Monday, February 26, 2024

CUSD Update: Silver Strand Shines in Standardized Testing; Details on New Ethnic Studies Requirement

Silver Strand Elementary students with learning differences showed big gains in state standardized testing, according to Principal Jennifer Moore. She, along with Silver Strand Elementary Assistant Principal Alison Keehan, shared testing results for the California Assessment and Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) at the Coronado Unified School District school board meeting on Thursday, January 18th in the school’s annual report.

For students with learning disabilities, those who met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts (ELA) jumped from 23% in 2020-2021 to 64% in 2022-2023. When it comes to math, scores climbed from 14% to 60.71%.

“You are to be commended, you and your staff, for what you have accomplished at Silver Strand,” said Trustee Scot Youngblood.

CAASPP testing results for students with learning differences at Silver Strand.

Keehan said that she credits the school’s special education program expansion for the jump in test scores. The school, which uses the inclusion model, encourages co-teaching and collaboration with the aid of a program specialist and several registered behavior technicians. The staff has also grown more knowledgeable about test-taking accommodations.

“There has been a revolution in special education since I began working at Silver Strand,” said Moore.

Alison Keehan and Jennifer Moore describe the special education program expansion at Silver Strand.

In addition, students in general education also showed significant score increases in math and held steady in ELA. Science scores, however, represented an area of potential growth, showing a drop from 78.6% who met or exceeded standards in 2021-2022 to 68.9% in 2022-2023.

CAASPP testing data for ELA and math.

Moore called Silver Strand Elementary a “special gem” within the district as it’s located on Federal land, with the bay on one side and the beach on the other. She said the school’s special traditions, like Friday flagpole ceremonies, along with the school’s smaller size—two classes per grade—encourage familiarity and interaction. More than 73% of kids attending Silver Strand are military-connected, and the school is designated a Purple Heart School for supporting those families. Silver Strand is also a Title 1 school, which means it gets extra funding that it uses for intervention and reading specialists, according to Moore.

New Ethnic Studies Class Rollout

In her Learning Department Report, Dr. Megan Battle shared district plans for implementing a new ethnic studies class, a new state-mandated graduation requirement. Assembly Bill 101 requires that students complete a semester-long ethnic studies class in order to graduate in 2029-2030, and offers $27,000 in funding for curriculum development and instructional resources.

The class will focus on African American, Chicana/ox and Latina/o/x, Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islander studies as designated by the mandate. The class will provide “an opportunity for students to learn of the histories, cultures, struggles, and contributions to American society of these historically marginalized peoples.” As described by the California Department of Education, the courses will be rooted in key themes of identity, history and movement, systems of power and social movements and equity.

The CHS nine-week ethnic studies class will roll out for the 2024-2025 school year as a requirement for freshmen. As part of the 4×4 schedule, the class will be implemented in conjunction with a freshmen “Islander Experience” class that includes topics such as four-year-planning, media literacy, mental health education and financial literacy, according to Battle.

In addition, the district will also offer an 18-week Ethnic Literature course for 11th graders.

Budget Concerns

Budget woes continue to plague the district after the updated Governor’s Proposed Budget included a drastic downward revision of the estimated cost of living adjustment (COLA). According to Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca, the COLA was previously estimated at 3.9% and is now at .76%. This equates to roughly $1.1 million less in funding the district will receive in the 2024-2025 school year.

Trustee Mal Sandie referenced the new projections, along with the rising costs in health insurance and employer contributions, and said the district “has some decisions to make.”

Goodbyes to Two Longtime Teachers and a Classified Staff Member

Earlier in the meeting, the Superintendent Karl Mueller recognized the years of service and retirement of teachers Davin Heaphy and Bill Lemei, along with Ben Bernardy who works in maintenance and operations.

Mueller said that Heaphy, who began working in the district in 1995, gave some of the most engaging classroom lessons he’d ever seen. He commended Heaphy for his passion, his spirit and his courage. Heaphy thanked the district for allowing him to serve the students in the community for more than 29 years.

“I couldn’t have dreamt, or scripted or crystal-balled a greater career for myself,” said Heaphy. “I feel insanely blessed.”

Mueller said that Bill Lemei, affectionately called Gandolf, is known for modeling gratitude and responsibility, and always giving back. He said Lemei always encourages those around him to think critically, whether that’s in the context of the classroom or life in general.

“He makes individuals better human beings by being in his presence,” said Mueller.

Bill Lemei and Davin Heaphy were recognized for their service.

The district also said goodbye to Ben Bernardy, a critical member of maintenance and operations team. Mueller said Bernardy is a jack-of-all-trades who “always had a smile on his face,” and always ensured that students had a safe and supportive learning environment.

Two CHS Students Honored for Fundraising

Jack and Grace Elardo were celebrated by the district for their stellar fundraising efforts over the years. According to Michelle Gilmore, Coronado Schools Foundation CEO and President, the brother-and-sister team have raised more than $36,000 for Coronado schools. Whether it’s hand-making reindeer at Artisans Alley or running snack bars, the CHS students are always looking for creative ways to support the district, according to Gilmore. Jack and Grace were given the “Volunteer of the Year Award” for the Coronado School’s Foundation.

Student Report

CHS Associated Student Body President Wyatt Riebe shared updates on the four school sites, noting that Village Elementary is prepping for the upcoming solar eclipse. He said that Silver Strand had their APEX Fun Run, and also celebrated a new “merch drop” of Silver Strand gear.

CMS is getting ready for its spelling bee on January 25, and CHS is wrapping up Spirit Week in addition to welcoming a new assistant principal, Tim Kusserow.

A Book Report

In his board member comments, Trustee Sandie thanked a community member for giving him a gift at the last board meeting, The New York Times bestselling book, “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” He said the book was a thoughtful gift and he read it over winter break. Sandie shared that the book describes the author’s struggle for inclusion and for expressing who he was.

“I think it’s a great book for someone who is struggling with these issues, so thank you,” said Sandie.

The next school board meeting will be held on Thursday, February 15 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]

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