April 24, 2017


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Dear Bonsall School Community,

I have loved serving the Bonsall school community, and it has been a great joy to see its momentum of increased performance.  However, it is clear to me that the rehabilitation of my total knee replacement will require such time and attention that there is no peace in a decision imposing my disability on the performance of the Bonsall Unified School District.  As I have said before, health is optimal performance not just freedom of illness or injury.   Patience and therapy are calling for my time and attention to address this health issue for the next 8-10 months.  It would be too presumptuous to take that time and attention from Bonsall schools.  These are incredibly important times; our purpose of “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and college” demands hyper-focused leadership.

I will continue to serve until July 31, 2017 and support the transition of new leadership.   Application screening and interviews will take place until the Bonsall Superintendent position is filled.   In May, school community focus groups will meet to provide input into the desired characteristics of the new superintendent.  My goal is to have a finalist in place by July 1, 2017.  The new superintendent will be extremely fortunate to serve such a wonderful school community.

Bonsall is a gem, and its future is very bright.  There is a very unique convergence of wonderfully talented, kind and faithful people that keep it on a trajectory of continuous improvement.  I am very grateful to have served as its Superintendent these last nine years and look forward to hearing of its amazing accomplishments in the future.  Very few Districts are preparing their students for the accelerated pace of change as well as the Bonsall school community does.  Thank you all for what you do to contribute to improving public education and the future of our United States of America.

Sincerely yours,

Justin Cunningham, Ed.D.


March 31, 2017


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Dear Bonsall School Community,

The District has received several requests to address the recent negotiation tactics that have become more aggressive as the Bonsall Teachers’ Association (BTA) is expressing dissatisfaction with the Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) for not offering a salary schedule increase yet this year. While negative optics are commonly used by unions to pressure management for an increase on the salary schedule, such tactics only erode the trust relationship through deceptive misinformation and displays of frustration, like signs on cars.  This blog entry will provide an understanding of the why behind the District needing more time before an offer can be made, because there are many contributing factors to the District’s desire to wait until the long-term impact is more evident.

A basic contributing factor is our Guiding Principles that can be viewed on our website. They begin with a focus on students, then the trust relationship with you, the school community.  The fourth principle seeks to “Protect the fiscal security of the district” and the fifth, to “Provide, to the extent possible, equitable salaries and working conditions for all employees”.  Following these principles has helped our District to continuously improve in meeting our purpose of “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and college”.

The District must be cognizant of Governor Brown’s projected 2017-18 budget that warned of anticipated drops in revenue and even the possibility of a deferment of some revenue into next year.  Considering this was how the deep cuts began during the most recent recession, we are wary of tough times ahead.  However, we also know that Governor Brown also projected dire budgets in the last couple of years and there ultimately wound up being extra funds passed on to school districts as “one time” money.  One time money is like a bonus; whereas, ongoing costs like the salary schedule are recurring and, in some cases, compounding.  We used those one time funds mainly for technology and paying teachers for extra days of training.   We are looking forward to May 10, and the Governor’s Revised Budget, as well as the reaction from legislators who know he is heading into his last year.  Included in this hazy funding picture are the cuts anticipated from the Federal education budget.

An additional factor to consider is total compensation for teachers. Most people don’t realize teachers receive automatic raises called “step and column”, as well as increases in pension and health benefits. “Step” is an automatic increase in salary for continued service; the more years you teach, the more money you receive until, on Bonsall’s salary schedule, you reach thirty years of service.   “Column” is an automatic increase to a teacher’s salary for college classes taken past their degree.  In the current school year (2016-17), all of these automatic raises totaled 4.03% – a cost to the district of approximately $432,306.   It might not be a raise on the salary schedule, but it is a raise.  Our district also pays Other than Pension Employee Benefits (OPEB) such as health benefits for retired employees until they turn sixty-five years old costing about $100,000 annually.

Another significant factor is that last year the District was able to give employees about 10% in total compensation, and that ongoing cost to the District was an additional $996,876.  The District truly believes Bonsall has many great teachers and wants to pay them accordingly, consistently trying to reach the middle third of the County comparisons of teacher salaries.  We do that even though we are in the bottom third of funding per student revenues.  Also, when compared to other small school districts in the County we are fourth out of fifteen with only Rancho Santa Fe, Fallbrook High, and Cardiff paying more to their teachers.  However, our budget projections indicate we are moving into our reserve funds and will be deficit-spending in the next few years.  This year I assured the teachers we would not be laying them off even though they are hearing of teacher layoffs at many other districts in our county.

Lastly, but not insignificant, is the reality that the State’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is reaching a plateau since school districts have been paid back most of what was cut during the recession.  Unions realize this and are using aggressive tactics to raise ongoing salaries before the revenue is depleted.  It is disappointing to see negative strategies being used in Bonsall after so many years where the trust relationship brought us through the hard times.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, it is prudent to wait and see what future budget conditions will be; there are several moving pieces affecting the future of Bonsall Unified’s funding and we want to position ourselves to take advantage of any opportunity to increase student learning and provide better salaries for our deserving teachers.


Justin Cunningham Ed. D.

March 6, 2017

Dear Bonsall School Community,

You might have seen recently various news articles covering the Bonsall Unified School District’s plan to continue preparing the Gird Road site for the construction of Bonsall High School despite Measure DD, the Bond providing funding for its construction, which didn’t pass with the required 55% voter approval. In earlier blogs we presented the critical nature of the timing of Measure DD and how passage would benefit Bonsall taxpayers; the concurrent State Bond, Proposition 51 providing millions of dollars in matching funds to build the high school, the growth in student population due to the development we see throughout Bonsall, and the projected increase in interest rates making the project more expensive for Bonsall taxpayers if there is delay. These issues of timing are the reason we are continuing the work to prepare the Gird Site. The District is using funds that were set aside to prepare the site through environmental studies, as well as architectural and pre-construction services. These are the initial phases required for building the High School. There is no intention to give a notice to proceed on the construction until the District can afford to.

The most focused opponents of Measure DD living near the Gird Rd site created the “No New Taxes” campaign to defeat it. They are driven by a NIMBY conviction to never allow a high school on that site. Since NIMBY doesn’t garner much support outside their area, they reformed as Citizens for Accountability in Taxation and Education, or “CATE”. Sounds so admirable it must be credible. We understand the anti-growth sentiment and any increase in traffic in their area is unacceptable to them. However, our District covers 88 square miles of the San Luis Rey river valley and we have invested much time and money exploring at least a dozen other possible sites. Their misinformation strategy has escalated from one issue to another, and although the press has seen through the NIMBY issues, our District is being harassed and bullied to start over building the Bonsall High somewhere else.

Although Bonsall used lease/lease back to build Bonsall West, Bonsall Elementary, and the High School building on Sullivan’s campus, lately the CATE people contend that the lease/lease back method of funding school construction is illegal. We prevailed in a case charging that last spring with an attorney who portends to protect taxpayers. Their misinformation says the only reason we prevailed was because the attorney filed his documentation late. Although it was true he was late in his filing, his list of illegal allegations confused the court so much the District had to spend over $35,000 of taxpayer funds for the judge to see that the allegations were all false. The new law beginning this year addressing the lease/lease back method simply seeks to sharpen the law to prevent such frivolous lawsuits. But that attorney is back, and I was told by one of the most adamant opponents to building the high school that that she sent him a check.

When such conflicts between groups arise, in order to make much sense of the issues it is always important to keep the separate motivations in the forefront to see what the source of the conflict is. The foundation of this conflict is simply that CATE and some others that live in the area want Bonsall High School built somewhere else. The timing and the District investment combine to make that an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars. Granted, CATE is using harassment and legal bullying tactics to extort greater expense to where the District might have to cut its losses. That is a Board decision, not mine. I am just the grateful lead servant making recommendations to the Board based on information and research so the District can use its resources to achieve “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and college.” Thank you for the opportunity to serve the Bonsall School Community!

Sincerely yours,

February 22, 2017


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Dear Bonsall School Community,

Whether it’s sports, politics, weather, or education, we are living in historic times of very surprising outcomes!  As a school community, it’s the education issues we focus on for “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and college”. Traditionally, public education has taken a strong emphasis on preparing students to be successful in school, with the hope this translates to success in life. Today, our State standards, assessments and accountability, and funding model are all being aligned to prepare students for not just college, but also their careers. The achievement gap in schools is more of an opportunity gap linked to poverty than ethnicity or zip codes. Today’s global competitiveness is based on more countries realizing that education is the key to a more productive workforce, economy, government, military, and society in general.

As we pass the mid-point in the school year, we are looking closely at the success indicators in our Strategic Plan. The Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) depends on the data we shared with the Board of Trustees at our February board meeting. We have always met our LCAP goals, and over the next couple months the California Department of Education (CDE) will be sharing a new “Dashboard” of the various indicators that create great schools. No longer will schools only be ranked on their academic test scores alone. A more complex accountability system will also measure indicators like attendance, suspension/expulsion, graduation rates, English learner progress, and college and career readiness. Public access to our District dashboard is anticipated to be available in March.

This more sophisticated measuring of schools using multiple success indicators will be based on change as well as status. The “Dashboard” will reflect levels of blue as highest, then green, orange, yellow, with red being the lowest. A school or district might be highest in their status for a success indicator one year and show blue, but if they decline even by a single point the next year it will be indicated by green for that specific success indicator. Please follow this link to the California Department of Education’s website to view illustrations of a sample Dashboard. This graphic metric will help provide more depth in understanding of how to create better schools by providing deeper information of what is happening in schools and the trajectory of improvement.


Our District philosophy is “Dedication to continuous improvement”, so this new accountability metric fits well with our school system because it, too, shows growth as well as status. Thank you for the opportunity to continually improve Bonsall schools.


Justin Cunningham, Ed D

December 21, 2016


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Dear Bonsall School Community,

Happy Winter Solstice!  As the shortest day of the year, now the days will begin adding daylight until we reach the summer.  Our school year is about half over and it’s time to reflect on our progress toward the goals we set at the beginning of the school year.  January will be full of mid year assessments and measuring success indicators of our strategic plan to be sure we are improving in meeting our purpose of “Academic Excellence and support for all students to become highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college”.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters has released official results of the November 8, 2016 General Election; Measure DD, the bond to build Bonsall High School did not pass; it got about 51% approval, but required 55%.  As more and more developments begin building in our District, we are busy looking at options to continue steps toward building Bonsall High School.  The last couple of BUSD Board Meetings included approval of fencing the Gird Road site for the high school, and continuing the required biological studies and pre-construction work there.

Those meetings also experienced some of the amygdale-driven behaviors the last blog entry discussed.  Throughout our history there have been many differences among US citizens, and as a result of the last election many have been highlighted.  But common decency of respect for opposing views and civil discourse has been the way our country has stayed strong and united.  Abraham Lincoln’s use of the Gospel of Mark, 3:25, that a house divided against itself cannot stand, is as true today as it ever was.

As shown in the following excerpt, when our Bonsall children are given the gift of a great education, the whole world benefits.  Last week, I received the following from Sullivan Middle School Principal Joseph Clevenger:

“…At Sullivan Middle School, each 8th grade student plans, organizes, and carries out a community service project.  We refer to it as our 10% project and Mrs. Foxley and Mrs. Allen play key roles in its implementation.

Last year, an 8th grade student, Tristen Smith, was able to connect two things he was passionate about, riding his BMX bike and helping others, in a creative way.  With help from his parents, community, and Mrs. Foxley, he developed the idea of organizing a bike ride to raise money for students and adults in underdeveloped nations to get to school and work daily.  He worked with an organization by the name of Wheels for Life.

Yesterday he received an email from the recipients of these bikes in Uganda.

Through his planning, organizing, and implementation, Tristen was able to provide bikes to 23 individuals. What an experience for this 13 year old! What a difference he is making in the lives of others!”

The impact that one student can make is significant.  We work hard every day to empower students to become smarter, harder working, empathetic young men and women.  Imagine the collective good that will be done by the 200 8th grade students who will make an impact this year.

Here are some of the photos:


As we enjoy this time of celebrating through gift giving, please know how grateful we are for the selfless giving that occurs throughout the Bonsall School Community.  As you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever traditions and celebrations that unite your family and friends in appreciation of each other, we wish you the best!


Justin Cunningham, Ed D

November 22, 2016


Dear Bonsall School Community,

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters is still counting ballots for Measure DD, our bond to build Bonsall High School, improve security, traffic flow, and fitness facilities throughout the District.  Official results are still coming; there are about 150,000 ballots still to count countywide so we still have a chance. However, the trend of the outstanding ballots is not favorable for the approval of DD; when the polls closed we had close to 51% yes votes but now it is closer to 50%; we needed 55% to pass. Proposition 51, the $9 billion School Construction Bond was approved, so regardless of the outcome of this election we intend to move forward on the construction of the High School to access the Prop 51 matching funds.  We can’t afford to leave millions on the table.

With gratitude on our minds this Thanksgiving season we want to let everyone know how grateful we are for their support for the approval of Measure DD; so many students, parents, and other members of our school community showed their understanding of the need our school community has to proactively respond to the accelerating pace of growth in our District.  We are particularly grateful to the voters, but it is important to recognize the students that chose to join the Yes on DD campaign, and those that managed the social media.

Providing an opportunity for students to join the campaign helped them become part of history and gain an understanding of just how wonderfully precious, and vulnerable our republic’s democratic system is. They didn’t just read about it; our students experienced first hand what a struggle it is to promote civil discourse and truthful campaigning in the face of the ugly side of our political disagreements.  With social media this has become more difficult than ever and that also makes us particularly grateful for Larissa Anderson’s oversight, and Gina McInerny’s tireless late night and early morning online watch for misinformation, as well as their efforts to preserve a truthful message and honest campaign.

Misinformation is toxic to a healthy political system.  Digital literacy training in great schools today is helping students evaluate information.  Just because it is said on the internet doesn’t make it true; the motivation of the author always needs to be considered. The majority of people middle aged and older never had such training and the results are that media has become the driving force for influencing voters. Now with social media, the neuroscience behind campaigning has become far more sophisticated than ever.  Our brain’s amygdala, the center of our emotions like fear, anger, and disgust, can hijack the brain into a fight or flight stage and prevent the reasoning, cognitive dissonance, and future orientation from taking place in the frontal lobes.  After middle age our synapses prune themselves to fewer connections in the brain and it becomes easier to reach a state of irritation based on fear or anger.  This is what makes negative campaigning so powerful.

Given this playing field, truth, kindness and composure can’t match loud, angry accusations and judgment for many people.  Such delivery demands our brain’s attention and has been successfully used by a variety of media groups.  Awareness of such manipulation will become more widespread as our instruction and curriculum develop to help students become more aware of how their brain development is linked to their level of survival.

One of the best brain states to be in is one of thankfulness; gratitude has often proven to be an incredible promoter of health.  Such health is not just freedom from illness; it is optimal performance.  The opportunity to serve the Bonsall school community is one of the parts of my life I am most grateful for.  Thank you for all you do to support our, “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college”.  Happy Thanksgiving!



Justin Cunningham

October 27, 2016


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Dear Bonsall School Community,

As we come to the end of the first quarter of the school year, we need to reflect on what’s working, what’s not, and how we increase student learning.  The teachers have presented parents with data from our new learning diagnostic tool, iReady.  Using such technology for measuring student learning is working by providing an opportunity for us to personalize and accelerate learning for the individual student. The technology is just a tool; but, like the printing press, that tool is having a profound impact on education.  We are very fortunate to have great partners like Hewlitt Packard that share the industry perspective so we might better prepare our students for their entry into a competitive global economy.  The following is an example from HP’s Jim Vanides sharing his six favorite Ed Tech recommendations:

  1. Technologies that empower creators and makers
  2. Technologies that provide access to opportunity
  3. Technologies that amplify, not replace, our best human qualities
  4. Technologies that provide analytics and insight to the learner and                  teacher
  5. Technologies that personalize learning
  6. Technologies that enable curiosity, creativity, inquiry, and playfulness

Recently I was wonderfully impressed when I sat in on several high school students’ presentations of their portfolios. With their computers they shared their projects from the first quarter and reflected on the content knowledge, analysis, collaboration, and thinking they experienced in each project and how they might revise it.  The depth of their perspectives brought the realization that they are indeed learning to learn, think, and project into the future; exactly the abilities we want them to have.  It validates our District’s purpose of “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college”.  In previous posts we have explained the “competitive” aspect of our purpose statement is linked to our District philosophy of “Dedication to continuous improvement”; our concept of competition is not about outperforming your opponent, but instead focused on challenging one’s own previous performance.  This is the growth mindset in action.   We understand that the plasticity of our brains allows us to push the boundaries of previous performance.

Athletics is a great example of this.  Bonsall athletes at Sullivan Middle School have long had a great reputation as extraordinarily strong competitors, and as the High School implements more lifetime sports, we are seeing that success move into the CIF level.  Bonsall Legion and Wildcat teams like our cross-country runners, though relatively new to interscholastic competition, are becoming well-known as contenders for the top spots.  All of this reflects what a great school community we have here in Bonsall; the teaching, coaching, and parent support is what provides the environment for our young people to excel.

Excellence is also evident in the support all students receive from our school community organizations such as the Bonsall Education Foundation.  Like athletics, the arts are thriving in Bonsall due to the enrichment opportunities our students and families enjoy.  From music, to computer science, to gardens, to opportunities to help others less fortunate, our students receive a well-rounded set of experiences that increase their learning and preparation to thrive in the future.  The investment of so many generous adults in their lives models for them how community interdependence improves the quality of life for everyone.

With this in mind I encourage you to vote in the coming election.  This privilege and obligation is more important now because in so many ways we are at a crossroads.  However, in our nation’s history it is when we come together to support each other that we been the most powerful in making good things happen.


Justin Cunningham







August 17, 2016


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Welcome back!  The beginning of the 2016-17 school year is the start of our best year ever!  It has been wonderful to add a new grade and building to the high school, along with courses from Palomar College.  We are adding new robotics, engineering, and bio med classes to our middle school.  We also have a new personalized assessment and digital learning support system throughout the district helping us to achieve our purpose of “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college”.Official photo for Grand Opening

We are welcoming excellent new members to our school community.  One of the benefits of our Bonsall School Community culture was discussed in yesterday’s Union Tribune article.

One part of that interview that the reporter didn’t include in the article was the moral imperative our Bonsall School Community has as the base of our culture.  Our teachers know they have an incredibly important impact on the quality of our society, economy, military, and government.  Often our teachers are upset when professional development interrupts their time in the classroom.  Our philosophy of “Dedication to continuous improvement” is also a large part of our culture.  This year all staff will be trained in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” so that next year our students will be developing the same habits in “The Leader in Me” program.  We are doing this because so many skills required for success and happiness are not just academic, but behavioral.

Watching the drop off and pick up traffic during these first few days of school has shown wonderful growth of a culture of kindness and patience by those driving their students to school.  We have had a couple of bumps in this start of the school year however; our Transportation Department has experienced great frustration with bus breakdowns of vehicles that are almost new!  The vendor, A2Z Bus Sales, refitted them with improved cooling parts this past summer, which might be the core of the problem.  We are currently adapting and are meeting this week with A2Z to rectify this issue.  We would like to commend everyone involved who showed great kindness and patience while addressing this frustration situation.

WONDERFUL kindness and patience has been extended to our Bonsall School Community by Davidson Communities, the developer of the homes around Bonsall Elementary School; in consideration of the traffic stress of the first couple weeks of school, they delayed roadwork which was creating traffic stops.  This hiatus will last for the first couple of weeks of school.  We feel very fortunate to have such thoughtful and generous partners in our Bonsall School Community.

Speaking of thoughtful and generous partners, the Pala Band of Mission Indians has again shown the wisdom and generosity of supporting our children’s schools by presenting the Board of Trustees with a $90,000 donation at their meeting last week.  This is added to the transportation and counseling support they also provide.2016-17 Pala Donation

The Riverview church has once again shown its great kindness and support for Sullivan Middle School.  Last weekend scores of volunteers from Riverview worked in the hot sun to beautify the campus.  They are also a wonderful example of the incredible support that makes the Bonsall School Community so amazing. We are so grateful for the blessings of their time, toil, and energy they have shared with us.

The Bonsall School Community is also grateful to our Pathways Charter Academy and their Excel Academy’s innovative and successful K-8 summer school program held at Bonsall Elementary School for almost ninety students.  The enrichment programs and academic support were a first year success, and we look forward to expanding this offering next summer.

In a few weeks, September 10, at “A Salute to Teachers” , our very own Bonsall West fourth grade teacher, Allison Slattery, will participate in this gala selection of the county teachers of the year.D7K_9405

Every year I feel our teachers are the best, and this year I feel it even more.


Justin Cunningham, Ed.D.


July 13, 2016


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Dear Bonsall School Community,

The most recent blog entry discussed investing in the future. This entry will focus on the greatest opportunity Bonsall has ever had to do that. Bonsall is coming upon just such a time as this to create an incredibly bright future. It is an extremely rare and precious opportunity for a community to determine its future. When growth becomes fast at the same time a community creates its first high school, if the high school is designed right it will attract a demographic profile that will greatly increase the community’s education level and property values.  At the June 8, 2016 Regular Board Meeting, during the Public Comment portion, a gentleman spoke to the Board about the growth in Bonsall, why the new high school, and what are the District’s plans to communicate with the Bonsall school community about these issues.  It’s time to present how we got where we are and where we plan to go.

About 2008, the same time that Bonsall schools took off in performance, the widening of Hwy 76 began right through the middle of our District. When all Bonsall schools rose to 10 in similar school rankings, and Fallbrook High was a 6, voters opted for a change; a unification proposition was passed in 2012 despite the fact that Fallbrook had to vote for it, too.

In June 2014 Wayne Oetken & Associates did a Growth analysis and Enrollment Projection that called for Bonsall to double in size in the next 6 years. Beginning on the Sullivan Middle School campus, Bonsall High, a New Tech High Network school (similar to High Tech High) opened in September 2014. The facilities for the high school will become available to the Middle School as it grows and the High School moves to a beautiful 50 acre site on Gird Road, near Hwy 76.

Building the High School on Gird Road will require a General Obligation Bond that is designed for the November 8, 2016 ballot, assuming the Bonsall Unified Board of Trustees approves a resolution to do so at its regular meeting on July 14, 2016. Based on our current assessed value, the Bond could be about $58 million. This Bond will also have to include funds for much-needed safety upgrades at the other schools. We must remember that our country is at war and many of our families are connected to the military, so the safety upgrades are critical. We are planning to use bond funds for things like security cameras, electronic lock and keying, and fencing. Keeping safety in mind, everyone in Bonsall knows we must invest more in traffic control and parking. To improve our community’s health we also need joint-use exercise facilities like tracks and fields at the other schools. For example, Bonsall West Elementary has a renowned before-school running program, but the school doesn’t even have a track. It is our intention for the high school gym to be similar to Del Lago Academy in Escondido, where it also serves as a fitness center for the community.

Efficacy and frugality are filters that the Bonsall Unified School District applies to all we do. Since 2008, the Transportation and Nutrition Services have changed from losing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to having balanced budgets. The before and after school programs have also gone from being in the red to being in the black. The solar project implemented in 2010 has shown great savings, avoiding the sharply increased utility rates many San Diego County Schools are suffering from. We have refinanced outstanding debt, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Our Bond will require a Citizen’s Oversight Committee, and we are applying to the San Diego County Tax Payers Association for an endorsement.  Such accountability is a healthy way to develop better schools while protecting local taxpayers.

 Current Opportunities

Bonsall has a very unique opportunity that is all about timing; at the same time that state Hwy 76 widening brings strong growth, Bonsall begins its first high school; a high school designed to give students access to future economic realities. If our growth is smart, the demographic profile seeking high performing schools with a future orientation will likely come from many in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions that offer the most promising jobs in our economy’s future. Families from those professions will want schools that can prepare their children for similar high paying jobs coming to San Diego, which is one of the top ten STEM areas in our nation. The ensuing trajectory in property value would be amazing. Besides the STEM field, our high school students will become interns in many of the areas of the economy that are local to our area; agriculture, the equine industry, building trades, hospitality, health, media, arts, and education are all areas our students will be able to develop networks in. This fall, our partnership with Palomar College will provide college units to students taking courses on our campus. We have also had great feedback from parents about the extension of our award-winning middle school music programs into Bonsall High School.

The widening of Hwy 76 is bringing growth to our community at an overwhelming pace. If the growth is smart and designed for the future of this area it could have amazing results. However, if the growth is haphazard it will have a very negative impact on our school community. Right now we have several smaller developments coming in; I can see Pardee with a few dozen homes and Davidson with 95 homes right outside my office window. We are already having capacity problems and have to turn down dozens of inter-district transfers seeking to attend Bonsall’s relatively high performing schools.

Timing is everything, and here is where it gets interesting. If as expected, at its July 14, 2016 Regular Board Meeting, our Board of Trustees approves a resolution to place a bond for Bonsall’s first high school on the November 8, 2016 General Election Ballot, the laws for campaigning go into effect and no District funds can be used to advocate for the passage of the bond. There will be a citizen-driven campaign, but it is not paid for with District time or funding.  So today, it seemed prudent to provide for everyone an understanding of how the passage of such a bond will impact Bonsall taxpayers. Greater detail will be in the ballot language, but basically, an assessment of $60 per $100,000 dollars of assessed value would be added to a Bonsall property tax payment.

However, part of the California State Board of Education’s conditions for Bonsall’s unification was that the Bonsall community had to continue to pay for the Fallbrook High School Bond that was passed in 1994 for new construction of their performing arts center, library media center, and some other buildings. The current debt being paid by Bonsall property owners is equal to about $26.50 per $100,000 of assessed value. The property tax on a home with a value of $400,000 is about $106 each year. The great news is that their bond will reach maturity in 2019, relieving Bonsall taxpayers of that debt! So in a couple of years Bonsall taxpayers would only be paying approximately $30 per $100,000 more dollars than they are paying now, and getting safety upgrades, joint use fitness facilities, and a new high school!

Amazingly, another timing issue is the fact that there is a State School Construction Bond on this same ballot that could provide approximately fifteen million more dollars for Bonsall schools if we pass our bond, but that extra bond debt would be spread out over the entire state’s taxpayers.

Once again Bonsall has an incredible opportunity to make an investment that will pay off in a wonderfully bright future. Bonsall is such a rare and special place, and is going to be even more so if we take wise action by making our future what we want it to be.


Justin Cunningham, Ed.D.

July 11, 2016

Dear Bonsall School Community,

Summer is often a great time for relaxing reflection.  School promotions and transitions offer a look at what’s working, what needs improvement, and what we must do to follow our District philosophy of continuous improvement.  We are continuing to improve teaching and learning and add great talent, all in the pursuit of our purpose of “Academic excellence and support for all students to become highly effective in their chosen career path and/or college.”  Reflecting on last year also brings a delightful understanding of how next year will be even better.

Addressing the students at the eighth grade promotion ceremony, I shared with them the need to invest in the future by focusing on improving how we learn and think, while maintaining a future orientation; technology will continually require learning new ways of doing things, but it will also create problems that the world has never seen.  Solving those problems will require deep thinking.  Future orientation will allow us to adapt to an increasing pace of change in our world by anticipating where things are going instead of just reacting to where they are.  I urged them to pursue wisdom and learn about how their brain works.  The students that attend Bonsall High School will get support for such investments in their future; but, not everyone in that class will attend Bonsall High so we wanted to send them off with our best advice.

In our pursuit of improving teaching and learning, we are mining the data from last year’s assessments and instruction.  We met our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) goals, but we believe we can do better.  Our deep review of the data leads us to switch from MAP testing, Compass Odyssey, Study Island and a few other applications, to iReady, which spends less time on computer-adaptive testing, and is better aligned to the new California Standards and assessments like CAASPP.  It also offers some printed instructional materials.

We are thrilled that the new Principal of Bonsall Elementary is Karla Groth, who comes to us from the San Diego County Office of Education where she rose from being a Principal in Residence to the Executive Director of Assessment and Accountability.  Dr. Groth longed to get back to the excitement of improving learning at a school site, and we are once again blessed by timing.  She began to look for change right when we needed to replace Diane Lillibridge, who has since moved back to South Carolina.  Diane will be missed, but we are once again extremely fortunate to have someone like Dr. Groth join the Bonsall School community.

This summer Bonsall Elementary School began our new, innovative summer school program developed in collaboration with our Pathways Academy Charter School’s Excel Academy.  Over ninety students are enjoying enrichment programs while improving their academic studies through an independent study program.  Innovation and partnerships are continuing to bring practical solutions to old problems like no longer being able to fund summer school as in years’past.

Bonsall High School is planning the grand opening of their new building August 23, 2016 at 5:30 pm.  BHS will move into the two-story on the Sullivan Middle School campus until the permanent campus is built on the Gird Road property.  Great things are happening at Bonsall High!  Now that we are adding the junior year, the internships are increasing, and Palomar College will be offering classes in our new building.  Our partnership with Hewlitt Packard is also bringing great benefits to our high school students, as shown in the video on the link below


Investing in this future of the Bonsall School Community will not only develop students who become contributing members to our community, but it will raise property values as well.

Taking some summertime to say “Adios” to last year and revving up for the new school year helps me reflect on how grateful I am to be serving the Bonsall school community; exciting things are happening here and it is wonderful to be part of it!


Justin Cunningham