Back to the Books: La Jolla schools to start 2015 year with changes

When the school bell rings Sept. 8, La Jolla students will see some new faces and new interfaces: La Jolla High has new administrators, Muirlands Middle has new learning technology and Bird Rock Elementary will have a new temporary principal.

La Jolla’s Cluster Schools — La Jolla High School, Muirlands Middle School, La Jolla Elementary School, Torrey Pines Elementary School and Bird Rock Elementary School — will all focus on “continuity in programming and active learning.”

Through the Cluster Association, formed in summer 2014, the schools have the ability to make decisions for the betterment of the students rather than adhere to what some Cluster members felt was a one-size-fits-all approach from the district.

As previously reported in La Jolla Light, the principals and teachers implemented “vertical teaming” and “horizontal teaming.” With vertical teaming, teachers in the later years of elementary school and early middle school, and teachers of middle school and early high school students, meet to ensure an easy transition between schools. In horizontal teaming, teachers of similar departments and grades meet to make sure the same information is covered so each student is equally prepared to transition to middle school and then high school.

but that’s not all that’s new for 2015-2016, here is a breakdown of what the schools are bringing to the (cafeteria) table this year.

La Jolla High School

Principal Chuck Podhorsky, entering his second year at the helm, adds two new vice-principals to his staff this year: Tony Meeks and Cindy Ueckert.

Meeks has served as interim principal at the district’s community day school program ALBA (Alternative Learning for Behavior and Attitude) and was 2009 teacher of the Year there, Podhorsky said via e-mail. “He has a strong instructional background, experience as a science educator and is GATE certified. He has taught at ALBA, Lincoln, Crawford and Memorial (high schools), which has given him more than 33 years of teaching experience.”

Ueckert, who sat down with La Jolla Light in July, said she is eager to use her background in special education to help meet the needs of all students. She has worked with Morse High in south San Diego; the district’s trace program, an educational support network that helps young adults with mental and physical disabilities, ages 18-22; and as a project resource teacher for the district.

Additionally, the school underwent a Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) review in April, which commended La Jolla High for its learning strategies, and gave recommendations to improve student engagement, support for at-risk students and more.

“I am very proud of our new strong academic focus this school year and focus on the academic success for all students,” Podorsky said. “La Jolla High is such an amazing school, and with continued laser focus on supporting every student to have an amazing instructional experience, we are well on way to becoming the best school in the State of California.”

Muirlands Middle School

Muirlands middle School principal Harlan Klein told La Jolla Light that this year, the school will utilize a Google Apps For Education platform.

Using apps such as Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Slides and more, the students will be able to receive, complete and submit assignments electronically; store their work on a digital cloud system; and have access to a calendar created by their teacher — all through a school-issued e-mail address.

“The idea is to improve communication between teachers and students, share paperless assignments and give them a digital portfolio of work,” Klein said.

because the assignments are shared through the school-issued e-mail and stored on a cloud, they can be accessed and worked on from any mobile device or computer (so much for “my dog ate my homework!”), and shared with the teacher when complete.

“In addition, there is the opportunity to work on group projects or presentations in real time next to each other, at home or in classes,” he said, adding that the work is automatically saved as students work on it to the Google Drive account attached to their e-mail address.

The school maintains all administrative control for the accounts, and through the Google Apps For education program — rolled out in 2014 — students are not exposed to ads while using the platform.

“We’re investing a lot of time and energy into making muirlands a school that gives the students access to the newest technology and opportunity,” Klein said.

Bird Rock Elementary

Former bird rock elementary School principal Sally Viavada took a position at Tierrasanta Elementary School over the summer, and resigned from bre.

She sent a letter to families announcing her decision, which read, in part: “As you can imagine, it has been a very emotional process for me in making this decision, but ... Tierrasanta is my home, and Tierrasanta Elementary was the school I attended throughout my elementary years, so I have a deep connection to the school and the neighborhood. Although I am sad to leave bird rock elementary and the community, I have loved and been honored to be a part of, I am excited about a new challenge in my future.”

She added that the school’s Area Superintendent Mitzi Merino is working to find a new principal to lead bird rock elementary. Viavada’s letter stated this protocol was used so, “thoughtful consideration can oc- cur when selecting a perfect match for years to come.”

A community meeting to answer questions about the process is set for 8:35 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, at bird rock elementary, 5371 La Jolla Hermosa Ave.

La Jolla and Torrey Pines Elementary Schools

Principal Donna Tripi’s office told La Jolla Light La Jolla Elementary School had nothing new to report. Calls to Torrey Pines Elementary School were not returned by deadline.

Of Note to Parents

■ San Diego Unified School District has launched a new website:

■ Students entering grade 7 (and those new to the district in grades 8-12) must now show proof of their Tdap immunization against pertussis (whooping cough) prior to the first day of school. Your student will not be allowed to attend school unless you provide proof of vaccination by submitting a copy of the student’s immunization card to your school health office.

Back-to-School Dates

La Jolla High School 750 Nautilus St.

• Sept. 8 at 7:25 a.m. classes begin

Muirlands Middle School 1056 Nautilus St.

• Sept. 3 at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.: Orientation Day for new and returning families with welcome and

information by Principal Harlan Klein and guided campus tours by the Student LINK Crew.

• Sept. 8 at 7:30 a.m. classes begin

Bird Rock Elementary 5371 La Jolla Hermosa Ave.

• Sept. 3: Sign-up day, 1-4 p.m. Forms:

• Sept. 8 at 8:30 a.m. classes begin

La Jolla Elementary 1111 Marine St.

• Sept. 8 at 8:15 a.m. classes begin

• Sept. 25 at 5:30 p.m. picnic for all LJES families

Torrey Pines Elementary 8350 Cliffridge Ave.

• Sept. 8 at 8:25 a.m. classes begin with the late bell ringing 8:30 a.m. “We expect heavy traffic the first week of school. Please make sure to travel safe by arriving early.”

UC San Diego

• Sept. 24: Instruction begins for fall quarter