Sweetwater Must Sees Newsletter


Sweetwater District Celebrates School Board Appreciation Month

Get To Know SUHSD's Newly Elected Trustee Area 3, Elva Lopez-Zepeda

What made you decide to run for the SUHSD school board?

I decided to run for office because I know that I can make a difference to the youth of the community. My professional and personal experiences provide me with a unique understanding of the workings of a school district. I am currently in my 35th year of teaching and have been elected to leadership roles to represent my colleagues at the local, state and national levels. These roles have allowed me the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues, school administrators and district administrators while advocating for students and their families. I will bring knowledge to the office that no other trustee will have and be able to provide a unique perspective for decisions to be made.

What particular experiences have prepared you to serve as Board Member?

The most valuable experiences that have prepared me to serve as a Board Member are varied. Currently, I am a teacher in my 35th year of teaching. In my career as an educator, I have had the opportunity and privilege to work with teachers and school administrators at my site, others school sites in and out of the district locally, across the state and nationally. I have been involved in the PTAs, English Learner Advisory Committee (ELACs), School Site Councils, Curriculum adoption, teacher training, parent involvement, development and implementation of district programs, and consulting with publishers and the California Department of Education (CDE). As a teacher, I have been a union member my entire career. I have held elected leadership positions for my local chapter, county uniserve, state, and nationally in which I represent hundreds of educators and advocate for students and teachers alike. These experiences have taught me how to be the voice for those who do not speak, can’t speak, or have fear of speaking. But most importantly, LISTEN to understand and be informed. I need to be informed to make any decision based on data/evidence because I will have to answer to the people I am representing.

What do you see as the major issue(s) facing public education?

There are many issues that are affecting public education, but the most important for Sweetwater UHSD are:

  1. Establishing and maintaining a safe and stable learning environment for students and work environment for district employees

  2. The retention and recruitment of highly qualified employees: teachers, school administrators, and support staff

  3. Fiduciary Responsibility: accountability and transparency for district stakeholders, ensuring that funding is allocated properly so that diverse student populations receive a quality education that prepares them to be active participants of a global society.

What are your goals for your first year on the board?

The primary goal is to assure that ALL students have access to a high quality education. I will work towards that goal by getting out into the community by attending different school events and chatting with students, parents, Sweetwater staff, and community members. It is important that I hear the comments, concerns, and even complaints first-hand from the stakeholders I represent.

What is your vision for education in this community?

My vision is for all students to have access to a high quality education so that they progress academically and grow socially by ensuring equitable access to educational programs and opportunities. In addition, assure that district directives are aligned to address the students’ needs so that they will be prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

What inspires you and why?

There are many things that inspire me, but as a teacher there is nothing more inspiring than watching a student learn a concept. There is a sparkle in their eyes as a hint of a smile grows across their face with satisfaction knowing that they have mastered something new. Those moments along my career have been many, but each time it happens it feels like the first. I know that I have impacted, made a difference in someone’s life and feel appreciative of such a privilege. As an individual, I believe to always do your part for the betterment of our space by inspiring others to do the same.

Anything else you'd like to add that we didn't ask?

It is time for me to apply all I have experienced and learned in my career. I will be the voice of parents, educators, community members and the students. I will promote policies/programs/opportunities that will remove obstacles to student growth and assure that all students are prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Get To Know SUHSD's Newly Elected Trustee Area 5, Marti Emerald

What made you decide to run for the SUHSD school board?

I ran for this school board seat to counter the political turmoil disrupting public education, from the Boardroom to the Classroom. As a career investigative journalist and consumer advocate, I hope to help the district repair its reputation, increase transparency, and restore the trust of our community.

What particular experiences have prepared you to serve as Board Member? Thirty years as a journalist, from Washington, D.C. to San Diego, exposing business and government malfeasance, eight years in leadership on the San Diego City Council, all the while promoting community collaboration.

What do you see as the major issue(s) facing public education? Public schools are challenged to be a one stop shop for solutions to many of society’s ills: poverty, hunger, providing the safe for children who are homeless, abused, or disabled. It’s humbling to see frontline teachers, counselors, and administrators seek and create solutions to many of society’s challenges that wind up on the doorsteps of public schools.

What are your goals for your first year on the board? Safety first. I want to make sure the campuses in Area 5 have the same public safety protection as other schools in the district. I look forward to meeting students, teachers, and administrators at Area 5 schools, learning from them, and responding to their priorities, growing Career Education programs, and growing student enrollment which has been shrinking in recent years.

What is your vision for education in this community? I believe current leadership in the Sweetwater district is on the right track in building a dynamic and successful education community. The Compact for Success with local colleges, focus on science and technology, career education, expanding multi-cultural programs, and opening doors for students who, in many cases, are the first generation in their families to benefit from formal education. Sweetwater has become a strong and reliable partner in the community.

What inspires you and why? I am immensely inspired when the light goes on in the eyes of young people: when they finally figure out a stubborn problem, when they do well on a test, exceed their own expectations. To watch them become part of a community of growth, achievement, and take their place as leaders and mentors to others. We can learn from this growth and achievement in our kids.

Anything else you'd like to add that we didn't ask? Yes. I am inspired. I anticipated this would be an enlightening experience. And it is. But, it is also heartwarming and inspirational.

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End of Term Q & A With Longtime Sweetwater Union High School District Board of Trustee Paula Hall

What made you decide to run and serve as a Board of Trustee in the Sweetwater Union High School District?

I decided to run for the school board on the very last day one could submit the paperwork. I never saw myself doing something like it. After seeing the decline of engaging programs and student support at the schools in my area, I wanted to do something. I worked for the second largest school district in California as a Financial Planning and Development Analyst and with that experience I felt that our west side schools with some of the highest need students should be given more resources, not less. It was the catalyst for my decision to run for the trustee position.

What are some highlights and/or biggest accomplishments from your years on the Board?

It is an honor to have served as a trustee for the past eight years, one year as president in 2018, and two times as vice president (2017 and 2022). I chaired the Board’s Facilities subcommittee in 2015 and began the work to revise the Facilities Master Plan to be more equitable and established a project labor agreement that ensures any construction is done by skilled local labor. I chaired the Board’s Audit and Finance Subcommittee for all eight years expanding it to include two community members for oversight, established operational expectations for the district and created a fraud hotline for anyone to report questionable activity.

At the very first closed session I learned that the district was facing a myriad of lawsuits related to construction and facilities which also included a very real threat of losing an over thirty-million-dollar property with no recompense. Making the decision to hire two people was key to our resolving these challenges. First we brought on Dr. Moises Aguirre as Assistant Superintendent, now Superintendent and within the next few months we established a General Counsel position and hired Jennifer Carbuccia. Another hire, Dr. Jenny Salkeld as Chief Financial Officer brought the professional expertise and experience addressing a critical need for sound fiscal management. These three professionals have done a tremendous work (along with cabinet members and all staff) to bring the district from deficit to fiscal solvency including healthy reserves for the foreseeable future.

Also epic was seeing the district through the worst pandemic in a hundred years. Passing a general obligation bond with 70% support of constituents, seeing the completion of a state of the art Aquatics Center at Mar Vista High with a community use agreement with the city of Imperial Beach, new fields for several schools, HVAC at all our schools, becoming a restorative district, passing strong policies for mental health and suicide prevention, establishing Black Advisory and Filipino/AAPI Advisory groups, holding community forums for LCAP, and passing resolution 4468 Advocating For and Protecting Each of the District Students.

I was honored to serve alongside like minded board members Nick Segura, Arturo Solis, Kevin Pike, Frank Tarantino, and Dr. Adrian Arancibia.

The students, teachers and staff of Sweetwater are phenomenal and I am ever in awe of the work being across our district every day. The future is bright because of it.

Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of that success.

Chula Vista High Teacher Felisha Forsberg Appointed as FIFA Women's World Cup Referee

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We recently sat down with Chula High Teacher Felisha Forsberg who has been appointed as one of the FIFA Women's World Cup Referees. Learn more about how Forsberg is managing dual obligations!

How long have you been involved with the MLS/US Soccer? I have been an official in the MLS and for FIFA concurrently since 2014. I first began officiating for US Soccer in 2002.

How long have you been a referee? I have been a referee for a total of 21 years. When I began officiating I started with kids matches and other youth tournaments, gradually over time I worked my way up to the level I am now.

What peaked your interest in becoming a referee with the MLS/US Soccer? I first became a referee in order to help my mom with our shared household expenses. At that time she was a single mom with 5 of us kids at home, and one of my older brothers who was playing soccer in college had started to referee soccer. I was about to start going to Cal State University-San Marcos with a Full Scholarship to run Cross Country and Track & Field. Following my brother's steps in refereeing seemed to be the best way for me to still train my athletic conditioning and get paid for it while working games on weekends, when I didn’t have a race to compete in.

What was the process like? I first attended a Referee Preparation Course with Cal South (California State Soccer Association - South) where they taught us the Laws of the Game and the various signals to use while officiating soccer. Following the Course an exam was given, once passed I was allowed to start being assigned games to officiate as a Referee. From there I began doing local youth games and adult women’s games. With more time and experience I started getting assigned games in the Men’s adult leagues. More referee seminar invitations from Cal South came, after attending and passing numerous fitness tests, my Center Referee grade increased which allowed me to do higher level matches and tournaments.

After some years at this level I started getting assignments to do games in Semi-Pro leagues like United Soccer League (USL) and was invited to officiate in the newly formed Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPS). This league folded after a few years but it was at that point when US Soccer officially asked me if I wanted to move to the Assistant Referee track. They informed me they would make me a FIFA official and put me in the MLS if I made the switch. I agreed and started my preparation in the AR track where I still am today.

What are you most looking forward to in your role as an MLS/US Soccer referee? Over the years after having participated in two Under-17 World Cups, in the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, numerous FIFA tournaments and in the MLS League for now my 10th season, I mostly look forward to continue representing the USA as an official in major competitions and helping to develop the next generation. I have always considered myself an athlete and really enjoy officiating at the professional level, being able to do it in the MLS and FIFA has given me the opportunity to continue participating as an athlete at the highest level. The challenge that each match brings is something I always look forward to, the energy of hearing a full stadium chant for their team and the emotion celebrated after a goal from the home team is also exciting. Whenever I step on the field for any match I go with the mindset that I will give it my best, be accurate in every decision, communicate effectively with my referee crew and succeed as a unit in upholding the fidelity of the Beautiful Game.

How long have you taught with SUHSD? At what schools have you taught? I started with SUHSD as a Spanish teacher in 2005 at Chula Vista H.S. I spent 2 years teaching in Olympian H.S from 2012-2013 before I went back to CVHS. Chula Vista H.S. is my Alma Mater and holds a very special place to me, it feels like home.

What course/s do you teach? I’m currently teaching the AP Spanish Literature class, the AP Spanish Language classes, Spanish Speakers 5-6, and Spanish Speaker 1-2 class.

You mentioned you were a CVH Alum? What year did you graduate? I graduated from CVHS in the year 2000, I began attending this school in tenth grade as an ELD student. Right away I began participating in the Basketball team and continued to do so during those 3 years. During my senior year I started in Cross Country and Track & Field; I was awarded MVP for the Basketball team as well as the Track & Field team that year along with being voted Athlete of the Year for 2000. I must have made an impression in my running, as I was very fortunate to continue running with a Full Scholarship at California State University San Marcos.

How do you see this opportunity impacting you in your teaching career? My students always comment about watching me on TV when I have an MLS match or an International match on the weekends, I think they are some of my biggest fans. I believe it's important for my students to see a real life example of what is possible if you don't quit. If I can achieve something as great as being one of the officials participating in a World Cup they can also achieve whatever their goal or dream is. At one time it was me sitting in a classroom as a CVHS student, and now I have traveled around the world doing something I am passionate about and proud of.

Both officiating and teaching are important to me and I'm passionate about both. I have been doing each for many years and they are both important parts of my life along with my family. I was fortunate to have the support from US Soccer, PRO/MLS and FIFA to be able to come back to officiating following the birth of my first son and then again after my second son. Of course I also would not have been able to achieve any of my goals as a referee without having the support of my husband all throughout my career.

How did your students react to this announcement? My students were very excited to hear about my selection for the 2023 Women's World Cup, they all clapped and congratulated me, some of them said they told their family members and some even requested a signed yellow or red card, but I don’t think I have that many.

SUHSD Unified Sports - Hilltop High visits Chula Vista High

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SUHSD Nutrition Services Department Hosts USDA, CDE and Chef Ann Foundation Tour & Roundtable Event at Chula Vista Middle School

The Chef Ann Foundation, has selected the Sweetwater District Nutrition Services Department among 23 other fellows from across the country to participate in its inaugural year-long Healthy School Food Pathway Fellowship (HSFP) program. Over the next year, the program will develop the next generation of diverse leaders in scratch-cooked school food operations that can support future sustainable programs and drive school food reform. As the first-ever federally registered fellowship program for mid- to upper-level school food professionals, participants will focus on workforce development and upskilling the profession to grow scratch-cooked school food leadership across the country.

“The Sweetwater District Nutrition Services Department is excited to be a resource for new and incoming leaders in school nutrition. Partnering with Chef Ann Foundation, CDE and the USDA is always an honor and privilege,” said Nutrition Services Director, Eric Span. “We take pride in being selected to host the apprenticeship program and to be a resource for other districts in this program.”

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Bonita Vista High Teacher Leader Selected For National Project: Connected Arts Networks

Connected Arts Networks (CAN) recently announced the selection of 70 Teacher Leaders in visual and media arts, theatre, music, and dance. Christine Timmons, teacher from Bonita Vista High School was selected as one of 17 teachers on National Dance Education Organization's Dance Teacher Leader Team. This is a commitment over the course of 4 years and CAN's participating educators will create comprehensive sets of instructional materials and resources culminating in online tool kits and guidebooks.

In the 1st year of the project, Teacher Leaders will receive specialized virtual training to build their capacity to address social–emotional learning and equity, diversity, and inclusion within arts instruction. They will have an opportunity to conduct action research within virtual Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) centered on problem solving for their classrooms and deepening their own practice.

By equipping teachers with skills in these pressing areas, we believe we can both support educators and positively impact students. Members of the four initial PLCs will begin to form and facilitate their own virtual learning communities of arts educators and maintain these communities of support until the end of the project.

Department of Defense STEM Features Castle Park High Teacher Hunter Alzate

Congratulations to Castle Park High School Math and Statistics Teacher Hunter Alzate for being featured in the Department of Defense STEM Ambassador Newsletter. Mr. Alzate is passionate about many areas of math instruction and seeks to infuse computer science into the math and statistics curriculum. In particular, he is particularly interested in making concepts accessible to English language learners, creating authentic tasks that offer multiple paths to a solution, and fostering inclusive classrooms where student voices guide learning. Alzate holds a bachelor’s degree in applied math from U.C. Berkeley, a master’s degree in statistics from CSU Fullerton, plus a master’s degree in education from UC San Diego.

Thank you for all you do for the students of Castle Park High.

Onward Energy Provides Donation Award to Sweetwater District STEAM Schools

It's partners in the business sector like Onward Energy who see the value in investing in their local school STEAM communities. Thank you Onward Energy for your generous donation to our STEAM schools. Your support will further enhance our schools ability to promote STEAM education within SUHSD!
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SUHSD VEX Robotics - High School League Championship.

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SUHSD VEX Robotics - Middle School League Competition

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The Eastlake High School Competitive Cheer Team is comprised of 18 scholastically successful, service minded, and multi-talented athletes. Together, they formed a team that has a “can do” attitude regardless of the obstacles they faced. In 2021, they took home CIFSD win in the midst of starting their high school career during COVID. Since then, they’ve accomplished their academic goals, won another CIFSD in 2022 and now a 2023 CIF State Win at Eastlake’s first ever state appearance.

An Intermediate squad going against skilled teams, they performed a clean routine setting their goal and achieving the winning title!

Together, the coaches, school administration and parent board are committed to developing well respected student-athletes. It shows in their commitment to their school work, team pride and community service. They are in constant search of ways to give back. They took time during their holiday vacation to do just that!

Congratulations to the Eastlake Competitive Cheer Team - building a legacy of scholar athletes!

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"Love Your Heart Month"

We are excited to announce the district Wellbeing Center has put together “Love Your Heart Month” for the month of February! February is designated as American Heart Month, a time when the nation focuses on heart disease, which happens to be the leading cause of death in the U.S. BUT there is a lot that can be done to protect your heart! So, the Wellbeing Center has put together some resources to focus on our heart health and take action! Attached is a calendar filled with daily resources to learn more about heart health.

We are kicking off Love Your Heart Month and asking all of you to join us for National Wear Red Day this Friday, February 3rd. Ask your colleagues, put together teams and get red-y for Friday! If you take photos, please make sure to tag the Wellbeing Center on their new Instagram account @SUHSDwellbeingcenter and use the #SUHSDwearsred

Employees can also join an employee fundraiser for the American Heart Association, donations will stay local to the San Diego community and is completely voluntary for employees to join. We also have some upcoming virtual classes through Optum on How To Better Manage Stress and Preventing Burnout, so be on the lookout for that information in the upcoming weeks ahead.

In order to really kick off Love Your Heart Month, the American Heart Association has made SUHSD a quick video to learn more about the importance of American Heart Month!

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American Heart Association Screening






Mar Vista Academy