To the Bonsall School Community,

Happy Valentine’s Day! This week I had the pleasure of observing kindergarten classes and was again impressed with the great teachers we have.  On Wednesday, many of the classes had Valentine’s parties going on and several teachers expressed concern that I was observing on a day when academic learning wasn’t happening.  I had to remind them that I was delighted with the learning that was going on; our brains are always learning, and a celebration of caring for others is wonderful for them to experience.  The brain’s development of social skills and building relationships is often referred to as a “soft skill”, but it is critical to our ability to survive at a higher level.

I hope to blog more often because I thoroughly enjoy communicating with the Bonsall School Community, but the tyranny of the urgent has made it difficult lately.   It’s great to have today off to be able to attend to things that are very important but not urgent.  Unification has elevated urgency levels due to its organizational and legal issues; creating Bonsall High is exciting but time consuming, and like all school districts we are diligently implementing new standards, assessments, and the new State funding model, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).

To help implement the LCFF, last month the State Board of Education approved a template for a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that school districts must submit to the California Department of Education by June 30, 2014.  This three-year plan holds districts accountable to improve learning for all students, particularly English learners, socio-economically disadvantaged students, foster youth, and students with disabilities.   Engaging the school community in development of this plan is important so everyone understands how this plan is addressing the needs of all students and how its effectiveness will be measured.

Giving the school community a voice in the development of the plan is very important and will happen in several ways. Bonsall schools will all be represented in a Local Control Accountability Plan Committee.  I will address the PTAs from each school so they can select a representative, the District English Learner Advisory Committee will select representation, students and community members will be surveyed, and community forums to discuss the strategies to implement the plan will be held.  All districts in California are required to have a similar process and are starting from a variety of performance levels but I feel very fortunate to work with Bonsall schools because the timing is wonderful!  Bonsall Schools are already high performing, but the student populations particularly addressed by the LCAP are exactly the student groups that are growing here, and a strategic focus of support for them aligns perfectly with our purpose statement of, “Academic Excellence and Support for All Students to Be Highly Competitive in Their Chosen Career Path and/or College.”

Bonsall High School is forming and excitement is growing for the most innovative non-charter high school in San Diego County.  The opportunity to create a high school that is developed by and for the people attending it is extremely rare!  Colleges and employers are looking for extraordinary people to join them and Bonsall High students will be able to show experience with creative innovation and teamwork that other high schools can’t match.  Other high schools are transforming themselves and struggling with the changes of new college and career-ready standards and assessments. Bonsall High doesn’t have to change; it is a new creation aligned to the future.   Anyone with experience in the education profession can tell you that the higher the grade level the tougher it is to effect change.  The punch line to the joke, “How many professors does it take to change a light bulb?“ is: “Change?”.

Bonsall doesn’t have to transform itself from the last century’s model for high school; it is forming itself for the future, not the past.  Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, civility, and creativity, all with a global perspective, are the 21st century skills needed by employers.  These are exactly the skills that Bonsall High students will develop as they create a high school formed by students and adults using those skills.  For example, last month, the Board of Trustees approved a proposal to form an athletic partnership with Fallbrook High that would have Bonsall High students participating with Fallbrook High students.  Bonsall is still paying for the bonds that built the Fallbrook High athletic facilities, but the proposal also includes Bonsall High paying Fallbrook High for costs associated with Bonsall High student-athletes.  With Fallbrook UHSD’s fiscal concerns due to declining enrollment and transfers to Mission Vista, and Bonsall USD’s problems related to creating an athletic program from scratch, it seems a win-win to maintain the community and business mutual benefits between Bonsall and Fallbrook. After checking with both the San Diego and State CIF officials, the proposed athletic partnership is unprecedented and legal. Such collaborative models depend on a cooperative mindset; much like the “prisoner’s dilemma”: although cooperation seems counterintuitive, it actually benefits both sides.

Education is going through a renaissance; Bonsall’s teachers won’t compete with Google or YouTube, they will be the curators showing students how to use such tools to learn, solve problems, and create innovative solutions to needs not only in our community but also across the globe.  The future of the Bonsall school community is an exciting exploration of possibilities and innovative solutions.


Justin Cunningham, Ed D