New school year ushers in plenty of campus changes for students and staff
Published - 08/28/14 - 02:35 PM | 4572 views | 1 1 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
School buses will be rolling back to local campuses on Tuesday, Sept. 2 with the resumption of classes in the Point Loma Cluster of Schools. 			Photo by Paul Hansen
School buses will be rolling back to local campuses on Tuesday, Sept. 2 with the resumption of classes in the Point Loma Cluster of Schools. Photo by Paul Hansen
It’s a fresh start to a new school year beginning Tuesday, Sept. 2 for the nine institutions of the Point Loma Cluster of Schools (PLCS) in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD).

The PLCS became a reality in 2006, when parents, teachers and principals from each school engaged in a strategic planning process to develop a unified vision. The cluster’s primary objective is to increase communication between and coordinate the efforts of its schools, thus supporting the development of the cluster into an outstanding, cohesive K-12 environment for Point Loma and Ocean Beach youth.

The PLCS includes Point Loma High School and Correia and Dana middle schools, as well as Silver Gate, Cabrillo, Dewey, Loma Portal, Sunset View and Ocean Beach elementary schools.

“We have some great things happening in our cluster this school year,” said Suzy Reid, incoming president of the PLCS Foundation.

“We are welcoming two new principals — Irene Hightower at Cabrillo Elementary and Rebecca Penh at Loma Portal Elementary — and OB Elementary is getting a facelift with a new coat of paint,” she said.

Penh said she, in turn, is excited to hit the ground running.

“It is my sincere pleasure and honor to join a wonderful and caring staff at a school that is known for its dedication to academic excellence,” Penh said. “I look forward to working collaboratively with you to provide the best educational experiences for all of our students.”

An SDUSD product, Penh graduated from Mira Mesa High and San Diego State University before starting her career as a classroom teacher at Walker Elementary School. She later did a stint as interim vice principal at Central Elementary School, where she worked with more than 900 students and co-led more than 50 educators.

“I am a firm believer in the importance of building strong relationships with parents, staff and students,” said Penh. “I am dedicated to spending a majority of my time visiting classrooms and getting to know the students while supporting their learning. I cannot think of a better place to work than Point Loma, a tight-knit community with members who care about students and public education.”

Penh can be reached at (619) 223-1683 or by email at

Moira Clark, vice president of the nonprofit Loma Portal Foundation, which raises money for the elementary school, said this year is a milestone in the school’s history.

“Loma Portal Elementary is celebrating its centennial,” Clark said. “We will be having events throughout the school year and community members are welcome.  Our first event is ‘Living History Day,’ Oct. 2, where you can experience a day of school as it was in 1914.”

To keep up with Loma Portal’s centennial events, email

There are also some great things happening academically in the Point Loma Cluster, said Reid.

 “Principals are working together to coordinate professional development for each grade level in the cluster,” Reid said. “Teachers are working on new Common Core Curriculum and sharing best practices to create a more streamlined K-12 alignment.”

Reid said new construction projects in the cluster include joint-use fields at Dana and Correia Middle School and ongoing updates and improvements at Point Loma High.

“In December, we’ll get a new School Board trustee, Mike McQuary, who we look forward to working with,” Reid said.

Outgoing San Diego Unified School District trustee Scott Barnett, whom McQuary will be replacing, said he is optimistic about the district’s fortunes in the upcoming school year.

“We’re obviously excited about the start of our new year, and our superintendent (Cindy Marten) is putting more rigor into our education system and making sure principals spend more time in the classroom observing and supporting teachers,” said Barnett, adding more good news is that class sizes in SDUSD’s lower grades “should be back down to a ratio of 24 students to one teacher.”

But Barnett also warned some storm clouds are lingering on SDUSD’s financial horizon.

“The district still has a $115 million structural deficit,” he said, noting assets are to be sold off to cover half of that shortfall. “Hopefully, the financial situation will balance out.”

Field improvements are perhaps the biggest change under way in Point Loma in the 2014-15 school year.

“We will break ground on the new

$10 million Correia sports complex by December,” Barnett said. “The newly turfed Dana Field, with no lights, should be up by the first of the year.”

Hans Becker, now in his sophomore year as Point Loma High principal, said the school is “committed as educators to see all students succeed and be ready for the world the day after graduation.

“Excellent teaching at all levels [of the Point Loma Cluster] gives students a wide range of opportunities in our diverse programs,” said Becker. “… Many of our students will have jobs that do not even exist currently. So our mandate is to develop learners who are active, adaptive, thoughtful and engaged.”

Coastal schools, including Point Loma’s, are part of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), the second-largest school district in the state, serving more than 132,000 students in 223 educational facilities. The district includes 116 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, 26 high schools, 44 charter schools and 14 atypical/alternative schools. Besides being one of the largest districts in the state, the SDUSD is also one of the most diverse, representing more than 15 ethnic groups and more than 60 languages and dialects.


A field-use policy is now in place for the long-awaited environmental impact report (EIR) on a master plan for Point Loma High School (PLHS), which includes a controversial proposal for stadium lighting, once the EIR is complete.

That’s the next chapter to be written in the vetting of a PLHS long-range site master plan revision now under way, which proposes providing the previously unlit PLHS athletic fields with permanent field lighting.

“We are going through the process of finalizing the input on the EIR,” said outgoing SDUSD trustee Scott Barnett.

“The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has to give input on the lights, most likely height,” he said. “Once that’s done, staff will issue a draft EIR for final public comment and review. Then we’ll certify the EIR in its final form, hopefully before my last board meeting on

Dec. 8.”

Meanwhile, on July 29, the SDUSD Board of Education unanimously approved the field-use policy for Point Loma High School.

That policy sets forth districtwide procedures for the use of athletic fields and lighted stadiums, including prioritization for times and manner of use, as well as providing measures to mitigate negative impacts to the community. 

The field-use policy for PLHS is the first of several site-specific field use policies which will be brought forward by staff as athletic fields are upgraded and stadium lighting is added to fields.

New PLHS stadium lighting would consist of four towers, each 90 feet high, allowing for maximum lighting of the field and minimal spillover into nearby properties, school officials said.

But not everyone is convinced PLHS stadium lighting is necessary — or beneficial. Two factions, pro-lights Progress for PLHS (PPLHS), and anti-lights Pro Point Loma (PPL), have been lobbying for and against athletic-field lighting for months via websites and Facebook pages, as well as through colorful lawn signs.

The anti-light PPL argues that the school district is on a fast track to turn the high school stadium into a rentable sports venue, commercializing the stadium and turning it into a revenue-generator for the school district while detracting from the high school’s educational mission.

Pro-lights PPLHS answers that PLHS is one of only three of 15 high schools in SDUSD without field lighting and that providing it would benefit all student groups, including band, ROTC and others, whose needs now must be accommodated offsite.

Barnett said the goal of both the new field policy and the PLHS master plan is to ensure “Point Loma has parity with athletic fields at 15 other high schools and at the same time be the best neighbor we can.”

In his view, Barnett said “the needs of Point Loma students outweighs inconvenience to a handful of neighbors a couple of dozen times a the year.”

Barnett said he’s confident PLHS’s stadium lighting and athletic-field policy are “supported by the overwhelming majority of the Point Loma community.”

For the latest information on developments with the planned improvements, visit

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August 29, 2014
Re. Scott Barnett's view "the needs of Point Loma students outweighs inconvenience to a handful of neighbors a couple of dozen times a year."

1. We are more than a handful of neighbors, we have hundreds in our group now. The effect of lighting the stadium is more than an "inconvenience". It will seriously affect our standard of living here as well as our property values. PL high school student's ability to play sports at night under artificial light instead of during the day is not more important than our rights as home owners and tax payers.

2. The newly adopted field use policy calls for 18 nights a year, not "a couple of dozen". So already we can see that Scott Barnett and the school board will not comply with this policy and it hasn't even been implemented yet...

3. A new Correia sports complex is breaking ground soon and can serve any additional needs for students without impacting residents to the degree it will at PLHS.

4. Your article points out there is a $115 million structural deficit, which "hopefully" will balance out with selling off assets. That's pretty ambiguous and why are we spending so much money on sports venues when the campus at PLHS has other issues which are more important to the academic needs of students? How many voters thought so much money and priority would be given to school sports when they voted for propositions to improve school facilities? That's not what I thought I was voting for.

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