Mar Vista Middle School to Close, Restructure

Mar Vista Middle School will reopen in July as a new school with a focus on 21st century skills and problem based learning due to inconsistent academic performance over the course of the past decade, according to officials.

After 10 years as a Program Improvement school, Mar Vista Middle School will be closing in June after a 4-1 vote by the Sweetwater Union High School District School Board on Monday.

When the school year ends June 7, half of the school's teachers will stay at the school, district spokesman Manuel Rubio said. The other half will leave the school—the main campus for young people in Imperial Beach—and be reassigned to other campuses within the district.

How teachers will be selected to stay or go has not yet been worked out, Rubio said.

New staff will be hired as part of a restructuring program to make what was Mar Vista Middle School a program or theme school when the new school year begins July 24.

A series of community meetings will be held for input on how the school should move forward and restructure, Principal Thomas Winters said.

"There's going to be three pillars to this theme/focus school: academic literacy, 21st century skills and problem-based learning," he said.

Mar Vista Middle School will be restructured because it has been labeled a Program Improvement school for 10 years, according to the district. A Program Improvement school is one that receives federal Title I funding for low-income students and has failed to meet all Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals in particular subject areas for two consecutive years.

AYP scores are a product of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Over the past month, parents, teachers and adminstrators held meetings to review surveys, exam scores, California Standardized Test scores, and attendance and suspension rates.

After three meetings, the District Site Leadership Team (DSLT) recommended that the school board get rid of ineffective teachers or close Mar Vista and start over as a theme or program school.

The change occurs as a new charter school opens nearby. On Monday the board also approved a charter school petition for nearby Southwest Middle School.

If approved by the state, the new charter school will be named the Stephen W. Hawking II Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math Charter School.

Linda Bennett is an early intervention coordinator at Mar Vista Middle School working with at-risk students. When her daughter attended Mar Vista, she said, "I had to handpick her teachers because there's teachers that I could not have her with."

Bennett was one of about 10 teachers who chose to participate in the DSLT.

Generally, she said, teachers felt they did not need any professional development to improve education at the school, but observations said otherwise.

"So in our group we decided that the barriers were the teachers," she said. "It's sad. The Imperial Beach community deserves better. We want teachers that will move our students forward."

Elizabeth Dixon also took part in the DSLT and wants to see the school change. Her son Daniel is an eighth-grader at the middle school.

An employee at nearby Mendoza Elementary School, Dixon said she speaks to parents in the community who hear bad things about the middle school and its teachers.

"Their parents do not want them to attend Mar Vista Middle because of all the horror stories that they have heard about the teaching at Mar Vista Middle. And I say enough is enough," she said.

People with a vested interest in the school, including teachers, had an opportunity to join the DSLT.

"If you have a grievance, if you want to get something done, you need to step up," Dixon said. "These parents and these teachers had an opportunity to step up and they did nothing."

Kara King, who also participated in the DSLT meetings, said reading the teacher surveys made her feel shocked and angry.

"Based on the information we were provided, it seemed like some people had given up on our children and our community in particular," she said.

The prospect of a new school gives her hope to do something that hasn't been tried in the past 10 years, she said.

Community activists who regularly attend board meetings said they felt the move is long past due.

"Who took their eye off the ball on this thing? Since 2003, this school has been under Program Improvement," Bernardo Vasquez said. "It's taken us 10 years to get to a point where we need to come up with a drastic decision to start over with this school? I think that's an absolute disservice to this community.

Kathleen Cheers of Imperial Beach sent one of her nine children to Mar Vista Middle School.

"Something is broken somewhere and it's not just Mar Vista, because if it was, Mar Vista would be the only school on the Program Improvement list. So we are not paying attention to the education of our students," she said.

Robert O'Keefe works at Mar Vista Middle. His son also attends school there. He agrees something needs to be done to change the school's performance, but said he feels any change to a theme or focus school should be delayed a year in order to lay out a plan.

He said he doesn't know if he will be one of the teachers that comes back, but the students and teachers who are part of the new school deserve a well-developed plan. A few months isn't enough time, he said.

"First of all, I haven't heard one thing yet as far as what model we're going to use specifically, where it's being implemented, what type of results it's gotten. We can't just change for change," he said.

"Don't rush into something. Not if you really want it to work. Not if you want it to last and have an impression," O'Keefe said.

Colleen Cook-Salas has taught math at Mar Vista Middle School for more than two decades and plans to reapply for her position.

"I have looked forward my entire career for Mar Vista Middle to be a school like I read about where the staff is onboard the same bus together. I consider Mar Vista Middle my home. I am thrilled this opportunity is coming to the Imperial Beach community," she said.

Cook-Salas urged those who say there isn't enough time to form a new school to "put away the shortsightedness and look at what it can mean to work in an environment where so many others are moving in the same positive direction."

A teacher speaking anonymously due to concern about getting her position back next year said she believes restructuring is a bad idea and the public has been misled.

Every profession has employees that don't do their fair share, but Mar Vista Middle has a lot of dedicated, hard-working teachers, she said.

"So you have a few teachers that aren't doing their fair share so restructure the whole school?" she asked.

Even if restructuring is a good idea, what's the plan, she asked.

"If you were in business and you were going to restructure your business, would you do it over a six-week period or would you do it over a couple-year period planning it, doing research?" she said.

To see data on the school's performance, visit the California Department of Education website.

Base API Made AYP
# of AYP Criteria Met 2012 753 No 13 of 25 2011 767 No 23 of 25 2010 728 No 18 of 25 2009 722 No 15 of 25 2008 719 No 15 of 25


683 No 21 of 25 2006 694 No 22 of 25 2005 657 No 21 of 25 2004 615 No 25 of 29 2003 644 No

Should Mar Vista Middle School go through the restructure? What do you think needs to change at the middle school? Share in comments.

Correction: The original version stated that the principal of Mar Vista Middle School's name is Michael Winters. His name is Thomas Winters.

Also the previous version of this article stated that the school's entire teaching staff will be "let go" when in fact half the school's staff will be hired back and the other half will be reassigned to other schools within the district.

Erika Lowery March 12, 2013 at 07:13 PM
I am actually hopeful for Mar Vista Middle with this restructuring. I would like to see more programs similar to High Tech Middle/High school where it is both technology based while meeting the State Requirements. I would like to see a laptop program option for the students. I know we are a lower income area but there are ways for students to have access to the technology that our children need to succeed. Yet, I think we both know that all students are not destined for suits and desk jobs. I want them to have options outside of school to develop these options and see what track is best suited for them - whether it be in the arts, handcrafts, mechanics, woodworking, sports etc.
Nanci March 12, 2013 at 07:24 PM
"So in our group we decided that the barriers were the teachers," she said. "It's sad. The Imperial Beach community deserves better. We want teachers that will move our students forward." Wow... I Think that it sucks they are blaming the teachers and not the parents of the kids...
Libi Uremovic March 12, 2013 at 08:00 PM
schools are a reflection of the community.....this town's treatment of children is heartbreaking...
Blame the kids March 12, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Paint dog sh*t gold and you still have dog sh*t. When I attended that school it wasn't the teachers who were bad, it was the students who had no interest in learning. They saw it as a social club, focusing on getting high and screwing each other than making good grades.
Jon-Anthoni Nieves March 12, 2013 at 11:42 PM
I am a former student of Mar Vista Middle. Class of '06. Although my middle school years are FAR behind me, I'm glad they are restructuring.I think it's high time. It's true, at least when I attended, there were some dedicated and brilliant teachers. However, I did feel like things could have been better academically. I truly hope this new change brings a lot of good to the school, and teachers and students both do their jobs wisely and correctly. Children are our future and NO ONE should ever get lazy when it comes to that! - J. Nieves
John Galt March 13, 2013 at 03:18 AM
Nanci - my kids went there. Bad teachers is an understatement. The way Mar Vista middle school was handled should be criminal. Many of the teachers, not all, but many had apathy. Very lazy. The office staff was very incompetent. This is probably the best thing that could happen to that school. For the record our children graduated a year early from high school. We were active parents and very involved. So yes Mar Vista had some very bad teachers.
Tina Carman March 13, 2013 at 07:09 AM
I graduated Mar Vista in 1984 so I know there has been a lot of change. While I was there, teachers were good and cared about their students. It was the kids who didn't want to learn, not the teachers not doing their jobs. I loved it there and Mar Vista High! Best six years of my young adult life!
Salinde March 13, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Im not sure next year IB kids will go there any longer. Next year they will have both 7/8 grade charter middle school up in running in IB. Also, there is still a rather large portion of IB kids go to Coronado Middle.
Salinde March 13, 2013 at 02:50 PM
As far as I know, because my kids did go to a local school that had a laptop program, the families are required to provide thier own laptops, the schools dont.
Telling It Like It Is March 13, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Mar Vista Middle had a great AFTER school program - award winning - but a lot of teachers who were waiting to retire and had lost interest - AND a very incompetent office staff - which made education lacking. It will be great if they make this a charter school and pattern it after High Tech High programs. However, there is a misconception I am reading here - High Tech High is a PROJECT based learning program - not completely "high tech" necessarily. The students work on projects (generally in groups) that actually incorporate what they are learning - math, science, english, history - into their project. They learn how it actually applies, rather than just in theory. All schools should teach this way. One last thing.....Mar Vista Middle was held back, I feel, do to the "no child left behind" act - this meant, higher achieving students did not get challenged as teachers were trying to get the kids that were behind caught up. When I went to a Parent/Teacher conference concerned about my student's math grade, which was a B, I was basically laughed at and told she had failing kids that needed her attention and that my student was doing just fine - which was not the case because this student was usually an A student who was struggling with what was being taught at the time.
Sissy Jacks March 14, 2013 at 06:24 AM
People of IB wake up!!!!! You have handed over total control of your childrens educational and tax dollars to a board whose majority has given Ed Brand total power. Ed brand had two items on the closed session - one to purchase a new office building in Eastlake for a new district office and the other for land to house our buses off of Main. Where are the community members? 4 of 5 of our board members are facing felony trials for alleged corruption. Our past superintendent is also facing charges as is a past board member - yet the publics seats sit vacant each month at board meetings. If you want a change in direction then bother to show up, stand up and speak up - our children's education deserves our attention. Next time you enter a voting booth, remember our boards names. The only board member who has consistently voted on behalf of the students and taxpayers is Bertha Lopez - listen to the audio of board docs for confirmation.
Sissy Jacks March 14, 2013 at 06:39 AM
To put blame solely on the teachers is wrong. We as parents are part of the problem as well - we have allowed the student teacher ratio to soar - how many reading this have bothered to attend a board meeting and raise this as a concern? How many have sat quietly while ten years of program improvement slowly ticked by? Am I saying there are not bad teachers? No I am not, however this is our community and it is time we began to pay attention. The majority of the board is failing us miserably - spending far too much money on non educational expenditures. We can sit around and bang on these keys on we can attend board meetings and make our mandates known, Get rid of Brand, bring someone in here who cares about education - who is not totally focused on wheelin and dealin. Let us not forget Brand was here before and he left under the cloud of a Grand Jury investigation when the community became concerned about all of those Prop BB dollars being spent on a new gym. Who brought him back - well that would be John Mccann, Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa - the question is WHY??????
Erika Lowery March 14, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Salinde, Mine do too (the older two go to Coronado Middle School now). But there are many districts that get iPads for their students. I remember a number of break in and thefts of these iPads. There must be a way for this district to get them for their students...
Libi Uremovic March 14, 2013 at 10:46 PM
teachers are the line workers - blaming the teachers is a cop-out... it's the parents and administration...and it's the general culture of the town to disregard their children...
Dick Pilgrim March 15, 2013 at 01:00 AM
When compared to some peer schools, in SUHSD, Mar Vista Middle is truly in trouble. Granger Jr. High in National City has almost identical demographics yet is doing well with all groups (it too has room to grow!) Go to http://research-evaluation.sweetwaterschools.org/sarcs/ to find links to evaluation results at both schools. I do not believe that test scores should be only way to measure a school but it is certainly an important measure. I taught 43 years starting at jr. hs and retiring from University. Successful learners must read and write competently in at least one language, preferably English in the USA, and have a good foundation in mathematics. It is extremely hard for a youngster to make up deficiencies. Schools must work on doing it right the first time. Too many SUHSD students are not reaching competency as evidenced by the fact that the entire district is in Year 3 of Program Improvement status. The most successful school changes have been those instituted internally by a teaching staff, forced on the administration, and backed by the school community (not just parents but everyone). Mar Vista Middle draws from a fractured community which lacks a common vision, that is why Imperial Beach Charter Middle should be supported by IB residents.
Mike G March 16, 2013 at 11:10 PM
One quick question; what percentage of students at MVMS are English as a Second Language learners? Could it be that many of them are maybe lets say from a little south of here and attending school here illegally? Could that have ANYTHING to do with the piss poor performance of the school? It's a rhetorical question but feel free to nod your heads up down just the same.
Darlene Crawford March 17, 2013 at 10:07 PM
mvms should be closed down. it a horrible school.the workers in the office are rude . they dont care about the kids. weather they are high or poor performance students. they offer no help to the poor that can not afford uniforms for school or P.E. its not they problem. would not send a kid there.
Pop Quiz March 18, 2013 at 01:15 AM
I went to MVMS. I had a "teacher", Mr. Dimasse. He did not even talk to the classes he taught. We would sit down and he would play an audio tape that he had recorded during the first class. He hated his job and he hated his life. He was there for years. This is a clear case of a bad teacher supported by a bad administration. Upside? Lots and lots of movies during his class. Watch the movie "Waiting for Superman"
Pop Quiz March 18, 2013 at 01:19 AM
I went to MVMS. I had a "teacher", Mr. Dimasse. He did not even talk to the he students he taught. We would sit down and he would play an audio tape that he had recorded during the first class. He hated his job and he hated his life. He was there for years. This is a clear case of a bad teacher supported by a bad administration. Upside? Lots and lots of movies during his class. Watch the movie "Waiting for Superman". The school should have been closed long ago.....
Pop Quiz March 20, 2013 at 03:06 AM
watch the movie "waiting for Superman
Brian March 28, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Privatizing schools will not make students Nobel-prize candidates, nor will it make bad teachers exceptional. "Waiting for Superman" is an informercial by the charter school industry about turning the most important public service in this country into a profit center for corporate interests. Turning public education into a private enterprise will not succeed in educating children any better. All it will do is funnel our tax money into the pockets of school owners and their shareholders. Don't be duped by this sham of a "documentary", and don't fall for the charter school nonsense.
Jeannette Shambaugh July 24, 2013 at 05:18 PM
I am hopeful and excited.
Pop Quiz August 22, 2013 at 09:59 PM
Thanks Brian, I lived the bad apathetic tenured teacher. so this isn't theory or a documentary movie for me. The movie simply reflects the reality of Mar Vista middle and many other schools and teachers. Choice and competition are good for everyone. If a parent wants to keep there kids in an under performing school i absolutely support their right to choose that. If i want a voucher to send my kids to the school that has to compete for my tax money, i want that choice respected also. Check out the public Pruess school and their expectations for teachers. Not the same as MV middle i assure you. Parents should watch the movie "Waiting for Superman". Then make their own decisions about public schools. I am confident they can detect any BS for themselves. Thanks and have a great day


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