Sharing the Good News and Good Work of Students and Staff

November/December 2019 Edition

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Message from the Superintendent

Dear Team PUSD,

The end of the year brings a time of reflection, on all that we have accomplished and also all that we hope for the future. I had a chance to reflect on this, as my staff and I prepared for the 2019 PUSD 2nd Annual State of the District last month. (You can see coverage of this wonderful event in the newsletter below.)

As we look forward to the year 2020, what does the future of PUSD hold? There is no question that looking back, 2019 was a successful year, full of students, staff, school, and District achievements, many of which were featured in this newsletter. But we know we can’t rest on our laurels. One of my favorite experts on leadership, John C. Maxwell has said, “Of all the things a leader should fear, complacency heads the list.” As educators, we must always look to make positive progress with a sense of urgency.

One of our most urgent needs is to address the challenges we are facing with our aging facilities, while addressing growth and safety needs as well as providing a future-ready, high-quality education. Since 2018, we have been engaging in long-term facilities master planning, starting with a school safety and security assessment, followed by a facilities condition assessment, and then finally school and community meetings. What we found is that 62% of our campuses will be considered in “poor” condition by the year 2023. This is unacceptable. Given that PUSD is the lowest funded unified school district in San Diego County, and the state DOES NOT provide any funding for facilities, it has become increasingly difficult for us to meet our facilities needs. Pursuing a bond measure is the ONLY way to address the increasing facility needs of our aging schools. If our community passes Measure P for Poway Unified schools by 55% of the vote in March, Measure P would:

Ensure Safety:

  • Remove hazardous materials like asbestos and lead paint where needed
  • Repair or replace leaky roofs, rusty plumbing, failing sewer lines and outdated electrical systems
  • Upgrade older schools so they meet the same academic and safety standards as newer schools

Ensure Security:

  • Improve student safety and campus security systems including security fencing, security cameras, emergency communications systems, smoke detectors, fire alarms and sprinklers

Ensure Success:

  • Provide the classrooms, facilities and technology needed to support high quality instruction in science, technology, engineering, arts and math
  • Provide modern labs and career-training facilities so students are prepared for college and in-demand careers in fields like health sciences, engineering, technology, robotics and skilled trades

PUSD's new leadership team will ensure the District will not issue any capital appreciation bonds (CABs) and will keep the bond repayment ratio well below 2.5 to 1.

Our team has spent the past few years cleaning up the past, and now we can focus on moving forward towards an even brighter future. These fiscally responsible strategies laid the groundwork that has allowed us to be in the best position possible as we pursue the bond measure. I truly believe that PUSD is turning a corner by:

  • Creating and updating District policies to ensure stricter accountability and oversight
  • Refinancing previous bonds, saving taxpayers over $18 million over time
  • Increasing the District’s credit rating to AA+ by Standard & Poor’s due to strong District economics and new leadership
  • Enhancing internal controls to improve transparency and fiscal management
  • Resolving deficiencies identified in audits
  • Reducing District debt liability from over $7 million to less the $2 million

We will continue to push forward in the areas of innovation and achievement by equipping and redesigning our classrooms to support differentiated learning and innovation and provide cutting edge and leading professional development for all staff, including:

  • Embedded coaching and support for staff to incorporate more student choice and technology into the classroom
  • Digital citizenship lessons
  • Expanded foreign language opportunities
  • Expanded access to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and VAPA (visual and performing arts)
  • The option of open educational resources, which includes updated, digital/online materials where textbooks might be outdated

We will leverage existing partnerships and forge new ones with our businesses and communities to enhance students’ learning opportunities outside of the classroom with:

  • More CTE (career technical education) pathways
  • Internship fairs to place students with local businesses
  • Career technical education annual student expo
  • Expanded student access to job shadowing, guest speakers, and mentoring with businesses

We will create more inclusive and personalized learning for all students by expanding relevant experiences and addressing student wellness and inclusive campus cultures through:

  • Specialized Academic Instruction for students in special education to experience learning in a general education setting
  • Mindful Moment every morning to help students prepare their minds for a day of learning
  • Mental Health and Suicide Awareness Weeks to educate students about the importance of mental health and reduce the stigma around these topics
  • Partnerships with the Anti-Defamation League and Sandy Hook Promise
  • Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, where the focus is prevention, not punishment to encourage good behavior at school.
  • Anonymous Tipline: 1-844-PUSD-TIP for situations requiring immediate attention, including any type of physical threat of harm to self or others

This is important work. Thank you for entrusting me to lead Poway Unified through this work now and into the future.

I hope you have a restful and joyous holiday season with your loved ones. We’ll see you in 2020!


Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.



Second Annual State of the District Event

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The Poway Unified School District hosted its Second Annual State of the District event on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts. The entire event was recorded and can be viewed here. The goal of the event was to highlight staff and student accomplishments, set strategic goals and initiatives for the future, cultivate strong business and community partnerships, and share stories of excellence and innovation. Thank you to all of our stakeholders who were in attendance; without your continued support and partnership, PUSD would not be where it is today. We invite you to review our 2019 State of the District Publication and Highlight Video linked here or below.
2019 State of the District Publication

Click to view a PDF of PUSD's Annual Report to the Community

2019 Poway Unified State of the District Video
Student Board Member Mariana Akins, from Rancho Bernardo High School, was the featured student speaker. She spoke about various teachers' impact on her education and leadership development while experiencing elementary, middle, and high school in Poway Unified. "Without the passion instilled in me when I was younger, I wouldn’t be standing here today, because there have been numerous instances in which teachers, counselors, staff, and my peers have invoked passion in me that has helped shape the person I am today and the person I plan to be in the future."

Watch our student interns' report on the 2nd Annual State of the District in the video below:

"Excellence in Education" Series: 2nd Annual Poway Unified State of the District


Studio 701 Excellence in Education Series: "Abraxas Transition Program"

This edition of the #TeamPUSD Newsletter features not one but TWO installments of our Studio 701 interns' "Excellence in Education" video series!

In November, student interns highlighted the Transition program at Abraxas High School. The program teaches students ages 18-22 with developmental disabilities necessary job and life skills, all while building confidence and independence. To watch, click below.

Poway Unified "Excellence in Education" Series: Abraxas Transition Program


Student, School, & Staff News and Achievements

Poway Unified Schools Named in Niche.com's Top 25 "Best Public Schools" Lists for SD

PUSD elementary Schools dominated the list of Niche.com's "2020 Best Public Elementary Schools in the San Diego Area," taking 20 out of the top 25 spots!

Additionally, all #PowayUnified middle schools were ranked in the top 25 of Niche.com's list "2020 Best Public Middle Schools in the San Diego Area."

And finally, all #PowayUnified comprehensive high schools were ranked in the top 25 of Niche.com's list "2020 Best Public High Schools in the San Diego Area."

The rankings are based on state test scores, student-teacher ratio, student diversity, teacher quality, school ratings, and the overall quality of the school district. Click to see where your elementary, middle, and high school ranks!

Palomar Council PTA's 50th Annual Reflections Art Show

The Palomar Council PTA received over 300 pieces of artwork from students throughout #PowayUnified for the 50th annual "Reflections Art Show." The theme this year is "Look Within." After submitting works in one or all of the six categories (Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography, Visual Arts) the winners go on to compete at the 9th District, State and National PTAs for judging. Well done and best of luck!

Ann Auten, Turtleback ES Principal, Announces Retirement

After 30 years in the Poway Unified School District, Turtleback Elementary Principal Ann Auten is retiring. She announced her retirement on November 21.

From starting as a student teacher at Chaparral Elementary, Mrs. Auten has worn many hats within PUSD such as teacher, assistant principal, and principal. After confirming the news at an all-principal professional development summit, Mrs. Auten received a standing ovation from colleagues. She was also gifted a golden bell from Carol Osborne and Kimberlie Rens of Learning Support Services, as well as Superintendent Phelps. We will miss Mrs. Auten and wish her a blissful retirement, where she says she will spend time with her grandchildren.

Westview NJROTC Advances to Championships

The Westview NJROTC qualified in the Area 11 Field Meet Championship! Area 11 covers all NJROTC units in southern California and Arizona. Each unit was judged on military bearing, knowledge, and precision during team events. Looking sharp, Wolverines!

Two Poway Unified Teachers Awarded Grants from North Island Credit Union

Congratulations to Del Norte's Courtney Craig and Bernardo Heights' Lilliana Mougel for being awarded the North Island Credit Union Fall 2019 Teacher Grants this month! The awards will go toward developing more innovative learning opportunities and projects for their students.

Fall Sports Season Ends in Multiple CIF Championships

As the fall sports season draws to a close, many high school teams throughout #PowayUnified are sitting atop newly awarded CIF Championships. Take a look at the new teams to beat below.

Pomerado Elementary Students Featured in Best-Selling Series on Kindness

Remember in 2017 when Pomerado 3rd grader Paul Burnett raised over $6,000 to buy his best friend Kamden Houshan a new, custom-built wheelchair? Well in 2019 as 5th graders, their incredible story is being featured in the best-selling book "Unselfish Kids" 🎉 These two remind us that we all have a part to play in making a positive difference in the world. Check out the book here: www.unselfishstories.com

Kiwanis Club Student of the Month

Congratulations to Seth from Valley Elementary School who was selected as the Kiwanis Club of Poway's Student of the Month. He was joined by Principal Ricardo Cecena, his teacher Mr. Briggs, Superintendent Phelps, and his family at a recent breakfast to receive the award.

San Diego County Esports Competition

Esports: it’s one of the newest types of competitions to be considered a CIF sport, and Westview High School is home to the newest champions in the league. The SD County Office of Education recently held its first competition, part of the growing initiative to use video games in classroom curriculum.

Watch below to learn more about Westview’s team, and click here for more info on video gaming scholarships: http://bit.ly/38q8cSv


National College Signing Day

High school seniors District-wide signed letters of intent to play sports at the college level at Petco Park's National College Signing Day event on November 14. Congratulations to all the students who signed!

Top Prize in LEGO Tech Competition Awarded to PUSD Team

These kids are 'building' the future of communication technologies with the help of Lego. A collaborative robotics project from #PowayUnified 5th grade and middle school students is aiming to provide parents with real-time drone footage from an app during campus operating hours.

Team "STEL" took home a top prize during the 'FIRST Lego League' competition this month. The group is slated to compete at the regional competition at Legoland on Dec. 8, and is looking to expand upon their project and turn it into reality. Congrats to Team STEL on this innovative project!

Westview Gold Band Takes Home ... Gold!

The "Westview Gold" band continues to live up to their name! They brought a first place win back to the Wolverine Den for best performance in the Mira Mesa Band Competition November 3rd. Just look at that view! #WolverineWay
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Award-winning Otters

No math problem is too tough for these Shoal Creek Otters! They earned awards in the Noetic Learning Math contest for their #problemsolving skills (20 problems in 45 minutes), and some even placed in Top 10% on the National Honor Roll for participants. Congratulations!

Del Norte Claims Awards at DECA Conference

Congratulations to these Nighthawks that brought home awards from the California DECA Fall Leadership Conference! California DECA is a non-profit student organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in areas such as finance, marketing, hospitality, etc. They inspire students to innovate and work together to discover new methods of learning.

Just another way #PowayUnified kids are paving their own path toward college and career readiness!

A Generous Gift to Rolling Hills from San Diego Scottish Rite

We are so grateful to Scottish Rite of San Diego/Masons of Mission Valley for their generous (and unexpected!) $5,000 donation to Rolling Hills Elementary on December 17! The funds will go toward increased science and STEM learning opportunities in the classroom.


Fun Photos & Videos

Broncos Team Manager Runs First Career Play

Watch the moment when Jake, RBHS Broncos Team Manager and student with special needs, runs the first play of the Broncos' Senior Night and scores the first touchdown! We are beyond proud of this act of encouragement from teammates and the #PowayUnified community, and are grateful to the Broncos and PHS Titans for promoting #inclusivity on and off the field.
Inclusivity On and Off the Field ft. Broncos and Titans

Building Wheelchairs for Rehab Clinics in Mexico

Poway High School Senior Aidan Friend created computer-aided design (CAD) wheelchairs for children with special needs in Mexico as part of his Eagle Scout Project. The wheelchairs will be donated to rehabilitation clinics in Tijuana, where children receive physical, occupational and speech therapy for free. THIS is what it means to be a member of #TeamPUSD. Aidan, we are so thankful for your kind heart and generous actions.

"Ability Awareness" with Abraxas Transitions Students

Anthony and Jeremiah, two students in the Transitions program at Abraxas High School, spoke to a full room of Garden Road Eagles about living with different learning abilities. Jeremiah, who has autism, and Anthony, who has Down's Syndrome, taught students about their individual diagnoses and the importance of friendship despite differences. Thank you to Jeremiah and Anthony for taking time out of their day to help us learn!

Del Norte HOSA Toiletries Drive

As we head into the season of giving, it's #actsofkindness like this that remind us why we're so grateful for #TeamPUSD. Jake Todd, student at Del Norte, collected hundreds of toiletry items to fill hand-decorated care packages for the Youth in Transition Program - just in time for the holidays. Check out this video for a recap, and share the love!

Video by PR Interns Sumedh and Jovanna.

Holiday Care Packages for Youth in Transition

Meadowbrook MS Service Project

We can’t hit the ‘like’ button enough on this one! In this season of #thankfullness and #giving, we love seeing #PowayUnified kids step up to educate peers about resources in the community For a service project, Yasmin from Meadowbrook Middle School shared information about beneficial resources like charities, that can aid families in need. Yasmin was a former house guest of the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House, and told her story of being supported through a difficult medical time in her life.

"I felt as if I was being cared for... and I was more distracted than stressed [about] what was going to happen. I got to meet friends, same as my mom..." (via @losangelesrmh on Instagram)

Tenderness Totes

Mr. Reisert’s class at Oak Valley Middle School worked with former student Tehya Foussat to create “Tenderness Totes” for homeless people in our community. They assembled food, water, socks, toiletries, sleeping bags, and encouraging notes to distribute to the less fortunate.


For one week in December, PUSD schools have been participating in “Hour of Code” activities. Hour of code is a movement to introduce students to computer science through fun activities and tutorials. PUSD students and staff joined schools in more than 180 countries participating in Hour of Code. Representatives from HP visited school sites, as well.

"Kicking Butts' with Mt. Carmel S.A.D.D. Club

How amazing is this? The Mt. Carmel S.A.D.D. Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions) visited Black Mountain Middle today to educate students on and advocate for #drugfree lifestyles. Take a look!
The Dangers of Vaping - Mt. Carmel S.A.D.D. Club

Bernardo Heights MS Mental Health Clubs Tackle Stigma

The SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) Promise and Mental Health Awareness Clubs at BHMS ave been working hard to use their voice on campus to end the stigma surrounding mental health in teens and create a culture of #inclusion and #kindness. They were the teachers as representatives from Sandy Hook Promise, San Diego Police and Representative Scott Peters listened to how their positive actions are impacting the world around them.
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Red Ribbon Week Luncheon

The Red Ribbon Luncheon on November 1 recognized key individuals in the fight for drug free communities. Congrats to winners in Lifetime Achievement, Law Enforcement, Prevention Advocacy and Educator. PUSD Board President Dr. Darshana Patel represented the District with Associate Superintendent of Student Support Services Greg Mizel and Prevention Specialist Cindy Hicks.

Veteran's Day Throughout the District

Military families gathered at Sunset Hills' November 8 for a special salute to veterans at the Friday Flag assembly. Girl Scout Troops raised the flag for the pledge of allegiance, kindergarten classes sang "God Bless America" to the servicemen and women present, and a special breakfast was served to further honor those who have served in the armed forces.

In addition to this, Mt. Carmel High School hosted a flag-raising with our local VFW and the Westview Navy Junior ROTC presented the colors during Rancho Bernardo Veterans Military Association event at Webb Lake Park November 11th. Thank you, veterans!

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Tidepool Fun with Garden Road Elementary

A group of explorers from Garden Road Elementary traveled down to the seashore November 12 to learn about "king tides" from the League of Extraordinary Scientists and Engineers at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. One explorer was overheard saying, “I think I want to be a marine biologist now.”

6th Grade Camp

6th graders at Design39Campus showed off their newly-formed friendships and teamwork while unloading their luggage and belongings after returning from 6th grade camp.

PUSD Gives Thanks

Many schools throughout the District hosted food drives to fill Thanksgiving meal packages for the community in need. Thank you for your generosity and kindness!


Adopt-A-Family donations have been coming in across the District, for the 525 PUSD families that have been “adopted” for the holidays. The gifts are part of each family’s wish list, and will be wrapped and delivered by volunteers before the holidays. At Canyon View Elementary School (right), SDPD's SWAT team joined in the effort to deliver gifts. Check out some of our volunteers hard at work, in the video below!

Poway Unified Adopt-A-Family 2019

Winter Performances

Holiday and year-end performances dazzled as the perfect year-end celebrations! Thank you for supporting our performing arts programs by attending a band, choir, or dance concert at a school near you!



Happy Holidays from Poway Unified!

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PUSD Tipline

As part of Poway Unified’s ongoing efforts to improve school safety and security, we have been sharing this “See Something, Say Something” public service announcement with many of our students. But this message applies to our parents and community members as well: help spread the word by watching and sharing this video so that we have as many eyes and ears out there working to keep our students and staff safe from threats. Save the tip line number in your phone: 844-787-3847. Special thanks to our law enforcement partners who participated in this PSA and continue to monitor the tip line and investigate any threats.

Poway Unified App

Did you know we have an app?

On our app, you can:
1. Choose which schools to follow in Settings
2. Receive emergency messages from the alert center
3. See what's happening on the calendar
4. Follow along with the News Stream
5. Catch the latest sports scores

And MUCH MORE! Download for FREE on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Poway Unified School District

The Poway Unified School District is located in northern San Diego County, California. PUSD operates 25 elementary schools (K-5), one elementary & middle school combination (TK-8th), six middle schools (6-8), one continuation high school, five comprehensive high schools (9-12), and one adult school. 24 schools are located in the city of San Diego; 11 schools in the city of Poway; and 3 in the County of San Diego. The District serves approximately 36,000 students and is the third largest school district in the county.