CARLSBAD — The state of the Carlsbad Unified School District is rising.
Dr. Suzette Lovely headlined the second annual State of the District event Thursday at the Sheraton Hotel with a host of elected officials and their representatives, civic leaders and business partners.
The theme — Stand By Us — was choreographed with precision as high school students from the three Carlsbad institutions (Carlsbad, Sage Creek and Carlsbad Village) thanked supporters for allowing them opportunities and second chances to succeed in school.
Lovely’s address, meanwhile, highlighted the strides the district has improved as well as touted the national recognition received by art students at CHS for winning a Vans shoe design competition last year.
The cherry on top of the event, however, came in the form of an $814,000 donation check from the Carlsbad Education Foundation followed by a moving rendition and subtle alteration of “Stand By (Us) Me” from choir students, which received a standing ovation.
“I think our district represents the total package,” Lovely said. “We don’t get a lot of resources because of our student population, but we use our funds well. We really reach out to our collective partnerships.”
Lovely, though, also championed the academic success of district students boasting about the rise of enrollment in the Dual Enrollment Program with MiraCosta College. The program, which is free for students, allows them to take college course and receive credit toward their high school diploma’s and at the college.
The program began in 2012-13 with 21 students and has grown to 210 including 22 from Carlsbad Village Academy, the district’s alternative school.
In addition, Lovely said the net savings for students who enter the program is $28,560 due to the free enrollment, thus saving students and parents’ money from attending college as a true freshman.
“We want to continue to build that,” she added. “We gave MiraCosta free space at Sage Creek High School, so we offer five classes there, so that’s the exchange. I would love it to be 500 students.”
Continuing with the salute to academic excellence, Lovely reported CHS became the first school in San Diego County to earn AP Honor Roll, “a big thing for school districts,” two years running.
She also detailed the district’s graduation rate, which sits at 93.7 percent, which is 14 percent higher than the county average. Conversely, the dropout rate has dwindled to 2.7 percent, which is down 0.7 percent since 2011-12.
“It was a great culmination of all the efforts from community members, the district and parent involvement to show the successes,” CUSD Board of Trustees President Veronica Williams said.
Lovely also explained to the audience the reach of the district through various programs such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) as county schools received more than $14 million in grant funding, of which $430,000 will be collected by CUSD.
Another avenue where the district is making strides, though, is through their Pathway Program. Lovely, along with CSUD Board of Trustees President Veronica Williams, said it models the university structure of a major.
Students can take up to four classes in a specific subject, such as filmmaking, to determine whether it would be worthy of a career option.
Going off the example of filmmaking, Lovely also announced CHS will launch filmmaking classes.
Despite a $90 million budget, Lovely and Williams said the district has survived budget issues and as a result, reached out to numerous businesses for financial and academic support.
“Yes, we were doing more with less,” Williams added. “Now, we are moving towards engaging our community members to support our programs. There’s a lot of programs and it’s not infiltrated where students are overwhelmed.”
One such company, ViaSat, has allowed the CHS and Carlsbad Middle School broadcast journalism programs to flourish. Students have learned to operate satellite feeds as well as other numerous technical aspects of running a newsroom and equipment.
“The $814,000 … that goes to music programs, P.E. and we wouldn’t have some of the arts programs, the depth of them, without those donations,” Lovely said. “We do events such as this so our partners can see there donations are paying off.”
Continuing with the arts and musical aspects, Lovely also pointed the spotlight of several CHS band students, whose drumline was invited to perform at Comi-Con this summer as part of a grand rollout for the hit movie “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2.”
As for the award-winning shoe designs, Lovely said a pair with a grizzly bear painted on the top will be put into production. The students, meanwhile, were flown to New York for the announcement and check presentation.
CHS is the first California school to win the top prize of $75,000 from the California-based shoe brand.
“It was a big deal for the students,” Lovely added. “We want to continue to make progress even though we are high performing. We want to make sure we are serving all students.”