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Looking Ahead for the San Diego County Office of Education

Looking Ahead for the San Diego County Office of Education

San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold was recently published in the third edition of the School News Roll Call, which features messages from school district superintendents across San Diego County. Below is Gothold's full article reproduced with permission from the publisher. 

County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold smiles at the camera in this headshot.


While Change is Constant, Our Commitment is Steadfast

As I look back on the last several years, one constant has emerged: change. As we climbed out of the pandemic, we shifted our attention to other issues that hit many of our communities. These challenges include students’ declining mental health, threats to protections for students and members of underserved communities, the opioid epidemic, and so much more.

The core purpose of education is to prepare students to excel in a world that is wildly unpredictable and vastly unknown, just as our world has been during the last few years. The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) remains committed to a future without boundaries for every child.

Access and Opportunities

At SDCOE, we believe that each child is born with inherent worth and dignity, and that equitable access to opportunity is essential to a just, educated society. We’re all born with the same number of neurons and we all have the same promise; however, we get uneven outcomes because of a system that was designed with an expectation that some kids will succeed and some kids won’t. SDCOE set a bold and ambitious goal to change this.

SDCOE created the Linda Vista Innovation Center to immerse students in experiences that are aligned with the demand for skilled labor. Kids are invited to use design-thinking to identify a problem and build a prototype or invention to address it. We’re cultivating and promoting the genius of our children by intentionally creating spaces for them to think big and innovate. Transformational teaching and learning that includes an emphasis on real-world skills means we’re giving young people the option to pursue the opportunities of their choice, not what they were left with or forced into. We know there is brilliance and amazing ideas in all communities and we’re prioritizing access for children from underserved communities such as Southeast San Diego and San Ysidro.

Student Health and Wellness

The health, wellness, and safety of our students is of the utmost importance to schools, districts, and SDCOE. In partnership with Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego’s Transforming Mental Health Initiative, SDCOE hosted a series of free webinars for parents and caregivers to learn about tools and strategies to support children with mental health challenges. This series provided information on the most common mental health challenges faced by youth today, including social media, anxiety, and finding a school-life balance.

SDCOE was recently selected as one of 60 recipients of California’s leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award, presented by the California School Boards Association to recognize outstanding programs and governance practices. Honored in the School Culture & Safety category, our Policy to Practice: Suicide Intervention Toolkit provides schools with protocols to support students experiencing suicidal ideation. Since its launch, nearly 4,500 district/school staff across the state have received training on conducting comprehensive suicide risk screenings using the toolkit. In San Diego County, more than 700 school staff have received this training and nearly 3,400 suicide risk screenings have been conducted.

If making it through the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t hard enough, our communities continue to face an opioid epidemic. SDCOE has focused on comprehensive substance abuse prevention education for decades, an approach that combines education, harm-reduction strategies, and mental health and well-being supports. Adding to these efforts, we recently launched a new drug prevention video series created to provide young people with information about the dangers of drugs and empower them to make healthy decisions.

Titled I Choose My Future and available at, the series explores the impacts of drug misuse on the developing brain; explains the dangers of vaping, marijuana, opioids, fentanyl, and other drugs; and provides strategies for handling peer pressure and getting help. Hosted by a 31-year veteran agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the videos feature interviews with doctors, experts, and families. We want more schools and students to hear the important messages about identifying dangerous drugs, drug misuse, and tips for handling peer pressure.

Strengthening Partnerships

Creating lasting, impactful change means fundamentally changing the way we work and working with partners in new and innovative ways. The leadership teams from the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA) and SDCOE recently convened to discuss how the two organizations can strengthen our partnership and align resources and expertise to enable us to be more responsive to the needs of students and families throughout San Diego County.

SDCOE and HHSA have worked together for many years to build and create conditions for San Diego County families to thrive. To build cross-sector communities of practice aligned to both organizations’ goals, we’ll continue to collaborate on making ideas actionable and impactful for the communities we serve.

Building Community Together

We have an opportunity to create the conditions for every child to succeed. We need an asset-based approach where kids can see their future through the adults who celebrate their potential. All our children need to be seen as brilliant and to know they’re capable of learning anything. We control the conditions for them to do so. To get to transformational teaching and learning, we must lift up the assets and beauty of our children and communities.

When we listen to our children and parents, and to industry partners, we begin to develop vibrant school communities where students emerge with the skills they need to thrive in the workplace and world. Imagine if we were designing each school and every lesson around having kids engaged in building those skills every day.

Giving students the opportunity to explore different areas – and directly linking them to real-world experiences – means we’re no longer teaching academic subjects in isolation, but actually showing how they’re relevant and connected to real life. Schools can’t do this alone. Through transformational teaching and learning in community schools, businesses and private and philanthropic partners are involved and invested in our schools.

Everything that we do at SDCOE, and in working with our districts and schools, is done with an emphasis on what is best for kids – for all kids. No matter their identity, it’s our responsibility to ensure each child has access to a fair and equitable education and thrives in a system that prepares them for careers and life.

triangle SDCOE emblem

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