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Super Ibarra showcases district’s progress in annual address

Supt. Ibarra interviews four students from Conway Elementary School.

Declaring “The state of the district is strong,” and emphasizing his brief but potent goal for success, “all means all,’ Supt. Dr. Luis Rankins-Ibarra’s 3rd annual State of the District Address Monday morning was a celebration of the progress the district’s schools and students have made in the past year. 

The morning’s festivities were introduced by the high energy of the Rose Elementary School’s dance troupe, Ignite. 

Introductions included Leila Sackfield, deputy superintendent, who asked current and past school board members, Mayor Paul McNamara and city councilwoman Olga Diaz and other city officials to rise and take a bow. 

Veronica Casanova, family liaison from Rose Elementary, led the pledge of allegiance. Eloisa Guerrero, another district employee,  sang the National Anthem.

School Board President Joe Muga introduced Dr. Ibarra and together they presented the Public Champion award to the Ninth District PTA. 

“This year’s recipients truly epitomize the word ‘champions,” said the superintendent. “This organization is comprised of one of the most important stakeholders; our parents, and they support and represent every school. They are not just about fundraising to bring much needed funds to their respective schools. They are about empowerment, advocacy, and engagement in their child’s education.” The award was presented to Barbara Aguilar, president of Escondido Council PTA, and her board.

The Rose Elementary Schools dance troupe, Ignite introduced Monday’s program.

State of the District

Dr. Ibarra began, “My aim this morning is to show you, the community, the great students, programs, and people we have in our school district.”

The district is the sixth largest elementary district in the state, within its 77 square miles are 17 elementary schools, 5 middle schools and 1 intermediate school and 15,800 students. The district’s 1,900 employees makes it the second largest employer in the city.

The district has an operating budget of just over $200 million. Seventy-nine percent of the students come from low-income homes and 43% are English learners. 

“While this describes who we are, it does not define the unlimited potential that exists within all of our students,” said Ibarra.  “As any organization that is striving to meet the needs of their clients, we have a clear vision in mind of what is possible, and that is that we will actualize the unlimited potential of every learner. That means that every individual in our organization is valued, cared for, and challenged to be their very best. It is about the power of what is truly possible.

He noted that the school board established four “focus goals”: 

1. Increase student achievement

2. Create and sustain a positive school culture which embraces diversity

3. Ensure a safe and secure environment

4. And remain fiscally solvent

The district’s mission, he said “is universal student achievement. Every child deserves a quality education, and that is what the Escondido Union School District is determined to provide to each and every student that walks through our doors. We in education, love catch phases such as ‘learning for all’ or Achievement for all. Mine is very simple. All means all.”

He recalled how, at his first such address, “I provided the community with a list of all our challenges along with a roadmap towards success. At the time, I made a simple request from all of you. To join us, encourage us, and partner with us. From time to time I have called upon several of you to join a committee, an input session, or a task force. And you have responded and served. For that we thank you. Because our successes are your successes and, in the end, it is about giving our best to the children of this community.”

One of the superintendent’s first achievements was the November 2014 passage of Prop. E, a bond measure that raised $182.1 million towards the district’s aging facilities.  Dr. Ibarra showed a video that highlighted several of the latest construction jobs that have been accomplished using this money. 

“We can see clearly see how we are not only transforming our district but our community,” he said. “In 2017 we completed phase one of the Mission Middle School modernization project with substantial site work and the construction of a two-story math and science building. Comprised of 36 modular units, built of site, the 16,884 square foot, state-of-the-art STEM facility, was erected in one day.” 

He continued, “Central Elementary School, built in 1938, located in the old historic district of Escondido, is the oldest school in our district. Surrounded by ice cream-colored craftsmen bungalows and ornate Victorian homes, central students received new kindergarten and preschool classrooms along with two new playgrounds. The school also received new security fencing, solar lighting, network and electrical infrastructure upgrades.”

Much of the construction has been underground and not visible to the public. “At Orange Glen Elementary School, we corrected major drainage issues provided much needed electrical and network infrastructure upgrades while leaving behind a beautiful new courtyard and new playground structure and track.”

Phase II of construction at Mission Middle is modernizing existing classrooms. Final prep work is underway for the next phase of construction at Orange Glen Elementary School “which will provide new kinder and preschool classrooms and renovate existing special education classrooms,” said Ibarra. The design process is underway for modernization at Del Dios Middle School, he said.

Stephanie Glanz, who was one of the five Teachers of the Year for San Diego County.

The “bond roadshow” as he called it, is available to make a presentation to any service club or organization.

He then highlighted the efforts of a 16-year-old, Kaitlyn Chan, “who has a passion for bringing awareness to the dangers of sun exposure.  She approached us and said, ‘I want to help.’

She formed a non-profit called “Sun Safety for Schools,” for which Kaitlyn is the president. It has donated $27,500 towards shade structures on the modernized playgrounds at Central and the upcoming playground at Juniper Elementary School. 

The bond program has also helped the safety measures the district has implemented, such as completing perimeter fencing and controlled access to enter campuses and to begin security camera installation. 

The district has also partnered with the Escondido Leaders Collaborative, a group composed of leaders from charter schools, private schools, both Escondido school districts and the neighboring San Pasqual Union. They first met all in the same room for the first time shortly after the Parkland Shooting. 

“As a group, we wanted and needed to support one another and make something happen. Putting all differences aside, we worked collaboratively to fund one additional School Resource Officer to support our schools. We meet monthly and share best practices and information and are currently working on a Memorandum of Understanding with Sandy Hook Promise to bring ‘Say Something’ a consistent crime reporting tool to all of our schools in Escondido,” he said.

He added, “What we, as a district are discovering as we partner with many of you, is that we all want the same things, to serve the students of this community. When we work together, much is possible.”

Talking about gathering feedback from residents, he described a new interactive tool called “Thought Exchange” which allows individuals to share their thoughts and to view and comment on thoughts of others. Visit website at and access the link. “Your thoughts and ideas will help inform our Local Control Accountability Plan which will guide our expenditures and priorities.”

As he talked about striving to “actualize the unlimited potential of every learner,” by making an ever more rigorous curriculum, Dr. Ibarra introduced Stephanie Glanz, who was named one of five San Diego County teachers of the year, who is a first grade teacher at Rose School, the same school she attended from grades K-5.

“My belief is that we must educate the whole child,” she told the audience, and recalled how, when she was a little girl at the same school that she had a teacher who inspired her to be a teacher by giving awards for achievement. She still has one of those awards today. “We must educate the whole child for the 21st century and perhaps for jobs that don’t exist yet. To encourage their passions.”

Kaitlyn Chan, 16, talks about the non-profit organization she formed called “Sun Safety for Schools.”

Glanz began her career at EUSD as a speech pathologist. She has since taught kindergarten and first grade at Conway, Rock Springs, Reidy Creek, and Rose.  Dr. Ibarra said of her, “Throughout the course of her esteemed career, Stephanie has positively impacted hundreds of teachers across EUSD and beyond. Her depth of knowledge in learning theory, core content, special education, student engagement, and social and emotional learning are assets to our organization. She is a gifted and humble presenter and has repeatedly embraced any and all opportunities to deliver professional development, mentor other educators, and act as a liaison to the community for over three decades.”

He added that “literally hundreds of families and children have been the recipients of her gifts of food, shelter, transportation, clothing, and other enriching opportunities. Her generous heart simply can’t bear to see any child or family remain in need.”

The superintendent spoke about how the intervention program has grown to provide students with an embedded system of support. “At minimum, every school in our district has an intervention teacher and a school based resource teacher to provide and monitor intervention programs at each site. When students need additional supports, they receive small group intervention classes throughout the instructional day, utilizing intervention curriculum.”

Newcomers to the U.S. are targeted with intensive English Language instruction utilizing Rosetta Stone. Something that is also available to families to utilize at home.

As part of a program of enrichment, the district has a partnership with the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum. All EUSD Kindergarten students receive a scholarship for a science field trip to the museum. 

All EUSD first graders are provided scholarships for Mobile Exhibits at their school site from the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum. 

Dr. Ibarra described how, through “the stewardship of our science Teacher on Special Assignment, Krystle Miller and The Escondido Creek Conservancy, the San Diego Zoo, and the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, every 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-grader in our district is engaging in real-world scientific study of the environment. Just last month, the field work outings continued, with more than 100 3rd-graders from Miller and L.R. Green studying the habitat in Elfin Forest.”

Seventh graders make annual field trips to Daley Ranch. “Every year, the Friends of Daley Ranch secure enough funds to continue this annual tradition. Students learn about the history of our beloved Escondido and the local wildlife and habitats that exist in their backyard. The friends of Daley Ranch continue to be strong supporters of ours and have been providing this experience to every seventh-grader for the past 15 years,” he said.

He focused on After-School Seminars, which provide enrichment beyond the instructional day.  He focused on the Mobile Making Club by California State University San Marcos, an afterschool enrichment experience focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. 

He added, “Our Computer Science Seminars offer highly technical skills to our middle school students as they learn code, CAD, engineering, as they learn to build a PC computer. Through our partnership with Tre –o-bytes, our students are provided with a vocational pathway into IT industries through certification.”

For elementary students, seminars feature STEM activities provided through the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, Visual Performing Arts provided by the California Center for the Arts, and new this year, Monart drawing for Kids featuring visual arts by the Monart School of the Arts.

Dr. Ibarra also highlighted these partnerships:

• The Allegro string program partnership between the Civic Youth Orchestra and the Escondido Union School District whereby 130, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grader will be provided, free of charge, either a cello or violin and will receive free strings lessons twice a week. 

• Palomar YMCA for Summer Scholars which provides a full day summer school experience. 

Such enrichment experiences have become the foundation for the newly reimagined Gifted and Talented Program. “Our GATE program is off to a good start as we utilize a universal screening tool for all of our students in second grade,” he said.  “Our GATE students have access to all of our enrichment seminars or are enrolled in Math Advanced courses at the Middle School.  New this year, we are in the planning stages for a Summer GATE Academy where our students are sure to be challenged and engaged as we actualize their unlimited potential.”

The district continues to implement its 1:1 iPad initiative whose goal is to have every student in EUSD with a device by 2021.  Now in its second year, all students in grades 3 to 6 have been provided a device. “Next year, we expand to 2nd and 7th and so on until we reach all grades,” said Dr.  Ibarra. “These devices are merely tools to assist our students in communication, collaboration, creativity, and to critically think. With these new skills the sky is the limit for our students.”

The superintendent showed slides showing robotics, coding and images with iPads and such innovative programs as a hydroponic garden at Lincoln Elementary and then talked about the new state accountability system, California Assessment for Student Performance and Progress (CASPP), where students in grades 3-8 take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC,) a standardized test aligned to the new more rigorous state standards. 

“We now have four years of data to demonstrate that our district has continued to grow each year in both English Language Arts and Mathematics. In addition, while we are still below the state average, the gap between the percentage of students proficient or advanced is getting smaller. Which means that our school district is showing progress at a faster rate in both English Language Arts and Math than the state average.” 

Noting that tests reflect “rigorous state standards,” he suggested, “And if you have not taken any of the practice tests that are available online, please do so. And take it from me, don’t start with the upper grades, take the third grade test and you will see how rigorous our state standards are. Now imagine taking the assessments when English is your second language, or you are distracted because you know your parents are worried about having enough money to pay rent this month, or you are in the foster care system. I mention this to show you that despite these challenges, our district is moving the bar. That is a true testament to our hardworking teachers, staff, administrators, parents, community partners, and our students who learn to persevere.”

He concluded with an interview with four students of Conway Elementary School, which was one of eight schools nationwide to receive recognition and a grant of $5,000 by the Better World Project for designing a project called Protecting and Serving our Local Watershed. 

Dr. Ibarra concluded with “It is time to change the narrative in our conversations and start talking about what is really happening in your local schools. Ladies and gentlemen, the-STATE-of-the-District-is-strong! Thank you for joining us here this morning. If you want to learn more, I invite you to come to any of our schools and visit us!”

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