By Rick Winet
Ask anyone. The single greatest challenge in a child’s development and education occurs during junior high school –– grades 6 through 8. Quite simply, this is when you become who you are.
In the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District in San Diego County, we have embraced this challenge and are in process of remaking our school district. It started in the early 2000s when the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District board decided to dedicate additional funding and program support to La Presa Middle School in Spring Valley.
Under the leadership of Superintendent Brian Marshall and Principal Mike Allmann, La Presa Middle upgraded its curriculum and focus –– and quickly advanced, becoming our top achieving middle school in math scores. In August of this year, La Presa Middle became the STEAM Academy @ La Presa, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math. This new academy, serving grades 4 through 8, is becoming a beacon of hope and achievement for the entire Spring Valley community.
The forerunner to the STEAM Academy @ La Presa is our own La Mesa Arts Academy, also serving grades 4 through 8, and now in its second year of operation and remarkable growth. Formerly La Mesa Middle School, the La Mesa Arts Academy was the brainchild of Dr. Mark Arapostathis (teacher and mayor of La Mesa) and Jon Hayman (Dean of Students at LMAAC.) Along with the passionate support of Principal Beth Thomas, the La Mesa Arts Academy is now bursting with new enrollment from children who reside outside our district boundaries.
LMAAC offers opportunities in dance/choreography, theater arts, guitar, technology/media, orchestra, visual arts, band, vocal musical ensembles, keyboard, and more. And what is the most important result of all of these offerings? Our kids are fully engaged, energized, and they want to be there.
Coming next to the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District in August 2016 will be our International Baccalaureate Academy. Soon to be the former Spring Valley Middle School, this will be another program for grades 4 through 8. Once again, another remade middle school offering new learning opportunities for our children. Our International Baccalaureate Academy, championed by Principal Margaret Jacobsen, will be a program encouraging both personal and academic achievement, challenging students to excel in their studies and in their personal development.
Thanks in large part to the vision and leadership of Superintendent Brian Marshall, there is more to come. Look us up at the La Mesa-Spring Valley District, or just give Marshall a call. He will be happy to share with you how we are remaking K-8 public education.
––Rick Winet is President of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Governing Board. Write to him at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org.