Garden Grove Unified School District welcomed State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond for a visit Thursday at Eisenhower Elementary School in Garden Grove to observe model practices for safe in-person instruction as well as targeted learning loss interventions, engagement strategies and the school’s outdoor education garden.
Upon his arrival, Thurmond was greeted by Eisenhower’s enthusiastic student leaders as well as cheerleaders from nearby Santiago High School.
District and school administrators, including Principal Beth Cusimano and Superintendent Gabriela Mafi, provided an overview of the phenomenal work of Eisenhower staff to bring all students back in person all day, 5 days a week, through personal calls to students and parents, school tours, home visits, and more. Since reopening in October, there has been no spread of COVID-19 from isolated cases and since April, there have been no cases of COVID-19 among staff or students. Eisenhower staff and students have done a phenomenal job implementing district health and safety protocols including temperature checks, a daily health screener, wearing masks, physical distancing, and frequent hand washing and sanitizing.
“Eisenhower Elementary provides an extraordinary example of what can happen when school staff wholeheartedly puts student and family needs at the center of their work,” Thurmond said. “As all California schools design their own plans for learning recovery and acceleration in preparation for this summer and fall, I encourage them to explore strategies like those modeled here at Eisenhower. The caring team on this campus are focused on the physical, academic, and social-emotional well-being of students. They do this by engaging students through exploratory outdoor education, incorporating targeted early literacy intervention, and going the extra mile to work with families to provide tools and resources to best support students at home.”
Throughout the visit, Thurmond witnessed how Fifth Grade Teacher Lesly Spangler is using the school’s outdoor garden as a safe space to support students’ academic and social-emotional needs, helping students reconnect with each other while learning science standards at the same time.
He also observed Sixth Grade Teacher Jennifer Zarkades leading engagement strategies to promote student collaboration on a narrative writing assignment and MTSS Coach Roben Alarcon providing targeted literacy interventions addressing learning loss with a small group of second grade students.
Board of Education President Lan Nguyen, Vice President Walter Muneton, Trustee Teri Rocco, district and school staff, representatives from the teachers association and CSEA, and PTA members also joined Thurmond for the school visit.
“Across our district, schools like Eisenhower are using data to develop targeted interventions that will be offered at all campuses during the Summer and throughout the coming school year to mitigate the learning loss that occurred due to COVID-19,” said Board of Education Vice President Walter Muneton who represents Trustee Area 3 which includes Eisenhower. “We are thrilled to showcase our instructional practices to Superintendent Thurmond and to highlight our staff who care for all students as if they were their own children.”