Dear Bonsall School Community,

In our last blog the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) was addressed and although it appears we have reached our goals for this year, there is a change in the Plan for the next year. This seems appropriate given that our philosophy is “Continuous Improvement”, but this is a very compelling change. As described in the Superintendent’s Report to the Board of Trustees at the May 12, 2015 Board Meeting, I had a bit of an epiphany after spending time listening to our students describing what helps them the most in their learning experience, and listening to our parents’ views of their child’s learning experience.

I recently observed a panel of Bonsall High School (BHS) students being interviewed by board members from South Carolina that were interested in also starting a New Tech Network high school. When the students were asked a list of questions about their perspective of what made a great high school, how it could be improved, and why they chose to attend this one, their answers invariably began with the great relationship they had with their teachers; students felt cared for and supported in their quest, making the hard work much more attractive. Conversely, I heard from middle school parents at a recent PTSA meeting, explaining how the emphasis on rigor was creating anxiety in their children.

The epiphany occurred when I realized our District’s vision of “Academic Excellence and support for all students to become highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college” didn’t require the alignment of rigor, relevance, and relationship in any certain order to achieve that vision and our LCAP goals to be met. I realized that when relationship is first, relevance, and then rigor is much easier to improve. As a result, last year’s LCAP Goal 3, “Create a safe and welcoming environment by engaging families and students “, will become Goal 1, receiving the emphasis it deserves. It doesn’t make the other two academic goals less important but it does improve the chance of reaching and exceeding them.

When Sullivan Middle School was presented the Civic Learning Award of Distinction by Justice Judith McConnell, and then also by State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, as pictured below, it became very obvious that the teachers pictured, English Language Arts Teacher, Megan Foxley, and Social Science Teacher, Joel Davis, developed relationships with their students that enabled them to earn such an outstanding award.

Civics Award

L to R: Dr. Justin Cunningham, Superintendent; Dr. Heck, Principal; Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent; Megan Foxley, Teacher; and Joel Davis, Teacher.

This distinguished award was also made possible through technology; students in these teachers’ classes use computers to research primary sources such as the writings of our founding fathers, rather than just read about them in textbooks, or do worksheets about them.

As described in previous blogs, the LCAP requires increased support of learning for low income, English learner, and foster youth. Summer school intervention programs for English learners are being designed to increase such support. Our hiring lately has put an emphasis on bilingual educators and we have been very fortunate to have several join our Bonsall School Community. This will lead to a much better development of our relationship with English learners in our Bonsall School Community. Also, we are now exploring the possibility of developing dual immersion classes in our elementary schools, where instruction would take place in English and Spanish.

Exciting things continue to happen in Bonsall. At the last Board meeting we approved a refinancing of the current bond that will save our taxpayers over $400,000. Also, the High School has received an initial Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation and we have been approved by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) to participate in athletics. The Bonsall Community has an incredible opportunity to create a high school designed for our students’ future, attracting a demographic profile that demands schools that can prepare students for the many Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs being created in North San Diego County. Rarely does a school community have such an opportunity to improve its quality and property values the way Bonsall does!

Yours,

Justin Cunningham

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