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Julie Blevins Winner of Optimist Award
Marieanne Quiroz

Julie Blevins, a kindergarten teacher at Mound Elementary School in the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), received the “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” last week. The “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” was created in memory of Chris Prewitt, beloved VUSD Assistant Principal, who passed away in 2014.

Julie Blevins, a kindergarten teacher at Mound Elementary School in the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), received the “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” last week. The “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” was created in memory of Chris Prewitt, beloved VUSD Assistant Principal, who passed away in 2014.

Chris was an incredible teacher, water polo coach, administrator, and friend to all lucky enough to spend time with him. Chris’ unrelenting passion for life inspired the staff and students of his schools and the community. Each year a recipient is honored with this award. The honorees of this award show the same spirit and passion that Chris carried with him daily and have positively impacted their school sites in the same way that Chris affected his.

This year’s winner, Ms. Julie Blevins, is the epitome of an eternal optimist. She teaches kindergarten at Mound Elementary School and wears a constant smile on her face. In addition, she volunteers for School Site Council and the Parent Teacher Organization in her free time. Others describe her as always proactive and positive. She always has a kind word for those she meets.

“Julie remained positive and a bright light through the complications of COVID-19 for Mound and its students. She is loved by students, colleagues, and parents alike. Anyone who meets her would agree that she deserves this recognition,” stated Principal Bobbi Powers.

“I am humbled and honored by this award. Chris Prewitt was an amazing man,” stated Ms. Blevins.

Superintendent, Dr. Antonio Castro, presented Ms. Blevins with the award in front of her kindergarten class, who gave her a standing ovation.

attendance poster contest logo
Marieanne Quiroz

The Ventura Unified School District is calling all students and staff to enter the VUSD Attendance Awareness Poster Contest. Posters should highlight why “Every Day in School Counts” or “Why Attending School is Cool.”

The Ventura Unified School District is calling all students and staff to enter the VUSD Attendance Awareness Poster Contest. Posters should highlight why “Every Day in School Counts” or “Why Attending School is Cool.” 

Contest Guidelines:
One winning poster will be selected from each of the following categories:

  • TK –2
  • 3 – 5
  • Middle School
  • High School
  • VUSD Employee

Eligibility and Criteria:
All students and staff from VUSD are able to participate. One entry per person, please. Posters will be judged on how well they address the theme, design quality, and creativity.  Please use the official VUSD Attendance Awareness Poster entry form in English or in Spanish .

Submission Guidelines:
To enter the contest, follow the steps below”
1. Design a poster on the provided form that speaks to the theme of the contest.
2. Make sure your full name, grade level, and school at on your poster.
3. Turn your poster in to the office at your school by the end of the school day on September 30th, 2022.
4. Winners will be announced in October.

Prizes:
The top posters will be shared on the District’s Social Media and will be made into posters that will be displayed at VUSD schools. Each winner will also receive a copy of their winning poster.

dignitaries cutting the ribbon at ceremony
Marieanne Quiroz

Ventura City Council Member Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios, the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, and the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) Board of Education joined VUSD staff and families for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, August 30, 2022, to officially mark the opening of VUSD’s newest K-8 school. The Academy of Technology & Leadership at Saticoy (ATLAS) joins two other schools in the District, serving students in a K-8 environment.

Ventura City Council Member Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios, the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, and the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) Board of Education joined VUSD staff and families for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, August 30, 2022, to officially mark the opening of VUSD’s newest K-8 school. The Academy of Technology & Leadership at Saticoy (ATLAS) joins two other schools in the District, serving students in a K-8 environment. 

Before COVID, families in the Ventura Unified School District requested that VUSD look into transitioning some of its elementary school sites into K-8 options, allowing for a smaller learning community compared to more traditional middle school options. The Board and VUSD staff conducted research, received feedback from staff, students, and families, and decided to transition two of its elementary schools into K-8 options. These schools joined Sunset K-8 School, located in Oak View, which has been in place for many years. Lemon Grove School transitioned to a K-8 last August 2021. ATLAS will begin with a 6th-grade class this year, add a 7th-grade class for the 2023-24 school year, and complete its transition in 2024-25 by graduating its first 8th-grade class. 

“This District has a long history of providing as many options as possible for families because we understand every student is different and what they need is unique. We try very hard to offer a wide array of opportunities to really see what your child is interested in and meet them there,” stated Board President Sabrena Rodriguez. 

ATLAS is a Leader in Me school. The Leader in Me program is an evidence-based, comprehensive model that builds leadership and life skills in students, creates a high-trust school culture, and lays the foundation for sustained academic achievement.  

“We became a Leader in Me school in 2013. We then became a Leader in Me Lighthouse School in 2017. Being a Lighthouse School means we are in the top 10% of all Leader in Me schools in the world. There is over 5,000 Leader in Me schools in all 50 states and over 50 countries,” stated ATLAS 6th-grade student Brooklynn Hall. “I am so excited to be in 6th grade; this is a whole new start. We at ATLAS have come so far. If you think about it, we might not be standing here if Ms. Winslow weren’t our Principal; we are so lucky to have her, this school, and all of the people that support us.”

vusd community members and mayor rubalcava cutting ceremonial ribbon
Marieanne Quiroz

Mayor Sofia Rubalcava and the VUSD Board of Education joined VUSD staff for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, August 29, 2022, to officially mark the opening of Sa’aliyas Ranch to Ventura Unified School District students. This certified organic farm facility will prepare high school students for agricultural science, business, and technology career opportunities and engage Kindergarten through 8th-grade students in STEM-related projects and activities as they learn about Ventura County’s agriculture industry. 

VENTURA UNIFIED OPENS ORGANIC FARM

A one-of-a-kind facility in Ventura County

VENTURA, CA, August 30, 2022 – Mayor Sofia Rubalcava and the VUSD Board of Education joined VUSD staff for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, August 29, 2022, to officially mark the opening of Sa’aliyas Ranch to Ventura Unified School District students. This certified organic farm facility will prepare high school students for agricultural science, business, and technology career opportunities and engage Kindergarten through 8th-grade students in STEM-related projects and activities as they learn about Ventura County’s agriculture industry. 

Dr. Rebecca Chandler, VUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, shared, “Sa’aliyas Ranch (Chumash for “on the path”) has five acres of avocados, lemons, row crops, a state-of-the-art greenhouse with an aquaponics system, and indoor and outdoor learning spaces developed for K-12 students. Designed to be self-sustaining and teach students about agriculture, science, business, and technology in one of the largest industries in Ventura County, the ranch allows students to see science in action. We are thrilled to offer this exciting opportunity.”

Local industry and community partners were invited to the ceremony to recognize their time and input throughout the planning and development process. Students will be involved in the marketing and selling of produce to local businesses, and their partnership is essential.   

Mike Etchart, Sa’aliyas Ranch Farm Manager and CTE Agriculture & Natural Resources teacher, explained, “The agriculture industry is one of the biggest employers in our county, with many different career opportunities that pay living wages in our region. This facility will not only provide students with an opportunity to learn about the science of agriculture but also gain valuable job skills in high school that would lead to careers with any number of local employers in the sector.”

We look forward to introducing the community to this immersive learning space; watch for public farm visit opportunities coming later this fall! For more information, visit our website at www.saaliyasranch.com.  

the front of the former washington school site
Marieanne Quiroz

As you may have seen on social media recently, VUSD recently provided Ventura County Christian School (residing at VUSD’s former Washington School site) with a Tier 1 Seismic Evaluation that showed the building was unsafe and must be vacated. VUSD continues to work with VCCS to offer assistance in finding alternative locations for the school. We value our long relationship with VCCS; however, we place the safety and well-being of every student and community member above all else.

Statement by Ventura Unified School District Superintendent Antonio Castro Regarding the former Washington School Site

We understand how difficult this situation is for the Ventura County Christian School (VCCS) community, and our hearts go out to the students, families, and staff whose new school year is being impacted by the need to shut down the 100-year-old building they occupy due to significant structural issues.

A Tier 1 Seismic Evaluation by 19six Architects and Engineers and received by the District on August 11, 2022, showed that the building was unsafe and must be vacated. The report followed multiple months of study and indicated that the property exhibited unsafe conditions.

We value our long relationship with VCCS and the students and families it serves. At the same time, our District places the safety and well-being of every student above all else. We cannot and will not compromise the safety of students, families, community members or staff members, whether they are in a building or property owned by the District, or leased by the District to another entity.

The decision not to renew the lease with VCCS followed efforts by District staff to help the school find alternative locations. This was followed by an offer on our part to expedite repairs and upgrades to an alternative District-owned property. That offer still is open. We also offered to hold joint informational meetings for VCCS community members, but the VCCS administration declined.

The relationship between the district and VCCS goes back a long way.  We looked forward to negotiating a new proposed lease following the June 30 expiration of the prior lease.  However, this did not occur.  The District accepted additional payments under the prior lease’s holdover tenancy as set forth in the prior lease.  As for the issue of non-discrimination language, this is a standard part of District contracts.  VCCS signed the very same lease language in the prior lease that was executed in October 2021.

Moving forward, we will continue to make every reasonable effort to assist VCCS as it looks for an alternative location.

If you would like to provide comments or feedback, email vusd.superintendent@venturausd.org.