Monday, June 27, 2022

CUSD Update: Teachers and Heroes Celebrated, Director of Special Programs and Public Information Officer Positions Made Permanent

The Coronado Unified School District school board trustees met on Thursday, April 21 at District Offices where the board approved a motion to make two district positions permanent, the Director of Special Programs and the Public Information Officer. But not before the board celebrated district certificated staff members of the year, two local heroes and a police officer for her work in the schools.

Coronado High School student Nevaeh Henrich was honored for receiving the Girl Scouts USA Medal of Honor for playing a key role in saving the life of her best friend’s mom. According to Niamh Foley, Director of Student Services, the award is the highest and rarest honor bestowed by the organization, with only three other San Diego Girl Scouts receiving the award in the last ten years.

Nevaeh Henrich, standing with Superintendent Karl Mueller, was recognized by CUSD for helping save someone’s life.

“Nevaeh truly represents a stellar CUSD citizen,” said Foley. “You have the knowledge and the skills necessary to excel in anything you wish to do, and you have the confidence to achieve those goals.”

Grace Del Bagno, an officer with the Coronado Police, was celebrated for her role as School Resource Officer and named a CUSD Community Champion. She was recognized for establishing strong, positive relationships with the students and encouraging empathy and kindness. She was also recognized for helping students create service projects to benefit the community, including adding books to the little free libraries and feeding the homeless.

Administrators thanked Officer Grace for connecting with students and encouraging kindness.

The board also recognized the 2021-2022 Certificated Staff Members of the Year.

CMS Teacher of the Year Kevin Ramirez with Principal Brooke Falar and Superintendent Mueller.

This included Kevin Paiz-Ramirez, a sixth grade science teacher and science department leader, as well as ASB teacher and co-advisor of the Coronado Optimist Club Junior Optimist at CMS. According to CMS Principal Brooke Falar, he is always encouraging kids to use their voices and speak out when they get excited about something in the world of science.

Village Teacher of the Year Risé Cooley with Superintendent Mueller and Principal Dr. Heidi Bergener.

Risé Cooley, third grade teacher at Village Elementary was also honored. According to Dr. Heidi Bergener, Village Elementary School Principal, Cooley goes above and beyond making learning fun in her warm, welcoming classroom full of class pets. She delivers top-notch instruction while creating curious learners that hang on her every word, according to Bergener.

Strand Elementary Principal Jenny Moore with Strand Teacher of the Year Jodi Judd and Superintendent Mueller.

Strand Elementary Principal Jenny Moore celebrated teacher Jodi Judd. Not only has Judd been teaching for more than 28 years, but she is a military child herself, so she understands how to support her students and create opportunities for each student to feel successful. (Roughly 70% of students at Strand Elementary are from military families.) She was also instrumental in helping kids at Strand get the technology they needed for academic achievement at school, according to Moore.

CHS Principal Karin Mellina with CHS Teacher of the Year Bill Lemei and Superintendent Mueller.


Finally, William Lemei, AP college prep physics teacher, was recognized for being Coronado High School’s Teacher of the Year. Superintendent Karl Mueller said that Lemei is an “amazing teacher and colleague who shares his wisdom openly to make the world a better place.” According to Karin Mellina, CHS Principal, students say that Lemei is a “passionate role model” and “the best teacher they’ve ever had.” He “exudes positivity and humanity” in every interaction, according to Mellina.

Trustee Bruce Shepherd said that it’s important for the community to remember that CUSD is populated with thoughtful and dedicated teachers who are invested in their students learning, and teachers that can change lives.

“There are issues in our community that run through public education and they divide us, or they cause people to get upset, or they cause people to challenge…which is fine … but I also think it’s important that people know that our schools are populated with teachers with this kind of talent and judgment, and the ability to implement top-notch education in our classrooms,” said Shepherd.

Also recognized was Trustee Whitney Antrim, who, according to Mueller, assisted a pedestrian who was walking mid-span on the Coronado Bridge. She was asked him if he needed help, and the man got into her car, where she was able to take him to Coronado where he could receive support and services.

“Acts of service and kindness take place daily by citizens of our school community, but compassion can often go unnoticed,” said Mueller. “I wanted to thank Trustee Antrim for the compassion and care she showed, and for the strength and courage the moment took.”

In other board business, as a part of the Superintendent’s long range plan update, a motion was made to change the two positions of Director of Special Programs and Public Information Officer from temporary to permanent. According to Trustee Dr. Helen Anderson Cruz, the two positions have added tremendous value to the district. Trustee Esther Valdes-Clayton reiterated that Shane Schmeichel, in his position of Director of Special Programs, was able to bring in more than double the funding from the previous year. The motion passed.

In an update from Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca, the installation of more security cameras was discussed, but he said more analyzation of a current proposal was needed before the district moved forward, as the current quote topped $230k.

“If it’s something we need, we ought to get it, but this price seems outrageous,” said Trustee Shepherd. “We’d like to look at this and get a recommendation back at a future meeting.”

Next, Senior Director of Learning Dr. Megan Battle brought a report regarding CUSD’s pandemic response as it relates to academic achievement. She shared existing interventions with details and timelines as well what assessments, data and metrics the district is using to measure academic achievement for individual students. (This report can be viewed in its entirety here.)

“Using multiple measures to assess student achievement is critical,” said Dr. Battle. “In order to improve student outcomes, it’s critical that our teachers have tools to use that show where students are in point A, at the beginning of the school year, where they are coming in, and how we are going to get them to point B, which is at grade level or above. And there are check points along the way to make sure that students are making progress and they aren’t falling off the tracks.”

She said that prior to the pandemic and still today, CUSD uses a variety of measures to make growth comparisons, adjusting curriculum and instruction to meet students’ needs. She shared that the district was able to procure a new tool with COVID money called Common Lit, which is a universal tool used to gather high school metrics.  Using the Common Lit data reports, teachers can immediately identify which students are high performers on a particular standard and which students may need more support or intervention.

The Common Lit assessment is an estimate of performance and serves as a checkpoint with teachers in conjunction with other assessments.

“The tiered supports are how we are going to get these struggling students back to grade level. We can highlight, especially using this new assessment, which specific standard this student is struggling with, then we can hone in on it, and give them the materials and instruction they need to improve,” said Dr. Battle.

The next school board meeting will be held on Thursday, May 19th at 4pm.


Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuyl
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]