Administrators at La Jolla High and Muirlands Middle School next door say they’re ready for students to return, noting that first day back is always a “big deal” for all concerned.
“I love opening day when everyone returns to school and they come in with this excitement — that feeling like it’s a new year and there are all these wonderful experiences for them during the year where they grow,” said Pat Crowder, interim principal of 91-year-old La Jolla High.
The sentiment is the same for administrators elsewhere.
“The first day of school is pretty exciting. It’s just a lot of positive energy with the endless possibilities and the potential you have for a great new year,” said Chris Hargrave, principal at Muirlands Middle, a La Jolla High feeder school at 1056 Nautilus St.
Hargrave said it’s also the first day of school for parents, adding Muirlands goes out of its way to welcome them, too.
“We provide coffee and there’s tons of parent volunteers who hang around and chit chat,” she said.
When longtime La Jolla High principal Dana Shelburne was transferred this summer, Crowder was brought in to usher in the new year at the school while his replacement is being selected.
“We’ve reopened the position to get a broader range of applicants, so we’re probably looking now to mid-September for an appointment,” Crowder said.
What’s new at La Jolla high this year?
“There are going to be three new social studies teachers,” said Crowder. “We’ve also been working on the master schedule, looking at what courses students need and then developing a schedule that works to meet those needs.”
Crowder said curricular planning for more than 1,650 students is “a mathematical challenge to keep class sizes within the limit of 36 students per class.”
Also new this year at La Jolla High is a robotics course at the ninth-grade level, as well as a course for deaf instruction taught by a sign-language teacher.
Hargrave said something new at the middle school this year is the “Parent Connect Program they can sign up for that allows them to access their children’s grades and attendance records.”
The middle school is also heavily involved in implementing the national common core standards adopted by more than 45 states, which establishes national benchmark standards for reading and math to better prepare students for college or a job.
“Now instead of every state being different, it will all be standardized across the nation,” Hargrave said. “The new standards are very rigorous and should allow our students to perform better, particularly compared to students from other countries. All that is very exciting and it’s very promising for our kids — and for our nation.”
Scott Barnett, SDUSD board member for Subdistrict C, which covers the beaches, said there’s still some negatives with the district’s financial picture heading into the new year.
“The budget shortfall is close to $90 million and we’re going to have to sell about $60 million of real estate for one-time revenues just to balance the budget this year, and the following year it could be $50 million or more,” he said. “It’s not inconceivable we’ll have to go with the pink-slip scenario again in six months.”
But Barnett said there are some encouraging economic developments, with the state economy turning around and the governor and legislature committing more money toward schools. There are also encouraging signs, he said, that SDUSD is fulfilling its educational mission.
“I’m confident we’re going to have a much more accountable system in both the academic and business side of this district,” he said. “I’ve seen more change in the attitude and culture in just the 45 days since Ms. [Cindy] Marten has been superintendent than I’ve seen in the last three years as a board member.”
Barnett said the watchword along the beachfront with schools this year is “change.”
“In the subdistrict, there are 40 new principals,” he said, noting in the La Jolla cluster, besides the change of principal at La Jolla High, principal Jim Solo at Torrey Pines Elementary is also being promoted and replaced.
Heading into the new school year, Barnett stressed the importance of harnessing technology and using it as an educational tool.
“As many as 80 percent of the kids in this district have some kind of device — iPhones, laptops, iPads, etc. — that they bring to school and we need to be flexible and integrate those devices with our school technology,” he said. “We want to make it possible for every student to bring something home with them because learning doesn’t stop when school ends.”
Concerning his outlook for the new school year, Barnett concluded, “We have a lot of challenges, but there’s a lot of exciting things going on.”