May 3, 2016

Dear Bonsall School Community,

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day!  When you think of all the teachers you have had, which is your favorite?    It was probably the one that inspired you, and brought you to a higher level of learning; they made you feel like putting in the extra effort and it paid off.  Here in Bonsall we appreciate our teachers everyday because they are the most important factor in learning for our students.  Our intention is to have so many great teachers that it will be difficult to choose a favorite and instead be grateful for going to National Teacher Weeksuch a great school full of them.  The quality of Bonsall teachers is getting quite a reputation and applicants for administrative positions are attracted to work with them.  Please let our teachers know how much they are appreciated.  When parents or alumni express their gratitude for having been in the classrooms of certain teachers I always tell those teachers what I heard and it brings them such great joy.

Just as the printing press helped elevate thinking, today’s teachers are participating in a renaissance of learning due to the technology that helps them personalize learning for each student.  Technology’s impact on brain research has brought the science of learning to schools.  As Stanford neuroscientist Melina Uncapher has pointed out, the science of learning will do for our schools what the science of medicine did for our healthcare less than a couple hundred years ago. Revolutionary changes in schools will be comparable to those in our hospitals.  With such tools our teachers are becoming the key to improving the quality of our Nation’s economy, government, military, and of life in general.  Schools will better adapt to serving community needs.

Our wonderful teachers are pioneers of this historic shift, and on behalf of the Bonsall Unified School District’s Governing Board we want to let them know how much they are appreciated by all of us in the Bonsall school community.


Justin Cunningham, Ed.D.


April 25, 2016


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Dear Bonsall School Community,

Congratulations to Bonsall West Elementary’s Allison Slattery, one of our great fourth grade teachers who was selected as Bonsall Unified School District’s 2016 Teacher of the Year!  Anyone that knows her outstanding performance and continual focus on improvement can easily see why Allison’s students consistently perform at higher levels.  Her passion for technology leads to innovative approaches for her students, such as using the popular video game, Minecraft, to create their California Mission projects.  Through sharing the evolution of this project at a recent board meeting, interest in classroom technologies was generated among parents, students and staff alike, and the project became a catalyst for increased productivity in other Bonsall schools and classrooms.   Allison will be introduced to the crowd at the May 6 Padre Game.  We look forward to supporting her there, as well as in October when the San Diego County Teacher of the Year is selected.


Mrs. Allison Slattery and fourth grade students (2015-16)

Bonsall Elementary’s first grade teacher Kelle Pato is also to be commended for receiving thKelle Patoe 2016 Award of Excellence in Reading/Language Arts from the Greater San Diego Reading Association.  She is yet another of the incredibly talented and hard-working educators bringing valuable learning experiences to children of the Bonsall School Community.  I am amazed at what an outstanding teacher she is every time I visit her classroom!




Congratulations also go to Krystal Diaz, our Bonsall Unified School District Classified Employee of the Year!  Krystal has been one of the great supports for our Special EIMG_3552ducation students.  She has the patience of a saint, with a wonderful heart that calms the frustrations felt by many students with disabilities.  Our Special Education program is highly respected because of employees like her.  We also feel she should be selected as the San Diego County Classified Employee of the Year.





Just recently we responded to an invitation from The White House to participate in “Joining Forces: Operation Educate the Educators”, Dr. Jill Biden’s campaign to improve services to military-connected children.  There was great interest by several government agencies in our new “Welconnect” application which has been designed to support new families as they move into our community.  It was a great opportunity to share things that Bonsall, in collaboration with USC and some other school districts in San Diego County, is doing to support military families in their transitions.  Dr. Biden’s focus on increasing the support for our military families was impressive and effective.

Dr. Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Biden and Dr. Justin Cunningham participate in Operation Educate The Educators: Sharing Successes And Setting Sights For The Future as part of Joining Forces initiative event in the South Court Auditorium of the White House April 13, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Bonsall Unified School District was very fortunate to receive scholarship registrations to the powerful ASU GSV Summit held in San Diego this past week.  A few hundred leading K-12 educators from around the world along with a few thousand higher education, venture capitalists, and education technology companies converged to look at the future of education, share ideas, attend sessions and hear keynotes with very influential speakers like Bill Gates, Condoleezza Rice, General Stanley McChrystal, and Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm.  If you are interested in watching some very interesting perspectives, almost all these presentations are archived at this site:

Everyone at the Summit shared an awareness of the demand for, and the incredible return on, learning. It was amazing to see the accelerated pace of change in education, overhear venture capitalists and Ed tech companies striking deals in the hallways, and see how business and technology is creating a very different future for learning than most school districts envision.  To ensure that we adapt, continue to improve, and meet our purpose of “Academic excellence and support for all students to become highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college”, our Bonsall School Community must innovate, think like the venture capitalists, and invest in the future of Bonsall.

With the widening of Highway 76, Bonsall is experiencing much growth, and our school community must participate in making sure this growth is smart, strategic, and shares a common interest in continuous improvement of the Bonsall School Community.  The result will be the attraction of a demographic profile that understands the powerful influence of great schools and continuously adapts to the changing landscape of learning.  Technology’s influence on the pace of change will demand that everyone, even those not in schools anymore, continue to learn.  Our schools will become community centers for lifelong learners.  We will be contacting Bonsall School Community members to join in the design of the future where Bonsall Schools become centers for improving our community’s learning, quality of life, and property values.


Justin Cunningham, Ed.D.

March 17, 2016


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Dear Bonsall School Community,

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Spring is almost here and we’re heading into the last quarter of the school year already!  It’s a very busy time as many of the student art and athletic performances are held, we also have Easter Break, Open House nights at each school site, and the CAASPP summative assessment.  Such student learning data helps compare to last year’s base line, informing our continuous improvement.

I had to share this picture of the bright blooms on the succulents that the Bonsall school community planted last year at Sullivan Middle School.  Such gracious dedication of time and labor by such a wonderfully supportive community is what makes Bonsall such a great place to live.  It’s environments like this that lead to “Academic excellence and support for all students to become highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college.”

In the last blog post we were concerned about a Morgan Hill special education court case where the judge was requiring data from the California Department of Education for all California students.  As it turns out, there were so many parents across the state that sent in their objection letters that the judge has now changed the request for only special education student data.  We do hope the legal outcome pleads to more funding to help students with learning disabilities, because so many of the federal legal requirements aren’t supported with funding necessary to meet them.  Personalized learning is effective, but not cheap.

Personalized learning is an opportunity we want all students in Bonsall to have.  Anytime, any place, any path, any pace, we want to support the development of the brains of Bonsall students to survive and thrive at a higher level.  In an effort to prevent the learning dip so many students have over the summer vacation, we are exploring the possibility of providing an independent study and enrichment summer school in Bonsall.   Soon we will let the community know more about this.

Wednesday we had our first parent meeting to discuss our plans for starting a dual immersion class of Spanish and English. Beginning in kindergarten, and eventually working up through the high school, students in these classes will be taught part of the day in Spanish, and part of the day in English.  This movement toward bi-literacy will help more students access an increasingly competitive global market place.  More importantly, this innovation aligns with brain development; we’ve known for a long time that the brain learns a new language much more effectively before puberty sets in.

In this extraordinary election year, if you want to get a better idea of how we are preparing our students for their civic duties, watch the video link here: BUSD site.  Working hard to give students the abilities to present thoughtful but opposing political views in a civil manner is a focus of our award winning 8th grade US History, and English Language Arts programs.  It’s great to see the students’ appreciation for the work our founding fathers have done and their informed sense of civic responsibility.


Justin Cunningham, Ed D



February 22, 2016


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Dear Bonsall School Community,

The challenges and opportunities just keep on coming!

A federal judge has ordered the California Department of Education (CDE) to release information about students who are attending, or who have attended, any California public school since Jan. 1, 2008. The Notice of Disclosure of Student Records comes in the case of Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association v. California Department of Education.  CDE has notified California school districts and has provided information to post on our website regarding the Morgan Hill case.   Since there is an April 1 deadline for parents to opt-out of having their students’ information disclosed, we took this opportunity to notify families through Parent Link, using voice and email messages, of the right to opt out of disclosure with the forms for doing so available through a link located on our website.

Joseph ClevengerAlso, last Wednesday, within 24 hours of the meet and greet for our new principal at Sullivan Middle School, he asked to rescind his acceptance of the position for personal reasons.  We wished him luck, seizing the opportunity to hire Joseph Clevenger, another outstanding applicant with more middle school experience, bilingual, and advanced technology skills.

We are currently setting up the Leadership Transition Workshop referred to in my last blog post to assist Mr. Clevenger in beginning his role as Principal of Sullivan Middle School.

The challenge of meeting our purpose of “Academic excellence and support for all students to become highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college” is being met by another opportunity; the highly acclaimed “The Leader in Me” program, which TLIMbrings Stephen Covey’s, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to K-12 campuses, is creating one of it’s main training centers in Fallbrook.  With Fallbrook Union Elementary District schools becoming training sites, Bonsall schools will have the opportunity to more effectively use staff development funds for developing desired student attributes without adding expensive travel costs.

A classic example of turning a challenge into an opportunity is to be found in the story of Bonsall parent, John Nunn, who just made the US Olympic Team as seen below in this Times of San Diego article:


Nunn Perserveres, Qualifies Despite Flu

John was a model of perseverance not only for his daughter, but for all of us in the Bonsall School Community.   Please join us in wishing the best for him in his experience as an Olympian representing the United States of America.


Justin Cunningham, Ed D

February 13, 2016


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Dear Bonsall Community,

Bonsall schools continue to improve and turn challenge into opportunity!   We are paying close attention to our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that holds California schools accountable for focused improvement of learning for economically disadvantaged students and English learners.  We just received notice that we have met all our Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs)! These are the accountability measures for progress of English learners.  You might have heard that the Federal Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) is replacing the old No Child Left Behind program (NCLB).  It will phase in over the next year, but it is very interesting that the new Federal funding is following California’s example of combining efforts for economically disadvantaged students and English learners while measuring their growth instead of their status of learning.

In the last couple of weeks we had more challenging news: Sullivan Middle School Principal, Dr. Tim Heck accepted a position with the Perris Union High School District.  We wish Dr. Heck luck in his new endeavor!  The opportunity to select a new principal was very difficult.  From a few dozen applicants, the interview pool of five was outstanding and very difficult to select finalists from.  However, we now have the opportunity to welcome a wonderful new principal to Sullivan Middle School!  This next Tuesday, February 16, 2016, at 4 pm in the library there will be a Meet and Greet for the new principal.  He will not be able to start right away, because of loose ends to tie up with his current employer over the next couple of weeks.  Transitions always present some risk to systems like schools, so until he is able to join us, Director of Student Services, Lori Cummins, will assist as Interim Principal.

During this time, to continue a smooth and positive change of principals, we will have a Leadership Transition Workshop.  This process will be similar to what happens in the Navy when a new ship captain comes on board.  Our school community will have a chance to come together and agree on what this new leader needs to know about SMS to minimize the learning curve.  Selected students, staff, and representative parents will attend this workshop, providing a broader view of SMS culture and priorities.  Later this year, the new principal will also survey all SMS parents and students to get to know the school community even better.

In these times of accelerated change, communication is always a challenge requiring improvement.  Craig Leach, BUSD’s new Learning and Technology Coordinator, is providing the opportunity to add video communication to our website to keep our school community aware of the events we have to support our purpose of “Academic excellence, and support for all students to become highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college.”


Justin Cunningham

December 18, 2015

Dear Bonsall School Community,

Beginning with Thanksgiving’s gratitude for what we’ve been given, to the Christmas spirit of giving to others, to the hope a New Year brings, this holiday season is such a wonderful time for the families of our Bonsall School Community.  The traditions that help develop a sense of bonding to others are a great reason we have such wonderful families and schools. If you had a chance to attend the performances of the Sullivan Middle School’s Show Choirs, it reminds us again how blessed we are to have such wonderful programs.  I must say, singing Christmas carols with the students just might be the best part of serving as your Superintendent.  The joyous excitement of their voices often leads me to stop singing myself so I can enjoy the sound of their voices more.   It’s also great when they sing in their native language as seen below where the Vivian Banks Charter School students are singing in Cupeño. 

Such healthy traditions contribute to our purpose of “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college.”  Supporting our students’ health is a strong catalyst to their learning.  I was wonderfully surprised to hear one of our local dentists, Dr. Randy Carlson, tell me that after providing dental screenings for over 150 second grade students at Bonsall Elementary they found only one student with a cavity!  It appears that the Health and Wellness Policy of reducing the sugary snacks for class parties is beginning to have great results.  Also, I heard the PTA’s Jog-a-thon at Bonsall West Elementary raised over forty thousand dollars!  Bonsall High School’s Interact Club members are serving the community by joining the Bonsall Rotary in the Salvation Army’s bell ringing donation program.  Bonsall is truly an outstanding school community.

Please know how much you are appreciated for all your hard work and interest in continuously improving our school community.  This season is very important in the development of our children so be sure to take the time to help our young people cherish the making of family memories and the bonding among the community.  On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire Bonsall Unified School District, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Justin Cunningham

November 24, 2015

Dear Bonsall School Community,

“To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.”
Winston Churchill

In these times of an accelerating pace of change, particularly in education, I’m reminded of what Mr. Churchill said. However, he never said it would be easy. A big change for the Bonsall Unified School District is the recent retirement/resignations of two very important people, Karen Livingston and Pam Eves. As the Administrative Assistant and Receptionist for the District, Karen was incredible at setting a welcome and professional tone. Of course she had many other duties as assigned, but she was most impressive with the children, as she was able to make them feel so loved and special. Her last day of work was November 13, 2015, and we already miss her. We are very fortunate to have her replacement, Yvonne Harris, who was able to work with Karen for the last couple weeks to ease into this important position.

Pam Eves, the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent and Board of Trustees, will leave in mid December to move up north. Having worked for the District for over twenty years in several capacities, she has been a major force in our momentum of continuous improvement. Any one who knows this District is aware of how sharp and cheerfully wise Pam is. However, few people know just how integral to Bonsall’s success Pam has been. She served the Board of Trustees and Superintendent by creating the packet for Board Meetings, requiring editing similar to publishing a book monthly. The unification of the District required many of these duties to be repeated for the Union District and again for the Unified District for over a year and a half. Pam served as the district expert on categorical programs, and also was the curator of the website. An excellent writer, invaluable team player and problem solver, Pam will be missed deeply.

We are very happy to greet her replacement, Gina McInerny, who will join our District on Dec 1. This will allow her time to work with Pam through the transition. Many Bonsall residents will remember Gina as an outstanding Office Manager when Bonsall West opened, or as the Administrative Assistant to the Principal of Fallbrook High School. Currently she is the Administrative Assistant to the Associate Superintendent for Business at the Fallbrook Elementary School District.

Another personnel change is the creation of the Technology and Learning Coordinator position; we have hired Craig Leach, currently a highly valued technology specialist with the San Diego County Office of Education, who does most of their training for teachers using technology in the classroom. Craig has been delivering online training of digital citizenship courses for Bonsall teachers already. We look forward to his ability to use technology to help greatly increase the rate of student learning.

There have been some changes at the Federal level of education as well; the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan has announced his retirement from the U.S. Department of Education. For the last seven years he has sought to increase the learning of students and he saw standardized tests as one way to measure that, while making schools more accountable. I wonder if it is a coincidence that shortly after Arne Duncan’s announcement, President Obama announced he wanted to reduce the amount of standardized testing. California has already done so by eliminating 2nd grade state testing, as well as the high school exit exam. Currently, standardized testing amounts to a little more than 2% of a student’s time in school. However, such testing has become a political football, and both ends of the political spectrum appear to want to carry it to gain votes.

This why our purpose of “Academic success and support for all students to become highly competitive in their chosen career path and or college”, depends so much on our using success indicator data to ensure we are being true to that purpose. We are grateful for everyone in our Bonsall school community for all they have done and are doing to make that happen. Our changes are opportunities to enhance our continuous improvement. May you all have a joyful time of thanksgiving and increased gratitude for our many blessings.


Justin Cunningham

September 21, 2015

September 21, 2015

Dear Bonsall School Community,

At our last Bonsall Unified School District Board Meeting we discussed the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) results. Considering that many parents will be receiving their student’s individual scores soon, it seemed prudent to provide the grade level, district, county, and state scores for comparison.

       2015 CAASPP % of Met or Exceeded Standards Results

Grade Level ELA Math Science (CST)
3 51 59
4 65 54
5 66 56 78
6 55 60
7 56 58
8 65 48 87
Districtwide Grades 3-8 60 58 83
SD County Grades 3-8 51 42 62
California Grades 3-8 44 34 60

To make this awareness of cyber security district wide we are implementing Digital Citizenship training so our teachers will be able to help students, parents, staff, and community members better protect themselves from cyber attacks and use the Internet in a safe and considerate manner.Please let me conclude by saying that there will be no added links to these blog entries until there is better cyber security on the Internet. Our District has received several cyber attacks that have created many shutdowns and restructuring of our network infrastructure to protect our data and privacy. This made the start of the school year difficult because we have moved so many operations to web based platforms. Many other school districts and businesses have experienced increased criminal cyber activity. Often, the attack occurs through a link or attachment that appears attractive or innocent, and might even come from what appears to be a trusted source. In these future blog entries there might be a URL address given but no hyperlink.Again, after a couple years without ELA and Math state test data, we are delighted to again have a success indicator measure the continuous improvement of our “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college”.Although many people think we did well when compared to neighboring school districts, we believe we can do much better. However, we are delighted to have this baseline data to improve upon. This being the first time taking the new, more rigorous assessment we did fairly well, especially when we compare ourselves to the early scores of the CST; those were far lower than these CAASPP scores.

Recently, when a campus Internet service seemed unusually slow, we audited our secure network and found hundreds of cell phones using the bandwidth. Therefore, we will be implementing a policy that removes cell phones from the secure network on our campuses. The guest network is still available, but we need to protect the bandwidth on the secure network to serve instruction and student learning.
Technology is like any other utility today; we need to use it wisely and model appropriate behavior for our young people. The attributes of character that we addressed in the last blog entry will help Bonsall students to cultivate a continuously improving community for us all to enjoy.


Justin Cunningham

August 31, 2015

Dear Bonsall School Community,

The bomb threat evacuation that took place at Sullivan Middle School just prior to school starting last Friday, August 28, is still being aggressively investigated.  Our debriefing helped us to identify needed changes, particularly in the recent switch from our old Synergy student information system; only the K-6 grade parent phone numbers migrated to the new Aeries system at the district level. We regret any discomfort caused by this glitch and its resulting communication problem, but we are pleased to have had the situation identified and corrected. We are grateful the bomb threat was a hoax; it helped us to realize how important our planning and practice has been. Although we received a few parent complaints about the communication glitch, many comments were received about how quickly and efficiently protocols were implemented at the site.  The students, staff, and families of the Sullivan Middle and Bonsall High Schools, as well as the Sheriff and Fire Departments are all to be commended for a job well done.  School resumed before 9:00 a.m.

After a thorough investigation the Sheriff determined that the student originally seen taken into custody by the Sheriff’s Department had been set up, and he was released to his parent.  Leads are being followed and we are very confident the perpetrator will be found.  However, we hope the perpetrator turns himself in quickly because the more energy and money government authorities spend on the investigation the more severe and long lasting the punishment is likely to be.

When something like this occurs in Bonsall, just like the evacuation during the fires in 2014, the school community here does a wonderful job of coming together to effectively respond. The positive nature of this school community and its focus on “Academic excellence and support for all students to become highly competitive in the chosen career path and/or college” continues to make us an outstanding and continuously improving school community.


Justin Cunningham

August 15, 2015

Dear Bonsall School Community,

Welcome Back! This coming school year looks more promising than ever! The transition through new state standards, their assessment, and a new funding model for California schools all appear to be moving from the storming and forming phase into the norming phase. We are receiving data over the next couple months that help us see were we have best practices and where we need more focus. This sets us back on track to achieving the District Core Elements below, which were updated and approved by the Governing Board last week:


“Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college”


Dedication to Continuous Improvement

Guiding Principles:

  • Develop young people of quality character, knowing that knowledge without depth of heart serves no positive purpose to the community
  • Improve student achievement and student well-being
  • Preserve the trust relationship between the district and the school/community
  • Protect the fiscal security and condition of the district
  • Provide, to the extent possible, equitable salaries, benefits, and working conditions for all employees

LCAP Goals:

  • Create a safe and welcoming environment by building relationships that engage families, students and staff.
  • Student Math MAP scores in Bonsall Unified schools will show a 5 point annual growth in RIT score. High school students will formulate a baseline of growth using the Khan PSAT.
  • Student ELA MAP scores in Bonsall Unified schools will show a 5 point annual growth in RIT scores. High school students will formulate a baseline of growth using the Khan PSAT.

The LCAP was discussed earlier in this blog and the goals will be reviewed again after we get more data on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). We might switch from MAP’s RIT scores to CAASPP scores as the new state assessment gains validity.

Last week’s Board meeting also approved another item that has become part of our Core Elements; something we call our KSAs:

Knowledge, Skills and Attributes of a Bonsall Student


  • Bonsall students demonstrate a mastery of core knowledge across all discipline areas (as defined by state standards).
  • They easily make sophisticated connections and find patterns between and among discipline areas.
  • Students demonstrate the ability to understand, utilizing the knowledge and skills of a discipline to reason, problem-solve, and develop sound arguments or decisions while citing evidence for their stance.


  • Bonsall student writing is clearly and consistently organized, fully developed, fluent, and generally free from errors.
  • They can effectively communicate complex ideas in well organized and engaging oral presentations to a variety of audiences, for many purposes.
  • Students can effectively collaborate with others on complex tasks and can adopt different roles including leadership based on group needs.
  • Students demonstrate mastery of other college and career readiness skills such as creativity, innovation, technology literacy, researching, social interaction, time management, etc.

Attributes (Agency)

  • Bonsall students have a growth mind set and see challenges as learning opportunities, knowing that if they work at something, their performance improves. They regularly refine their work and reflect on their performance.

They also believe that they are capable of achieving at high levels across a broad spectrum of disciplines.

  • They are confident in many settings and demonstrate the attributes of highly effective people including resilience, patience, adaptability, and persistence.
  • Students demonstrate the capacity to be self-directed in making choices that will affect their current and future success while seeking the advice and guidance of trusted allies.
  • Students accept the responsibility of their actions, and although they recognize external circumstances, focus on their own choices and behaviors instead.

As our school community grows we want to keep our focus on not only the academic knowledge and skills but also the attributes that lead our entire Bonsall School Community to “Academic Excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and/or college”.

The drop off and pick up of students for the first few days of school have gone relatively smooth. We so appreciate the patience and thoughtful consideration required in such traffic on these hot days. Having so many adults model understanding and being nice, despite trying situations, is of great benefit to our students.