Grantee Corner  |  Ventura Unified School District



A row of students in lab coats and goggles stand in front of test tubs full of colored liquid
E.P. Foster STEM Academy students suit up in the lab to time chemical reactions

A male student demonstrates an invention of a banana and wires to a group of other male students
Academy of Technology & Leadership at Saticoy student leads his peers in discovery using Makey Makey invention kits and a banana

Three female students sit a table with art books and art supplies
Montalvo Arts Academy kindergarten students work on an art project

A group of students hold hands and stand in a row in front of a large map of the world
Mound Magnet for Science & Global Citizenship students unite to use science to positively affect their world

A male teacher sits in a chair while a student holds up a flash card with a picture and a caption in Mandarin
Sheridan Way Elementary School students apply their Mandarin, Spanish, and English studies in all areas of language: reading, writing, listening, and speaking

Three students look through a microscope outside
Will Rogers Two-Way Immersion School of Environmental Science use the environment as their classroom

Headershot of Elisabeth Denger-Harris
Elisabeth Denger-Harris, VUSD Project Director

Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), located between the beach and the foothills northwest of Los Angeles, operates 27 schools that serve 17,000 students.

VUSD opened its first magnet schools in 2010 using Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) funds. With 2013 MSAP funds, the district created six magnet elementary schools to further expand school choice and diversity. The project goals are to reduce Latino racial group isolation across the district, ensure family engagement, increase theme proficiency, lay the groundwork for success in the Common Core State Standards, and build capacity for sustainability.

Academy of Technology & Leadership at Saticoy (ATLAS) is a Leader in Me school, and it teaches The Seven Habits from the Covey Foundation. The school grows leadership skills in students to reinforce academic success; for example, students keep data binders where they set goals, track progress, and celebrate successes. Students learn to be flexible 21st century learners and to use technology that supports higher-order thinking, such as e-readers, iPads, 3D printers, and more.

E.P. Foster STEM Academy integrates science through the physical, life, and Earth sciences, and offers two well-equipped labs, one for upper grades and one for lower grades. Teachers work alongside professors from the University of California at Santa Barbara’s South Coast Science Project to teach students how to implement the 5E Lesson Sequence: engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate. Technology and engineering are taught through integrated projects that use tools like Raspberry Pi-based Kano Kits to introduce students to computer coding and robotics.

Montalvo Arts Academy has a 14-year-old, award-winning, two-way immersion program. English learners and Spanish learners study together within an overarching theme of visual and performing arts.  Montalvo works closely with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Ventura’s VITA Art Center, and the Ventura County Museum of Art to help every child learn to use creativity to integrate and innovate.

At Mound Magnet for Science & Global Citizenship (Mound), the vision for global citizenship spells out TRUST: “Take responsibility, Respect yourself and others, Understand connections, Speak up when necessary, and Take action to make a difference in the world.” Teachers apply these concepts to science instruction by showing students how scientists can make lasting change for good in our world. Mound works to recruit Latino families by removing perceived barriers for those families.

At Sheridan Way Elementary School, students receive a multilingual, multicultural education that promotes a global perspective and builds linguistic and literacy skills in English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. The progressive instruction prepares students for a rapidly changing world through technology, critical thinking skills, a lifelong passion for learning, and respect for the core values of honesty, responsibility, kindness, and cooperation.

Will Rogers Two-Way Immersion School of Environmental Science provides instruction in both English and Spanish. It also has many ways to engage students in learning, such as a schoolyard habitat of native plants sponsored by Ventura’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, a bioswale to demonstrate how to remove silt and pollution from surface water runoff, and a new science lab. Teachers integrate the principles of Guided Language Acquisition Design in year-long, project-based learning units that support academic success through biliteracy, technology, and environmental stewardship.

Elisabeth Denger-Harris is the MSAP Project Director at VUSD. She also served as Project Director for VUSD’s 2010 MSAP grant. She is inspired by Jack Welch’s quote, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

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