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District partners with Grand Canyon Allison K. Sampité-montecalvo | Fri, Feb 01 2013 12:00 PM

Juniors and seniors in the Sweetwater Union High School District have another opportunity to receive college credit through a new pilot program.

A memorandum of understanding between district Superintendent Dr. Ed Brand and Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University was locked in Dec. 1 last year.

The arrangement stemmed from a November board vote, which included the establishment of Sweetwater U.

“The board approved my goals and objectives for 2012-13,” Brand said. “Then I began working on the agreement with Sweetwater U.”

The agreement provides district requirements, which include conducting periodic marketing efforts specifically targeted at potential students for the programs, communicating benefits of programs to employees and communicating to districtwide personnel regarding benefits.

During a parent/student information meeting held last week, Bonita Vista High senior Claudia Ruvalcaba learned about a seven-week course in communications.

Ruvalcaba, who has an interest in public relations and broadcast, said she prefers an alternative to Southwestern College.

“I know they’re affordable, it’s just not my preference,” she said.

Parent Jeff Stewart says he appreciates another option for his daughter Kristen, a junior at Eastlake High School.

“I was amazed that this was going to be offered through Sweetwater,” Stewart said. “The sooner my daughter can get experience taking a college online course the better.”

Kristen is interested in marketing and communications and also prefers another option.

“For me it’d be easier to get it done and cheaper when I went to college,” Kristen said.

Eligible high school juniors and seniors would pay $52.50 per credit and $75 for a mandatory e-book. The communications class is four credits, costing $210, totaling $285.

“Communications courses can be transferred widely amongst universities,” Grand Canyon University development manager Cameron Whitcomb said. “It’s been very, very successful in other parts of the state. They (students) have an opportunity to get ahead of the curve.”

The district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction Maria Castilleja said the joint venture is an effort to expand options for high school students.

“It’s simply one more opportunity to offer,” Castilleja said. “It’s about choices.”

The agreement with Grand Canyon University is one of several to offer students approved online courses and programs. Others are UCSD, National University Virtual High School, Brigham Young University and Southwestern College.

Students can choose a course from a list of A-G approved schools.

District curriculum counselor Nancy Castro-Neito runs the district’s Compact for Success program, which aims to increase the number of students attending and graduating from SDSU.

“Our students use schools like BYU to get high school credit as well and specifically for health…” Castro-Neito said. “If students take those specific classes we can give them high school credits because the UCs accept that.”

On Oct. 17, 2011, the board approved changing high school graduation requirements to match A-G curriculum benchmarks, moving the district toward creating a college-bound culture.

District board member Bertha Lopez opposed a resolution to establish Sweetwater U in November last year saying it was not well thought out and asked for more details.

Last week she questioned why a partnership with a private Christian university was necessary in the first place.

“I opposed it because we have an excellent community college, which is Southwestern College, that can offer the children the same resources for online credits at a cheaper rate,” Lopez said.

Southwestern College offers free “college bound classes” on each campus taught by adjunct professors with books provided.

Brand said the district still uses Southwestern College, but that its current partner universities are becoming more and more crowded.

“San Diego State had 76,000 applicants for about 5,000 spots this year and UC San Diego had a whole lot more than they could let in,” Brand said. “It’s my belief that having additional options for students to explore is warranted in order to be competitive.”

“The difference is we’re allowing students at a younger age to access the curriculum.”

Students must be at least 15 years old and completed their sophomore year.

“In my opinion, being an educator, online courses — it’s not for everyone,” Lopez. “Our students — kinder through twelfth grade, they need direct instruction in order for them to gain the skills that are going to be needed for the workforce and in college.”

Castro-Nieto agrees they’re not for everyone.

“Some of our students need to concentrate on what they need to do just to graduate high school,” she said.

However, she said the option is available.

“It’s a program that our kids can take advantage of if they have the will and the means,” Castro-Neito said. “We want our kids to be competitive when they’re applying to the universities.”

A link to Grand Canyon appeared up on the district’s website Jan. 14, according to district spokesman Manny Rubio.

“Our long-term plan is to have 10, 20 universities that would come under that umbrella of Sweewater U,” Brand said.

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sosocal Says:

Fri, Feb 08 2013 01:41 PM

Free speech is indeed a wonderful thing--however, tax dollars are not supposed to be shunted towards any religious organization. Furthermore, Sweetwater has more than enough problems handling what is supposed to be its mission: educating students from 7th through the 12 grades. 'Mission creep', an Ed Brand-related condition results in massive fraud, waste and abuse, the like of which we are unfortunately only BEGINNING to see the full extent of.

It is already a big disaster in Sweetwater. The problem is, we still do not know the exact dimensions of the disaster, as Ed Brand illegally refuses to give the Bond Oversight Committee and the public the information they deserve. And the majority board of spineless, mindless toadies do nothing to correct the situation. Complicit? You better believe it.


freespeech619 Says:

Tue, Feb 05 2013 03:35 PM

Look at the university options SUHSD is offering their students. How can you say their is a violation of the separation of the church and state when clearly SUHSD is trying to promote education not religion.


sosocal Says:

Sun, Feb 03 2013 10:08 AM

"It's about choices."

I am wondering if part of this effort to expand the collegiate aspect of high school in Sweetwater is that if the numbers of students signing up for "college" courses are high enough, there will be fewer teacher billets in Sweetwater for the usual high school classes...plus apparently the district will be making money off the parents, who should expect that they should not have to pay for their children's public high school education.

You see, this isn't about choices for students, although it is a pretty good mascarade for one. It is another money making scheme, courtesy of Ed Brand's fevered imagination. Except, as anniej mentions, the major law suit is left out, as separation of church and state is not something that can be ingnored.

Boneheaded at best, this is classic Ed Brand, spending district money in every direction, just to ensure that the parents of this district will end up spending more money--which they really do not need to do.

Just another example of 'unclear on the subject' education, brought to you by Ed Brand and his non-thinking cohorts, the majority Board of Trustees of the Sweetwater district.

Grandiosity and lack of substance, while picking the pockets of the public, just another service provided by Brand and his trailing minions.


anniej Says:

Fri, Feb 01 2013 09:00 PM

The contract that was signed indicated that SUHSD would avail to GCU facilities and OTHER support. Additionally the contract states that Sweetwater students would be charged the standard rate - that little tidbit seems to conflict with the presentation. So this first class that was offered may have been at a discount rate, however it appears that will be the only ne.

KPBS did an excellent job in a special they did, included was a less than favorable recommendation. The federal government sued GCU, it was the largest lawsuit of its kind.

Last but not least is the lawsuit that is on its way regarding separation of church and state. Any idea how much that is going to cost the taxpayers? Reminds me of the districts ridiculous legal action regarding Title IX, we lost and BIG TIME - thousands upon thousands of our tax monies were spent fighting the law.

I am having difficulty with much of the information above being left out of this article.


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