one of the most trustworthy people I know.”


“He really does deserve the award because he worked so hard to overcome a lot,” said Marissa, a 2015 Vista High School graduate who’s in her second year at Yale University.


Kevin was an avid soccer player, but was sidelined by two knee injuries. “It limited his playing time and he’s been able to handle that,” Barela said.


Not one to give up, Kevin has taken up track and field as his new sport of choice. He said his motto, taken from the movie, “Rocky,” is “It’s not how hard you hit, it’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”


At home, Kevin is “a very calm person,” his mother said.

“When everything goes sideways, he’s so chill,” she said. “He’s a great presence that way.”


Looking ahead, Kevin said he’s looking at Humboldt State University as a possible college choice and is thinking of becoming a teacher “because I like to inspire people to be the best they can be.”


Asked who his role models were, Kevin said “My mother really inspired me to help others and my sister really inspired me to help the environment.”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/5/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage
Posted by: Layla Rosales, District Staff, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/4/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Vista High School Principal Anthony Barela said that his biggest challenge is “just managing the sheer volume of things that come up.”


Barela has met the challenge so well that he was named 2017 high school Principal of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators Region 18, which covers San Diego and Imperial counties.


“I was shocked, absolutely shocked,” Barela said. “I’m very honored and humbled, but I think it’s more a reflection of the school.”


His colleagues said that the award was well deserved.

Assistant School Superintendent Donna Caperton said that Barela “is one of the best high school principals I have had the pleasure of working with.”


“He is dedicated to serving his students and making sure his students get what they need,” said Caperton, who was among those who nominated Barela for the award.


“He is innovative in his thinking,” Caperton said. “He rolls with the punches and adjusts as necessary.”


For example, Caperton said that when the bleachers in the high school stadium were found to be unsafe and had to be replaced, Barela came up with a plan that allowed the athletic season to proceed while the old bleachers were removed and new ones constructed.


Under Barela’s leadership, Vista High School also won a $10 million, five-year grant through XQ: The Super School Project to expand the school’s focus on personalized learning, with curriculum and classwork tailored to meet the needs and interests of each student individually.


“It started off as a small school within a school. Now it’s blossomed into this beautiful opportunity with this XQ grant, starting with next year’s classes,” Barela said. “With the personalization of learning, it’s really going to play into students’ strengths and passions. They’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with their teachers learning, going much deeper than they have in the past.”


Barela figures that winning the XQ grant played a part in his selection as Principal of the Year.


While winning the XQ grant was highlighted in the award nomination from his colleagues, they also wrote that Barela, “Actively promotes the development of flexible learning spaces,” advocating “for the redesign of a model classroom equipped with state-of-the art technology, as well as furniture that easily reconfigures to accommodate different student groupings.”


They praised his ability to collaborate with other administrators, teachers, parents and students. “Mr. Barela encourages feedback through staff surveys and community focus group meetings,” they wrote.


His advice to other principals is, “Find balance, because this job is a lot.”


“Find time for your family, find time to stay healthy and surround yourself with a good support network, because being surrounded by good people is a great thing,” said Barela, who has two sons and two daughters – Dominic, Michaelis, Gianna, and Jude.


Despite the demands of being a high school principal, Barela is a volunteer at St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church in Oceanside.


Barela has been principal at Vista High School since 2014. Before that, was principal of Roosevelt Middle School in the Vista Unified School District, as well as a principal, assistant principal, and teacher at schools in other districts.


“It’s a lot of work, but in my humble opinion, it’s one of the greatest professions out there,” Barela said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 4/3/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage



*** UPDATED APRIL 30, 2017 ***


By Ray Huard


Ingenuity and a knack for storytelling won Rancho Minerva Middle School students a national award from a nonprofit organization that promotes innovation and the use of technology in education.


Students in Nichole Santangelo’s design lab and Beth Duncan’s video journalism class collaborated to produce a product and document their work on video – a joint project that made Rancho Minerva in the Vista Unified School District among two middle schools and one high school in the nation to win the Digital Promise filmMAKER Challenge.


“I was ecstatic for our students,” Santangelo said. “They work really hard and deserve to get recognition for their amazing work.”


The other winning schools were Edmunds Middle School in Burlington, VT and South Fayette High School in McDonald, PA.


Digital Promise President and Chief Executive Officer Karen Cator said that Digital Promise “engages students with relevant, inspiring, and challenging work to help them develop important skills,” among other things.


“The winning submissions of the filmmaker Challenge are demonstrations of the creativity and inventiveness that happens when students are empowered to solve problems and take action,” Cator said.


The challenge was for middle school and high school students to reinvent an everyday product, and make it into something more sustainable, beautiful or accessible, and to create a short documentary about their experience.


Four students in Santangelo’s class – Francisco Lozaro, Brian Perea Herrera, Jesus and Mariah Campos - after working through several variations, designed and produced a computer chip holder that allowed the school information technology department to load software and deploy laptop computers more efficiently.


Francisco, Brian and Jesus did the initial work and Mariah fine-tuned it and produced the finished product to meet requirements set by Sebastian Rossi, a district systems support technician. The students used a 3D printer to create prototypes and the final chip holder.


When they were done, Duncan’s video journalism students went to work, creating a four-and-a-half minute report on the project, including interviews with Rossi and DeWayne Cossey, district information technology director.


In the video, Rossi said that the chip holder that the students produced made his job much easier.


Click the photo to view the winning Digital Promise filmMAKER Challenge video


“We’re very satisfied with how it (the chip holder) turned out,” Rossi said.


Duncan said that the video was made by a team of students from the Rancho Minerva Video Journalism class.


Lead storytellers were Odalis Ramirez, Octavio Martinez, Priscilla Pagaling and Brisa Martinez. Also participating were Antonio Brady and Paola Morales Bazan.


The students shot video and conducted interviews at the district Information Technology Department and at Rancho Minerva.


Rancho Minerva Middle School video students filming their award-winning KWN Video Challenge news segment



The Digital Promise recognition is but the latest in a string of national film awards Rancho Minerva’s students have won.

Duncan’s students also won the CoSN Digital Equity Challenge, which earned them a trip to Chicago, and the KWN Kid Witness News Panasonic National Video Challenge, which came with a trip to New York City.


For the KWN challenge, the students made a video letter which interspersed segments of a 92-year-old veteran and a 14-year-old girl talking about their lives and families.


For the CoSN challenge, the students produced a video explaining how to close the so-called digital divide between those who have access to the Internet and those who don’t. The video tells how to find free Wi-Fi connections to the Internet, and urges students to help their parents and grandparents learn how to use it.


A full story about the CoSN video challenge is below.


“It’s been an extremely exciting and successful year for our Video Production Team,” Duncan said. “When my students receive such positive results for their work, they realize that all their hard work and dedication to these projects is being recognized by production specialists and professionals across the nation.”


Duncan said that the awards show students that, “They are making a difference in our world by capturing epic stories happening at our school and within our community, and share it through storytelling.”


As satisfying as it is to win the awards, Duncan said, “The change in the way my students see themselves as valuable, successful filmmakers is the real prize.”


The chip holder designed and produced by Santangelo’s students is but one of many products they’ve made. Among other things, they’ve made the bathroom passes for the school, lanyards for a local horse club, a replacement handle for an umbrella, and an iPad holder, Santangelo said.


“We also do logos, posters and banners,” she said.

Her class has created an online business, ABCPrintingBulls (www.abcprintingbulls.com) to sell what they make and take orders.


“All of the orders go to sustain the class,” Santangelo said.

Rancho Minerva students have been invited to present their work at the Bay Area Maker Faire in May and the World Maker Faire in New York in October.


“These students are getting experiences that are life-changing, that will set them on a path to future success,” said Rancho Minerva Principal Ben Gaines. “The awards that we’re receiving are a testament to the hard work and innovative approach that our teachers are taking.”


Washington, DC (March 24, 2017) – CoSN today announced that Rancho Minerva Middle School in California’s Vista Unified School District is the winner of the first-ever Digital Equity Student Video Challenge. The school was chosen among more than 50 student groups from across the United States and Canada. 


Leaders and students from Rancho Minerva Middle School were presented with the national award at the ASCD Conference in Anaheim, California on March 25th, 2017. They will also be honored and recognized at the CoSN 2017 Annual Conference, April 3-6 in Chicago, Illinois.


You can see their digital equity story and winning submission here.


“Digital equity is the Civil Rights issue of today in our communities,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “As the contest showed, school district and community leaders are increasingly committed to bridging the digital divide and helping all students be able to learn anytime, anywhere. Congratulations to the students and educators at Rancho Minerva Middle School, Vista Unified School District, as well as each school system that demonstrated their efforts and are making digital equity a top priority.”


For the Digital Equity Student Video Challenge, school systems submitted either a four-minute documentary or a one-minute Pubic Service Announcement on how digital equity is affecting students outside of school – and how the districts are addressing this challenge. The CoSN Digital Equity Advisory Panel launched the challenge to give students the opportunity tell their stories and elevate their voice in the digital equity discussion. 


Rancho Minerva’s winning documentary was developed by a 10-member team that formed two working groups to develop the video storyboard, script, filming, and post-production editing. The video shares how the school’s students and the Vista Unified School District at large are working to connect students outside the school day as well as educating parents on the importance of increased Internet access for learning.


“I am proud of our students for their stellar work on this important project. I am hopeful that educational and community leaders will listen to their voices, which are drawing attention to a critical equity issue for our nation,” said Devin Vodicka, EdD, Superintendent of Schools, Vista Unified School District.


“I could not be more proud of the hard work our students are doing to solve this relevant, real world problem. Many of the minds that worked on this project will directly benefit from the digital equity work in which they have so deeply invested. This is an exciting moment for Rancho Minerva,” said Benjamin Gaines, EdD, Principal, Rancho Minerva Middle School.


To learn more about advancing the Digital Equity movement, please visit: cosn.org/digital-equity.


The Digital Equity Student Video Challenge is made possible through the support of AT&T, Brocade, Filewave, HMH, HP, and Kajeet. 


About CoSN 

CoSN is the premier voice and resource for K-12 education technology leaders nationwide. Serving more than 13 million students in America’s school systems, CoSN provides education leaders with the tools and relationships to leverage technology and advance modern, engaging learning environments. Visit cosn.org to find out more about CoSN’s focus areasannual conference and eventsadvocacy and policymembership, and the CETL certification exam.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 3/30/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


When Linda Guerrero was in high school, a guidance counselor told her she wouldn’t go to college.


“I didn’t fit the profile,” Guerrero said. “I didn’t have parents who were involved. I didn’t have parents who spoke English. I hadn’t been exposed to college.”


But an English teacher took an interest in Guerrero, told her that she could go to college, and that she could have a career.


Guerrero earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from California State University San Marcos, became a teacher, then an assistant principal, and is now director of English Language Development for the Vista Unified School District.


She wants to provide the same inspiration to young girls that the English teacher gave her, in part through an April 8 Girls Conference for middle schoolers at Rancho Minerva Middle School.


In November, Guerrero and Rancho Minerva Assistant Principal Nicole Adams formed a Girls Empowerment Club at the school, which meets once a week after school. “At this age, girls are really trying to find their way and come into their own,” Adams said. “We want to empower girls to be themselves, to be strong.”


Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka said that he was “inspired” by Guerrero’s efforts to help girls succeed. He said the conference “is an excellent example of our commitment to achieve our vision to be the model of educational excellence and innovation.”


A goal of both the conference and the club is to provide role models girls can emulate, to counter some of the negative messages girls pick up from social media and conventional media, and to show girls they have many career options. “I think there’s a fixed mindset on what girls are good at,” Guerrero said.


The conference is meant to dispel that, with women from a wide range of professions talking about their careers, how they got into them, what they might have had to overcome.


“We’re really trying to bring in a diverse group of expertise to be able to share our stories with young girls,” Guerrero said. “Everyone has a story to share, how they got into their profession. Sometimes it’s a straight line, sometimes it’s a zig-zag.”


Sessions also are planned to talk about financial literacy, nutrition, social media, healthy relationships and body image, among other topics. “Our job is to plant the seeds,” said Guerrero, whose own story is one of perseverance.


She was in the first generation in her family to go to college.

Her father, a landscaper, never got beyond third grade in school. Her mother, a homemaker, went through fifth grade.

“My parents just taught me to work hard,” Guerrero said. “I don’t try to sell the story that life is perfect. I try to tell the story that life has ripples and valleys, but it’s what you bring into your life that matters.”


Adams said that she had strong role models in her parents. Her mother was a teacher in an inner city school in Bakersfield. “It wasn’t until I became a teacher, and, now, an administrator that I realized how lucky I was to have someone I could look up to,” Adams said. “I carried on the family tradition.”


Her hope is that the conference and club will provide strong role models for girls who don’t have them. “A lot of the women that are involved in the conference had someone they could look up to and those relationships have lasted for years and years,” Adams said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 3/28/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Mission Vista High School music teacher Anne Fennell has scored a regional award for innovation from the California Music Educators Association.


“How cool is that,” asked Fennel, who has racked up numerous awards as creative arts chair and instrumental and music composition teacher at Mission Vista.


The CMEA award honors Fennell for showing “excellence in music education, including emerging and digital media” among music teachers in San Diego and Imperial Counties.


In 2016, Fennell was chosen as one of the top 10 finalists for the GRAMMY Music Educator Award and received the CMEA’s SBS Innovation in Music Education Award.


Fennell in 2015 won an “outstanding program” award from San Diego County’s Digital Media Arts Showcase for the music composition program she runs at Mission Vista. She also received a CMEA Illuminating Culture Award in 2013 and an association Southern Border Section Outstanding Music Educator Award in 2008.


“I feel honored to be recognized, but it always and has to be about the kids and what I can do better for them,” Fennell said.  “I believe in lifelong music making and I believe students can be lifelong musicians. That’s the most important thing, finding joy in themselves and finding that joy in the music and sharing that joy with others.”


A classical flutist by training, Fennell said that she performs herself at weddings and other venues.


Vista Unified School Superintendent Devin Vodicka said that Fennell “exemplifies educational excellence and innovation.”

“Her most recent recognition affirms her continued leadership and impact,” Vodicka said. “We are truly fortunate to have outstanding educators like Ms. Fennell who are dedicated to student success.”


Innovation is central to Fennell’s teaching style. “Everything I teach at this school is outside the traditional band,” Fennell said.


For starters, the music composition courses she teaches at Mission Vista are far from typical in a high school curriculum.

“Music composition is never taught in high school. Usually, you wait until a junior in college,” Fennell said.


About 150 students take the composition courses each year, writing their own music. “They read, write and compose at the same time,” she said.


The Mission Vista High School Steel Drum band performs throughout the county each year, and is headed to Hawaii in 2017.


Fennell also has gone beyond the typical high school band by forming a steel drum band, which performs at numerous venues throughout the region, with a trip to Hawaii planned for later this year.


About 130 students take steel drum every year.

Fennell said that she decided to teach steel drum because she thought it was a good first instrument for introduction to music and less intimidating that other instruments.


“We thought, there are too many kids who don’t choose music in middle school, and then they get to high school and they never take it,” Fennell said. “If you’ve never learned music, you can still walk up to the (steel drum) pan and find a melody on it.”


The philosophy that guides Fennell is that, “Anyone can learn music and anyone can create,” especially with the evolving technology of smart phones and computer tablets.


“That’s what’s neat about technology,” Fennell said. “You can create with a touch of a finger.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 3/23/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Teachers, administrators and Classified staff who stood out among their peers were recently honored with Golden Apple Awards by the Vista Unified School District Board of Education.


“Every year, it is a privilege to recognize and honor our amazing employees who serve students, families and our community,” School Superintendent Devin Vodicka said.


“Our award recipients are an incredible group of dedicated and humble team members who represent the best of our profession,” Vodicka said. “I am hopeful that the Golden Apple Award serves as a small token of appreciation for the great work of all of our staff members who are impacting the future through their daily efforts to promote learning opportunities for all students.”


Seven district staff members were honored with the annual award for 2017.


Mindy Ayers of Monte Vista Elementary School


Mindy Ayers received a Golden Apple for her work as a resource teacher at Monte Vista Elementary School, where her coworkers said that she leads by example, “treating everyone with respect.”


Ayers had been an elementary teacher, a literacy coach, and a content support teacher before becoming a resource teacher. “In her daily work, this employee leads professional development in many instructional areas, and is also the lead support provider for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Induction Program, providing valuable support for our newest teachers,” her co-workers wrote in nominating Ayers for the award.


“She is friendly and helpful to all students, families and staff. She is well-known across VUSD (Vista Unified School District) for being the employee who helps each person feel valued and comfortable, which is so critically important for our teachers who are new to the teaching profession,” they wrote.


“Her upbeat and positive, professional attitude is easily observable as she works with others in her supportive roles. VUSD is most fortunate to have someone of this employee’s caliber to support and guide our new and veteran teachers at Monte Vista Elementary School.”


Susan Moynihan of Madison Middle School


Madison Middle School mathematics teacher Susan Moynihan was honored for being “a positive, enthusiastic, and inspirational math teacher, who cares deeply about each of her students.”


“Her deep care for students and each staff member is exemplified by how she has spearheaded many endeavors that help children learn respect for themselves and others,” her colleagues wrote in nominating Moynihan.


A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a former military officer, Moynihan was co-creator of the Natural High Club, “which inspires students to remain connected to school, healthy lifestyles, and positive social relationships,” her colleagues wrote.


“Her deep care for students and each staff member is exemplified by how she has spearheaded many endeavors that help children learn respect for themselves and others,” they wrote. “This teacher cultivates trust from others with her strong work ethic, compassionate nature, and high level of integrity. One cannot be around this individual without catching her passion, positivity, and enthusiasm.”


Craig Gastauer of Vista High School


Craig Gastauer, a resource teacher and XQ Internal Director at Vista High School, earned a Golden Apple as “a highly successful teacher” who “is a key leader in the redesign of the traditional high school model,” his coworkers wrote.


“Based on this teacher’s drive and motivation to provide his students the very best every day, under his guidance, a group of students has been selected to be involved in a series of learning opportunities, such as being participants in the Salk Institute,” they wrote.


Praising his “relentless pursuit of excellence,” Gastauer’s colleagues wrote that, “During this school year, this teacher has crafted a model professional development plan for school-wide implementation.”


Rosy Simmonds of Vista Academy of Visual and Perfoming Arts


Receiving a Golden Apple for her work as office manager at Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts was Rosy Simmonds.


Simmonds co-workers wrote that she “exhibits compassion” in her work. “Regardless of how busy the front office may become, she will drop everything she is doing to focus on the needs of students, staff, and parents,” they wrote. “While providing support to others, this employee leaves nothing to chance and truly believes that it is her job to ensure that others can do their job.”


Simmonds is sometimes referred to as “the ‘patrona’ or the boss of the school because of the way she greets everyone who enters the front door,” her colleagues wrote.


They said Simmonds’ cheerful manner “is very refreshing to everyone she meets as she works to build a positive sense of community at her school site,” adding that she “has built effective working relationships with staff on site and across the district as the go-to person for many other office managers.”


Praising Simmonds for having “excellent organizational, communications, and interpersonal skills, her coworkers wrote that, “Her dedication, leadership skills, and hard work sustain high levels of support for everyone so that they can be successful in their jobs.”


Judi Luna of Child Nutrition Services (aka WaveCrest Cafe)


Child Nutrition Services Supervisor Judi Luna was honored for implementing a system for the WaveCrest Cafe at each school that increases the speed of serving meals to students.


“This technology allows students more time to enjoy their breakfast and lunch, so that students can eat and return to class well-nourished and ready to learn,” her coworkers wrote.


“With VUSD being one of the first school districts to implement this new technology, this supervisor installed the technology, and tested and maintained the equipment so the new system would run efficiently.”


Because of Luna’s “myriad contributions over the past three decades,” the award to Luna “is a very well-deserved recognition,” her coworkers wrote.


Doris Shapiro, Nurse at Vista High School


Also receiving a Golden Apple was Vista High School nurse Doris Shapiro, who has worked as a district nurse for 27 years and previously received an award as School Nurse of the Year from the San Diego County School Nurse Association.


Shapiro also was Vista Unified’s teacher of the year in 2001, and in 2004, received the “Honor V” award, the highest recognition given each year at Vista High School.


She coordinated Vista High School’s first blood drive in the summer of 2006, and was one of 39 school nurses from the United States to participate in a Johnson & Johnson fellowship grant.


Shapiro also received a Tobacco Use Prevention Education grant, “which allowed for the implementation of non-smoking, site-based intervention programs and that brings awareness to alcohol-related incidents among youths, such as ‘Friday Night Live’ and ‘Every 15 Minutes,’” her coworkers wrote.


They praised Shapiro for demonstrating “leadership and tireless efforts in the promotion of health care for students, staff, and within our community.”


Heather Golly of Rancho Buena Vista High School


Heather Golly, assistant principal at Rancho Buena Vista High School, collected a Golden Apple “for displaying kindness, respect, and dedication to all students and staff.”


Golly’s colleagues praised her for placing “special emphasis on planning, designing, and implementing professional development in support of instruction, (and) providing teachers with tools to develop critical-thinking skills and the application of problem-solving skills to increase student learning.”


Calling Golly “a truly valuable asset to the Rancho Buena Vista High School Community,” her colleagues wrote that, “This administrator is highly visible and approachable so that she can respond swiftly and appropriately to the needs of others.”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 3/21/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


From building insect habitats to testing herbal oils to see how well they battled bacteria, more than 400 students showed off their ingenuity and know-how at a recent Vista Unified School District expo.


“Every year, I am amazed at what our students bring to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Fest,” said Kellie Fleming, a content support resource teacher and coordinator of the annual exposition held this year at Vista Innovation & Design Academy – a Vista Unified magnet school.


“They transform into these experts who talk about their work with knowledge and understanding of what they were able to do and achieve,” Fleming said. “To me, this is probably the most important and rewarding piece about STEM Fest – having our students proudly share their work, interacting with all age groups, on a night that’s all about them.”


Connor Baker and Gavin Humann, second graders at Casita Center for Technology, Science & Math, became experts on insect housing for STEM Fest. They demonstrated how they used cardboard toilet tissue tubes and twigs to create what they called “insect motels” to give moths and other insects safe haven.


“You stuff twigs in here so they can hide from the predators,” Connor said as he jammed twigs into the cardboard tube. “You need to stuff things together so the moths don’t get eaten by chameleons, anything that eats bugs.”


Killing bugs of another kind was the point of an experiment displayed by Jacob Toney, a senior at Rancho Buena Vista High School who hopes to become a chemical engineer doing ground-breaking research.


With bacteria becoming increasingly resistant to drugs, Jacob said he wanted to determine if there were alternatives that would be effective.


According to the results of his experiment, there are. Jacob tested penicillin and several herbal oils to see how well they battled e-coli bacteria. “Cinnamon oil and tea tree oil are at least as effective as penicillin,” Jacob said.


Empresa Elementary Fifth-grader Christian Campoamor's Tiki hut mosquito catcher


Bugs also figured in a STEM Fest display by Christian Campoamor, a fifth grader at Empresa Elementary School, who built a solar power Tiki hut mosquito catcher.


Christian said the bug catcher worked as predicted when he tried it out in his backyard. “We caught two mosquitos,” Christian said. “There’s not that many mosquitos in the yard, mostly gnats,” Christian said.


Rancho Minerva Middle School's marble roller coaster projects.


Nearby, Rancho Minerva eighth graders showed off the work they did to explore kinetic and potential energy and Newton’s laws of motion.


Teacher Desiree Willson gave her students a challenge – build roller coasters out of construction paper that would keep a marble rolling along its course for 15 seconds. “It was a pretty tough challenge, but they did a pretty good job,” Willson said.


Most of the roller coasters on display at STEM kept marbles rolling for five to eight seconds, but the project was a valuable lesson for her students.


“They spent about a month designing, testing and improving,” Willson said. “They learned the importance of testing and improving, testing again and improving.”


Olive Elementary fifth-grader Sheila Sainz faced a different challenge – pick a stressful situation and devise a way to ease the stress.


Her challenge – picking the right clothes for a night out. Sheila’s solution, as illustrated in a drawing she displayed, was to have a robot that would pick out just the right outfits, although she didn’t actually build a robot. That’s a challenge for another day. “It helps people, because they don’t know what to wear,” Sheila said.


STEM Fest attendees generate energy on the Schneider Electric "Green Bike."


For the more athletically inclined, Schneider Electric provided a stationary bicycle hooked up to a light that shined brighter and brighter, the harder students pedaled.


The idea was to show kids a fun side to engineering, and maybe spark their interest in the field, said Valerie Houchin, a Schneider account representative.


By riding the bike, “They understand, they’re helping generate electricity,” Houchin said. “I want them to know, you can do your part to save energy and create energy.” The company has donated the bike to the school district. “It’s going to travel from school to school,” Houchin said.


In choosing VIDA as the site, STEM Fest was returning to its roots. The district’s first STEM Fest in 2014 was at VIDA, which was then Washington Middle School, but has since been transformed into VIDA.


STEM Fest is open to all Visa Unified students.


“We don’t have any specific requirements to exhibit, other than they must be safe and do no harm to anyone,” Fleming said. “Students are welcome to work on anything that incorporates STEM, including the arts.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 3/17/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Vista USD Unveils New State Evaluation “Dashboard”

Test Score Measurement Replaced With 11 Indicators For Measuring Performance


Vista, CA | March 14, 2017 – “Schools and students are more than test scores,” states Vista Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Devin Vodicka. “The new LCFF Evaluation Rubrics and the California School Dashboard will give a more comprehensive look at district and school performance.”


On Wednesday, March 15th, the state will publicly introduce this new “Dashboard” means of measurement. As it does, Vista USD has established its own set of resources to explain the new measurements to students, staff, families and the communities served by the district. VUSD’s “Dashboard” resource page can be found here.


These new reports replace the old California accountability system called the Academic Performance Index (API). The Dashboard ​provides a way to track district and school performance through multiple measures of performance, a method far more comprehensive than simply using student scores on standardized tests.


The Dashboard looks at 11 indicators and determines a district’s or school’s performance based on the current rate and whether there was improvement over several years. Those indicators are: chronic absenteeism, suspension rates, graduation rates, student performance in English language arts and math, parent engagement, school climate, progress of English learners, college and career readiness, implementation of state standards, and basics, such as teachers, materials, and facilities.


For all of these measures, districts will be able to see overall student performance and filter the results for particular groups of students, such as English learners.


Says Vodicka, “Initial results from the first LCFF Evaluation Rubric indicate that Vista Unified is showing good performance. The district showed growth (called “change”) in all but one indicator, with the greatest improvement overall in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Our graduation rate has increased by 3.1% to move up to 93.1%. The suspension rate declined by 0.6% to an all time low of 3.4%. Our goal is to use these tools to continuously improve our efforts to ensure every student succeeds.”


When the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was implemented by the state of California in 2013, school districts received more freedom with how they could spend their money in exchange for a different level of accountability. As part of the budget planning process, school districts are now required to develop a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). Our LCAP, written with parent and public input, identifies our goals, actions and services and how we will measure student progress.


To read Dr. Vodicka’s summary of Progress and Accountability,  click here.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 3/14/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


An eerie photo of an 11-year-old girl appearing as a shadowy figure on a darkened walkway, and a photo of a tattoo artist intently focusing on his work won two Vista High School seniors regional photography awards and a place in a national competition.


Isaac Tapia and Tyler Bobadilla-Wright were awarded the top prize of gold keys in the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a non-profit based in New York that provides recognition and scholarships to high school students.


Their photos will be entered in the alliance’s national competition.


Vista High School seniors Kaylee Hughes and David Maynes were honored with silver keys for their photographs.


“I’m really proud,” said teacher Laura Olden. “This is the first year we’ve ever been awarded gold in the competition and we’ve got the most (photographs) we’ve ever had in the competition.”


Isaac Tapia's photo, "Scary Ghost," was awarded a gold key.


Isaac’s photo, entitled “Scary Ghost,” is meant to portray a haunting Halloween spirit. “I feel like when you see a ghost picture, most of them are the same,” Isaac said.


To get a different look, Isaac posed his sister, Anna, at night wearing a filmy dress, standing on a walkway outside his family’s apartment. The image of Anna is blurred, giving it an other-worldly effect, while the background is clear and in focus. Isaac shot the photo at slow speed while his sister moved back and forth.


“Isaac’s ghostly image was taken around Halloween, using a slow shutter speed,” Olden said. “There was quite a bit of planning, and some trial and error to get the effect he was looking to achieve. For Isaac, this image was a little different from his typical work, but he was able to experiment and with planning and executing a setup shot, and controlling technical aspects of an image for a more creative effect.”


“It took me almost an hour to get this picture,” Isaac said, experimenting with the timing of Anna’s movement. “She got a little frustrated,” Isaac said, adding that, because it was dark, “She was very scared.”


Isaac judged the end product “pretty OK,” and said he was surprised to win a gold key.


As much as he loves taking photos “to capture the moment,” Isaac said that he’s planning a career as a barber, partly because he’s gregarious and likes chatting with people, and, “It’s fun.”


Tyler Bobadilla-Wright's gold key winning image, "Permanent Story."


Tyler said that his photo, entitled “Permanent Story,” was, in a way, a tribute to tattoo artist Juan Ortiz, who is the subject of the photo. Ortiz “kind of motivated me to keep going on my photography,” Tyler said.


The photo shows Ortiz intently focusing on inking a tattoo on the left arm of Tyler’s 23-year-old brother, Justin. The photo is meant to show “someone doing what they love,” Tyler said.


“Tyler’s work often captures a moment that tells a greater story and this image is a prime example. He was able to capture the moment of his brother, Justin, getting a tattoo, but the angle of the image puts focus on the tattoo artist, Juan,” Olden said.


“You can see the pride Juan takes in his art as he works on Justin’s arm. Tyler used a wide angle setting to include the setting of the studio and showcase Juan’s own tattoos. The closeness of the shot makes you feel as though you are right there in the studio with them.”


Taking photos is one of Tyler’s loves, and he plans to take photography classes at Mira Costa College, but isn’t sure if that will lead to a career in photography.


“I definitely want it to always be a part of me,” Tyler said. He said he was “pretty honored” to get a gold key. “For them to look at mine as one of the top images was pretty cool, I thought,” Tyler said.


Kaylee Hughes image, "Shake," garnered a silver key award.


Kaylee said she was going for a mysterious and dark look in her photo, “Shake,” of classmate Guadalupe Barajas, shaking her head back and forth, her long hair creating a blurry image.

“I just had her start moving around to get it blurry,” Kaylee said. “I didn’t know what I was really expecting when I took the picture.”


Olden said Kaylee’s photo “is a graphic exploration of motion through the use of slow shutter,” adding that, “The subject’s movement is expressive and Kaylee’s use of space and the graphic line create a simple yet bold image.”


When she entered the competition, “I didn’t really expect anything from it,” Kaylee said. “I thought it was really cool when I saw I got the silver.”


Kaylee plans to major in cinema in college, although she’s not sure where. “I want to do editing for videos or directing or producing, probably like movies,” Kaylee said. “I have a lot of favorite movies. I think my favorite one that I recently saw was ‘La La Land.’”


"Shadows Cast," by David Maynes, was granted a silver key award.


David’s photo, “Shadow’s Cast,” shows three forks leaning against a white board. “The shadow of it kind of looks cool, kind of like an abstract idea,” said David, who also specializes in taking family portraits.


“It’s such a simple picture, I thought people would look at it and forget it,” David said. “When Mrs. Olden told me I got silver, I was pretty excited.”


The photo “shows David’s creative approach to a common object,” Olden said. “In his abstract image, he explores light, creating a dual image of the forks and contrasting shadow,” Olden said.


David often carries a camera with him, looking for people and things to photograph, and is hoping to turn his interest into a profession. “I want to go into photography as a career in the future, work for a magazine or something like that, or have my own photography business,” David said. “When I first started, it was not really a big thing to me. Once you take that first picture, you get hooked.”


The winning students shot their photographs in color, but printed them in black and white. “It’s more moody,” Olden said.


David said he likes black and white for the classic look it creates. “I like the old-fashioned look and style,” David said. “You see a lot of old photos in black and white.”












Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 3/7/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Crystal Flores was one of about 150 people who sampled everything from glazed roast duck to sweet and sour cabbage with beans at Vista High School’s recent Farm to Fork dining experience.


She said she was delighted by the wide array of dishes. “I’m trying things I never tried before,” Flores said. “The quiche was fantastic, really, really good.”


Started in the 2013-2014 school year, Farm to Fork is a chance for students in Vista High School’s agriculture and culinary arts programs to showcase their work.


Culinary students prepare the food they serve at the event, using produce and meats raised and grown on campus by students in the agriculture program.


“This is the kind of program we need for our kids,” said Board of Education Trustee Rosemary Smithfield. “I love everything about it.”


The menu included cider-brined turkey sliders with cranberry mayonnaise, pulled pork sliders, beef roast, baked ham, beef meatballs in marinara sauce, stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, broccoli with garlic butter, Asian ramen coleslaw, golden and red beets, beef heart and barley stew, garlic braised beef shank, lamb burger sliders, pork chops, lamb chops, grilled pork shoulder steak, radishes and carrots.


Trustee Cipriano Vargas was partial to the lamb. “It’s delicious,” said Vargas, a Vista High School graduate who took the agriculture course, but before Farm to Fork was part of the program.


Vargas, who is a teacher, said the agriculture courses helped him hone his public speaking skills as he gave presentations to various groups explaining the program.


About 100 students are in the agriculture program this year, said Sara Benner, the teacher in charge of it. “What they get at this particular event is pride,” Benner said of Farm to Fork. “They get to show off what they do behind the scenes.”


he same goes for the 120 students in the culinary arts program, said Chef Kim Plunkett.  “They’re so proud and energized,” Plunkett said. “At the end of an event like this, they can say, ‘We did a good job, we wowed everybody.’”


Senior culinary student Mario Santiago, 17, said that he likes the reaction he gets when people sample the food. “I just like seeing them smile when they eat the food, that’s what I like most,” Mario said.


Senior Jennifer Quinonez said that she likes collaborating with the students in the agriculture program. “It brings the classes together,” Jennifer said.


Senior Mansera Martinez, 17, a student in the agriculture program and vice president of Future Farmers of America at Vista High School, said she likes showing off the skills students learn in the culinary and agriculture programs,


“We’re able to promote both programs and show how we take it to the real world,” Mansera said. “We’re also able to educate the public about what we do behind the scenes.”


Senior Valerie Wolf, 18, president of Future Farmers of America, said that she likes Farm to Fork because it it’s a chance to see how the work she does “turns into something people actually enjoy.”


Kevin Jackson, whose son, Tyrik, is a culinary student, proclaimed the Farm to Fork to be “awesome.” “I think it’s great,” said Jackson, a sentiment shared by Tyrik’s grandmother, Twanda Dortly. “I didn’t have to cook it, that’s the main thing,” Dortly said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 3/3/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Rancho Buena Vista High School has, for the first time, fielded a team in robotics. Calling themselves, “Robohornz,” 16 RBV students built a robot that will challenge machines from more than 50 other schools in a regional robotics competition.


“It’s exciting, but at the same time, scary,” said sophomore Ivan Chavarin.


The Rancho Buena Vista team will take to the floor at the Del Mar Arena March 9-11 in the 11th San Diego Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, presented by Qualcomm.


Founded in 1989 in Manchester, N.H., FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national not-for-profit organization aimed at inspiring interest in science and technology.


The goal of the Rancho Buena Vista High School team is to get Sparky, their robot, to roam about the floor, scoop up balls about the size of grapefruit and deliver them to a bin.


Sparky also must slide a gear about the size of a small dinner plate onto a peg; when that’s done, it must climb a four-foot rope and hang suspended from a bar at the end of the rope.

Robots from more seasoned teams also must toss the balls into a tower, which is about eight-feet tall, to complete their task.


Sparky isn’t quite up to that challenge, said Dadre Rudolph, who teaches robotics and computer science at Rancho Buena Vista, and was the team’s lead mentor. The other mentor was Matthew Young, a guest teacher at Vista Unified and robot enthusiast. “Just making it to the competition and having a robot that works is a tremendous accomplishment,” Rudolph said. “It’s a big learning curve.”


Sparky is a box on wheels, a little larger than a milk crate, measuring 40 inches by 36 inches by 2 feet.


Working with a FIRST starter kit that came with a chassis, controls, drive motors, wheels, gear boxes and miscellaneous electronics, the Rancho Buena Vista students had to come up with their own design and make the rest of the robot body for Sparky.


The team had a tight deadline - exactly six weeks to design and build Sparky under the FIRST competition rules, and they were working right up to the end of the last day. After that, Sparky had to be bagged up and put aside until the competition date. “It actually took us a lot of trial and error,” said senior Andrew Garcia.


Evidence of the error part was scattered about Rudolph’s classroom, with discarded robot sections lying on desks and page after page of designs that didn’t pan out. “It does get very frustrating,” said freshman Justin Rodriguez Salazar, “but once we actually get it, it’s fun.”


That trial and error is a big part of what Rudolph hopes her students take away from building Sparky and the competition.

“They experience the whole engineering process and see how many iterations you have to do,” Rudolph said. “It’s an excellent lesson, not only for engineering, but for life. Keep going. Things are going to fail, but just keep going.”


Most, but not all of the Robohornz members are students in Rudolph’s robotics class. “I have some kids on the team who were not in my class at all, they just came in and said, ‘I want to be part of the robotics team,’” Rudolph said.


To be on the team, students had to be interested in robotics and willing to work hard, including during lunch breaks, after school, and on weekends. “They didn’t have to have any experience, be good at building or anything,” Rudolph said.


Along with Ivan, Andrew and Justin, Robohornz team members are seniors Andres Madera, Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Gomez; juniors Raymond Harding, Olivia Garcia, Grace Ehm, Erik Marquez and Angel Mendez; and sophomores Aiden Colin, Tod Manotharauk, George Zavala, and Kaitlyn Chavez

Support for the robotics team came from a $6,000 grant from NASA and a $2,850 grant from Qualcomm.



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/28/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Charlene Smith never imagined herself becoming a school principal, but the former accountant’s assistant, who doesn’t like attention, was named elementary school principal of the year by a group of her fellow educators.


“I feel good for my team, because I feel like they’re getting the recognition they deserve as well,” said Smith, who was singled out as a top administrator by the Association of California School Administrators Region 18, which covers San Diego and Imperial counties.


Since December 2011, Smith has been principal of Monte Vista Elementary School in the Vista Unified School District.


It’s a job she never sought, but is happy she was chosen for it.

“I believe I’m here to serve the community, and I take great pleasure in creating opportunities for the students and their families that might otherwise not happen,” Smith said.  “It can’t be about you. It’s about serving others.”


She’s been a teacher, an elementary school reading specialist and an instructional coach in Vista Unified at Casita Center for Technology & Math and Monte Vista.


When Monte Vista’s principal left at mid-year, “I was asked to fill in as an interim principal for the rest of the year,” Smith said. “It was quite an honor, so I took it. The rest is history.”


Smith’s colleagues said that the history she’s made at Monte Vista has been remarkable.


“Charlene has completely transformed Monte Vista in her six years as principal,” Monte Vista Assistant Principal Sheryl Schmidt wrote in nominating Smith for principal of the year.

“She has offered the hope of college to students and families who never dreamed it would be possible,” Schmidt wrote. “She is the epitome of professionalism and efficiency, while also being the most nurturing and compassionate leader one could meet.”


Under Smith’s direction, Monte Vista in 2015 earned membership in the No Excuses University Network of Schools, a nationwide organization that promotes the notion that higher education should be an option for everyone.


As part of that, flags from colleges and universities across the country hang outside the doorway of every classroom and each class adopts a college or university as their own, learning about the schools.


“Students whose lower economic status might have made college seem foreign and unattainable before, now proudly chant their class’s adopted college fight songs and wave their college flags proudly,” Schmidt wrote. “Parents whose educational careers stopped in high school, are now able to understand college application processes and scholarship possibilities for their children.”


In October, Monte Vista hosted a career fair open to students from throughout the school district to inspire students to think about what careers they might want to pursue.


During the career fair, students posed for photographs of themselves dressed in cap and gown, holding a frame that said what year they would graduate from college.


“These photos inspire students and their families to become lifelong learners who believe in themselves, and stop at nothing to achieve their goals,” Schmidt wrote.


Assistant Superintendent Matthew Doyle, in writing to support Smith’s nomination as principal of the year, said that she “is highly respected among teachers and administrators across the district and county.”


“She is known not only for her knowledge and expertise as an educational leader, but loved by all for her cheerful, respectful personality,” Doyle wrote.


Sharmila Kraft, district executive director for elementary schools, wrote in support of Smith’s nomination, that she is “a hands-on principal who makes a difference at Monte Vista Elementary.”


“As a principal, it is not always what you know, but how you deal with people,” Kraft wrote. “Charlene is effective in building relationships. Teachers truly respect her opinions and appreciate her open door policy. Parents feel their children are treated fairly and respectfully and with the best interest of their child in mind. Students know she is an advocate.”


Growing up in Ohio, Smith initially thought that she might go into teaching, “Then, as I got older, starting in high school, I wanted to be an accountant,” Smith said.


Working for a certified public accountant changed her mind, adding, “I learned that sitting behind a desk was not for me.”

Moving to California 24 years ago, Smith got a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and her teaching credential from California State University. She became a teacher at Casita in 1995. “The only two schools I ever worked at were Casita and Monte Vista,” Smith said.


As much as she loved teaching, Smith said that the principal’s role suits her. “When I was a classroom teacher, I could impact the students in my class, but now, I can impact so many more students,” Smith said. “One of the great things about Monte Vista is, we are like a big family. It’s very rewarding,”


Smith starts her school day greeting every student as they come to school, giving hugs, high-fives and smiles. “I want them to feel love when they walk onto this campus, and I want them to feel safe,” Smith said.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/24/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

by Ray Huard


Kelly McKinney is a woman on a mission: to ramp up the high school courses in Vista Unified School District that give students the training to go to work when they graduate or move on to college.


“We learned from the community that they’re asking for this,” said McKinney, who was appointed district Career Technical Education (CTE) coordinator in July. “The community said, ‘why don’t we have more of this?”


More is on the way.


The district this year added five courses to its CTE curriculum, including computer science, theater stage technology, medical terminology, and a medical course for students interested in becoming paramedics or emergency medical technicians.


Vista USD robotics students design and create machines as part of their CTE classes


CTE is the modern take on what used to be known as vocational education, McKinney said, but it’s been retooled with many CTE courses offering college credit at Palomar College.


“They can absolutely take this and go on to college, but not every kid is college-bound,” McKinney said. “CTE gives kids hands-on experience that can lead directly into a career.”

One thing that makes CTE courses different is that they’re taught by professionals who worked in the field before becoming teachers.


“These courses are not typical textbook courses, so you want kids to know what’s happening in the industry. It’s not theory-based, it’s practical,” McKinney said. “In order to be a CTE teacher, you have to have industry experience. You have to have at least three years of actual industry experience.”


Vista Unified offers about 52 CTE courses in the 2016-2017 school year, and about 2,200 students took a district CTE class in the prior school year, McKinney said.


The courses cover a wide range of subjects, from agriculture, culinary arts, and pre-engineering to video broadcasting, computer gaming and web publishing.


By taking a CTE course, students can get a taste of a career that might be of interest but not to the point that they’re ready to commit to it, said Michael Gomez, a CTE guidance counselor on special assignment.


“It goes both ways,” Gomez said. He’s seen students who found their passion through a CTE course while others might decide that a different career might better suit them. “It gives them that experience,” Gomez said.


Vista High School's award-winning Culinary Arts class is part of the district's CTE offerings.


As the field changes to adapt to current trends, the attitude toward CTE is changing, McKinney said.


“We’re trying really hard to change people’s thought process to think of this as a way to explore options,” McKinney said. “Right now, the buzz is that we need more CTE in the nation. It’s kind of a pendulum swing.”


Vista Unified’s drive to increase it’s CTE offerings comes as CTE is marking its centennial nationally, and February is national CTE month as school district’s across the country highlight their CTE programs.


“That’s kind of cool, that it’s been around for 100 years,” McKinney said.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/21/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


High school student Joseph DelVal discovered he had a knack for writing music. “I played music a lot, but I never really thought about composing,” said Joseph, a senior at Rancho Buena Vista High School.


Classmate Alyssa Maloney created a one-woman theatrical performance of a scene from Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” done in the style of German playwright Bertolt Brecht.


And a group of elementary school students from Vista Academy of Visual & Performing Arts (VAPA) had the audience clapping, cheering and swaying as they did a dance routine combining music from bygone eras, from the Charleston of the 1920’s to a disco number straight out of the movie “Saturday Night Fever.”


Their performances were all part of a recent presentation outlining the Vista Unified School District’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which stresses learning with a global perspective and encourages students to explore subjects beyond what they might otherwise choose.


“It really pushed me out of my comfort zone,” said Joseph, who said that the IB higher level music course he’s taking helped him develop a new talent in composing music. “When I started doing it, I found I was really able to communicate things that I wasn’t otherwise able to communicate,” Joseph said. “I felt the IB program was really worth it.”


Founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968, the IB program works with about 4,585 schools worldwide, according to the IB website, www.ib.org.


Vista Unified offers the IB program in grades 11 and 12 at Rancho Buena Vista High School, Vista High School; in grades six through nine at Vista Magnet Middle School, and at elementary schools Casita Center for Science, Technology & Math and VAPA.


“We have a district that’s fortunate enough to have a K (kindergarten) through 12 (12th grade) program of IB, which is pretty rare, said Tess Kim, a content resource teacher who organized the IB Community Night with fellow teacher Carolyn Thom at Rancho Buena Vista to acquaint parents and students with the IB program.


“Any child that cares about the world, who wants to have an impact on the world – this is certainly great for them,” Kim said.

The IB program is rigorous, but meant for any student who wants to challenge themselves, Kim said.


Among other things, the IB program requires students to take a second language and emphasizes critical thinking over memorization. “We really want our students to think about what they want to learn about and go research it,” said VAPA Assistant Principal Benjie Walker. “We give them that opportunity to really personalize their learning.”


Rigorous doesn’t necessarily mean more homework, several students said during panel discussions on the IB program. They have to take responsibility for completing several projects and the work can pile up if they procrastinate or don’t budget their time well.


A big advantage of the program is that it better prepares students for college, and gives them an edge getting in and staying in, said Michael Pink, IB coordinator at Vista High School. “They are overwhelmingly more likely to graduate with a four-year degree than the average student walking onto campus,” Pink said.


Another enticing aspect of the high school IB Diploma program is that students are often able to apply IB coursework for college credit. In some instances students have earned two years’ worth of college credit upon graduation from high school in an IB Diploma program.


VAPA librarian Philomena Romo said that all three of her children went through the IB program and it made them more confident as adults.


An integral part of the IB program is making presentations in front of classmates and others, which Romo said has made her children comfortable with public speaking.   “Because of this program, they view life differently, they’re more big picture – aware and caring,” Romo said. “They’re not afraid to ask questions.”




Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/9/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Shanghai sixth-grader Youan Xi said she was surprised to see every student at Vista Magnet Middle school working on computer tablets. “In the class, they use computers. We never use computers,” said Xi, one of 14 Chinese middle school students who spent a week going to classes at Visa Magnet.


Zhao Jing, an English teacher in Shanghai and one of two chaperones accompanying the students, said she, too, was surprised to see Vista Magnet students using computer tablets in class. At her school, “Teachers may use laptops or tablets in the class, but not the students,” Zhao said.


She said students at her school have computer labs as part of their curriculum, but she was struck at how the Vista middle-schoolers did much of their work independently, with teachers guiding them, but not lecturing them. “In China, maybe the teacher talks too much,” Zhao said.


Zhao and her students were getting a taste of the personal learning approach Vista Unified School District has adopted as championed by Superintendent Devin Vodicka.


Rather than all students learning the same thing at the same time, lessons are tailored to play to the strengths of each student individually. They use the computer tablets to research and solve problems. “This way is better, because the kids enjoy the class,” Zhao said.


She also was impressed that time is set aside during the school day for reading. “Our emphasis is always have a book ready,” said Vista Magnet Assistant Principal Steve Post, who organized the Chinese students’ visit.


Post said it was particularly fitting that the Chinese students spent a week at Vista Magnet because it is an International Baccalaureate (IB) School, offering a curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking and global involvement.


“As an IB school, here we are, being international, building bridges globally,” Post said. “We’ve been learning from them about some of their culture and they’ve been learning about American culture.”


Several Vista Magnet students who spent the week as guides for their Chinese counterparts said it was a learning experience. “Everybody was wanting to meet them and ask them questions,” said eighth-grader Kayla Megerdichian, 13.

“They’re from another country, another world to me,” Kayla said. “In their own way, they’re just like us. They’ve got their phones that they play on.”


Carrie Haynes, a Vista Magnet language arts and history teacher, said that the Chinese students fit right in with her other students. “Students are students around the world,” Haynes said. “They have the same mannerisms, the same questions.”

One difference she did notice was that, “Our students in America, I think, are more casual.”


For instance, she said one of her students went to hug one of the Chinese visitors, who was a bit surprised by the gesture. The proper greeting was a more formal bow, Haynes said.


The Chinese students were fairly fluent in English, although Haynes said, “Google translator was a lifesaver for me” when her class was going over Medieval Europe and the Chinese students could go online to get a translation to what she was saying and take notes.


Vista Magnet art teacher Roger Royster said, “It’s been really fun to watch our kids interact with them.”


Shanghai fifth-grader Zhang Ziyuan, 10, said that he was fascinated by the classes at Vista Magnet, and liked the food in the school cafeteria.


Asked what the biggest difference was between the Vista classes and his back home, Ziyuan said, “My school is more boring.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 2/2/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Something as simple as furniture is a sign of a school district on the move. So said Superintendent Dr. Devin Vodicka as he reviewed progress made during his first five years as superintendent of the Vista Unified School District.


“We’re swapping out furniture that stays in one spot, and we’re moving to the more mobile options, flexible types of settings, so that we can adapt the environment, based on what we’re trying to do with learning,” Vodicka told district workers at a recent Professional Development Day.


Check out a classroom in the Vista Unified School District and there’s a good chance it will be noisy, kids will be moving around working in teams, and they won’t be sitting at stationary desks.


That’s just part of what’s happening as the district moves to personalized learning in which classroom lessons are tailored to the needs and interests of each student, building on their strengths.


“This is the thing that has drawn a lot of attention to our school district,” Vodicka said. “When we talked to our kids, they said they wanted to have more ownership in their learning. They didn’t want learning to happen to them. They wanted to have choices, they wanted to be more active. And so, we said, ‘great, we’re going to work on making your learning more personal.’”


A big part of that shift is developing lessons that show how what students learn in school applies beyond the classroom.

“When most of us went to school, we spent a lot of time just filling out work sheets and doing school work that had very little connection to the world outside of school,” Vodicka said. “What we want to see is our students taking what they learned and applying it to make the community a better place, make the world a better place.”


When that happens, students see school as an exciting place.

“Their level of engagement goes up. They’re more interested in learning, and there’s a whole host of positive outcomes,” Vodicka said.


Students also are being encouraged to speak into the pace of their learning.


“For a long time, students all got the same thing in the same way at the same time,” Vodicka said. “Whether they’re learning quickly or slowly, we’ve been treating them the same. That doesn’t necessarily work for any of us.”


Along with the acclaim Vista Unified has gotten from other educators, parents satisfaction with Vista Unified schools is rising, according to district surveys.


“Parents are observant,” Vodicka said. “They’re not going to tell you what they think you want to hear. They’re going to tell you what they experience and what they’ve observed, so this is really good validation of our hard work.”


Besides getting a review of the district’s progress from Vodicka, teachers and other school workers broke off into separate sessions for training in a variety of topics.


Some non-teaching workers got everything from healthy cooking tips to CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) while teachers got hands-on training on a new computer system for grading papers to creating lessons to meet new science teaching standards.




Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 1/31/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

By Ray Huard


Perseverance paid off for a Vista eighth-grader, who dreamed of sending a science experiment into space.

Thirteen-year-old Evie Currington is among five Vista Magnet Middle School students whose proposal to study the effects of microgravity on the regeneration of a type of flatworm was chosen to be included on a mission to the International Space Station later this year.


“I remember sitting in my chair when they announced it, it was amazing,” Evie said. “The whole day, I was just smiling.”


Principal Anne Green said the entire school erupted in a burst of celebration when the word came through that, for the second straight year, a Vista Magnet team’s experiment made the cut for a trip to the Space Station.

“I think the whole school was stamping their feet,” Green said. “I’m just beaming. I’m so proud of our girls.”


Working with Evie in designing the experiment were 7th grader Isabella Ansell, 12, and 6th-graders Sydney Wagner, Isabel Camacho, and Charlotte Currington, all 11. Charlotte is Evie’s sister.


They were competing against teams from Vista Innovation & Design Academy and High Tech High North County.


The Vista Magnet’s team was picked because their proposal was well documented, built on earlier research, and was aimed at ultimately solving a real-world problem – how to prevent astronauts from losing muscle and bone mass while working in the microgravity environment of the space station, said Dan Hendricks of Open Source Maker Labs, which oversaw the competition. “It was very thorough, all the way through,” Hendricks said.


The Vista Magnet students got advice on the project from Eva-Maria S. Collins, an assistant professor of physics and biology at the University of California San Diego. She is providing the worms for the experiment.

“It’s really cool,” Isabella said of her team’s success. “I always loved the idea of working with scientists up in space.”


Isabel said developing the experiment was “a really good learning experience, and my mom said it looks good on a college application.”


There was a time when Sydney wondered why people were so interested in outer space. “I don’t think I’ve ever been able to sit through a space movie,” Sydney said. “When I heard about the project, I thought, maybe this could get me interested.”


Now, she’s eager to see how the experiment turns out.

Charlotte said she was inspired by Evie and wanted to work with her. “It’s exciting,” Charlotte said of being part of the winning team. “It’s something that won’t happen every day. It’s good to think I get to see my experiment go up in space and see the results.”


Evie led the Vista Magnet team as the principal investigator.


As a sixth grader, Evie worked on a different proposal for a space station experiment involving flat worms, but that one fizzled.


The winning proposal in that competition came from three other Vista Magnet students – Karsyn Lee, Vitoria Arseneault and Lexie Kondo. Their experiment, which was sent to the space station last year aboard a Space X rocket, showed that organic strawberry seeds could germinate in microgravity.


Rather than give up, Evie worked with her new team to refine the experiment for the new competition. “I definitely learned to stick with things,” Evie said. Working on the Space Station experiments “opened my eyes to the sciences.”


“In fourth grade, I wanted to be a lawyer,” Evie said. “Then, I thought, maybe I don’t want to sit at a desk and write essays.” These days, her interests are leaning toward a career in science or engineering.


“I have no idea what type of science,” Evie said.

Her teammates have similar career choices in mind.

Isabella wants to become an astrophysicist, and said that one of the reasons she enrolled in Vista Magnet was because of its emphasis on science and math. She’d like to go to Princeton University because it has a strong astrophysics program and is hoping to work for NASA.


“I want to be part of the team that puts people on other planets,” Isabella said. “I want to be part of the Mars team.”


The experiment the team devised will send to the space station 10 headless Dugesia Japonica worms to see if they’ll grow new heads, as they do on Earth.

The worms will be in a 6-inch clear plastic tube containing water in one section and formalin, a preservative, in a second section.


After approximately three weeks on orbit, space station astronauts will release a clamp, allowing the preservative to mix with the water and worms.


The project is part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), which is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the use of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 1/27/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Michaela Jackson said she wanted classes that would dare her to think critically. “I wanted to challenge myself,” Michaela said.


Alexander Kriksciun wanted a curriculum that gave him a taste of the freedom he’ll have in college to choose what he studies.

Bryce Picton wanted courses that looked “at broad concepts rather than individual facts.”


The three Rancho Buena Vista High School seniors are enrolled in the school’s International Baccalaureate diploma program.


Rancho Buena Vista’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program along with IB offerings at Vista High School, Vista Magnet Middle School, Casita Center for Science, Technology & Math and Vista Academy of Visual & Performing Arts (VAPA) will be explored at a 5 p.m. Jan. 31 International Baccalaureate Community Night at Rancho Buena Vista High School.


“This night is really focused toward the community and parents who are interested in International Baccalaureate and want to find out what it’s all about and what advantages it gives their child,” said Carolyn Thom, a resource teacher in the Vista Unified School System who is organizing the event with Teresa Kim, also a Vista Unified resource teacher.


“There will be examples of students’ work, then we will break out into panels and students who graduated from the International Baccalaureate program will be talking about how it helped them in college or whatever occupation they have,” Thom said.


The Community Night is open to parents from other school districts and private schools as well as Vista Unified and baby-sitting services will be available, Thom said.


Founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968, the International Baccalaureate Program works with about 4,585 schools worldwide, according to its website, www.ib.org.


Rancho Buena Vista High School and Vista High School offer the IB Diploma Programme for students aged 16 to 18, Vista Magnet offers the Middle Years Programme for all of its students, and VAPA and Casita are in the process of being certified for the Primary Years Programme for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.


At the high school level, students can take the full Diploma Programme to earn a separate IB diploma when they graduate, along with their school diploma, or they can take a selection of IB courses and receive an IB certificate in addition to their school diploma, said Melissa Neumann, Rancho’s IB and Advanced Placement program coordinator.


The IB program encourages students to look at issues from an international perspective. The work is demanding and requires students to take more and more responsibility for what they study as the progress through the grade levels.


“I love the program because it’s really well-rounded,” Thom said. “It’s very inquiry-based so students are finding things that are interesting to them and they do a lot of their own research and it’s very global.”


In keeping with its global perspective, the IB program requires students to study a second language starting at the elementary school level, and connects students in Vista with students from around the world, Kim said.


For example, students at Vista Magnet one year had a video conference call with students from a village in Peru, exchanging notes on their differences and similarities. The Vista students also raised money to help buy books for the Peruvian students.


“Really, the IB program is looking for opportunities to connect students to a global community as often as possible,” Kim said.

Although the work is rigorous, the IB program is meant for “anybody who’s willing to work hard in school,” Neumann said, adding that, “You have to be disciplined, hard-working.”


Michaela, the Rancho Buena Vista senior, said she gets “a little more homework” in the IB courses than she would otherwise, and the work also is more complex.


“It definitely does take a lot more of my time,” Michaela said.

Classmates Bryce and Alexander said they don’t notice more homework, but agreed that the work is more challenging.

For example, in high school, students pursuing the Full Diploma are required to write a 4,000 word essay on a topic of their choosing from within a broad category, Neumann said.

A student interested in math might write an essay related to math, while a student more interested in film can write about film.


Another requirement of the Full Diploma, known as Creativity, Action and Service (CAS), requires students to work on a project that benefits the larger community.


Alexander said that for one class, he chose to work on an essay about Woodstock and the counter-culture of the 1960’s.

“That’s a time in history I’m really interested in,” Alexander said.

For his CAS project, Alexander is working on a “Write for Rights” letter writing campaign through Amnesty International.

Bryce is helping to organize the school’s second annual poetry slam as his project.


Michaela said she helped put together an international film festival to “kind of bring more culture on campus.”


Just as with Advanced Placement (AP) courses, students can get college credit for IB courses they take in high school, Neumann said.


Research from the IB organization also has shown that students who take IB courses do better in college.

Rancho Buena Vista, which has offered IB courses since the school opened in 1987, this year expanded the number and variety of IB courses it offers and was chosen as the host of the exposition to highlight its programs, Neumann said.


“We wanted to showcase our IB program at Rancho Buena Vista,” Neumann said.


Newly added courses include higher-level psychology, standard level design technology, higher-level film and standard and higher-level dance, Neumann said.


The school also is looking at further expanding its IB program in the future. “What we’re trying to do is create a pathway for more students to complete the IB Diploma Programme,” Neumann said. “We’re trying to make it more accessible.”







Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 1/24/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


When San Diego County school official wanted to overhaul the way schools respond to threats on and off campus, Jeff Geyer of the Vista Unified School District was among those they turned to for help.


Geyer, the district’s safety and environmental manager, had long felt that schools needed options beyond going automatically to a hard lockdown, especially if the threat involved something like a police chase near a school that didn’t directly involve the campus.


In a hard lockdown, an alarm is sounded and teachers, students and administrators run to the nearest room, close the door, turn off the lights, hide, and wait for an all-clear to be sounded. They can’t leave the room, even to use a restroom.

That makes sense if there’s someone on school grounds with a gun or other weapon.


“Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s an off-campus threat,” Geyer said. “There’s a police chase near a school or police activity near a school.” In those cases, Geyer and others felt that something less dramatic would be sufficient.


Working with law enforcement and school officials from throughout the county, Geyer helped develop what they’ve dubbed a “secure campus” option.


“Representatives from 46 school districts and every law enforcement agency in the county were involved in developing the program,” Geyer said.


The idea is to keep off the school grounds anyone who could pose a threat, and to keep students in a safe environment.

After determining that no one on campus poses an immediate threat, school officials would lock the gates so no one could enter school grounds from the outside.


“The goal of this is to keep whatever’s going on out there, out there,” Geyer said.


Rather than run to any room when an alarm is sounded, students and teachers would go to an assigned classroom, lock the doors, but not hide. Teachers could go on with their lessons, and students could go to the restroom with an adult escort. “We want to avoid all the traumatic stuff,” Geyer said.


If there is a threat on campus, such as someone with a gun, then schools go to hard lockdown. The new protocols call for more training on what to do, even in a lockdown.


For instance, if there’s a clear escape route, take it, Geyer said.

“If you know where a shooter is, and you can get off campus safely, run,” Geyer said.


While improving schools’ response to threats is critical, Geyer emphasized that the odds that any school will face an active threat are remote. The chance of someone being the victim of a school shooting are more than one in three million, Geyer said.


In Vista Unified, Geyer is working with Michelle Walsh, coordinator of student services, and school police resource officers to form two to three three-person teams to train administrators, principals and teachers on using the new protocols.


“We have to be prepared,” Geyer said, a motto he’s lived by since becoming a Boy Scout in St. Peter’s Troop 731 in Fallbrook. To this day, Geyer never leaves home without packing an emergency kit in his truck, including food and blankets.


“My scoutmaster and several other adult leaders were Marines, so we did a lot of self-sufficient/survival type camping in remote four-wheel drive-only accessible areas,” Geyer said. “I learned to love off-roading and camping, with a heavy respect for military, law enforcement and hunting/defense weapons.”


Geyer also was an active CB radio fan. “Magic Dragon was my handle,” Geyer said.


Working with other CB’ers, Geyer was part of a radio communication system during law enforcement search and rescue missions. “Back in the ‘70’s, nobody had cell phones,” Geyer said. “We would four-wheel drive to the top of a hill and be relaying messages.” These days, Geyer said, “I’ve really found my passion in this emergency preparedness world.”


Colleagues said Geyer is a joy to work with. “I just like being around him because he has a great attitude, a great personality,” said Tim Ware, school intervention manager at Oceanside Unified School District.


Ware and Geyer have similar responsibilities in their school districts, and the two often share ideas and tips. “He has one of those attitudes that’s infectious, to strive for excellence,” Ware said.


Shari Fernandez, Vista Unified’s director of elementary curriculum and instruction, said Geyer’s concern for school safety goes from pushing for security cameras and improved fencing at schools to walking the paths children follow to school to look for any obstacles they might face.


“I know of very few districts that are putting the effort that Jeff is putting in in Vista schools,” Fernandez said.


Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka said that Geyer “is a tremendous contributor to the safety of all students and staff. He has established a leadership role throughout the county as a result of his commitment to his own professional learning and for his thoughtful and compassionate approach.”


A 1976 graduate of Fallbrook High School, Geyer worked for his brother as an electrician while in school and continued in the trade after graduating, owning his own business for a time and working for several others companies, including Souther/Birtcher Development, where he became project manager/superintendent.


He got a job with Vista Unified in 1991 as an electrician, and slowly worked his way up to his current position in 2012. His wife, Tanya, is the health/attendance technician at Temple Heights Elementary School.


Two years ago, Geyer went back to school. He’ll receive a bachelor’s of science degree in homeland security and emergency management this month from National University, graduating magna cum laude.


“As I immersed myself in my new passion – school emergency preparedness and safety – I found that I have something to offer both law enforcement and school folks,” Geyer said.


Geyer said that he’d been thinking about going back to school, and when National University offered a degree program that involved emergency preparedness, he jumped at the chance. “I decided I needed to have the requisite education and diploma,” Geyer said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 1/13/17

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Make graduation cards for eight-graders.


Give out free hugs.


Hand out notes of kindness to random people on campus.


Paint a mural.


Those were just some of the suggestions students at Roosevelt Middle School came up with to make theirs a kinder campus.


The suggestions, written on Post-it notes and pasted up in the school library, were part of an exercise the students went through recently as part of Rachel’s Challenge, an international program aimed at making schools safer, where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect and where students feel more connected to their school.


Roosevelt Middle School students paper a column with ideas of how to make the school friendlier.


Rachel’s Challenge gets its name from Rachel Joy Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting of April 20, 1999.


Rachel’s father, Darrell Scott, created Rachel’s Challenge to continue the work Rachel started with simple acts of kindness, which her classmates said had a profound impact on their lives, according to the program’s website, rachelschallenge.org.


Roosevelt Middle School is among about 23 schools in San Diego County that have signed up for the three-year program, said Rachel’s Challenge Presenter Fred Lynch. The goal is to get the program in about 40 schools in the college.


Although curbing aggressive behavior and bullying is the aim of the program, “We hardly every use the word bully,” Lynch said.

“Our whole goal is pro-compassion, pro- caring,” Lynch said. “It’s really cool to be kind. That’s our model, making it cool to be kind.”


Rachel's Challenge presenter / coach Fred Lynch speaks with Roosevelt students about creating a pro-compassion, pro-caring campus.


The program started at Roosevelt with a November rally at the school led by Lynch. Subsequently, the school formed a Friends of Rachel Club, where about 50 students meet monthly to come up with ideas for promoting kindness on and off campus.


The Post-it notes were part of that.


“It’s really creating a positive culture on our campus,” Roosevelt Principal Elise Ochenduszko said. “Middle school is really a challenging time for children." Emotions run high, and “sometimes we see that coming out with kids being mean to each other.”


With the program in place for little more than a month at Roosevelt, there aren’t any hard numbers on how well it’s working. “I certainly notice more kids wanting to take ownership of the school,” Ochenduszko said.


A key part of the program is getting kids to feel connected with each other, with their teachers, and with their school, Lynch said.


Among other things, teachers were trained to bring Rachel’s Challenge into their classrooms with short, simple lessons by connecting with their students. They do that by talking about things like the scariest movie they’ve seen, their favorite pizza topping, their most embarrassing moment, and asking the students to do the same.


“What it really builds over a period of time is this net of connective-ness,” Lynch said.


For an upcoming “Challenge Day,” students will spend six hours combining physical activities with sessions designed to get to know each other, Lynch said. “All the kids are blown away by how many kids are like them,” Lynch said.


The idea is, that when students learn about each other, they realize they’re more alike than different and they are more likely to treat each other with respect. “Not only do the kids feel safer, but we see the grades increase, we see the fighting decrease,” Lynch said. “Our ultimate wish is to create safer, more connected schools.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 1/10/17

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Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 1/5/17

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Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 1/3/17

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By Ray Huard


The soup was yummy – loaded potato, with bacon, cheese, chives and sour cream made and served by culinary art students from Vista High School.


Better yet, it came in colorful ceramic bowls, each one a different work of art, hand-crafted by students at Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA), a middle school in the Vista Unified School District.


And to top it off, the $495 raised selling the soup-filled bowls at $5 each went to the North County Food Bank as part of an “Empty Bowls” project organized by VIDA art teacher Heather Williams, who was looking for ways to connect student art projects to real-world issues.


PTA President Kim Hilder and her son, Eric, sample the clam chowder made by the VHS Culinary Arts class. 


Empty Bowls is an international program run by the nonprofit organization Imagine Render, which lists its mission as creating “positive and lasting change through the arts, education, and projects that build community.”


The idea is that people buy a meal in a bowl to raise money for organizations that fight hunger, like the North County Food Bank, and they keep the bowl as a reminder of the empty bowls in the world.


“I love that they’re giving to the Food Bank,” said Kim Hilder, president of the VIDA PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and the Del Norte PTA. Kilder's 13-year-old son, Eric, is an eighth-grader at VIDA. “It warms my heart, just like this soup will warm me.”


The soup and bowls were served up as part of a recent VIDA exposition that included displays of a wide-range of student projects, from underwater robots that dove and surfaced in the school swimming pool to live drama and music performances.


VIDA Principal Eric Chagala said the idea was “to share with the public and the parents the work the kids have been doing.”

The Empty Bowls part of the exposition fit nicely with VIDA’s design-thinking curriculum, which stresses learning by doing, said Williams, a founding faculty member of VIDA.


“Everybody knows education has to change from the teacher standing up there, talking,” said Williams, who was a founding faculty member of VIDA.


Connecting the student’s creativity with a community issue was a hit with Amy McGuire, whose daughter, Chloe, is a seventh-grader at VIDA. “We got here early because we were excited about the opportunity for feeding the hungry,” McGuire said as she sampled some soup. She proclaimed it “very delicious.”


Jessica Garcia with daughter Brooklyn, enjoying their soup and hand crafted bowls.


Jessica Garcia, a substitute teacher at Vista Unified’s Casita Center for Technology, Science & Math elementary school, said she was impressed by the collaboration between the VIDA art students and the high school culinary students in making the bowls and the soup.


“What a great combination, to get everyone working together,” said Garcia, whose daughter, Joelle, is a seventh grader at VIDA, and daughter, Brooklyn, is a fifth-grader at Casita.

The soup “tastes like what you’d get in a restaurant,” Garcia said. She liked the ceramic bowls so much that she bought four of them.


Chef Kim Plunkett, who created the culinary program at Vista High School, said that her students took the idea and ran with it. “They made it at school today,” Plunkett said on the day of the exposition. “I gave them the recipe and that was it.”


Vista High School Culinary Arts students serve their creation.


VIDA seventh-grader Lindsey Huezo, who made two bowls, liked the idea of linking her art work to a community issue.

“It will help people who are hungry,” said Lindsey, 12. “I think the money will help a lot.”


VIDA sixth-grader Belen Martinez, 11, said the project was “really cool. I get to show my imagination by making bowls. It’s really fun.”


Her father, Marcos Hernandez, was impressed with the bowl Belen made. “It’s fantastic,” he said as he got in line for soup.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/23/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Tuba player Teresa Anderson felt from the start that this was going to be a special year for the Rancho Buena Vista High School Marching Band.


“We all kind of just clicked a lot better this year, and we all knew how to put emotion in whatever we were doing, and we all knew exactly what we were doing,” said Teresa, a 17-year-old junior who helped the 220-member band take top prize as the KUSI-TV marching band of the year for San Diego County.


‘It’s like a really great achievement,” Teresa said. “We all worked so hard, and we’re all like a family, and to just be able to be known for something that we all love is just incredible.”


Band director Eric Weirather said that being chosen “has definitely been fantastic,” adding “I’m proud of my kids and their hard work. They deserve it.”


The Rancho Buena Vista High School marching band in action.


Drum major Taylor Anderson, 16, a junior who also has played the flute, said that band members just seemed to click. “This year, in particular, our band has just been very motivated,” Taylor said. “I’m really proud of our band this year. We couldn’t have done it if all the members weren’t devoting hours and hours to this program.”


Senior Mason George, 17, said he and others who are in their final year with the band, “can’t quite comprehend” being named the top marching band in the county. Mason attributed the band’s winning performance to teamwork and collaboration among veteran players and newbies.


“The staff and the students just coordinate so well, and a lot of the upper classmen were able to teach the lower classmen,” Mason said.


In presenting a winning performance, the Rancho Buena Vista Marching Band does a lot more than march.


“We always like to tell a story, to draw the audience in to what we’re doing,” said Weirather, who’s been at Rancho Buena Vista for 17 years. “It’s all about the audience, making sure it’s a very entertaining show.”


This year, the band’s performance, entitled “Once Upon a Time,” told a “storybook tale,” in which band members created an actual storybook prop with the help of band parents, Weirather said.


During the performance, which featured an appearance by three witches, “Our color guard would come in and out of the storybook,” Weirather said.


Ending with a quote, “good always overcomes evil,” the performance “was kind of a traditional children’s story,” Weirather said. “A lot of people fell in love with the show, including the students.”


In addition to being chosen Marching Band of the Year, the Rancho Buena Vista band has received several other awards this year, winning tournaments throughout Southern California.


The RBV Color Guard performs with the band to tell their story.


“Our hard work has paid off a lot,” said senior Emilia Spagnuolo, 17, who performs in the band color guard. “We’ve had a really successful season.” Emilia said that this year’s players built on the work of those who were in the band in previous years.


“I always tell the color guard that each class before us has contributed to putting us where we are now,” Emilia said. “We get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.”


It’s been about 10 years since Rancho Buena Vista was last honored as marching band of the year, Weirather said.

“It’s not about winning for us, it’s about the experience for the students and their hard work and their work ethic,” Weirather said. “The other thing that does make our school special is our parents, we have amazing parents.”


Looking ahead, Weirather said that he may enter the band next year in the competition to be in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade. He said Rancho Buena Vista last marched in that parade in 2003. “It’s a whole heck of a lot of work, but I think it’s good to do it,” Weirather said.


He’s also looking for more opportunities for his students to perform. “We’ve gotten a lot of exposure, that’s really my goal, to get out in the community, and let as many people as possible hear the kids’ hard work and musicianship,” Weirather said. “If somebody wants us to play for something, we very rarely say no, especially if it’s for a good cause.”



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/22/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Click here or on the image to see the 10 News story about the Talent City kickoff


An innovative partnership between the Vista Unified School District, the Vista Chamber of Commerce, and local Vista businesses was launched on Tuesday, December 6th. Local media including 10 News (ABC), The Coast News and LaPrensa were on hand to tell the story.


The program is designed to develop Vista into a “Talent City,” where local students receive practical, hands-on experience in priority work sectors in the area.


Dubbed “talent experienceships,” the event, at local business Solatube, Inc. is the first in a series of opportunities for the district and the private sector to work together in building a Talent City in Vista. The overall goal is to build talent readiness aimed at graduating students that are immediately employable in careers aligned to the region’s priority sectors, as outlined by the San Diego Workforce Partnership:


- Advanced Manufacturing

- Clean Energy

- Health Care

- Information & Communication Technology

- Life Sciences


“This program is an exciting new step for Vista’s schools and students to gain direct, practical experience of what employers need from their current and future workforce,” said Vista Assistant Superintendent of Innovation Dr. Matt Doyle. “And local businesses have the opportunity to see the intelligence and innovation from students already in the community.”


Adds Vista Chamber of Commerce CEO Bret Schanzenbach, “The Talent City campaign is a fantastic opportunity for Vista’s business and educational communities to collaborate to bring opportunity and value to employers, students and the entire community. Developing home grown talent for our city’s businesses only strengthens our community and showcases why Vista is a great place to live, to learn and to work.”


To see a short documentary of the Talent Cities launch produced by the Rancho Minerva Middle School video team, click here.


The day saw the Principal, a teacher and five students from each of VUSD’s five middle schools participate at Solatube. After learning about the company and what they do, students learned about various job functions, including manufacturing, marketing and engineering.


Solatube then identified a Project Challenge for the students, connecting them with the company’s day-to-day operation. Students self-selected into teams based on their strengths and interests and designed and presented a plan to addresses the challenge. Students will follow up their experience by reflecting on what they learned and how it relates to career readiness.


A further aspect of the "Talent City" program will see students learn about and begin to demonstrate essential skills, and they will receive badges as part of a district personal learning profile. These badges will eventually form a skills transfer pipeline in North San Diego County. Vista Unified will prepare a holistic (anonymous) report for local HR and entrepreneurial leaders on the skills and talents students have developed during their schooling in Vista Unified.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/13/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Click image above for more information.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/12/16

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Click here or on the image above to play the video.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/7/16

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By Ray Huard


Don’t take no for an answer and don’t let people say you can’t do anything.


That was the advice that U. S. Air Force Reserve pilot Jengi Martinez gave students during a recent career fair at Madison Middle School in the Vista Unified School District.


She was among dozens of professionals from a beekeeper and a body builder to a race car driver and a lawyer, who told the students how and why they got their jobs, and what their work entailed.


The idea behind the fair is to inspire kids and let them “see how many opportunities there are,” said Principal Susan Ford. “This helps link what they’re doing in school with something in the future,” Ford said. “We’re spending a lot of time talking about careers. We have to. That’s the way to get students engaged in education.”


Seventh-grader Tess Moya made the rounds of several displays set up around the school courtyard, where students could talk to people in a variety of professions. “I just like asking questions,” Tess said between talking with Martinez and heading over to a booth staffed by FBI agents. “I’m thinking about doing something that involves action,” Tess said.


Classmate Nickolas Barbera said he’s already got a career in mind – becoming a firefighter like his father. “I kind of want to follow in his footsteps,” Nickolas said. “It’s what I want to be when I grow up.”


Seventh-grader Yahaira Baroja said she was thinking about joining the Marines or becoming a nurse. “I like to help people and make them feel better,” Yahaira said.


Seventh-grader Holden Manno said he was thinking about becoming a Marine or a rap music artist.


Military service was a key career step for Crystal Salumbides, a lawyer in the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office who served in Iraq. “I was one of those kids that kind of struggled. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know how to get it,” said Salumbides, who enlisted in the Army when she was 19.


Salumbides said she became a lawyer after serving as a paralegal in the U.S. Army JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps and getting a law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law after she got out of the Army. “There are a lot of things the military can offer,” Salumbides said. “There may be some people who need a little discipline and that’s what I got from it.”


But before recommending the military to students, Salumbides said, “I always want to know what their end goal is. If someone wants to do art, the military probably isn’t for them.”


Having a career fair for middle schoolers is a good idea because it gets them thinking about what they might want to do, she said. “Granted, things will change,” Salumbides said. “The main thing is, they stay in school and finish their education. Then, the options will be open to them.”


Martinez, who flies huge C-17 cargo planes and is also a certified airplane accident investigator, said she wanted to be a pilot since she was 16 and saw the military as a way to reach her goal. “Our humanitarian missions take us all over the world,” said Martinez, who’s also flown combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’ve taken fire engines, trucks, you name it, we take it.”


Martinez is particularly keen on encouraging girls to aim high in their career goals. She said that of the about 14,200 pilots in the military, only 683 are women, and fewer than 50 are fighter pilots.


“Barriers are continuing to be broken,” Martinez said. “Surround yourself with people who are positive, who are goal oriented.”

San Diego filmmaker Keith Russell told the students to “create and dream big.”


Growing up in what he described as “a pretty trying neighborhood” in Chicago, Russell said, “I was told I wouldn’t make it, I wouldn’t amount to anything. I was going to be another statistic.”


After spending nine years in the Marines, Russell said he found a new career after going to film school in Los Angeles. “My message to you is, if I did it despite all the challenges, I know all of you can do it,” Russell told the Madison students. “If I can do it, then you can do it.”


For those who might be considering a career in law enforcement, Jason Omundson, a crime prevention specialist with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, suggested that they might consider joining the Sheriff’s Explorer Program when they turn 16.


“It gives them the experience,” Omundson said. “They can go on ride-alongs with deputies. They wear the (Explorer) uniform. They go to a (training) academy, just like the deputies do.”


In addition to giving Madison’s 1,150 students insight into a wide range of careers, Ford said that the fair has given the school a valuable connection to the community.


“I think it’s energizing for presenters,” Ford said. “It’s something we want to continue. We don’t see any downside.”








Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/6/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


by Ray Huard


They took on professional engineers.

They took on college students.

And they beat them all.


A team of nine computer science students from Mission Vista High School in the Vista Unified School District took first place in their category in a recent AT&T Mobile computer programming hackathon from among 10 teams comprised of 100 programmers.


Hackathons are computer coding competitions in which teams build mobile apps, which are presented to judges with prizes awarded for the best apps.


The competing teams included professionals from companies such as Intuit, Qualcomm and Intel and students from several universities.


“We were thinking we’d give it a shot and try to learn something,” said Luke Harvey, a member of the Mission Vista High School team.


With a hackathon theme of “Smart Cities” for their category, the task of the Mission Vista team was to design and implement a cell phone app that had practical uses for the city of San Diego, and they had to do it with a computer coding system they’d never used before, and they had to do it all within 24 hours. “It was definitely a big challenge,” Luke said.


Joining Luke on the Mission Vista team were Alan Krause, Tyler Cook, Isaac Howard, Allan Garcia, Ryan Green, Annora Jones and Andrew Yates.


The Mission Vista High School Hackathon championship team


Their teacher, Jeffrey Yee, said it was the students’ perseverance and determination that paid off.


“Where a lot of kids would give up, not knowing the technology, they actually spent hours learning, going on the Internet finding examples, trying to learn this technology to win,” said Yee, who teaches computer science as part of Career Technical Education (CTE) at Mission Vista.


“I’m definitely surprised that they performed so well, but I’m not surprised that they could go out and learn something fairly rapidly,” Yee said. “I would hire them if they were actually looking for a job.”


The students created an app called SD Connected, which works on Android cell phones, to allow people to find information describing city events like concerts, sport matches and festivals. “You can sort it by type, date and time of day,” Andrew said.


The app also enabled people using it to find their polling places on Election Day.


“A lot of us had done some coding, but we had never made an Android app before,” Luke said. “It was really difficult for us, because we had never programmed an Android before.”


Team members worked around-the-clock. “Most of the students slept for only a few hours, spending most of the time focused on completing the app,” Yee said.


Along with the first place finish, the Mission Vista team received a prize of $500 in Amazon gift cards and a tour of the San Diego City Cybersecurity Division led by Gary Hayslip, chief information security officer.


“The hackathon would have been a success even if they had not won, but winning was the icing on the cake and confirmed that they could perform at the highest levels,” Yee said.


The students plan to refine their app over the coming months as a project for their high school computer programming club.

As exhausting as the hackathon was, Andrew said that given the chance, he’s ready to go to another hackathon. “When the opportunity comes up, we’re always here to grab it,” Andrew said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 12/1/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Don’t tell Tina Shinsato you can’t do math.


“If you have the ability to think, you have the ability to do math,” said Shinsato, a math teacher at Rancho Buena Vista High School. “You might not care to do it, and that’s your choice, but in no way are you incapable of doing math,” she said.


That kind of drive and determination rubs off on Shinsato’s students, and led the California Mathematics Council to give Shinsato its annual George Polya Memorial Award in November.


Named after a renowned Stanford University mathematics professor, the award is given to one educator who has shown excellence in teaching math over a sustained period of time.


“I appreciate and I’m honored by the award, but it’s an award for the people I work with,” said Shinsato, who has been teaching math for 23 years, nearly all of them in Vista Unified.


“My ideas aren’t original. I’m a communicator,” Shinsato said. “My ideas were taken from a lot of people. The award represents all the people I’ve ever worked with.”


Shinsato’s colleagues said that she’s too modest.


“I cannot begin to count how many high school students she has masterfully guided through math class,” said Renee Kollar-Bachman, a close friend and head of the Rancho Buena Vista math department.


“Everyone knows she’s already an incredible teacher, but she’s always thinking about how to make what she does better,” Kollar-Bachman said. “I kind of want to be like her when I grow up. She loves the outdoors. She loves camping. She owns an RV (recreational vehicle) so she’ll go on one-to two-month treks in the summer. She also makes you laugh when she knows you need to laugh, even if you’re going through a sad time or an angry time.”


Rancho Buena Vista Principal Charles Schindler said Shinsato “is a champion of all students learning math. We are fortunate to have such a professional at RBV, not just for our math program, but for all students and staff members,” Schindler said. “We at RBV are extremely proud of Tina’s accomplishment and award. It is well deserved as she is a champion of math at RBV and for the district.”


Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka said that the Mathematics Council recognition of Shinsato was “a well-deserved award. “We are incredibly fortunate to have talented and dedicated teachers in Vista,” Vodicka said. “I am pleased to see Ms. Shinsato recognized for her contributions. Students describe her as an energetic teacher who is genuinely interested in ensuring that all students develop a thorough understanding of mathematics.”


Shinsato said she was drawn to math “for the problem-solving aspect.” “I like that it’s hard and takes perseverance,” Shinsato said. “I like that I can have both success and failure.”


A 1989 graduate of Southwest High School in San Diego, Shinsato earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of California San Diego and a master’s degree in mathematics from California State University San Marcos.

In college, she initially majored in engineering.


“In all honesty, I had no idea why. Most likely, because that was the cool thing to do,” Shinsato said.


Working summers in a Girls Scout camp helped change her mind. “I realized that I liked working with people,” Shinsato said. “I like helping kids overcome challenges and enjoyed celebrating success.”


She decided to major in math in her junior year “so that I could be at teacher,” Shinsato said, adding, it was the “best choice ever.”


In the classroom, Shinsato is an innovator who is always looking for new ways to make math interesting and accessible for her students, Kollar-Bachman said.


“One of the things she started doing, which has caught on, was put white boards all around her classroom,” Kollar-Bachman said. “Now, it’s not uncommon for every student to be at their own group’s white board, writing something, putting something down.”


Shinsato said that the white boards fit with her philosophy that people learn best by doing and collaborating. “I want my kids to do their work on the board and talk to each other, I don’t want to be the one talking to them all the time,” Shinsato said. “In my ideal day, I like to present a problem to students that they are curious enough about to say, ‘Hey, I wonder what the answer is and how are we going to solve it?’”


White boards surround students in Tina Shinsato's class, encouraging collaboration.


Outside of class, Shinsato is a ball of energy, working with other teachers, staying before and after school to work with students who need extra help, and serving as co-adviser to the Gender Sexuality Alliance, an organization for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students. The alliance gives those students “a place just to be safe and not be judged,” Shinsato said.


She also teaches up-and-coming teachers at California State University San Marcos and has served on the board of directors of the California Mathematics Council.


“You name it, she’s done it, and she’s not done yet,” Kollar-Bachman said. “I can’t imagine someone being better at their craft and she’s always working on it.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/28/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage



By Ray Huard


Exciting and engaged were the two words Vista community leaders used most in describing the students they saw in visiting school classrooms, filling in as principals for a day.

“Every kid there was engaged in their classroom,” Vista Assistant City Manager Aly Zimmermann said of her stint at Vista High School. “A couple of them wouldn’t leave when the bell rang.”


She was among 18 people who spent a recent morning learning what it’s like to be principal in the Vista Unified School District.


The purpose of Principal For A Day, now in its third year, is to strengthen the school district’s ties to the community and give people a better understanding of how and what students are learning, said Superintendent Devin Vodicka.


“To support our work, we know it takes more than the school district,” Vodicka said.


Vista Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Bret Schanzenbach, who organized the event, said he spent much of his time with Bobier Elementary School Principal Jenifer Golden visiting classrooms instead of sitting in the principal’s office scolding students.


“Back in the old days, the principal would have had a lot of work to do just dealing with kids in trouble,” Schanzenbach said.


Discipline is a very small part of her job, Golden explained.

“We’re more instructional leaders, we’re trying to be more innovative,” Golden said. “We switched from a culture of ‘caught you being bad’ to a culture of ‘caught you being good.’”


Golden said her work also includes offering ongoing workshops for parents, many of whom struggle to learn English, and offering them access to computers to help them find jobs.


After dropping by a parent workshop, Schanzenbach said the connection Bobier has with parents was impressive. “They were engaged. They were just totally involved in what’s going on,” Schanzenbach said. “Engaging parents is ultimately a key to succeeding, and they’re engaging the parents really, really well here.”


Vista City Councilman John Aguilera said he was most impressed by the way students greeted him as he walked the hallways of Vista Magnet Middle School while going from class to class.


“The kids were a lot more respectful than I expected, well behaved, more than when I was in school,” Aguilera said.

He also was impressed with the way Principal Anne Green and her staff greet every student. 


That personal touch pays off with better student behavior, Green said. “Every time you personally check in with a student, you’re eliminating a potential discipline problem,” Green said.


Vista City Councilman John Aguilera meets with students at Vista Magnet Middle School to learn about their experiences.


Aguilera started his stint as fill-in principal at Vista Magnet by having coffee with Green, Assistant Principal Steve Post and three students – sixth grader Peyton Wilson, seventh-grader Perla Lopez and eighth-grader Juan Diaz.


“Since I was in second grade, I told my mom, ‘I want to come to Vista Magnet,” Perla said. She said the school’s reputation for offering rigorous classes was appealing.


Asked to name her favorite class, Perla said “I love every class, to be honest.” If there’s one thing she’d change, Perla said she’d strengthen the school’s counseling program.


Peyton, who was wearing a Mira Costa College sweat shirt, said she liked the friendly atmosphere at Vista Magnet.


“When I came into sixth grade, the teachers and Mrs. Green and Mr. Post were welcoming,” Peyton said. She wouldn’t change anything “because I think this school is great.”


Juan, who is thinking of attending California State University San Marcos, said Vista Magnet teachers “make a great effort to help everyone understand” what they’re studying, but he said the amount of homework he gets can be daunting.


It would help if teachers would coordinate the projects they assign so they’re not all due around the same time, Juan said.


“An amazing experience,” was how Vista Assistant City Clerk Kathy Valdez described the morning she spent at Vista Innovation & Design Academy with Principal Eric Chagala.

“I was just blown away by all the programs they have there,” Valdez said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/16/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


A class of third graders at Bobier Elementary School couldn’t wait to bite into the snacks being passed around the room.

It was the week before Halloween, but it wasn’t candy bars or potato chips that had these kids excited.


Red grapes did it, sweet yet a little tart too, explained Amy Haessly, nutrition education and training supervisor for the Vista Unified School District.


Along with an emphasis on physical fitness, Bobier’s drive to improve the nutrition and health of its students and their families made Bobier one of six San Diego County elementary schools chosen for a three-year wellness development program by the Center for Community Health-School Wellness at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.


“Bobier is the model of how to build a wellness program and a culture of wellness to achieve student success,” Haessly said.

On the day she introduced the third-graders to red grapes, Haessly also taught them how to interpret nutrition labels on food packages, from knowing that a calorie is a measure of the energy food provides to figuring out the size of a single serving.


“This is when your math skills really help out in the real world,” Haessly told the students as she had them figure out what a half-cup single serving of macaroni and cheese would look like.

Two handfuls, was the answer.


Amy Haessly, Vista Unified nutrition education and training supervisor, going over food labels with a third grade class.


Haessly has been training Bobier’s teachers on how to introduce lessons on nutrition into their regular class schedule in what Principal Jenifer Golden said was change in outlook “where it’s cool to eat healthy.”


“We’re already a school that’s passionate about this,” Golden said. “It’s a culture shift. We’re not there yet, but we’re making improvements every year.”


A Bobier Elementary third-grader samples red grapes


Getting picked for the UCSD program will help the school move faster and with a clear plan of action, Golden said.


The other schools picked for the UCSD program are Valencia Park and Ocean Beach elementary schools in the San Diego Unified School District, Sunset Elementary School in the San Ysidro Elementary School District, Julian Elementary School in the Julian Unified School District, and San Miguel Elementary School in the Lemon Grove School District.


To qualify, at least half of the students in a school must be receiving free or reduced lunches based on their family’s income. This year that accounts for about 77 percent of Bobier’s students, Golden said.


Each school in the program will get a variety of wellness-related services through UCSD, starting with an assessment of what they already have and their needs, said Kate Edra, UCSD program coordinator.


UCSD also will help the schools set up campus wellness councils, draft and adopt a school wellness policy, develop classroom nutrition lessons, and increase and track the students’ physical activity. The services UCSD will provide are valued at about $10,000 annually.


“After three years, we hope we can create a sustainable wellness program in this school,” Edra said of Bobier.

Bobier was chosen in part because the school has already made efforts at improving the wellness of its students and because of the enthusiasm of everyone at the school, from Golden on down, for expanding the school’s wellness efforts, Edra said.


Red grapes are a popular snack choice and healthy alternative to candy


That includes stepping up physical activity for students and teachers and replacing candy with nutritious snacks or other prizes at school events, Golden said.


The school also has structured soccer lessons at lunch led by Coast 2 Coast coaches. The lessons incorporate STEM (Science, Technology and Math) topics for students who learn best through hands-on or physical activities, Golden said.

They might learn to count while jumping rope, or improve their spelling by writing with the hands in sand, or learn about angles by playing golf, Golden said.


In addition to becoming part of the UCSD program, Bobier received a $500 “Spark Start Achievement Kit” of playground equipment like soccer balls and jumping ropes to encourage physical activities among students.


When the kids are busy playing sports or involved in other activities, they’re less likely to get into trouble, Golden said.

“The most discipline referrals at our school are during recess,” Golden said. When the kids are given an organized activity at recess, “We see fewer discipline referrals.”


Golden said her drive to partner with UCSD and push for a strong wellness program at Bobier was inspired by Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka.


Vodicka has established a district group of “wellness ninjas” to promote good nutrition and physical fitness, among other things.


“Our superintendent challenges us to lead our sites and focus on wellness and balance to increase happiness, which increases attendance and achievement,” Golden said. “The wellness ninja group are district leaders who have made goals for this year, little things like challenging employees to eat fruit and vegetables in the lounge, take the stairs and park further away to walk more.”




Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/12/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Bobier Elementary School students were enthralled as San Diego Police Detective Mike Aiken led his drug sniffing dog through her paces.


“Dogs can smell hundreds of hundreds of times better than people,” Aiken explained, as his K-9 companion ran over to a pink suitcase and sat next to it.


“That’s her way of telling me, ‘It’s right here, Mike,’” Aiken said.

Aiken’s demonstration was part of the school’s celebration of Red Ribbon Week, a week-long drive to promote healthy living choices with an emphasis on avoiding illegal drugs.


“I learned that drugs are bad for you and if you do them, you might get sick, you might die, or you might go to jail,” said fourth-grader D.J. Burd. “My favorite part of the day was when we got to learn about the K-9 and how she finds the drugs.”


Aiken’s K-9 Labrador also was a big hit with fourth-graders Edgar Perez and Jaime Arevalo. “She’s so fluffy, I think she’s playful,” Jaime said. Edgar said he was surprised by the breed of the dog. “I thought she would be a German shepherd,” Edgar said.


Besides the drug sniffing dog, D.J. said he was impressed with an FBI display and presentation about cyber bullying and avoiding online predators.


“Sometimes, when I play my (online) games, people call each other stupid and they say the f-word to each other,” D.J. said. “I just say, ‘Don’t call them that because it’s inappropriate.”

FBI Community Outreach Specialist Cheryl Dorenbush said that by the time they reach eighth grade, most students have encountered online bullying.


“By the time they’re in high school, most have been exposed to online predators, been approached by online predators and they don’t even know it,” Dorenbush said. “The main thing is, they should never agree to go meet someone they met online. That’s the new stranger-danger.”


Dorenbush urged the students to check out an online video game the FBI has developed, FBI-SOS (https://sos.fbi.gov) for students in grades three through eight that promotes online citizenship and teaches them how to recognize and respond to online dangers.


“We think it’s so important that you be safe online that we designed an entire game around this,” Dorenbush told the Bobier students. “You’ll pretend like you’re a special agent going undercover.”


Along with sending an anti-drug message, Red Ribbon Week honors the memory of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a Mexican-born Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent who was kidnapped and killed by drug dealers in 1985.


DEA agents were among those presenting anti-drug messages at Bobier, including a photographic display of the physical ravages caused by methamphetamine abuse. The agents also gave students a tour of a mobile command center and let them try on bullet proof vests.


“It’s important to get them at this age,” said DEA Special Agent Amy Roderick. “If we can get them to make a decision to never try the stuff (drugs), that puts us way ahead. I figure if I get one or two kids at every school, I’m doing good.”


First grade teacher Jennifer Hovell, who organized Bobier’s Red Ribbon Week, said the lessons students learn go beyond the school.


“They’re going to take it home, they’re going to have conversations with their families, they’re going to have conversations with their siblings,” Hovell said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/8/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage



Contact: Dave Palmer, Dunk Tank Marketing | (619) 800-3865 | dave@dunktankmarketing.com


Vista School District To Host Education Innovators

60 Leading educators to tour district schools as part of

Next Gen Learning Challenge Excursion


Vista, CA | November 7, 2016 – With another nod to its growing reputation as an educational innovator, the Vista Unified School District will host leading educators from across the US as part of the Next Gen Learning Challenge excursion to observe leading San Diego schools, held on November 14-15, 2016. Organized by Next Gen Learning Challenges, an initiative of Educause, this excursion will see participants visiting three VUSD schools to see the implementation of Vista’s Personal Learning efforts.


The education practitioners hail from across the United States and include teachers, school leaders, charter and district leaders, and others from organizations supporting next gen school models. These educators are in the midst of reimagining public education and at different stages of implementing a redesigned school model. Other schools visited during the two-day excursion include e3 Civic High School, Thrive Academy, and High Tech High School.


On Monday, November 14th, participants will visit three VUSD schools that have been implementing a Personal Learning Pathway for their students: Temple Heights Elementary School, an Apple Distinguished Program school; Rancho Minerva Middle School, whose video production team won the national Panasonic KWN competition; and Vista High School, recent recipient of a $10 million XQ Super School grant. Each of these schools is implementing a Personal Learning approach that helps students take control of their own learning pathway.


“This is another fantastic opportunity for Vista to welcome leading education minds from across the country and share the story of how we are implementing this transformative approach to learning,” says Dr. Matt Doyle, Vista’s Assistant Superintendent of Innovation. “We’ve said that Personal Learning is our ‘moon shot,’ and we’re on our way to scaling it across the entire district. Visits like these allow us to showcase our work as well as learn from some of the finest educators in the country.”


Speaking to Vista’s work in this area, Next Gen Learning Challenge’s Program Officer and Director of K-12 Operations, Stefanie Blouin, says, “Vista is a district engaging in transformation around personalized learning. We are especially interested in the district aspect as well as their approach to engaging teachers and stakeholders in the process. The size of the district and the boldness of their work is inspiring.”

Vista Unified is in the midst of a collaborative effort with San Diego’s e3 Civic High School, located at the new downtown library. Vista USD and e3 are using the excursion as a way to explore each other's models and work more intently, and to foster a strong connection to support each other in their work. The excursion allows participants to see this collaborative model up close.


The Next Gen Learning Challenge excursion is yet another in a streak of visits from leading edge educators for Vista USD. The spring saw the district host a Digital Promise conference in conjunction with the ASU-GSV Ed-Tech conference. This fall has already seen Vista host the AASA Superintendent’s cohort as well as the #GoOpen Summit, in conjunction with the California and US Departments of Education.


“Our goal is to be the model of educational excellence and innovation,” says Vista Superintendent Dr. Devin Vodicka. “Hosting events like this allow us to sharpen ourselves among the best thinkers and practitioners in the country, as well as showcase the fantastic work our schools are doing in our Personal Learning transformation.”


Doyle, Blouin and other participants are available for interviews, and media are invited to join visits to the school sites and speak with students and participants on the 14th between 9:30 – 11:30 AM.


About Next Generation Learning Challenges

Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) supports the educators who are reimagining public education—from helping them take what they know about learning and apply it to school design, to issuing challenge grants that enable practitioners to completely redesign their schools. NGLC recognizes that in order to make education more about learning and less about teaching, we need to support those educators with the vision to transform their schools and the passion and courage to pursue it.  Learn more about NGLC at http://nextgenlearning.org.


NGLC is an initiative of EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. Funding for NGLC has been provided principally by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.


For more information or to schedule an interview or site visit, contact Dave Palmer.




Media Contact:

Dave Palmer

For Vista Unified School District



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/5/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Normally, Delores Loedel would be teaching accounting classes to college students, but on a recent morning, she took over a class of kindergarteners at Olive Elementary School.


“We start very, very simply,” said Loedel, whose usual environment is at the head of a classroom at Mira Costa College. “Right now, they’re identifying needs and wants.” You might want a shiny new car, but what you need is a place to live and food on the table, she explained.


Loedel was one of 14 volunteers who spent a morning at Olive in the Vista Unified School District as part of a financial literacy program put on by Junior Achievement of San Diego County – JA Day. “The earlier we start with the children, the better,” Loedel said. “As a state, California was rated F in financial literacy.”


In a 2015 study by Champlain Colleges Career for Financial Literacy, California was one of 12 states given an F rating. The low rating was based on the lack of financial literacy classes in high school.


Olive Principal Stephanie Vasquez said she thought it was important to introduce elementary school students to basic economics and what they might want do with their lives.


“Our motto is, ‘where kids think big.’ It gets kids thinking about real world problems,” Vasquez said. “My hope, by partnering with Junior Achievement, is to have an engaging opportunity where we work with career and community leaders in order to have our kids learn about potential careers, innovation and entrepreneurship skills that prepare them for a successful future.”


Junior Achievement volunteer Cassidy Pacheco reviewing lessons with Olive Elementary students


For JA Day at Olive, each volunteer was assigned to a classroom, where they went over economic basics from how to make money by doing chores around the house to how to start a business and become an entrepreneur, depending on the grade level of the students.


“These are really, really important concepts that we feel all kids need to be prepared for,” aid Kerri Dejager, North County coastal education manager for Junior Achievement.


Fourth-grader Lillyanna Cervantes said she learned “that if you want a job, you need skills. You don’t want to go into a job and say, ‘I want a job, but don’t have the skills,'” said Lillyanna, who wants to be an engineer or a scientist.


Fifth-grader Veronica Quesada, who wants to be a singer or a lawyer said, “I learned how to choose what job I want.”


Volunteer Darcy Wolfe, a financial planner with Edward Jones, gave a combination class of fourth and fifth- graders a lesson in how the free market works using items that the students took from their backpacks, like rulers and pencils.


The students put price tags on what they chose, compared their prices with those of other students, then adjusted their prices to be competitive.


At the start of the day, “they couldn’t pronounce entrepreneur, but they’re learning,” said Wolfe, who served in the Navy for 25 years and was a management consultant before becoming a financial adviser.


Aside from the basics in economics, Wolfe said that her message to students is “to recognize the variety of opportunities that are out there.”




Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 11/3/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Vista Unified School District threw itself a birthday party bash recently, celebrating a year of achievement and starting a scholarship fund. “Really, it is a great time to be here,” Superintendent Devin Vodicka said at a fundraising dinner at Shadowridge Golf Course on October 5th..


An estimated $3,000 was raised as part of the celebration to go into a scholarship fund for graduating high school seniors, which Vodicka said was particularly significant this school year.

The graduating class of 2017 will be the first to be eligible for automatic admission to California State University San Marcos under terms of a 2013 agreement Vista Unified signed with the university.


To qualify, high school students must maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or more and complete certain courses.

“Let’s keep our focus on kids and keep our focus on this particular class of seniors as they move forward,” Vodicka said. “Our purpose is to inspire.”

Setting the tone for the anniversary celebration, Board of Education President Rich Alderson said, “I don’t know that there’s too many places where we can get a celebration of 100 years of quality education.”


Vista Unified’s achievements have been recognized across the nation, with more than 2,000 educators visiting district schools in the 2015-2016 school year and more coming this year, Vodicka said.


“They’re reaching out to us, saying, ‘We’re hearing what’s happening (in Vista) and we want to see it,” Vodicka said. “It’s a great time to be here.”


Among the district’s more notable achievements cited by Vodicka were the September selection of Jenny Anderson as one of five San Diego County teachers of the year and a $10 million, five-year “high school of the future” grant won in September by Vista High School through XQ: The Super School Project.


Anderson, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher and coach at Vista Unified’s Casita Center for Technology, Science and Math, was one of five county educators named California teachers of the year.

It’s been 25 years since Vista Unified had had a teacher to receive such an honor, Vodicka said.


Another Vista Unified teacher cited by Vodicka, Anne Fennell, was one of 10 finalists in the nation for the 2016 Music Educator Award by the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation. Fennell heads the performing arts department at Mission Vista High School.


The achievement of Anderson and Fennell is “just a great reflection of the quality of teachers we have in the district,” Vodicka said.


The $10 million grant to Vista High School, aside from its sheer size, is notable because Vista High was one of only 10 schools to receive a grant from among about 700 that competed.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Vodicka said.


Vista Unified students also are making their mark, Vodicka said, citing former high school students Blanca Hernandez and Cassandra “Cassie” Molano and Vista Magnet Middle School students Lexie Kondo, Victoria Arsenault and Karsyn Lee as examples.


Blanca, who graduated from Vista High School in June, received the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for forming a school club that focused on helping English learners improve their language, social and academic skills.


Cassie, who graduated from Rancho Buena Vista High School, was named a Gates Millennium Scholar and awarded a full college scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


The middle school students designed and crafted an experiment that was performed on the International Space Station to see if a type of organic strawberry seeds would germinate in a microgravity environment. They did.


Vodicka said several district schools also received special recognition during the 2015-2016 school year.


Among them, Monte Vista and Temple Heights elementary schools were chosen from among hundreds in the country to receive grants to implement a program aimed at teaching children to become leaders. They each received grants of $45,000 from Leader.org to train teachers and put into practice a “Leader in Me” program, which teaches leadership skills, such as being proactive, setting goals and listening before speaking.


Also, Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts was one of two schools in the state to win recognition from the California Department of Education for three separate achievements – the academic achievement of its students, having an outstanding arts program and for being an overall model of excellence. Vista Academy was one of 496 Gold Ribbon Schools in California for the 2015-2016 school year.


Accolades also went to Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA) as one of three schools in San Diego County chosen as sites for Qualcomm-sponsored labs. The labs are modeled after Qualcomm’s Thinkabit Lab at its Sorrento Valley base. Middle school students use the labs to work on projects and learn about careers in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).


“More than anything, tonight is a celebration of 100 amazing years,” Vodicka said.



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/27/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Change comes fast, and sometimes teachers can no longer rely on printed textbooks to give their students the most relevant and up-to-date information, but finding alternatives is a daunting challenge.


“We know that educators are already doing this, searching for resources,” said Kristina Peters, an open education fellow with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology.


To help meet the challenge of finding the right resources, educators from around the nation met at a recent #GoOpen regional summit hosted by the Vista Unified School District with help from the U.S Department of Education and the California Department of Education.


#GoOpen is a national initiative aimed at helping teachers use material from the Internet in their lessons. California is one of 17 states to have a statewide #GoOpen initiative.


Known as Open Educational Resources (OERs), the online material at the heart of the #GoOpen initiative is available for teachers to use, edit, modify and distribute.


They can include everything from scientific studies and educational videos to lesson plans developed and shared by other teachers.


“It’s a boon to educators,” said Vista Unified Board of Education Trustee Elizabeth Jaka. “It captures kids and engages them. These kids don’t want to sit at a desk with a textbook in front of them.”


Increasingly, school districts that are using OERs are also using money that would have gone to buy textbooks to train teachers on how to best use what they get online, Peters said.

“We’re reinvesting in our teachers,” Peters said.


The push to use online material coincides with a move by many school districts, including Vista Unified, to move away from traditional teaching methods in which all students in a class learned the same material at the same time.


Instead, Vista Unified and other school districts are developing personal learning programs in which lessons are tailored to meet the needs and interests of each student individually.

The emphasis is on a student’s strengths and “providing students with an abundance of options,” said Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka.


“Eventually, we want to see students moving at their own speed, tied to their goals and real- world problem solving,” Vodicka said.


Using open resource, online material is a critical part of that, said Erin English, who organized the #GoOpen summit and is Vista Unified’s director of blended learning and principal of Vista Visions Academy.


“We give students relevant material, we don’t rely on one source,” English said. “We want to find creative places for students to go” online.


English and Marcia Mardis, an associate professor at Florida State University, said school librarians will play an increasingly important role in the transition to online learning.


They’re the ones who will have to keep track of what resources are available and best match the needs of teachers and how teachers can find it. “We can’t just leave it to teachers, because that’s not fair,” Mardis said.


The Vista summit was the third such event in the nation as the U.S. Department of Education ramps up its #GoOpen initiative. “The fact that the U.S. Department of Education invited us to partner with them is a great credit to our team,” Vodicka said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/17/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


Vista Unified Recognized with Top Statewide Honor

Golden Bell Award Highlights Effectiveness of “Personal Learning Challenge”;

District’s “Moonshot” Gaining Momentum


Vista, CA | October 13, 2016 – The Vista Unified School District has been chosen as a recipient of the state’s leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award. The Golden Bell Award, now in its 37th year, is sponsored by the California School Boards Association. The award recognizes public school programs that are innovative and sustainable, make a demonstrated difference for students and focus on meeting the needs of all public school students. Vista’s is one of 56 awards granted this year.


Vista Unified will receive its award at a recognition ceremony to be held on Saturday, December 3 from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in San Francisco at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis located at 780 Mission Street.


The Personal Learning Challenge program was developed in Vista Unified to address the community need for a greater level of student engagement and ownership of the learning process. The goal of the Personal Learning Challenge project is to create a custom learning pathway that is personalized for each student. According to Dr. Matt Doyle, Assistant Superintendent of Innovation, the Personal Learning project is “our district moonshot that challenges the traditional model of one-size-fits-all education.”


Six VUSD schools were involved in the Personal Learning Challenge program: Casita Elementary, Rancho Minerva Middle, Temple Heights Elementary, VIDA Middle, Vista Visions Academy, and recent XQ Super School award winner, Vista High School.


“Following digital infusion, personal learning is the next great lever of education in our country. Students who experience it will be better prepared to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century talent economy,” said Vista Superintendent Dr. Devin Vodicka.


Visit www.vistausd.org/blueprint to learn more about the Personal Learning Challenge.


Experts from school districts and county offices of education made up the 16-member judging panel that reviewed the written entries and made the initial recommendations for the awards. On-site validators assessed the programs in action.


“California’s K-12 public schools continue to produce some of the nation’s best and brightest students, and our Golden Bell recipients are a reflection of that excellence as well as the spirit of innovation which is so characteristic of this state,” said CSBA CEO and Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “The Golden Bell Awards recognize the quality and the determination of school leaders from across California in meeting the needs of California's students through award-winning programs and services.”


CSBA is the non-profit education association representing the elected officials who govern public school districts and county offices of education. With a membership of nearly 1,000 educational agencies statewide, CSBA brings together school governing boards and district and county office administrators to advocate for effective policies that advance the education and well-being of the state’s more than 6 million school-age children. Learn more at http://www.csba.org.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/12/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Awesome, amazing and prodigy are some of the terms people use to describe 17-year-old music composer Joseph Mumper.

Winning would be another.


Joseph, a senior at Mission Vista High School in the Vista Unified School District, won an award as the best digital music composition in the country in a national competition by The Technology for Music Education (TI:ME), a nonprofit organization that promotes music education.


Joseph won for a piece he titled “A Call to Arms.”


“I’m really excited that my music is getting recognition,” said Joseph, who dreams of one day writing movie scores. “I really feel motivated to keep going.”


Mission Vista High School Senior Joseph Mumper


The recognition is well-deserved, said Anne Fennell, who teaches music composition at Mission Vista High School in Oceanside. Vista Unified includes some sections of Oceanside, where about a third of its students live.


“His music is very emotive, it’s very strong,” Fennell said of Joseph. “It’s created on computer. Everything is from scratch, everything is 100 percent new.”


“Stellar” is how Fennell described “A Call to Arms.”


“When I hear it, I see it as a movie score. It’s orchestral, it’s expressive, it’s emotive, it’s truly a piece that reflects his gifts,” Fennell said. “To me, there’s a patriotic aspect to it, there is an honor aspect to it.”


The piece is somber and moody at times, but also inspirational with a martial tone. It intersperses strings, horns and piano along with choral sounds here and there throughout the piece.

Joseph said he sees it as foreshadowing and setting the scene for some sort of battle, perhaps knights on horseback gathering as they prepare to fight.


“I was just trying to visualize the scene, kind of create what comes from that,” Joseph said.


He gets his inspiration from movies like “Lord of the Rings.”

“I’m a big ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan,” Joseph said. “I really enjoy the music from movies, just the soundtrack from them.”

Not surprisingly, Joseph’s favorite music group is Two Steps from Hell, which produces music for movies and television along with its own albums. “I enjoy almost any genre, and can listen to anything,” Joseph said.


Music is kind of a tradition in Joseph’s family. He said his mother plays a variety of instruments, mainly the piano and guitar. His younger brother, Christopher, plays saxophone at Vista High School, where he is a freshman. Joseph played the clarinet in middle school, and plays the keyboard and drums at Grace Chapel of the Coast in Oceanside.


He became interested in writing music after taking his first composition course with Fennell three years ago. “I see myself as a musician and a composer, but mostly a composer,” Joseph said.


After high school, he plans to study music composition at either Biola University in La Mirada or Azusa Pacific University in San Diego.


Wherever he goes, Fennell said she expects Joseph to excel.

“I think he’s realized what a gift he has,” Fennell said. “He can communicate many emotions in his music. It’s phenomenal.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 10/3/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage



By Ray Huard


*** UPDATED OCTOBER 1, 2016 ***

Eleven-year-old Gavin Gamino wants to be a major league baseball player. Failing that, Gavin said that he wants to do something with science or math – his favorite subjects in school.


“What I like about science is you can do experiments and test new things and help the world grow,” Gavin said. “What I like about math is it helps you add up what you need at a grocery story.”


Gavin and his mom, Jamie Gamino, were among dozens of elementary school students and their parents who came to a career fair at Monte Vista Elementary School to learn about a variety of careers, from welding to law, and talk with representatives of several colleges and universities.


The career fair – the second Monte Vista has hosted - was open to all elementary school students in the Vista Unified School District and featured career choices ranging from dentistry, nursing and law enforcement to welding, engineering and firefighting.


Among those participating were dentist Douglas Hope, financial planner John Steccato, Solutions for Change Farm, JR Filanc Construction, Neza Financing, Green Team Real Estate, Garden of Eden Farms, Vista Community Clinic, Spark Mobile Welder, the Vista Library and the City of Vista.


Several colleges and universities also sent representatives, including California State University San Marcos, the University of San Diego, San Diego State University and Ashford University.


While elementary school might seem early to be talking about going to college or choosing a career, “I hope they’re seeing possibilities that they didn’t see before,” said Monte Vista Principal Charlene Smith.


Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka said, “Our perspective is that it is never too early for children to dream about their future. We want every student to have aspirations that encourage them to work hard, to persevere, and to do well in their studies so that they have abundant opportunities for success."


Several parents expressed similar sentiments. “It gives them the opportunity to see what options are out there,” said Resa Baker. “For them to start early is great. It’s planting the seed.”


Her 8-year-old son, Reese Early, said he wants a career “helping people,” and thought being a firefighter or in the military might be a suitable career for him.


Jamie Gamino was doing double duty – helping Gavin learn about careers that might interest him and talking to other students about her work as a beautician and hair stylist.


“I’m happy to give them information about a career, the earlier the better,” said Gamino, who also makes jewelry and water color paintings. “It’s a good way to start to have a plan.”


Nine-year-old Brayden Hubert said he wants to be a sports professional, but he wasn’t sure what sport. His mom, Ambermarie Stein, said that, “He’s toyed around with a few things – a pilot at one point, then the military or a firefighter.”


Financial planner John Steccato could relate. “I wanted to play left field for the New York Yankees,” Steccato said. “All I cared about at their age was going out and playing baseball.”


What do you tell elementary school students about being a financial planner? “I just say I handle their parents’ money, I help mom and dad save money,” Steccato said. He also urges even young students to get involved with community projects, which can help them earn scholarships later on if they do decide to go to college.


Posing for photos in a blue graduation cap-and-gown, 9-year old Kiea Moore said she wants to be a singer, just like her mom, Ruth Moore, who was a professional singer in Iceland before moving to the United States.


Because of her career, Moore said she never got beyond high school in her education but wants Kiea to get a college degree, no matter what career she follows. “We always talk about that, it’s so important,” Moore said. “Education is everything. If you don’t want to struggle, you have to have an education.”


Kiea’s dad, Joseph Moore, said he’d like Kiea to become a doctor or maybe an X-ray technician, like Kiea’s older sister.

“Whatever she wants to be, she needs that education,” Joseph Moore said.


School nurse Cynthia Boles said that she wants students to learn that they can have more than one career in their life. “I always wanted to be a mom, and I did that first, and I went to nursing school when I as 42-years-old,” said Boles, who has five children ranging in age from 16 to 30.  “You can do one thing with your life, then do something different.”


School nurses Cynthia Boles and Anna Higge talk with attendees about careers in nursing.


Welder Jason Gorgol of Sparks Mobile Welding had a similar story. “I always wanted to be a truck driver, then I got tired of driving trucks,” Gorgol said, so he trained to become a welder.

His message is that trades, like welding, are rewarding careers for students who aren’t college bound. “I love to create things and build things,” Gorgol said.




A dentist and a lawyer, a builder and a chef, a firefighter and a sheriff’s deputy – those are just some of the people who will talk about what they do for a living as part of a Monte Vista Elementary School College and Career Fair Sept. 29.


Scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. at the school, 1720 Monte Vista Road, Vista, the fair is open to students from all elementary schools in the Vista Unified School District.


“I hope that the kids see that their future is their choice, that there are so many options that are available to them, that whatever they can imagine for themselves, that they can realize their goals,” said Monte Vista Principal Charlene Smith.

“We are trying to create and make students aware of a pathway from elementary school through college and career,” Smith said.


More than 50 people from a wide-range of careers will be on hand, Smith said, along with representatives of every middle school and high school in Vista Unified School District.


Several colleges and universities also are sending representatives, including California State University San Marcos, San Diego State University, the University of California San Diego, the University of San Diego, Ashford University and the University of Redlands, Smith said.


Although elementary school may seem a bit early for children to be thinking about career and college prospects, Smith said it’s important to expose even children as young as kindergarten to a wide range of possibilities to inspire them and give them a sense that they can set their goals high.


“You think of a small child, and he sees a sheriff in uniform or a paramedic with his vehicle, or a construction guy with his tools, you’re creating an interest in a career they might not have even known existed,” Smith said.


Now in its second year, the career fair also meshes with Monte Vista’s place as No Excuses University network of schools, a nationwide organization that promotes the notion that higher education should be an option for everyone, Smith said. “Our brand at Monte Vista is ‘where leaders grow, college, career and life,” she said.


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/27/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Slimy and smelly, was how three Vista Magnet Middle School students described the package that came back to them from the International Space Station.


“It was really gross,” said Karsyn Lee.


“To me, it smelled like rotten ranch dressing,” said Lexie Kondo.

Karsyn, Lexie and Victoria Arsenault designed and crafted an experiment to see if organic strawberry seeds could germinate in the microgravity of the space station.


Smelly or not, their experiment proved that seeds can germinate in microgravity.


“It made me feel really accomplished and that I could do anything,” Karsyn said after seeing the results of their experiment.


Three of the eight seeds the students sent to the space station aboard a Space X rocket earlier this year germinated in an experiment completed by station astronauts. Their experiment was chosen as part of the Student Spaceflights Experiment Program (SSEP), which was started by the National Center for Earth and Space Science in partnership with NanoRacks LLC to promote interest in space and education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).


Vista Magnet Middle School students Lexie Kondo, Victoria Arsenault and Karsyn Lee with their recently returned experiment from the International Space Station


To compare what happened on the space station to what would happen in a normal environment, the students conducted an identical experiment on the ground.


Two of eight seeds in the ground experiment germinated, although one got farther along than those in the space station. “The International Space Station seeds actually really surprised me,” Karsyn said. “I didn’t think there was a possibility to germinate in space.”


Adhering to protocols set by NASA, their experiment divided a 6 ½-inch plastic tube into three chambers with a valve connecting each chamber.


The seeds in rock wool soil were in one chamber, a mixture of willow water and honey was in the second chamber, and a clear solution of formalin to preserve the seeds once the experiment was completed was in the third. Astronauts released the clamps on the space station, first allowing the willow water and honey to mix with the seeds in the soil, then later releasing a clamp to mix-in the formalin.


Vista Magnet science teacher Stephanie Sanchez said that the experiment Karsyn, Lexie and Victoria made mimics the methods and research subjects of working scientists trying to determine if astronauts can grow their own food rather than bring it with them.


“It’s a question we are asking as we think about colonizing Mars,” Sanchez said.


The students will present their research results at California State University and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.


Karsyn, Victoria and Lexie, now eighth-graders, came up with their seed experiment when they were in sixth grade, winning a competition among Vista Magnet’s 900 students.


“I didn’t think I’d be able to beat out eight graders because they have a lot more experience,” Karsyn said.


Lexie hopes hope the success of the experiment will encourage other students “to persevere through challenges.”

“I hope they’re inspired to keep on, even if they fail, because we failed,” Karsyn said. “We had to recreate our project many times.”


Working on the space station experiment has stimulated an increased interest in science in general and space in particular at Vista Magnet.


“Science is really cool,” said Victoria, who wants to become a U.S. Navy anesthesiologist or a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. “I’ve always liked medical things,” Victoria said.


Karsyn’s goal is to become a veterinarian, working with small animals. “I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian since I was little,” Karsyn said. Lexie is interested in meteorology and astronomy.


Accompanying the seed experiment to and from the space station were paper patches designed by Callie O’Connor, now a sophomore at Mission Vista High School, and Daisy Sanchez, a seventh-grader at Vista Magnet. Callie was in eighth grade at Vista Magnet when she drew her patch design and Daisy was in fifth grade at Grapevine Elementary School.


Callie O'Connor (L) and Daisy Sanchez (R) showcase their winning patch designs for the project.


The patches were selected in a competition open to all Vista Unified students, with one winner from elementary school and one from upper levels.


Daisy said she was excited and shocked when her drawing was chosen, “because I wasn’t such a great artist in fifth grade.”


Her drawing was of Grapevine’s mascot, a bear, landing on the moon. The bear is wearing a blue space suit, holding a helmet against a blue background next to a black spaceship with the letters “USA” on its side. The phrase, “Education is the Future,” is printed in yellow lettering in the upper right corner of the square patch. “I really want to study more about science,” said Daisy, whose career goal is to become a nurse.


Callie, who plans to study veterinary science at the University of California Davis, said she was equally surprised to learn that her patch was going up to the space station.


Her round patch shows a gray rocket blasting off from a green and blue Earth against a black background to represent outer space. The patch has a maroon border, Vista Magnet’s school color. The letters SSEP and VMMS are printed on the side of the rocket, standing for Vista Magnet Middle School and the Student Spaceflights Experiment Program. “I like to draw,” Callie said, but, “when I submitted it, I didn’t think I would win.”


Vista Magnet students were so excited about the space station adventure that Principal Anne Green said plans are under way to repeat it, but expanding the competition to include students from Vista Innovation & Design Academy, a Vista Unified middle school, and High Tech High School in San Marcos.


The new project is being coordinated by Open Source Maker Labs in Vista, Green said. “It’s going to be fun and it will raise the bar a little bit,” Green said.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/20/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage



We couldn't be more thrilled for the team at Vista High School for being awarded a $10 million grant from the XQ Super School Project. Vista High was one of ten schools across the country to receive a grant, with XQ awarding over $100 million in grants to schools that applied with detailed plans for how they are re-thinking what high school can be.


A catalyst for Vista High's application was the Personal Learning Academy that started in the 2015-2016 school year. The grant will help to scale that personal learning process t the school and equip teachers, staff and students for new ways of teaching and learning.


There's more developing on this story, so we'll share some links to local media coverage of the project.


San Diego Union-Tribune

ABC 10 News

NBC 7 News


To learn more about Vista Challenge High School, the name adopted by the team submitting the XQ grant, click here.





Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/15/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage




By Ray Huard


Jenny Chien Anderson was walking her dog when she got a message on her cell phone – she was one of five people named California teachers of the year.


“It’s all very surreal,” said Anderson, who teaches science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Casita Center for Science and Math in the Vista Unified School District.


After getting in her car to check the message, Anderson said she checked and had to recheck it because she couldn’t believe it. “It was a super emotional thing to hear, and I was alone in the car on my way to school. I was so overwhelmed,” Anderson said.


At the end of the school day, after Principal Laura Smith announced that Anderson was a state teacher of the year, the entire school erupted into what Anderson described as “a group hurrah.”


“It was just amazing, it was so incredibly sweet,” Anderson said. “I felt so much warmth from everyone.”

Click here to watch a KUSI report from October 24, 2016


Teaching was not the career Anderson, 30, thought she’d follow. She moved to the United States from Taiwan with her parents when she was 5-years-old and figured she’d have some sort of business career, like her father and mother. They ran an import/export business in Los Angeles with stores in San Diego and Chicago.


“My initial thought was, I’d probably go into business and take it internationally,” Anderson said.


Initially, she majored in economics at the University of California San Diego. After a year, on her mother’s advice, she changed majors and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies with an emphasis on sociology and East Asian studies and a minor in education.


Anderson said she wanted a career that would have an impact on people’s lives, and going into business wasn’t going to do that in the way that she wanted to make social change in the world. “I’m more of a creative person,” Anderson said.


While at UCSD, Anderson partnered with IBM to create a program, eMentoring@UCSD, to help connect kids at San Diego’s Logan Heights Elementary School with IBM employees and UCSD students.


She finished her undergraduate work in three years and earned a master’s degree in education and completed a teacher credential graduate program at UCSD through their Education Studies Department in 2007.


Her first teaching job was at Casita, “It was so weird because I had fifth graders who were nine, 10 or 11 and I was 21. I was only 10 years older than them,” Anderson said. “I was a kid, but it really helped me connect with kids and build a strong rapport.”


Anderson rarely sits still.


“My parents were always telling me to channel my energy,” Anderson said. “Even now, I’m constantly moving, so I empathize with students who have the same needs.”


At home, she’s constantly on her computer, looking for things that she can use with her students or communicating with friends on social media. “I’m constantly on Twitter, the Twitter-verse. I love looking at new ideas that everyone is trying and thinking about how I can adapt it to meet my students’ needs,” Anderson said. “I’m a little nerd.”


She also admits to being “a big foodie,” and one of her favorite pastimes is trying out new restaurants with friends. Her favorite television show is reruns of “Law & Order,” but she’s also big on science fiction and comedy. “I think it’s neat to imagine all the possibilities,” Anderson said.


Travel is also big on her list of activities. Her father moved back to Taiwan a few years back, and Anderson returns to visit him several times a year. Her mother passed away two years ago but Anderson said she carries her spirit around everywhere she goes.


In high school, Anderson played soccer and volleyball and pole vaulted in track and field. She rowed crew in college.

Longtime friend Katie King, who rowed with her, said Anderson was a fierce competitor.


She wanted to be the coxswain, who sits in the stern of the boat and is responsible for steering it and coordinating the power and rhythm of the rowers, but King said Anderson proved so adept that she became the lead rower.


“She seemed to have a mindset that she would do whatever she put her mind to,” King said. “I would say that she empowers you and brings you up with her energy. No matter what kind of day you’re having, she’ll just make you feel good.”


Anderson also can be persuasive, and talked King into becoming assistant coach of a youth soccer team. “I actually never played soccer in my life.” King said. “It was Jenny and her attitude, her enthusiasm. She said, ‘You can do this.’”


Cindy Lieu, who teaches fifth grade at Casita and often joins Anderson and others for a girls-night-out, said Anderson is shy but also “definitely a joker” when she’s with friends. “She’s very enthusiastic, easily excited and very eager to learn anything that she doesn’t understand,” Lieu said. “A lot of people look to her to see how they can change-up a lesson to be a little more engaging or have more engineering concepts.”


School Superintendent Devin Vodicka, in a letter recommending Anderson as a teacher of the year, said she “possesses a number of skills that will ensure her success in any role, including an unparalleled work ethic and the ability to make global connections and think in a strategic manner.”


Similarly, Casita Principal Laura Smith wrote that Anderson has an “innate ability to design lessons that bring out the best in students.”


Anderson’s advice to other teachers is “just focus on the kids’ strengths and allow them to discover their passions.” She also urges her colleagues to offer their students lessons in STEM and computer science.


Anderson hopes her students, especially the girls, will see her as a role model in following STEM careers. “Girls outnumber boys in college, and yet, there’s such a small percentage of girls that are pursuing engineering or science careers,” Anderson said. “It’s really disheartening.”


Looking ahead, Anderson said that she can’t imagine herself doing anything that’s not education-related. “I love my job. It made me a stronger person, more patient and reflective,” Anderson said. “As our world is changing, teaching is never stagnant. I’m constantly thinking about how to evolve with education and with the kids.”


Original Story, Posted September 11, 2016


Click the image above to see the KUSI story about the teachers of the year.

Casita Center for Science, Technology and Math STEM teacher Jenny Anderson was named one of five Teachers Of The Year from San Diego County on Saturday night, September 10th. Anderson was chosen among some 26,000+ teachers in the county, and becomes one of just 161 teachers to receive the honor since it was introduced in 1974.


Anderson was interviewed on KUSI's "Good Morning San Diego program on Sunday morning along with the four other recipients of the award. 


“My role is to create opportunities for students to discover their strengths to make inquiries, collaborate, lead and take action,” Anderson said.


Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka said Anderson “represents the best in our profession.”


“She is relentless in her pursuit to connect with the strengths and interests of every student,” Vodicka said. “She inspires the students by challenging them with real-world problems. She is a leader with personal learning and computer science. Ms. Anderson embodies educational excellence and innovation and I am thrilled that she is part of our learning community in Vista.”


Anderson, who immigrated to the United States from Taiwan when she was 5-years-old, is a visionary and exemplar of the American Dream, said Casita Principal Laura Smith.


“Jenny is inspired by the future and what could be,” Smith said.


Screen Shot 2016-09-11 at 5.29.45 PM.png
Casita Center Principal Laura Smith (left) and Jenny Anderson (right) at the Cox Salute To Teachers event Saturday, September 10th.


Said Vodicka, “We have incredible educators in Vista Unified and throughout San Diego County. We are honored that one of our own has been selected as one of the top five in the region.

Anderson was honored earlier this year and one of six teachers and others given Golden Apple Awards in February by the Vista Unified Board of Education for exemplary work over the past year.


Anderson and the four others named county Teachers of the Year will represent San Diego County in the California Teacher of the Year program later this year.


Named with Anderson were:

- Brooke Crocker, who teaches Advance Placement U.S. History, U.S. History at Santana High School in the Grossmont Union High School District


- Stuart Douglas who teaches biology at Granger Junior High School in the Sweetwater Union High School District


- Megan Gross, whose classroom is the home base for students in the Autism Spectrum Disorders program at Del Norte High School in the Poway Unified School District


- Amy Schwenke who teaches kindergarten at Fallbrook Street School in the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District.


They were chosen from among 43 teachers who were nominated from the San Diego County region, which has about 26,000 public school teachers.


Anderson and her four other honorees will represent San Diego for California Teacher Of The Year. In the past, 19 San Diego teachers have been honored with the statewide award, and three of those were named National Teacher of The Year.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/11/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


A group of fifth graders at Foothill-Oak Elementary school saw a homeless couple near their school on a rare rainy day.

They talked about what it would be like to be stuck in the rain with no shelter, to be homeless.


They wanted to do something about it. With a little guidance from teachers and others, they set up tables outside the school and sold pencils, things they made themselves and things they brought from home.


They raised more than $180, which they gave to Operation Hope Vista. They picked Operation Hope after researching local charities that worked with the homeless and learning that some of their classmates had been helped by Operation Hope.


Recounting the experience of the Foothill-Oak students, Robert Crowell said that this was one of more than a dozen such projects Vista Unified School District students undertook in the 2015-2016 school year. Crowell is the district’s lead for service learning – a program that has students researching and finding solutions to real problems in their community.


It’s not unusual for students to get involved in community projects, like cleaning up beach trash. The difference in service learning is that the students make a connection to what they’re learning in class - researching the harm beach litter causes, analyzing water samples for pollution, documenting what they find and presenting their findings to a pollution control agency.


“The number one thing is just the student engagement, just the kids taking ownership of their learning,” said Crowell, a former elementary school teacher. “The real key to service learning is the students are the ones who really drive the project.”


Monte Vista Elementary School teacher Annick Gillot-Salmon said that her fifth grade students have gained a new sense of self-confidence from the service learning projects they’ve worked on. “It really made my classroom more dynamic and exciting,” Gillot-Salmon said.


Two years ago, she asked her class if they could figure out an environmentally friendly way to deal with sediment left over from an aquaponics farm that grows vegetables in water.

“At first, they were, ‘Why are you asking us, we’re just kids,’” Gillot-Salmon said. “By the end, they didn’t feel that way. They were really impressed with themselves.”


With considerable trial-and-error, her students found that the sediment could be dried and used as fertilizer in a flower garden, used to grow mushrooms, or as food for ghost shrimp.


Monte Vista Elementary service learning students experiment with using sediment from an aquaponic planter as fertilizer for other plants.


In the 2015-2016 school year, Gillot-Salmon’s class made a “little free library” after researching early childhood literacy. The library is sort of a converted cabinet that the students decorated and stocked with books for a variety of reading levels.


Anyone can take a book and keep it and the students are responsible for restocking the library. They also prepared leaflets in English and Spanish outlining techniques to use when reading to children to increase literacy, Gillot-Salmon said.


A "Little Free Library" installed by Monte Vista Elementary service learning students.


This school year, her students are tackling an even thornier problem – how to make the outdoor school lunch area quieter.

Covered by a metal roof, the lunch area is between two buildings which create an echo chamber of sorts. “That is a challenge,” Gillot-Salmon said. “I’ll see what they come up with.”


This year, Crowell hopes to have at least 1,200 students from throughout the district involved in service learning projects like those of Gillot-Salmon’s fifth graders.


“If we really get this in every elementary school, middle school and high school in Vista Unified, I can’t see why we can’t have 1,500 to 1,800 students involved,” Crowell said. “We really are looking to expand to every school. My goal is for every kid in Vista Unified to ultimately participate in service learning.”


Superintendent Devin Vodicka shares Crowell’s enthusiasm.

“I’m thrilled with the early success that we are seeing with our service learning projects,” Vodicka said. “Our teachers, staff, and community partners have done a magnificent job of identifying opportunities for our students to solve real-world problems.”


Vodicka said that the projects “reinforce the academic learning” students get in class. “They empower our students to know that they can improve our community and make the world a better place,” Vodicka said. “I am looking forward to the next steps on this journey and I’m proud of the contributions of our students.”


To make that journey, Crowell is looking for community partners who are “willing to donate a little of their time and expertise” in suggesting projects.


For example, Hunter Industries in the 2015-2016 school year helped Foothill-Oak students install an irrigation system in a garden at the center of the school.


The Vista Chamber of Commerce has worked with students on chamber projects, and helped the school district line up service learning projects with local businesses.


Chamber Chief Executive Officer Bret Schanzenbach is a big fan of the program. “Service learning is a great opportunity for kids in the classroom to get exposure to real world challenges,” Schanzenbach said. “I think it’s great that a lot of these projects are done at the elementary school age so kids can get an opportunity to experience things that are kind of beyond their typical horizon.”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/6/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Look for this to be a stellar year for the Vista Unified School District as the district celebrates its 100th anniversary, Superintendent Devin Vodicka said as students headed back to classes.


Speaking to more than 1,200 teachers, counselors and administrators who gathered at Mission Vista High School for a recent professional development day, Vodicka said, “it’s an exciting year.


Among other things, “This is the year where our graduating seniors will be the first ones affected by our guaranteed admissions agreement with Cal State San Marcos,” Vodicka said.


Under an agreement the district signed with California State University San Marcos in 2013, students who maintain a C average or higher and who complete prescribed courses are guaranteed a spot in the college. “This is a great thing for our kids,” Vodicka said.


Looking over the past year’s achievement, “I think we’re making great progress,” Vodicka said.  “Our students are more and more energized by their learning.”


That progress has drawn national attention, Vodicka said, with more than 2,000 educators from across the country visiting Vista Unified schools last year. “They’re coming because they’re hearing lots of things that make them curious about what’s happening in our school district,” Vodicka said. “Personal learning is one of those things that is drawing a lot of attention.”


As the district moves ever more strongly into personal learning, where lessons are tailored to the needs of each student individually, “What we’re trying to do is get away from the one-size fits-all model,” Vodicka said.


“The school system has pretty much been set up like a train station, where students arrive at a certain time, get on the train, the train takes them from one place to the other. The train goes to the same place at the same pace,” Vodicka said. “Your experience traveling in that train is pretty much the same, regardless of what you bring into that journey.”


With personal learning, Vista Unified is moving to a system that Vodicka said is more akin to driving a car, where students have more control over their learning and teachers help develop their strengths instead of looking at their shortcomings.


That shift is paying off not only with improved student achievement, but with higher approval ratings from parents and teachers, according by the University of California San Diego.

The survey showed “a very consistent trend” in parents’ satisfaction with their students’ teachers, trust in school principals, and trust in the quality of education their children are getting, Vodicka said.


“To see this is really quite affirming,” Vodicka said.

The 2016-2017 school year also is the first time classroom teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade will get to try out the Next Generation Science Standards which Vista Unified is piloting – one of eight school districts and two charter schools in California that are helping to develop and refine teaching methods that fit the new standards.


Instead of relying on rote memorization and teacher-directed lessons, the new standards stress critical thinking and require students to research, analyze, experiment and rework projects based on their findings just as scientists do on the job, said Sue Ritchie, project director for Vista Unified.


In the first year of the project, 12 district teachers underwent training. Last year, those 12 teachers trained 60 of their colleagues, and those 60 teachers led sessions for other elementary and middle school teachers during the Professional Development Day.


“We’re asking all the teachers to start trying it in their classrooms so they have a feel for it,” said Sue Ritchie, project director for Vista. In another year, the new standards will be the rule, Ritchie said.


During the professional development day, Vista teachers tried their hand performing experiments that show how the new standards can be applied in their classrooms.


“We just want you to fall in love with science again,” said Grapevine first grade teacher Kristi Gann, who was among the teacher/trainers leading the sample lessons.


In one, a group of third grade teachers were given a challenge – make an aluminum can move across a desk without touching it using a balloon and a wool cloth.


Next door, a first grade teacher picked out a Cutie mandarin orange and wrote a description of it. Then another teacher would have to find that orange based on the written description when it was mixed in with other Cutie oranges.


The can challenge was a way for students to learn about static electricity through their own exploration. The teachers figured out quickly how to create static electricity by rubbing the cloth against the balloons to push the cans.


Teachers were not quite so successful with the Cutie orange hunt. The idea was to demonstrate how scientists make and record their observations, in this case, a description detailed enough to find one Cutie among many. Most of the teachers hadn’t provided enough details, so they had to add more.


Along with trying out the new science standards during the professional development day, teachers got their first look at new computer software systems that will help better track student progress and find each student’s strengths in developing personal learning lessons.


Sessions covered everything from how to improve the writing skills of their students to prepare them for college and career to an update on special education.


“There’s a little something for everyone,” said Larry White, executive director for curriculum, instruction and educational technology.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 9/2/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage


By Ray Huard


Stepped up programs in the arts, robotics and computer science are in the works at Rancho Buena Vista High School as the school year gets underway.


Principal Charles Schindler is particularly keen to work out a plan that would let students interested in the arts focus on what they love while meeting requirements to graduate with the course work and skills they need to qualify for admission to four-year colleges.


“I just believe in a well-rounded student,” Schindler said. “I’m a big advocate of having a flexible schedule for kids to take what they want and still go to college.”


The problem is that with six class periods a day, students are hard-pressed to cram in all the courses they need to graduate college-ready and have time to take elective art courses. “How do we design a pathway, if you will, for college-bound students? It’s an ongoing project, but I love it,” Schindler said.


Superintendent Devin Vodicka said Schindler’s goal for an arts path is a good fit for the school. “Rancho Buena Vista High School is an established leader in the region with respect to arts education,” Vodicka said.  “The school is well-known for a world-class theater program, an award-winning band, exceptional dance teams, and strong visual arts opportunities.  It makes sense to build on those strengths to better prepare students for a dynamic future where creativity and collaboration will be essential for success.”  


Schindler also is committed to forming a Rancho Buena Vista robotics team to compete with other schools, along with stepped up programs in computers. “I’d really like to see us get to that level of having team competition,” Schindler said.


Rancho Buena Vista’s robotics program “is an excellent illustration of the power of connecting students with real-world problems,” Vodicka said.


“Creating robots is an interdisciplinary challenge that requires coding skills, engineering, creativity, critical thinking, perseverance, and collaboration,” Vodicka said. “I am looking forward to seeing this innovative program continue to grow and provide additional opportunities for students to learn and showcase their talents. “


During the 2015-2016 school year, Rancho Buena Vista offered a computers principles course and in the coming year will expand on that by offering an Advancement Placement (AP) computer course and a computer science course as part of its CTE (Career Technical Education).


“CTE focuses on the programming and how do I use the programs to make games and aps,” Schindler said. The course will focus on showing students how to use various coding programs.


“AP will be looking at the social and global implications of computer science, how technology is used,” Schindler said. “The AP asks them to think more deeply about that. They’ll be asking kids to respond to the implications of computers.”


Like other AP courses, the AP computer course will be accepted for college credit at many colleges and universities.

This year, Rancho Buena Vista also is adding a science design course as part of its International Baccalaureate Program, Schindler said.


“I think it’s kind of neat. It asks kids to look at a problem and really apply scientific method and problem solving to real world problems –identify a problem, develop a hypothesis, research, and come up with a solution,” Schindler said. “It really pushes kids.


Dance also will be added to the IB program this year, Schindler said. “Ultimately what the kids will have to do is plan and perform their own dance,” Schindler said. “Our IB is really strong at Rancho Buena Vista.”


Rancho Buena Vista has had an International Baccalaureate program since the school opened in 1987 and about 200 of the school’s 2,300 students take IB courses, which are especially demanding.


The school is continuing a drive to get more students enrolled in IB and AP courses.



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District
Published: 8/30/16

Audience: Homepage and Homepage

Vista High School opened its newly renovated Dick Haines Stadium on Thursday, August 25th, with a pep rally during the day, a reception for past players and coaches, a flyover by the Civil Air Pa