January 24, 2020
Newsletter Vol. 01  ::  Issue 06

Message from the Superintendent

Happy New Year! We have made it to a new decade, 2020.
I am excited to be part of a fantastic district, filled with incredibly talented students, dedicated teachers, supportive staff, and engaged parents. Every year, the City of Vista, led by the Vista Chamber of Commerce, the Vista Education Foundation, and Tri-City Medical Center honors a group of people who represent the very best qualities we all value: citizenship, trust, respect, support, and volunteerism. These individuals are named Heroes of Vista. This event, held on February 29, 2020, will honor four new heroes from Vista Unified. 
  • Eric Weirather, Rancho Buena Vista High, is the Arts Teachers of the Year
  • Tonya Leslie, Monte Vista Elementary, is the Technology Teacher of the Year
  • Lucia Rodriguez, Rancho Minerva Middle, is the Classified Employee of the Year
  • Dr. Cheree McKean, Empresa Elementary, is the Administrator of the Year 
Superintendent Key Projects for the Next 90 Days - Please find below a bulleted list of the key projects that I will be focusing my attention on for the next 90 days. I will be highlighting these projects in the monthly VUSD Newsletters and review these projects with each board member during our one-on-one meetings. 
  • Communication
  • Instructional Framework
  • Board Goals 
  • Safety Plan
  • Budget Solution Process
  • Facilities Bond Project 
  • Restructuring Plan for District Leadership
  • School Consolidation Committee
  • All School Showcase 
Dr. Matt Doyle

Facilities Bond Update


Facilities Bond Overview
The voters of our community approved Measure LL in November, 2018. This measure is intended to bring much needed relief to our aging school classrooms and facilities. For a little bit of history, the last school facilities bond approved by voters in Vista was almost 20 years ago - Measure O. This bond was a great success, allowing us to renovate many classrooms and construct new facilities like Foothill Oak Elementary and Mission Vista High School. As the Measure LL facilities bond projects start, Vista Unified is committed to including the community in transparent communications, updates, and forums so that every member of our community is actively engaged in this important school facilities improvement process. To this end, we have developed a communication plan that is easily accessible to all members of the community. This plan includes periodic updates on individual construction projects, detailed reports to the school board, and community forums before and during the construction projects so that the community members may learn about the details of the projects and provide feedback to the bond team. All of this information will be kept on the Facilities Bond webpage.

Continue reading here.

Message from
The Board of Education

The Importance of Special Education
Recently, the budget challenges in VUSD has focused attention on a program that most parents are unfamiliar with in our school district. Special Education is a program required by both state and federal law. Each school district in the United States is required to provide services and supports for students who are identified with a disability. The federal law is entitled the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. In California, the state has a very similar set of laws governing the educational requirements for children with disabilities. 

A school district is required to identify, assess, and provide services to any child with a disability. The budgetary impact of special education is felt by every school in California. The requirement of the state and federal law is quite special; every school district must provide a comprehensive special education program, regardless of costs. This mandate can be very costly for school districts. If a child resides in the Vista school district and requires specialized care or possibly a specialized school, the district is required by law to provide these services. 

In VUSD, we are working to provide as many specialized services as possible within our school system to reduce costs but to also keep Vista children in their home school when at all possible. The district has added specialized programs to address Autism, learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, anxiety, and depression to name a small number. These new programs have helped reduce special education costs and attain the goal of keeping Vista children in our community. 

In the past five years, the district budget for special education has increased significantly. In the SDCOE audit report, special education was cited as a cause of our budget shortfall. While it is accurate that our special education costs have increased over the past few years, we should not immediately look to blame special education for these increases. As the demand by the federal and state government has remained constant for special education services to be provided by school districts, the funding for these programs has not met projected levels for many years. It is estimated that the federal government allocates funding to address the special education mandate at approximately 30% of what was written into the law by Congress. This funding shortfall continues to be a problem for every school district in the state.  In other words, VUSD should get approximately three times the funding for special education as it currently receives. 

VUSD continues to strive to address the needs of every child in our district, including all the children who suffer from some type of disabling condition, which impacts their ability to perform in school and attain the same quality education as their non-disabled peers. 
Rich Alderson
Board Member
Teaching and Learning

Empathy, Problem Solving, and Leadership

I had the pleasure of being in a STEM classroom this past week. I watched 4th grade students form groups and begin the intense Lego build of an automated hammer.  One group of four boys looked to be struggling with the job assignments.  This resulted in one of the boys putting his head down and completely withdrawing from the lesson.  The teacher, keenly overlooking the room, saw this right away and approached to help the situation.  This, however, would not be necessary.  A young man in the group had come up with what he felt was a solution.  He saw that the partnership across the table was not quite working out, so he suggested that they change partners and he’d work with the student who put his head down. He proposed this to the teacher right away and then encouraged his former partner to switch seats.  Minutes later, the group was off and running.  This was the best display of empathy, problem-solving, and leadership I have seen in years, and I know it was part of the lesson plan - not the plan for just this day, but the plan for the entire time the student attends this school.  
- Dr. Matthew Steitz Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent of Educational Excellence


Perkins V Leadership Team

We are looking for participants to join our Perkins V Leadership Team. Perkins V is a Federal Education Program providing nearly $1.3 billion nationally for Career and Technical Education (CTE) and provides materials, supplies, and professional development for Vista’s CTE programs.
A new component of the Perkins Grant is the comprehensive local needs assessment. This requires data-driven decision making on local spending and involves significant stakeholder consultation. This is where you can help.  We need your input into how we grow our programs and spend our Perkins V funds. Please contact robertcrowell@vistausd.org if you would like to participate.
- Robert Crowell, Career Pathways Coordinator

School Spotlights

Breeze Hill Elementary
Breeze Hill Elementary School is proud to be the only AVID Elementary School in Vista Unified. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination)  is a nationwide program that  requires high expectations  for teachers and students, collaboration in all classrooms, and a culture of equity and fairness. More than 90% of the Breeze Hill staff has completed AVID training and implements instructional and organizational strategies in the classroom beginning with the youngest students. Additionally, Breeze Hill is continuing to forge a path in working to personalize learning experiences for students. Students set their own goals for learning and work toward completion of those goals throughout the year. Finally, Breeze Hill offers a variety of enrichment and intervention activities outside of the school day. Our Coyote College is offered to students in grades 2nd-5th who need a little extra practice in reading or math. Other offerings include Breeze Hill Conservation Club, Art Club, Cooking Club and Choir to name a few.
- Lori Higley, Principal of Breeze Hill Elementary
Grapevine Elementary
Three years ago, Grapevine adopted the Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) with a focus on reducing student suspensions and increasing school attendance. We established a PBIS Team responsible for laying the foundation, and as a result, the PBIS Grizzly Way was created, with four expectations for all: Show Respect; Make Responsible Choices; Solve Problems; and Be Safe. We live by this every day, and three times a year, students and teachers review these expectations during the Station Rotations in different areas of the school: lunch line, playground, dismissal, etc. The purpose is to reinforce the Grizzly Way and to practice and live by the Grizzlies expectations to be respectful, responsible, problem-solving, and safe students at Grapevine Elementary. We are very proud of the Grizzly Way!
- Rafael Olavide, Principal of Grapevine Elementary
Vista Academy

Learning Through Inquiry and the Arts
Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts is an arts-integrated, International Baccalaureate (IB) magnet elementary school. With our vision to be the model of educational excellence through an innovative, arts-integrated academic community, we pride ourselves in providing unique learning opportunities based on agency, solving real-world problems, and taking action for positive change. In addition to our inquiry-based, internationally-minded focus, our students also participate in specialized weekly classes in Dance, Drama, Music, STEAM, and Spanish from certificated teachers in those areas. Our classroom teachers collaborate with our arts specialists to encourage learning through the arts across the curriculum to reach rigorous state and common core standards. Our specialists also offer many after school conservatories for students to dive deeper into the arts. Vista Academy’s goal is to develop the intellectual, artistic and emotional potential in EVERY child. Our application window for the 2020-21 school year is open through February 21st at 4:30 PM. Magnet applications are available HERE.  Please visit www.vapa.vistausd.org for more information on our school program and to schedule a tour. 
- Benjie Walker, Principal of Vista Academy of Visual & Performing Arts
Mission Vista High

Mission Vista Offers Innovative Data Science Math Course
Data Science, an innovative third-year math course, was offered at MVHS for the first time during the fall term, and our students loved it.  The cornerstone of the class was a personalized project in which students spent months collecting data to answer their own questions including, “How does inflation impact the movie industry?” Students gathered data, drew conclusions, wrote a research paper, and ultimately showcased their work to peers across campus. Courses like Data Science were highlighted on the popular Freakonomics Podcast, and Education Week recently interviewed MVHS teacher Joy Straub about the outstanding work that is happening in her Data Science classroom.
- Jeremy Walden, Principal of Mission Vista High School
Family Engagement

Family Connections

It is 2020. and we are already beautifully busy! The Magnet schools and intradistrict transfer application is open, and we are happily supporting parents with that and preparing for early TK/Kindergarten registration in March. We are excited to begin our family “Habits of Mind” dinner workshop series on March 18th. You can get more information or sign-up with a Liaison. We are also collaborating with community partners to get out the word about the 2020 Census and to ensure everyone has access to filling out these forms. Please email FamilyEngagement@vistausd.org for any questions or to share ideas for family engagement!  
                       -  Jacqueline "Kiki" Bispo, Family and Community
                         Engagement Network Lead

Bullying Series - Article 4

Characteristics of Bullied Students
VUSD schools are committed to preventing bullying.  Research suggests two categories of bullied children: submissive/passive victims or provocative/bully victims. Passive victims may be quiet, cautious, sensitive and insecure. They may be physically weaker than peers, have few friends and may find it easier to associate with adults, and if female, physically mature earlier. Provocative/ bully victims share characteristics with both bullied children and students who bully others.  They may behave in ways that cause irritation and attract negative attention. Children with disabilities, special health needs, who are obese or identify as LBBTQ+ are at higher risk of being bullied. No child should ever be blamed for being bullied. Our schools have counselors, nurses, psychologists, school social workers, and partnerships with Vista Community Clinic, NC Lifeline, Rady’s and Palomar Family Counseling Services to provide early intervention for victims of bullying.
Next time… What motivates children who bully?
-  Michelle Walsh, Student Support Services Coordinator

Business Services

Vista Unified Mid-Year Budget Solution Process

The budget solution process that started in October 2019 included two important tasks aimed at addressing the budget challenges facing Vista Unified (HERE is a brief historical perspective). The first task was to address the need for reductions on the projected budget for the 2020-21 school year.  The school board completed this process with the approval of the First Interim Budget on December 12, 2019. This budget Identified more than $13.7 million in budget reductions. The First Interim Budget was submitted to the San Diego County Office of Education and approved with a qualified budget status (Official Approval). A qualified budget status means that the district may not meet its financial obligations for the current fiscal year or two subsequent years.  The second task was to address the current year budget shortfall of $5.35 million (originally projected at $4 million) through a mid-year budget solution process. The mid-year budget solution process will be completed during the School Board Special Meeting scheduled for January 30, 2020. In preparation for the special board meeting, the school principals are working collaboratively with the district staff to develop a set of budget solutions that will address the budget shortfall while minimizing the impact on teaching and learning. One example of the adjustments will be to identify various expenditures that can be shifted from unrestricted funding accounts to more restricted accounts. This approach will free up unrestricted funding to be used for budget reductions while retaining the actual expenditures that the schools need to maintain programs. Other examples of mid-year budget reductions are to identify programs and purchases that can be postponed for the next school year and to identify unfilled staffing positions that may be placed on hold until the next year. We will, however, be filling all staffing vacancies that work directly with students. The school principals will also be engaging their School Site Councils (SSC) in discussions about proposed budget solutions in an effort to keep the reductions as far away from the classroom as possible. During this process, we will post a detailed record of funding reductions that impact each school. Please refer to the VUSD Budget Solutions webpage for more detailed information. 
- Ami Shackelford, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services
Facilities Improvements
RBV Gym Expansion: this project is starting to come together with stucco being applied to the outside and roofing being installed. We are nearing completion and anticipate the project to be completed in February.      
RBV Softball Field Title IX:  this project is fully designed and we are awaiting board ratification. Once the project is approved, the construction schedule can be determined. We are hopeful that construction can commence in March or April for project completion in late 2020.

Beaumont New Classrooms: this project is in the same state as Bobier with a restart and new direction. We are working with the architectural team and site staff to finalize drawings later this year for construction beginning in 2021.

Lake/Madison Pedestrian Pathway: this project is in the early design stage with initial meetings scheduled with the architects and staff.

Vista High New Classroom Buildings: this project is in the early design stage with more site input being gathered. We are anticipating completed and DSA-approved drawings in late 2020 for construction beginning in 2021.

Vista Magnet Pool Modernization: this project is moving forward with concrete pour to complete the area around the pool. Due to weather delays, it appears the final completion will roll over into February.        

Bobier New Classrooms: this project has restarted the design phase with new direction, and the architect will be working with engineers to complete the drawings. We are looking for completed and DSA (Division of State Architects) approved drawings toward the end of this year, for construction beginning in 2021.

California Avenue Restroom Modernization: this project has already been designed and submitted to DSA for review and comments. We are looking to respond to DSA comments and have fully vetted drawings in March for bidding, with construction beginning in June as soon as students leave for the break.

Casita Elementary Restroom Modernization: This project has already been designed and submitted to DSA for review and comments. We are looking to respond to DSA comments and have fully vetted drawings in March for bidding, with construction beginning in June as soon as students leave for the break.

Rancho Minerva Landscape and Fencing: this project is nearing the end of the design phase and submitted to DSA for review. We are looking at completed drawings ready for bidding in March or April, with anticipated construction starting in June as soon as students leave for the break.

Vista High Softball Field Title IX: this project is fully designed, and plans have been submitted to DSA for review. We anticipate complete drawing within the next 2 months and construction able to start some time after April.

Vista Magnet Front Entry Modification Design-Only: this project is proceeding with design work and gathering site input. We are looking at having DSA submission of the plans later this year. The construction funding for this project is not allocated until phase 2.

Read here for additional bond project pictures and solar project updates.
-  Ami Shackelford, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services
1234 Arcadia Avenue, Vista, CA 92084

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All rights reserved.


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