School district ends banner year of honors, awards

By Pixie Sulser

Education was a hot topic in the news in 2011, with budget cuts, higher class sizes, increased demand for student achievement, and the differences among the various players in the field.

What may be overlooked are the positive things that happen in schools. In the Ramona Unified School District, 2011 might be considered a banner year.

James Dukes Elementary started the 2011 school year with a dedication to creating a “college bound attitude.” New Principal Pauline Leavitt explained that “James Dukes is working to become a ‘No Excuses University.’ We plan to have our NEU application complete and submitted at the start of 2012 making us part of an education network that promotes college bound goals for their students.”

Continuing to hold the distinction of a California Distinguished School, Mt. Woodson Elementary may soon be joined by Barnett Elementary, which earned eligibility for the same award and has submitted its application. Barnett is home to the 2011 Ramona District Teacher of the Year, first grade teacher Robin Koch, and a San Diego County Teachers are Heroes award recipient, Judy Gunnett.

“Being one of two elementary sites to pilot iPads in the classroom and having our choir travel to San Diego to participate in a television taping of holiday singing are some other highlights of our year,” shared Principal Kim Reed.

Music filled the air at Ramona Community School as well with the formation of its first middle school choir under the direction of Valerie McElroy. Other highlights of 2011 for RCS include “a whole school Olympics, highlighting various college teams. We had our first Ecology Fair and our fifth and sixth grade classes performed ‘Sound of Music’ to rave reviews in May,” said Carol Tennebaum, RCS principal.

Along with the library technician at RCS and the principal at Ramona Elementary School, the entire district was honored with the Technology Leadership Award from the Technology Training of America.

“Our librarian was recognized as a Technology Hero. She was given a beautiful plaque and 10 computers for our school,” said Tennebaum.

The 2011 school year started with technology as a major goal of the district. In support of that goal, six classroom teachers representing Hanson, Barnett, Mt. Woodson, Montecito and RHS formed a collaborative known as the iLearners. The teachers are piloting the use of mobile technology in the classroom via iPads and iTouches.

“This is an exciting adventure that beckons to each of us as models for teaching in the very near future,” said Superintendent Robert Graeff.

Hanson Elementary enjoyed a highlight as 2011 drew to a close with bikes for their entire second and third grade population, courtesy of the Bikes for Kids Foundation as was reported in a recent front page story in the Sentinel.

A huge recognition for Olive Peirce Middle School came near the end of 2011 when the site was named as a California Taking Center Stage School to Watch.

“This is a prestigious award for middle schools on both the state and national level,” commented Graeff.



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