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.
OPMS was one of only four schools in the state recognized as a School to Watch for 2011-12.
RUSD also received its third consecutive Golden Bell Award in 2011 for the Ramona Reads! Project, a partnership between the district’s 10 schools and the Ramona Public Library.
Montecito High School started a new trimester system this year.
“We have three trimesters, so students can complete credit recovery or work ahead to meet graduation requirements,” shared MHS Principal Cynthia Nakhshab. “In 2011-12, as MHS staff and students work together, we share a common goal which is steady and positive progress towards earning a high school diploma…no matter what issues face us at home, in the community or in the world.”
Ramona High School was designated a California Distinguished High School with an Exemplary Career Technical Education Program in 2011.
“We were one of only seven schools with this distinction in the entire state,” Principal Tony Newman said proudly. “Additionally, we saw the highest CAHSEE (California High School Exit Examination) scores ever, with a 90 percent passing rate in English language arts and a 94 percent in math.”
RHS enjoyed a visit from California State Future Farmers of America officers.
“It is an honor to have state officers come to your school,” said Vanessa Tobin, RHS agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. “Because there are so many agriculture programs in California, the state officers can’t go to every school every year, which means each school gets visited once about every three years.”
Wrestler and 2011 RHS graduate Connor Koch, now a freshman at the University of California San Luis Obispo, earned recognition as the San Diego County Student Athlete of the Year, “a first for our RHS program,” shared Newman.
The RHS Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps was recognized at the Navy National Champions for the Cyber Patriot 2011 competition, and the RHS Royal Alliance band and color guard won five first place trophies during the 2011 marching band season.
All in all, not at a bad year for the students, staff and administrators of RUSD. Let’s see what 2012 will bring.