Students Recognized for Success in College-Level Spanish Course

The Lemon Grove School District has offered the Advanced Placement program for middle school students since 2008.

They came to school at zero period every day and worked Saturdays to earn college credits. Enrolled in one of the few middle school programs in California to offer Advanced Placement Spanish, the youngsters erased the doubts of other districts that believed the high-level courses were too much for middle school students to handle.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, 12 students were honored by the Lemon Grove School District for their success last year at Palm Middle School in the AP Spanish class and for outstanding performance on the Spanish language advanced placement exam, which showed the students perform as well college students in the subject. Each child received a Certificate of Excellence.

Superintendent Ernie Anastos said the students’ recognition was a credit to their hard work and district leadership over the past four years. He said the advanced program was created with the goal of providing college-level work to students.

“By providing that work for them, they inspired to do more and succeeded in doing more,” he said.

Anastos said the program prepares students for their futures and provides credits for college language requirements, with special studies in Spanish writing, speaking and listening skills. He said the students were motivated and dedicated as they achieved their goals over the years. The program has a 50 percent pass rate that “put Lemon Grove on the map.”

“It is a testament of their focus and the program that was created to provide them with the college-level experience,” he said.

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About this column: Making the Grade features outstanding student activities and school programs in the Lemon Grove School District.


Trustees Take Action to Support Educational Tax Initiatives

ImageStark fiscal outlook is center stage as governing board votes to support Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 to avoid drastic mid-year cuts.

Trustees of the Lemon Grove School Districts unanimously passed a resolution in support of two educational tax initiatives at Tuesday’s governing board meeting. Board members also accepted the 2011-12 unaudited actuals.

Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s “Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act,” stands to avoid a statewide education funding loss of approximately $5.5 billion. Proposition 38, Civil Rights Attorney Molly Munger’s “Our Children Our Future,” calls for an increased personal income tax effective in January 2013 with revenues flowing into the California Education Trust Fund and distribution of funds in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Dr. Gina Potter, assistant superintendent of business service,s said that the upcoming November election is extremely important for public education in California.

Potter said the California School Boards Association (CSBA) and many other education advocates support both Proposition 30 and 38. She said in August, a University of Southern California and Policy Analysis for California Education poll showed 55 percent of voters supporting Proposition 30, and 36 percent opposing it; Proposition 38 showed 40 percent support, and 49 percent opposition.

She added that if both tax measures fail, the LGSD would be punched with a mid-year budget cut of up to $1.7 million.

“Our district has been proactive in dealing with this potential fiscal problem and our board-approved 2012-13 budget reflects a plan to address this possible budget reduction,” Potter said. “Additionally, we are grateful to our staff members for negotiating three furlough days in the event the education tax initiatives fail.”

Potter said the three furlough days would reduce the student school year from 180 to 177 school days if the taxes fail to pass, protecting student’s instructional time as much as possible.

Governing board member Katie Dexter said the CSBA delegate assembly voted to support both propositions after a very lengthy discussion.

“The final rational was that something has to pass and get some money coming back into education,” Dexter said. “Bottom line, support one or support the other. This resolution does not say it is supporting one or the other but supports what the CSBA is trying to do—getting Sacramento moving in the right direction.”

Superintendent Ernest Anastos said he strongly urged the governing board to adopt a resolution provided by the CSBA to support approval of the November ballot tax initiatives.

“Proposition 30 is very significant to all of us and needs all of our support,” he said. “There are concerns if the other initiative passes rather than Proposition 30, trigger cuts will still be activated.”

Pierre Finney, president of the Lemon Grove Teacher Association, said the LGTA is taking proactive steps to keep children in the classroom, not losing academic time, and keeping students learning and teachers teaching by kicking off a phone-bank campaign in support of Proposition 30.

“We will have teachers phone banking every night from now until Nov. 2,” she said. “We may be asking the board and administrators to join us in this effort.”

Marilyn Adrianzen, business services coordinator, said that each year school districts throughout the state have had to make multi-year budget reductions.

“This has caused significant upheaval to our state’s public education system and has forced districts like ours to initiate layoffs, negotiate furlough days, move forward with school closure, reduce or eliminate school programs, assign principles to more than one school and more,” she said.

In presenting unaudited actuals, Adrianzen said multi-year budget reductions amounted to $4.3 million in fiscal year 2012-11, $2.9 million in 2011-12 and $4.3 million in 2012-13.

“We know that in 2013-14 we will be facing more budget cuts,” she said. “Although this is not good news it is evident that our district has placed student learning at the center of our efforts despite our limited resources.”

In a 3-0 unanimous vote, the governing board adopted the resolution in support of both propositions. Trustees Blanca Brown and Larry Loschen absent from the meeting.

Liberty Charter High School Finds New Home at Palm Middle School

Charter school moves from La Mesa to Lemon Grove to expand student population and academic programs.

Just months after being closed by the school district, Palm Middle School is finding new life as the campus of a recently expanded charter high school. After years of searching for a larger location, Liberty Charter High School is calling Lemon Grove home. It aims to train the leaders of the future.

Making the move from La Mesa, Liberty Charter High School offers grades 9-12, and has about 100-123 students per grade level. Its curriculum prepares students to attend any four-year college with prep, AP and standard courses.

Executive director Debbie Beyer said the school trains students to be leaders, academically prepared and ready to take their place as literate citizens in the community and nation.

“We believe we are training the leaders of tomorrow—21st century learners that must have the skills to function in a very different world than the adults around them grew up in,” she said.

Ernie Anastos, superintendent of the Lemon Grove School District, said creating another high school option for students in Lemon Grove is a great benefit to the community. He said about 40 graduates of Palm Middle School will attend Liberty Charter this year.

“It has an excellent track record, both academically and fiscally, and will be a good neighbor,” he said.

Beyer said the school has a diverse student population with a high percentage of English learners, including Arabic speaking students.

“We serve a significant Hispanic population, as well as African Americans,” Beyer said. “We have at least eight languages other than English spoken on our campus.”

Alongside a rigorous academic program, Beyer said there is a leadership program at each grade level and an internship program for juniors and seniors.

“Leadership, literacy and technology are our three distinctive strands,” said Beyer. “We have been approved as a Microsoft IT Academy. Students will leave Liberty with job-ready technical certifications.”

The school is operated by Literacy First Charter Schools. Classes being Aug. 27.

Anastos said the charter school’s arrival is a benefit in light of reduced spending over the past five years due to the state budget crisis. The $300,000 license agreement between the district and Literacy First helped avert the closure of a second school, he said.

With the Lemon Grove Academy for the Sciences and Humanities scheduled to open Sept. 4, the district did not have funds to keep Palm Middle School open and possibly needed to close an additional elementary school.

“Fortunately, Liberty Charter High School was looking for a new location,” Anastos said. “We are using the funds we receive from our licensee, Literacy First Charter Schools, to offset operating costs throughout the school district.”

Beyer said the charter school has looked for a permanent location for the high school since it started. She said the hope is to build a partnership with the school district over years.

“As we’ve grown, we’ve looked for larger facilities that would meet our needs and ultimately our complete needs as we envision building out the entire high school program 9 through 12,” she said.

With a priority for student literacy, its goals include fluency and skilled verbal and written communication, technology, math, science, media, history, arts and contemporary culture. Beyer said the school added a grade each year and consistently grew, with its first senior class last year.

Beyer said Liberty Charter is very pleased with this opportunity to collaborate with Lemon Grove.

“We are eager to be able to develop our programs in a facility that will allow us to build and grow our students and programs,” she said. “We anticipate being a positive influence in the community with both our sports teams and our academic programs.”

City Votes Against Its Own Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative

A competing ballot measure to the citizen driven medical marijuana initiative will not appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

In a narrow 3-2 vote, the Imperial Beach City Council abandoned its attempt to put a counter initiative on the ballot in November to compete with the Safe Access Ordinance of Imperial Beach.

Last month council approved placing the Safe Access Ordinance on the ballot after supporters gathered enough signatures from Imperial Beach voters.

Mayor Jim Janney said that the counter initiative had many flaws, like the Safe Access Ordinance, and that he could not support the time city staff and legal counsel would need to invest to get the counter initiative on the ballot in time.

In order to appear on the November ballot, the initiative would need to be handed over to the County of San Diego Registrar of Voters by Aug. 10.

Had the city authored competing measure received enough votes from council Wednesday, a special meeting would have been necessary to grant final approval.

Janney said he was not in favor of a competing initiative when there are enough problems with the Safe Acces Ordinance. A decent opposition statement from councilmembers and citizens against the initiative would clarify things for voters, he said.

“I am not going to be able to support putting a separate one on there just because somebody put something else out there that we don’t like,” he said. “I believe in what we did the first time,” he said, referring to a restrictive medical marijuana ordinance passed in July 2011.

Janney said he is concerned about the amount of time the city is spending on something that is not going to make Imperial Beach a better place to live.

“If people read the arguments, and that is what they believe in, they will vote the right way,” he said.

The city’s ordinance was put together in less than two weeks by staff, City Attorney Jennifer Lyons and Councilmembers Edward Spriggs and Brian Bilbray.

Lyons said the language of the initiative was largely derived from the County of San Diego’s ordinance that regulates collectives, with some elements borrowed from the city’s current ordinance that regulates adult entertainment bookstores.

Bilbray and King both voted in favor of the city’s competing measure “that fixes a lot of the problems that the citizen’s initiative doesn’t touch,” Bilbray said.

The Safe Access Ordinance has it flaws, Bilbray said, but he believes that it received enough signatures that it will likely pass in November.

Among concerns expressed by Imperial Beach City Council about the Safe Access Ordinance:

– not allowed to deny business licenses

– smoking allowed at dispensaries

– the number of dispensaries that may be established under Safe Access Ordinance

Since the Safe Access Ordinance was put on the ballot by voters, the ordiance’s language cannot be amended by city council.

During the public comment period of the meeting, a half dozen people spoke both for and against the city’s initiative.

Tracy Rivera said her concern is what happens if the city does shut down safe access to its citizens.

“You are sending them to places that are illegal and putting patients in danger,” she said. “Stand up. What are you afraid of? The people want this change.”

Marcus Boyd said he appreciated the work Spriggs and Bilbray did to write the counter ordinance but said the full language of the ordinance was not released until Tuesday and that’s not enough time for anyone to give it a thorough review.

He said that in the short time he had to go over the initiative he found provisions that actually created a ban against safe access and in ways was more restrictive than the current ordinances adopted by council.


Special Needs Program Helps Students Maintain Skills Over Summer

The four-week session offers students with special needs a way to stay on top of skills they are likely to lose during a long break.

With only one more day to go, students in the Extended Year Program at San Altos Elementary danced, sang, played games and held their own special Olympic games.

Bobbie Burkett, director of student services for the Lemon Grove School District, said the four-week program helps maintain the life skills that students with special needs are likely to lose during a long summer break.

Over the past four weeks, 18 staff members worked with 55 students with all varying levels of physical and/or learning disabilities and conscience levels.

She said that with a great student-to-teacher ratio, students get the tools they need to succeed, keep up to date and prepare for the upcoming school year—which starts in just about six weeks.

Lessons for the preschool through middle school students are a blend of computer learning programs called Unique and Splash, which offer participants a hands-on, visually stimulating experience. Everything a student does focuses on science, water, sensory skills and current events.

“The great thing about Splash is that it brings the lessons down to their level, teaching them to work well together as well as the functional life and social skills,” Burkett said.

Using the Olympics as the topic for their current events activity, preschoolers made American and Olympic flags, torches and hats.

Students in grades one through three focused on science, water, the Olympics and nutrition. Grades four through six are more academic, Burkett said, and work on a variety of activities that incorporate science and English language arts.

Teaching fourth through sixth graders, Cathy Glenn held her own Olympic games, getting her class outside participating in bowling, target practice, cycling and tennis. She said all of her activities during the summer dealt with preparing her students for every aspect of going to middle school.

Glenn said events were created with the student’s needs in mind.

“For cycling, we are using small, rolling push carts,” she said. “And even though the kids wanted archery, we are using ring toss.”

Glenn said focusing on the student’s transition into middle school covered a broad range of activities and one-on-one attention to social skills.

“We have one young man getting ready to head into middle school and his favorite role characters are very young for his actual age,” she said. “But through a lot of talk, he has moved up from Buzz Lightyear to Ironman. Though it might change from day to day, he will have an easier social transition.”

Burkett said everything is a little different at San Altos, but that the program has great value to student who might have a hard time understanding rules and learning expectations.

“Some students require an environment more structured and are provided objectives that help keep a student engaged,” Burkett said.

Hotel Sparks New Seacoast Stakeholders Group

The Seacoasters, a group of local residents, business owners and politicians, focus on immediate and long-term goals for Seacoast Drive.

City inaction, gloomy city budget projections and differing views on how to spur economic growth in the city have spawned a new business group called the Seacoasters.

Made up primarily of waterfront business and property owners, the group has more than 20 members who want their voices heard when it comes to future plans surrounding the new hotel scheduled to open in 2013.

“This is an altruistic effort,” said owner of Imperial House Apartments Robert Miller. “Not just for the new hotel and developing Seacoast, we want to use this as a springboard to help the economic base of the city. This hotel could very well be the catalyst to get this city moving in the right direction.”

Miller brought the group together last fall. In October 2011 Miller submitted a letter to the city at a workshop meeting to discuss waterfront business.

Among other things, Miller recommended regular meetings with stakeholders.

Inspired by the letter and talk at the meeting, city council directed city staff to compile short-term and long-term plans for, among other things, marketing and partnerships between the city and its business community and organizations.

The plan has not appeared on a council agenda for approval since it was first considered in November 2011, said Assistant City Manager Greg Wade.

The city has already initiated some of the directives of the short and long-term plans, like continuing to work on a commercial zoning review, street improvements and applying for capital improvement funding from the Port of San Diego, Wade said.

“It is expected that more specific direction will be given when we go back to the council with a report on last week’s workshop,” Wade said in an email Monday. Last week developers and entrepreneursspoke to city council about ways for the city to generate revenue.

At its core Miller said the Seacoasters are made up of of long-term businesses and active civic-minded people.

“The legacy of this city council and staff will reflect what you have done to take advantage of the new Seacoast Inn,” he said in the letter.

The Seacoasters were formed in part due to a lack of action to get IB ready for the hotel, Miller said, but the group would exist whether or not short and long-term plans were approved.

“If it’s not the Seacoasters, then it needs to be businesses or some other stakeholders to be resources and a constant reminder to council and staff that we have a long way to go to do the best we can long-term on Seacoast,” he said.

Even if council acted in the beginning of 2012, it would still be a year behind when plans should have been in place, said Councilman Ed Spriggs, a member of the Seacoasters and Seacoast Drive resident.

Spriggs said the IB city council works really well in most matters, but lack a common vision for specific things to do to develop the city’s economy.

City council does not want to recognize that the hotel will turn the city into a visitor serving economy, Spriggs said.

“This is my biggest disappointment with the council,” he said. “No change in priorities, no recognition that something big is happening here that now redefines us as a community.”

The largest issue of focus for the Seacoasters has been pedestrian scale lighting in hopes that it can support an after dark economy on the waterfront.

One issue has defined the Seacoasters more than any other: pedestrian scale lighting.

In a 3-2 vote earlier this year, Spriggs and Councilwoman Lorie Bragg, both Seacoasters, were the sole votes in favor of pedestrian scale lighting on Seacoast Drive.

Spriggs and Bragg wanted lighting 13- to 16-foot tall lights to make the area more inviting to residents and visitors to walk to local businesses and services.

Opponents of the measure argued that if additional lights were added to plans for new 22-foot tall street lights on the waterfront weren’t approved then the city risked losing redevelopment funds to pay for the lights to the state.

Seacoasters attended the March 21 meeting to voice their support for pedestrian scale lighting.

Spriggs said every community looks at its primary assets as a way to facilitate economic growth, and the city needs to focus on investments around the hotel.

“We have people operating under old software and we have to shift gears and look at where we are going to go,” Spriggs said.

Deric Fernandez is a member of the Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Redevelopment Oversight Committee, the Kiwanis Club and an active member of the Seacoasters.

As a Seacoaster and native Imperial Beachian, he said his goal is for his children to grow up in a great community like he did.

He said his interest in the Seacoasters came when former mayor Diane Rose told him about the group and their desire to attract business day and night, reduce crime and create a destination point that would have a positive ripple effect throughout the city.

The Seacoasters’ focus is pedestrian scale lighting, Fernandez said. At night the street is dark, dingy and not a destination point if people don’t want to walk and there is nothing to do at night.

The beach is great during the day, but if nothing is done, hotel guests will leave IB for other cities at night.

“We don’t want that,” he said.

Visitors need something to do at night other than stay in the hotel, and so pedestrian scale lighting is vital, Miller said.

“Now the city has not bought into this,” said Miller. “If you look at Chula Vista, Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado, they all have pedestrian scale lighting where they have major business centers.”

The idea of better lighting for Seacoast Drive goes back as far as 2004 when he worked with Public Works Department Director Hank Levien on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the design of the Seacoast Improvement Program, Spriggs said.

At that time, it was ranked 10 out of 11 in priorities.

He said the Seacoasters are not only concerned about nighttime pedestrian lighting, but also with public safety, filling vacant lots, crime reduction and helping businesses near the hotel take advantage of a new customer base.

“Lighting didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. The image of what Seacoast Drive could be was pretty clear to all of us in that working group,” he said. “Now, I think the Seacoasters see a broader sense of what needs to happen with many being business people with a direct stake in the hotel’s success.”

Jersey Boys Diner owner Gregg Lalka said the Seacoasters are an energetic group ready to help Seacoast Drive reach its full potential. He said all the members are team players willing to support one another.

Lalka said projects they want to see include better street lighting in order to encourage evening foot traffic, tourist brochures promoting the businesses involved and making Seacoast Drive more dog-friendly.

“We think IB is a hidden gem waiting to be enjoyed by so many more people, which is what attracted us to IB when searching for a spot for our diner,” he said. “As a newer business, my wife [Nicole Lalka] and I felt it was crucial to band together with other businesses to brainstorm new ideas to show the world how wonderful it is to visit this beautiful stretch of Southern California.”

Former president of IB Beautiful Kitt Williams said she is optimistic that with the hotel scheduled to open in 2013, the Seacoasters can make a difference. The city does not have enough staff to keep up with the development, she said.

Money needs to be spent to improve the grounds and public spaces in the city.

“The city needs to improve the sidewalks so they are truly walkable; pedestrian- friendly lighting, and more stores with higher-end merchandise,” she said.

Julia Simms, founding partner of CHE Marketing, moved to IB last year.

She said she is excited about the progress of the Seacoasters and in a bad economy, it is wonderful to see the group’s involvement in creating a better atmosphere and working together to promote IB.

“As a resident, I walk along Seacoast Drive frequently. I believe that pedestrian friendly lighting at night will encourage more residents to participate in what the businesses have to offer,” said Simms. “I think it will bring more people down there and create an environment that discourages crime.”

In April Simms was appointed to the chamber’s Board of Directors.

Earlier this year she headed efforts to try and put together a sandcastle competition after the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition Committee disbanded. CHE is currently working to make a brochure to advertise local businesses.

The Imperial Beach City Council chose not to renew the city’s public relations contract with Simms’ company when a revised budget was approved last month.

Simms said IB is in competition with many other parts of the county and thinks it is important to make Imperial Beach stand out as a prime destination for all who want to visit here.

“It is important that we promote and work with the locals to promote the look and feel of the city as a friendly, fun and safe atmosphere for everyone,” she said.

Pacifica Companies owns the new hotel.

Allison Rolfe is the hotel project manager and a member of the Seacoasters.

Pacifica sent a letter to the city in support of pedestrian scale lighting when the matter was considered earlier this year.

“It is amazing how ambiance can be created by lighting,” Rolfe said. “It makes a huge difference. It is ideas like this that will bring that first time customer back and recommend Imperial Beach as a destination point.”

Miller said the hotel could be the most significant development in the history of Imperial Beach. He said a business owner working in their daily tasks might not have time to think about the impact the hotel could have on their business.

“One of my purposes is to close that gap because they are going to be serving a different public. We want to make sure this hotel is a success,” said Miller.

To join the Seacoasters or recommend ideas, email Robert Miller at

Seacoasters Roster

Bob Miller, Imperial House Apartments

Edward Spriggs, Imperial Beach City Council

Allison Rolfe, Pacifica Companies

Alma Skerston, The Bridge

Lorie Bragg, Imperial Beach City Council

Deric Fernandez, Imperial Beach Chamber Board

Christine LaPausky, D’ames Day Spa

Dick Pilgrim, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

William Massih, Seacoast Grill

Gregg and Nicole Lalka, Jersey Boys Diner

Mike Bibbey, Bibbey’s Shells and Rocks

Julia Simms, CHE Marketing

Matt Morgan, I.B. Forum

Kitt and Richard Williams, IB Beautiful

Richard and Cheryl Schaumburg, Coldwell Banker

Dave Van de Water, Seacoast Drive resident

Paul Meschler, Sea Breeze Apartments

Trustees Extend Superintendent’s Contract; District Bids Farewell to Glenn Heath

The district’s director of human resources is retiring after 23 years of service.

Shouts of “four years more” filled the Community Center as Lemon Grove School District trustees extended Superintendent Ernie Anastos’ contract until 2016. With his current employment agreement expiring next June, a 5-0 vote added three years of service.

The contract comes with no salary increase this year. As with all employees for the past few years, the agreement includes furlough days—nine over the past two years. His total compensation for the past year was $191,016.

The district reviews contracts annually, and three- to five-year contracts are a common practice, Anastos said.

With the same vote of approval from the governing board, Dr. Gina Potter, assistant superintendent of business services, will remain for three more years. Her annual salary remains the same as it’s been for five and a half years—$129,492. She voluntarily gave 12 furlough days over the past two years to help the district get through the tough economic times.

Potter said she loves her work, and given the “tumultuous budget times” her focus is to keep the district fiscally solvent while still providing high-quality education.

“I find our school district to be a well-kept treasure and secret in that we are very much a family of students, parents, and staff members that strive each day to ensure that students come first,” she said.

With the new joint-used county library poised to open in early 2013 on the Lemon Grove Academy campus, Anastos said the intention is to build on the momentum with the many projects and programs on which the district is working.

“We will continue to develop our skills and focus on more deeply engaging students in their own learning,” he said. “We intend to maintain our record of continually improving student performance.”

With more than 40 years in the field of education, Anastos has been with the district for seven years in November. He came to Lemon Grove after 20 years in the Sweetwater Union High School District, where he served as an area superintendent. Prior to her current position, Potter was principal of Mount Vernon Elementary, and has been with the district for 10 years this month.

And in a fond farewell, the district honored Glenn Heath, the human resources director who is retiring after 23 years of service. Heath received a Shining Star Award in recognition of his dedication to children and exemplary leadership.

Anastos spoke of Heath’s integrity and professionalism, saying he had accomplished tremendous things for the district. Honoring his service to his hometown was “a long goodbye and a great celebration.”

“He is a true gentleman, and he has an amazing heart,” Anastos said.

Heath began his education as a student in Lemon Grove. During that time, he said he made the decision to devote his life to education, and called his time with the district “an honor and a privilege.”

Heath worked as a principle for 20 years, and ended his tenure as the district’s director of human resources.

“It’s a great community, it’s a small community,” he said. “The parents and the students are what made working for this district so special to me.”

The district is currently in the selection process for a new director of human resources.

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