Tuesday, April 16, 2024

CUSD Update: Robotics Goes District-Wide; Retirees Recognized

The Coronado Unified School District trustees met on Thursday, June 8th where the board approved a contract to run a district-wide robotics program and honored retiring employees for their service and dedication to CUSD.

The robotics expansion–which was approved early in the meeting–represents a continuing effort to create STEM pathways from kindergarten through high school. The Coronado Middle School (CMS) already has an award-winning, highly-competitive robotics team, and while the high school has a robotics club, there is no dedicated robotics team, according to Maria Simon, Public Information Officer for CUSD.

Roberta Lenert, who runs the CMS Robotics Team, will be tasked with implementing and running the new robotics team at the high school level. This expansion will be funded by the General Fund, as well as Coronado Schools Foundation, according to Simon.

Kailani Lenert, who is a junior at CHS, said that STEM has played a major role in her life. She said she is hoping to attend UCSD as a mechanical engineering major.

“With college acceptance rates becoming more and more competitive, it is essential for me and other CHS students to stand out through our applications and extra-curricular activities,” said Lenert. “For STEM applicants, having a robotics team on their college resume is essential.”

A community member who described herself as a former master teacher said that she hopes CUSD will focus on programs that are academic and stimulating such as robotics.

“This is what education is all about,” she said.  “This is remarkable, this is what you should be focusing on.”

Superintendent Karl Mueller recognized six retiring employees for their service to CUSD. He commended registered nurse Nicola McMahon for helping guide the CUSD health team throughout the pandemic, and Robin Nixon, a retiring teacher, athletic director, and “fierce Islander” who “bleeds green.” Mueller also honored Jean Pehrsson, an English teacher and instrumental mental health advocate, as well as Todd Thielman, a staff member dedicated to CMS physical education. Also recognized: Christine Preciado, who spent 18 years teaching in CUSD, including kindergarten at Strand; and Arthur Sawi, P.E. teacher and proud Islander parent.

Long-time employees celebrated their retirement and were honored for their years of dedication to CUSD.

“We can’t thank you enough, we hope that you enjoy your retirement and well-earned, well-deserved restful reflection with an understanding of time well-spent,” said Mueller.

California School Employees Association Chapter President Marshall Redding recognized Amy Statezny, a librarian with Coronado Village Elementary, who will be leaving the district in a family move. He said that she will be remembered for her story time with students on Zoom during the pandemic, and for dressing up as Mary Poppins, Cat in the Hat and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

Luke Johnson, Associated Student Body President, was also in attendance, marking his last appearance with the school board for the year. He was honored with a travel backpack embroidered with an Islander Tiki, and congratulated for his year of service to the board. Johnson said that he thinks CUSD is an “amazing” school district, and emphasized the strong connections between the students, the teachers, and the community. He also thanked CHS principal Karin Mellina for her support and guidance.

“She’s been a true savior over the last few years,” said Johnson. “I’m really going to miss her.”

Johnson was gifted a travel backpack by the school board trustees, and thanked for his year of service.

In action items, the board approved the CUSD Local Control Accountability Plan Federal Addendum Annual Update, which includes strategies on using federal funding in alignment with state funds. Trustee Youngblood noted the decrease in school connectedness as reflected in the Healthy Child Survey.

“There is an issue here, after the pandemic, that seems to persist even two years later,” said Youngblood.

Megan Battle, CUSD Director of Learning, said that the district will be doing a deeper dive as to why students are reporting these feelings.

Youngblood also expressed concern over closing achievement gaps in academics. While Battle said that CUSD is still top in the county in multiple areas, improvement can be viewed as “pretty flat.” She said that it’s really about helping individual students, and using local measures to identify individual needs and supports.

“It will take time to move the needle, we have to give these assessments and these systems a chance to work,” said Battle.

In other board business, the district held public hearings on the proposed budget, the Local Control Accountability Plan and Budget Overview for parents, and the California School Employees Association Initial Proposals for Negotiations for CUSD. There were no public comments on these items.

In board member comments, trustees Mal Sandie and Whitney Antrim discussed the Cyber Committee which is designed to help keep students safe online. Antrim thanked the students for sharing their thoughts and experiences as committee members with staff and members of the community. Antrim said that, unfortunately, it’s not a question of if a student will get bullied online, but when.

“They are all reporting these experiences,” said Antrim. “It can throw someone’s whole academic career off course. They won’t feel safe coming to school, or in their homes, and they will suffer anxiety and depression.”

Later in the meeting, Antrim asked for the board to add a future agenda item on character education in person and online, and a coordinated program to encompass both. She said that proposed state law (AB 873) will most likely mandate digital literacy/media literacy, which includes cyber-bullying, citizenship, artificial intelligence, academic integrity, plagiarism, digital disruptions, etc. She asked staff to present options for the implementation of a comprehensive district-wide program to address these issues and Mueller agreed.

In his superintendent comments, Mueller acknowledged the very first group of six graduating CHS students who are recognized for earning the California State Seal of Civic Engagement. He said the rigorous program has a heavy community service component whereby students engage with the community on subjects that are important to them. The projects include topics ranging from over-fishing to how to support young women in other countries, according to Mueller. He said the program is expected to grow, with eleven students on track to receive the recognition next year at graduation.

Also in the spirit of student voice, Mueller shared that the district is set to pilot its first “superintendent’s council of students” from CHS. This will provide opportunities for the superintendent to engage with other kids and hear about their experiences, according to Mueller.

In public comments, two speakers addressed the ongoing investigation of a CHS administrator who allegedly engaged in social media interaction that failed to comply with California educator standards. He has since been placed on leave. Community member Bill Pate said that such behavior could be grounds for immediate dismissal, while community member Ann Sonne suggested that the district may not be exercising due diligence in hiring processes. She also expressed concerns about some books she called “sexually explicit” that she says she found in the CHS library, and brought excerpts with her.

“Schools are for education, not grooming,” said Sonne.

The next regularly-scheduled school board meeting will be held on Thursday, June 22 at 4pm.


Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuylhttp://islandgirlblog.com/
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]

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