New Oceanside supe taking stock of schools’ needs

By San Diego Union-Tribune

Aug. 03–In her first month on the job, Superintendent Julie Vitale has met with 65 people in the Oceanside Unified School District.

“I’m starting by listening to people and hearing their concerns,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “I want to identify some of the urgent needs.”

Vitale started in Oceanside on July 1, when she replaced former Superintendent Duane Coleman, whose retirement took effect in June. On Wednesday, she greeted school officials and community leaders at a reception at Oceanside High School’s new performing arts center.

Vitale came to the district from Romoland School District near Riverside. While serving there, Vitale increased the achievement for English language learners and students living in poverty.

With nearly three-quarters of students in Romoland coming from low-income families and nearly 22 percent classified as English learners, the district has similar demographics to Oceanside, where almost two-thirds of students are low income and 18 percent are English learners.

Romoland, however, serves 4,000 students at four elementary campuses and one middle school. In Oceanside, Vitale will oversee more than four times that number, with 18,000 students at 23 campuses, including 16 elementary schools, four middle schools and three high schools.

“People have asked me it I would be overwhelmed with 18,000 students,” she told the guests at the reception.

Instead, she said, “I am overwhelmed by the depth of interest, care and love for not only the schools, but the community.”

Vitale said she’ll start the school year by visiting schools, and talking with students, teachers, parents, school officials and community members.

Her priority will be to improve student achievement in core areas of math and English language arts. According to the California School Dashboard, Oceanside Unified students scored in the “low” category for English and math.

Nicole Magnuson, executive director of the nonprofit Oceanside Promise, said the district needs to boost its performance in those areas, particularly for children living in poverty, and young Latino male students, who are most at risk of falling through the cracks academically.

“Within the system, what you look at within Oceanside, our kids aren’t coming into school ready,” Magnuson said. “They’re not moving through the K-5 system and hitting that third grade proficiency, so they’re not meeting (milestones for) early literacy skills.”

In Romoland, Vitale introduced “blended learning,” which uses instructional technology to tailor curricula to each student’s academic needs. The approach is similar to “personalized learning” systems used in Vista Unified School District and other San Diego area schools.

“Our goal was to ensure that each kid experiences a year’s worth of growth or more every year,” she said.

Vitale said she’ll need to learn more about Oceanside Unified to see if that approach would benefit schools in the district. She’s also getting acquainted with the educational pathways offered at Oceanside High School.

Those programs introduce students to possible careers, with series of classes in fields including health, justice, performing arts, and business innovation and global entrepreneurship. This year, the school will offer new pathways in environmental science and engineering, as well, Oceanside High Principal Teresa Collis said.

“I’m excited about the potential to give kids these authentic learning experiences” that connect high school education to future careers, Vitale said.

With more than 26 years of experience in education, Vitale began her career in education as a high school teacher in English, social studies and AVID, a college readiness program.

She has previously served not only as a superintendent at Romoland, but also as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent in districts including Monrovia Unified and Corona-Norco Unified School Districts. She is also an adjunct professor at Concordia University.

Vitale was selected by the OUSD board in a 4-1 vote, with board member Ortiz Wichmann voting against, citing salary concerns. Vitale’s salary will be $250,000, with benefits amounting to $18,635 per year. She will also be eligible to receive a $7,090 stipend for earning a doctoral degree.

This article provided by NewsEdge.