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Stories written by jeanniem

Program pairs high school tutors with younger students

   One hour a week. That’s all it takes to help change a child’s life—and possibly yours.
   It’s fun, too. It’s called Oasis, and it’s a national, nonprofit
educational tutoring program that anyone can get involved in. 
   The intergenerational program pairs adult volunteers with young
students, grades K-3, to help children improve their reading skills.
   Oasis has been very successful in the Ramona Unified School District
for the past 12 years. It is used to supplement struggling students by
giving them one-on-one tutoring, which can be hard to come by with deep
budget cuts.
   That is why volunteers are so crucial to the program, but, according
to Oasis Coordinator and Teacher on Assignment Linda Ball, the need is
much greater than the tutors available.

A California Distinguished School

   In the state of California, there is one award that trumps them all,
one where the eligibility requirements are so stringent that only 10
percent of schools can even apply.  Once the application and review
process are complete, the schools can call themselves a California
Distinguished School for the next four years.
   This year, Ramona’s Mt. Woodson Elementary School is proud to do just that.
   “It feels great,” said Principal Theresa Grace, who has been at Mt.
Woodson for six years. “I came from a California Distinguished School
and ever since I started here I always thought this was a staff and
community that would earn it.”

Emerging leaders use three-prong approach at Barnett

 Veteran teacher Judy Gunnett is excited. In her 28 years at Barnett,
she hasn’t quite seen anything like the new program she advises called
Emerging Leaders.
   The group has been going strong since the fall, and with each month it gets better.
   Emerging Leaders is open to upper grades only—fourth though
sixth—and is divided into three areas of opportunity to serve. Students
can be a part of the safety patrol, the student council or the
environmental team. While each group has a designated forte, each
depend on the others to help the entire school.

Angelina Uriostegui chosen for Girls State

    Angelina Uriostegui, a Ramona High School junior, has been selected
to represent the high school at the prestigious Girls’ State Convention
this year. The honors student, athlete, and campus leader was nominated
by teacher Robin Brainard. 
   “She is an intelligent, hard working and successful young woman,”
said Brainard.  “She is a leader, an outstanding teammate who leads by
example and is dedicated to supporting others in their achievement of
success.  She is involved in many things, yet she still gets the job
done for each and still maintains a solid GPA.”
   She maintains a 4.14 grade point average (GPA) in her classes, which
include Algebra 2/Trig Honors, Anatomy and Advanced Placement U.S.
History. She also is incredibly involved on campus, always in a
leadership role.

School administrator praises others for her award

   To Dr. Cathy Pierce, assistant superintendent of Education Service
for the Ramona Unified School District, data rules. If it doesn’t work,
reinvent it. If it isn’t fun, engaging and educational, then it’s back
to the drawing board.
   With Pierce, it is always about student achievement and what is best
for them in the long run. That approach to her job may be among reasons
the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) awarded her
with a high honor this year.
   The association each year awards top leaders in 19 different
categories of school administration. This year, the Curriculum and
Instruction Administrator of the Year Award goes to Pierce.

Students take to Big Bear slopes with confidence

   Learning to ski is hard enough. Learning to ski when you have a disability may seem almost insurmountable.
   It’s not just the physical challenge of getting the skis on, getting
up the lift, learning to balance, staying focused, multi-tasking and so
on, but also getting over the mental challenges of fear and the
   That’s why the Ramona High School’s Adaptive Physical Education
Program’s annual ski trip is considered so remarkable. Just talking
with coordinator and longtime adaptive physical education teacher and
advocate Connie Halfaker is inspiring; one can imagine what it must
have been like to be at the bottom of that mountain when her students
and their instructors soared down.
   “I have never seen a smile that was that big for that long,” said the proud Halfaker.

Make-A-Wish takes student on a cruise

   It was the week before Christmas when Makenna Renard’s family noticed the bruising.
   The bruises seemed to come with the slightest touch and were often
very bad. Then, she started to lose energy. The bubbly, sassy, fun
loving, seventh-grade cheerleader seemed to begin to fade. Immediately,
her mother, Karen, took her to get tested.
   “I was at Legoland with Makenna and her twin 4-year-old brothers
when they told me the news,” said Karen. “I remember we had just gotten
there and there were so many people around us. When I answered the
phone they told me, ‘you need to bring Makenna here now. Not tomorrow.
Not later. Now.’ I remember everything at that moment stood perfectly
still. I felt like I was in a fog. I couldn’t breathe. I started
hyperventilating. It was horrible.”
   That was the day that Karen learned that her only daughter had acute
myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive cancer that starts inside bone
marrow and develops quickly, so quickly that doctors gave Makenna 6 to
9 months to live.
   “I felt like they made a mistake. I felt like they would say ‘just
kidding’ after they told me,” said Karen. “I felt like they had messed
up. It was completely mind-blowing.”

Ramona Elementary lays tile for fourth-graders

   Ramona Elementary School recently had a unique fundraiser, one that
would literally give back year after year. The idea came to
fourth-grade teacher Sandra Jimenez while she was at an art festival
with her nephew.
   “I was watching him paint a square on the street pavement when I
thought about doing it with tiles,” said Jimenez. “I ran the idea by
Mrs. Munoz (Ramona Elementary principal), my fourth-grade teaching
partner Mr. Hanford, and our classroom parent Mrs. Espinoza, and with
their support the ball started rolling.”
   This fundraiser was a first for the school. They provided the
6-inch-by-6-inch tiles, paint and the location to paint, and parents,
students, teachers, and community members provided the creativity and
enjoyment. Lowe’s of San Marcos even got in on the fundraiser by giving
a discount on the material needed and their expertise as to what kind
of primer and sealer to use.

Northrop Grumman makes district 400 computers richer

   Northrop Grumman, a leading global security company with more than
120,000 employees, is a worldwide corporation specializing in
innovative systems, solutions in aerospace, electronics, shipbuilding,
technical services to the government and more. But all those big
credentials have never stopped the firm from looking within its own
neighborhoods to help  tomorrow’s leaders.
   Their work in schools, whether it be in the form of donations or
high school internships, has made an impact on the Ramona community.
Former Ramona Community School Principal Ellen Burgess helped make the original connection with NG.
   “When she was principal, she knew a parent that worked at NG.
Together, they got our district on a list of schools to receive
computers that were cycled out of the company,” said Keith Wright,
director of Information and Student Services for the Ramona school
district. “The best thing for us was that they were Dell computers that
we already supported, so it was a very easy fit.”

Teachers join the Web generation

   Parents of Ramona Unified students may not know this yet, but their
children’s teachers are becoming webmasters. And they are being honored
for their online efforts through the district’s Teacher Webpage of the
Month contest.
   Keith Wright, the district’s director of Informational and
Educational Services, had the idea in 2008 when the district revamped
its Web site, but he waited to start the competition until teachers had
the chance to build their Web pages.
   “Ramona Unified is always looking for more efficient and
cost-effective ways to communicate with our stakeholders,” said Wright.
“Because much of our community works away from Ramona, placing
information online is a way to always have it available.  Once that
information is online, it is accessible at any time of the day, any day
of the week.  This allows us to increase the level of communication
between school and home. We are also able to save money on printing
costs by placing items online instead of sending paper copies home.”