We cannot talk about where we are going without first taking a look at where we have been. In March of 2020 the world shut down due to the COVID 19 pandemic. As the then Vice President of the Board at Cajon Valley, Jim met with 200 school staff and administrators over 3 days working to implement a plan that would have our schools re-open. By mid-April 2020 Cajon Valley had re-opened to in-person day care for essential workers and by the Summer of 2020 Cajon Valley had opened “Camp Cajon” allowing for over 6,000 students to be back on campus. That Fall the District would become the largest public school district in the State of California to re-open to in-person learning by applying for, and being granted, a State Waiver.
Opening during COVID required leadership, foresight, and collaboration with our staff from janitors to teachers and principals to bus drivers. Politics were set to the side for the benefit of our students, families and staff with the sole focus as to what was best for our students and families. Jim would go on to work with San Diego County Supervisor, Kristin Gaspar, to develop the “Game On” protocols allowing kids to go back to practicing sports and later Jim would organize and lead the “East County Sports Bubble” coalition that brought youth sports fully back with games and competitions.
With over 6,000 students on campus over the closure period as of August 2020 there had not been a single reported case of the virus originating from any of our school sites. Cajon Valley was a leader in this fight against COVID and to get our kids back in the classroom and I am proud to leading this fight with our team.
The three priorities for the District are as follows:
- The collective priorities of any school district is to educate students and keep them safe. Students cannot be educated if they cannot attend school. By working to keep Cajon Valley schools open during the COVID lockdowns our students were given a greater opportunity to stay in a healthy and comprehensive learning environment. To that end Jim led the fight to keep Cajon Valley open and has been at the foundation of building the World of Work Curriculum that teaches students their strengths, interests and values to be more focused and engaged in the classroom and successful when they graduate. Jim also led the first comprehensive full safety and security review and overhaul of the District’s protocols in over a decade and is again leading the updates to keep our students safe while at school, more on this in number 3 below.
- Balancing the Budget. The District budget is based upon money allocated from the State. The State of California is facing a budget revenue shortfall of over $68 billion dollars. We have been informed that our budget will be slashed. Jim has never voted for a budget in the negative. Through his leadership over the past 7 years the District has built financial reserves and balanced the budget every year. As Cajon Valley’s budget is impacted by the State’s mismanagement and revenue losses, we must maintain our balanced approach to spending. Recently the San Diego County Tax Payor’s Association rated Cajon Valley’s bond spending transparency with an “A” grade under Jim’s leadership.
As mentioned in number 1 above, Cajon Valley developed the “World of Work” curriculum. This modern and unique curriculum is based upon the only vetted and proven formula to help guide students to their “future self” in the workplace. The US Department of Education has taken note and invited our staff back to Washington DC multiple times to present on the curriculum. Jim has himself attended a recent conference in New York, held at the United Nations Building, to address those in attendance on Cajon Valley’s work on this critical curriculum. The international community has sent multiple delegations to tour Cajon Valley schools and see this program live and in action.
Even more unique is that the WOW curriculum is being sold to other districts. Jim was part of the team that turned this idea into a business. As our State funds decrease Cajon Valley is the only district in the United States known to have a curriculum for sale which brings revenue into the general fund. This money, now more than ever, is needed to help our students receive the education they deserve.
- Keeping our kids safe. The El Cajon Police Officer’s Association and San Diego Deputy Sherrif’s Association both endorse Jim and recognize his efforts to keep your children safe at school. Jim spearheaded a complete review of the District’s safety and security protocols and procedures. He brought in experts in the area of campus security related to the physical structure, which is where most districts stop their efforts. Instead of stopping, Jim and Cajon Valley went beyond. With the use of Federal monies they engaged experts to actually interact with the staff and students. From there Cajon Valley developed real safety plans that are no longer just a dusty binder on a shelf in the front office that no one can ever find when needed. Along with the plans the District worked with El Cajon Police and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department to conduct walk through drills and train our staff and students. With the added Federal funding Cajon Valley brought on a director of Campus Safety and Security who has an extensive background in local law enforcement to coordinate the plans.
Jim is proud to have presented Cajon Valley’s process to the California School Boards Association annual conference and the National School Safety Advocacy Council conference in Nevada. Cajon Valley is looked to as the leader in school safety not only in San Diego County but throughout the state.
Jim Miller Jr, Esq – Parent and President of the Board of Trustees, Cajon Valley Union School District