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 Getting to Know SDCOE: JCCS Principals Look Forward to Making a Difference in 2018

It's a new year, and there are some new leaders at the San Diego County Office of Education's Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS).

Get to know the principals and site administrators who lead JCCS sites and regions. Below, they share some thoughts on what they are looking forward to in 2018 and what drew them to the County Office of Education.

 

Valentin Escanuela

Principal, East Region Schools, and interim Principal, South Region Schools

With JCCS 13 years

What are you looking forward to for JCCS in 2018?

I feel optimistic and confident with our senior leadership's philosophy and the new direction we are headed. I feel that this is going to lead to more student success.

What initially attracted you to SDCOE and JCCS?

I wanted to work with kids and be that intervention for them. I was born and raised in East L.A., and so my background and experiences growing up have allowed me to make connections with the students. I think about my adolescence, and I see a myself in a lot of our students.

What are you expecting from students in 2018?

I'm excited about the collaborative work the community school principals, Curriculum and Instruction team, and teacher representatives have been doing to support teachers and students programwide. I'm expecting students to engage and connect with authentic and relevant learning opportunities that will develop skills and help them become successful both inside and outside of the classroom.

 

Joanne Finney

Principal, San Diego SOAR Academy at Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention and Girls Rehabilitation facilities

With JCCS five years

What are you looking forward to for JCCS in 2018?

I am looking forward to continuing to work with our staff as they engage in developing supports for our students so they may excel when they enroll into their next academic or vocational placement. 

What initially attracted you to SDCOE and JCCS?

I had been a principal with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and when an opportunity for a similar position in Southern California was available, I applied. Based upon the research I had done, SDCOE was on the leading edge of educational opportunities for students within the juvenile justice system. I also visited the website, where I found the JCCS mission statement. I was impressed by its call to provide innovative educational experiences to all students, as well as an ongoing commitment by the adults in the organization to become accountable for the implementation of the mission statement. 

What are you expecting from students in 2018?

At San Diego SOAR Academy, we are expecting our students to have a strong belief in their ability to learn and grow through this experience. By putting forth effort, being creative and committing to do their best every day, our students will excel and be ready for their next educational placement. We further want our students to understand that every San Diego SOAR Academy staff member is here to support them on their journey to success. 

 

Theresa Fox

Principal, Metro Region Schools

With JCCS 23 years

What are you looking forward to for JCCS in 2018?

JCCS has gone through so many changes in the last few years, I am mostly looking forward to stability. Executive Director Tracy Thompson and Senior Director Bruce Petersen are committed to ensuring our schools practice social justice and education equity. While the focus of the educational program is increasing academic skills through the creation of curriculum maps, there is also an emphasis on employability skills, restorative practices, and increasing community partnerships. I am excited about implementing a new career interest inventory and implementing multi-tiered systems of support in order to ensure student success. 

What initially attracted you to SDCOE and JCCS?

One of the things that originally attracted me to JCCS was the belief and the vision: Making a difference. The staff members of Juvenile Court and Community Schools have a core belief that they are making a difference in the lives of their students and maybe even their students' children. It is a pleasure and an honor to work with an inspirational group of professionals who are dedicated to educating the neediest children in our county.

What are you expecting from students in 2018?

My expectation for students in 2018 is that they are actively engaged in their learning, through the inquiry-based lessons that their teachers are providing. My hope is that our students take advantage of the opportunities and resources that we are providing with our partners. This will lead our students toward a positive step into their future, either through college-prep or career-readiness courses. My expectation for myself is that I continue to build rapport with the students of the JCCS Metro Region.

 

Nathan Head

Site Administrator, San Diego SOAR Academy at East Mesa Juvenile Detention Center

With JCCS 17 years

What are you looking forward to for JCCS in 2018?

The collaboration between all stakeholders to provide the best educational experience for our students. We now have leadership in place that can continue to grow the organization and put the right supports in place to meet the needs of students. 

What initially attracted you to SDCOE and JCCS?

My undergraduate degree was in psychology and counseling. When I moved to California, my first job was with high-risk students in the foster youth system. I learned very quickly that this population needed extra supports and intense interventions in education. I went back to school to work specifically with the students at JCCS to make a difference

What are you expecting from students in 2018?

I am expecting students to find themselves caring about learning and their education. Through building relationships with teachers and staff we can find the appropriate supports to make their time valuable learning time where they connect with the local community and want to become an agent for change. Many times, our students don't think about the future; we want to change that. 

 

Leilah Kirkendoll

Principal, San Diego SOAR Academy at Camp Barrett

With JCCS 24 years

What are you looking forward to for JCCS in 2018?

In 2018, I am working to continue the work that has made Camp Barrett an awesome place for staff to work and students to learn. This work includes increasing the level of college and career readiness in all students. Through a robust career technical education program and "a-g" college-preparatory program, we can achieve these goals. In addition, we are working to increase the comfort and ability of the students on tests that will impact their lives, tests such as the College Board ACCUPLACER, the state Smarter Balanced assessments, the national HiSet Exam, and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Finally, we are working to increase the overall ability of our students as measured by our Local Control and Accountability Plan goals.

What initially attracted you to SDCOE and JCCS?

I was attracted to JCCS because I was impressed with the work they were doing, making a difference with every student. The small class sizes, the personalized learning, and the attention to the whole child were evident in the productivity of the students that left the program. I was also attracted to the empowering work of teachers, with fewer levels of bureaucracy and more opportunities to exercise their voice. I have been working to live up to that vision of making a difference for over 20 years now.

What are you expecting from students in 2018?

I am expecting students to grow and learn in a number of ways. I expect continued development of staff and faculty to positively affect the climate of Camp Barrett by implementing Restorative Practices in the school and the probation camp. With this climate shift, more learning and greater opportunities for accessing the curriculum can take place. I also expect that this growth will take place between the modification of student behavior and their ability to take responsibility for themselves. These brilliant youth will have the necessary tools to secure their bright futures.

 

Suzanne Miyasaki

Principal, San Pasqual Academy

With JCCS nine years

What are you looking forward to for JCCS in 2018?

I'm looking forward to continuing to develop partner relationships and the academic program at San Pasqual Academy.

What initially attracted you to SDCOE and JCCS?

The opportunity to work with youth who are at risk and marginalized drew me to SDCOE.

What are you expecting from students in 2018?

I want students to believe in themselves, persevere, and work toward preparing for life after San Pasqual Academy.

 

Gretchen Rhoads

Site Administrator, Metro Region Schools

With JCCS two months

What are you looking forward to for JCCS in 2018?

I am looking forward to making a difference in the lives of our students. I am excited to move work forward in alignment with the mission statement of JCCS and being able to implement instructional strategies such as project-based learning in order to provide students with authentic learning experiences.

What initially attracted you to SDCOE and JCCS?

I have always wanted to be a part of JCCS. Serving the students and families that make up JCCS is my heart's work.

What are you expecting from students in 2018?

I am expecting that the brilliant students in the Metro Region will fulfill their dreams and reach their truest potential.

 

Joel Spengler

Principal, North Region Schools

With JCCS three years

What are you looking forward to for JCCS in 2018?

I am heartened by our work and the continued growth of the learning communities at each of our sites. Our staff has the experience and disposition to connect with students, many of whom have had few connections with adults at school in the past. 

What initially attracted you to SDCOE and JCCS?

I was initially attracted to JCCS by the students we serve. Our students are amazing young people. I enjoy connecting, working, and celebrating successes with them.

What are you expecting from students in 2018?

I am looking forward to the discussions, projects, papers, presentations, and other ways our students will demonstrate their learning in 2018.

Joe Wiseman

Principal, Monarch School

With JCCS five years

What initially attracted you to SDCOE and JCCS?

Throughout my career, I've always gravitated toward working with underserved students and schools. I was attracted to JCCS because it is filled with a passionate and likeminded team really making an impact in the lives of kids who really need connections, opportunities, and supports.  I am grateful for the day-to-day work with the kids and for being part of their learning journey with my tremendous team of teachers and staff. 

What are you expecting from students in 2018?

The sky is the limit for our students at Monarch. I expect students to continue to grow as learners as they contribute to the Monarch School community.

 

The San Diego County Office of Education's Juvenile Court and Community Schools provide a fully accredited educational program for school-age youth who are either wards of the court or have been referred by social services, probation, or a school district. Services are provided to youth who are incarcerated, pregnant or parents, in foster care, expelled, chronically truant, in drug treatment centers and group homes for neglected or abused children, and experiencing homelessness.

JCCS serves nearly 5,000 students per year at more than 24 sites across the county.