School employees start school year at convocation
By Pixie Sulser
Ramona Unified administrators, teachers and classified staff were welcomed back for the 2011-12 school year at the district’s annual convocation on Thursday, Aug. 25. Although many employees had already been back on the job preparing for the new year, the convocation acts as the district’s official
kick-off inviting the entire staff of RUSD to gather in celebration of the beginning of the new academic year.
As Ramona High School’s Navy Reserve Officers Training Corp color guard presented the colors, Superintendent Robert Graeff, Ed.D., led the crowd in singing “God Bless America” before inviting other district leaders to share welcoming remarks.
Employees of the year for 2010-2011 were recognized as were teachers receiving tenure along with the most senior member of the RUSD staff, in terms of years of service, which would be Chuck Mandela with 34 years in Ramona Unified School District.
The audience heard words of welcome and encouragement from school board President Rodger Dohm, Ramona Teachers Association President Donna Braye-Romero, California School Employees Association President Betsy Bargo, Sun Valley Council PTA President Amy Everitt and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Anne Staffieri. All presenters spoke of working together for the benefit of the community and the students and encouraged everyone to keep a positive outlook even in these difficult fiscal times.
Amid recognition of accomplishments in district test scores and appreciation for community support, Graeff also shared challenges facing RUSD such as declining enrollment, budget concerns and the further increase of expectations for students. This is the district’s 10th consecutive year of declining enrollment with a current kindergarden through grade 12 population of 6,101, the smallest overall in more than 22 years.
In his opening remarks, Graeff acknowledged the district’s strong commitment to using technology in support of the core curriculum in all areas as well as a way to strengthen communication among parents, teachers and students.
He reminded staff of the excitement technology can bring to a lesson and how technology can engage students in active learning. He encouraged teachers and support staff to “explore ways to serve the needs of the 21st Century learner,” which include but is not limited to the utilization of technology.
“Learners in the 21st century need to have experience in collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking,” he said. “These are the 4 Cs for future job and social skills.”
Earlier in the summer a team of a dozen RUSD employees visited Apple Corporation’s “mothership” for a firsthand look at how technology can be further used in the classroom. Changes in board policy regarding mobile technology (cell phones, laptops, ereaders, etc.) have been made. Pilot projects across the district to utilize iPads and iPod touches to increase student learning are now in place.
Cheryl Lee, development executive for K-12 Education at Apple Inc., spoke to the gathering, sharing Apple’s vision of education in the 21st Century.
“Apple is the leading technology company in the world as far as mobile technology goes,” she said. “We see this as a chance to awaken curiosity for learning in your classroom.”
In his closing remarks, Graeff shared other district priorities for 2011-12 such as having students college and/or vocational ready, exploring the expansion of world language offerings, continuing the building of professional learning communities at all sites, and keeping communication open and honest. Long-term goals include strong fiscal health, dealing with an aging bus fleet and aging facilities (most district buildings range in age from 20 to 75 years old), using alternative energies, repaying existing long-term debt, creating a wireless infrastructure and possible reconfiguration of grade levels.
“The success we are having is extraordinary,” said Graeff, “but we are not there yet.”
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