Myriad changes greet students returning to Point Loma Cluster
by Dave Schwab
Sep 04, 2013 | 2962 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students returning to the Point Loma Cluster of schools will find many new changes afoot, including new administrators, construction projects and programs.                                                                                Photo by Don Balch I The Beacon
Students returning to the Point Loma Cluster of schools will find many new changes afoot, including new administrators, construction projects and programs. Photo by Don Balch I The Beacon
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Now that Labor Day has come and gone, students in the Point Loma Cluster of schools are back in class, having turned the page on another summer and beginning a new academic calendar year.

The Point Loma school cluster includes Point Loma High School, Correia and Dana middle schools, as well as Silver Gate, Cabrillo, Dewey, Loma Portal, Sunset View and Ocean Beach elementary schools.

Principals at Point Loma High and Ocean Beach Elementary said they’re delighted students have returned, noting they have much to look forward to in the new school year.

Hans Becker, the new principal at Point Loma High who served for five years as vice principal, talked about his educational philosophy.

“I told staff what we focus on becomes our reality, that the things we value, what’s important to us, is what expands and grows us,” Becker said.

Becker discussed how his school intends to put that theory into practice.

“As educators, we look at what we do and what’s working, and we try to amplify that, replicate that and make it systemic,” Becker said.

Becker said the 89-year-old high school continues to be on the progressive front.

“We aren’t afraid to innovate,” Becker said. “We have a ‘Whatever it takes attitude’ toward students from teachers to administrators, right down to the lunch lady. We do whatever it takes for a child to be successful.”

What’s new this year is that the high school’s motion-picture industries facility is now completely finished.

“We have a program designed for kids on how to study, create and analyze film,” Becker said. “There’s nothing like it to this scale on the West Coast.”

Looking ahead, Becker said he’s excited to be a new principal “serving the students, supporting the staff and working with the community.”

Another new principal this year, Marco Drapeau, has taken the reins at the 104-year-old Ocean Beach Elementary School at 4741 Santa Monica Ave. He said he’s building on a strong arts and science foundation at the neighborhood school, which is closer to the ocean than any other San Diego Unified School District site.

“We have a very strong arts program with visiting artists coming in to help kids learn about dance and visual and performing arts,” said Drapeau. “Our school also takes fourth-graders on a sea camp, where they learn a little about ocean biology. They actually get in the water.”

The school’s artistic bent is also reflected in many colorful murals, tiles and other artwork.

Drapeau said Ocean Beach Elementary has a reputation for strong community support of the school.

“A lot of families that could live anywhere choose to live and be involved in OB, so they go out of their way to support us,” said Drapeau. “Our PTA is very strong and very involved in working with us to provide the best they can for the students.”

From an infrastructure standpoint, Drapeau said the school has a Promethean high-tech board, as well as a state-of-the-art computer lab.

Drapeau said the school’s population is on the rise and it’s anticipated there will be close to 480 students this year in grades transitional K through fourth.

Drapeau also credited his staff for going “above and beyond” in doing their jobs. He said many instructors at the campus have been there many years and that many of their own children go to the school — a clear sign, he said, that they “feel confident about the school.”

The principal credited the school’s staff for finding ways to “service those students who have different types of emotional needs.”

Scott Barnett, SDUSD board member for Subdistrict C that covers the beach areas, said there are 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. The following year, it could be $50 million or more,” Barnett said. “It’s not inconceivable we’ll have to go with the [teacher] pink-slip scenario again in six months.

But Barnett said there are some encouraging developments with the state economy turning around and the governor and legislature committing more money toward schools. Barnett said there are encouraging signs, too, that the district 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 have in years.”

Barnett said the watchword this year for the Point Loma cluster, as with most others districtwide, is change.

“In Point Loma, we have two new principals at Dana and Correia middle schools, and a new principal for Point Loma High School,” he said. “We have a $10 million sports complex the voters approved at Correia Middle School. There’s a lot of exciting things coming forward in infrastructure, technology and athletics, as well as deferred maintenance, which has been ignored for so long.”

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,” Barnett said. “We want to make it possible for every student to bring something home with them because learning doesn’t stop when the school day ends.”

Coastal schools, including Point Loma’s, are part of the second-largest school district which serves more than 132,000 students in 223 educational facilities. The district includes 116 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, 26 high schools, 44 charter schools and 14 atypical/alternative schools. SDUSD is also one of the most diverse, representing more than 15 ethnic groups and more than 60 languages and dialects.
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