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Julie Blevins Winner of Optimist Award
Marieanne Quiroz

Julie Blevins, a kindergarten teacher at Mound Elementary School in the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), received the “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” last week. The “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” was created in memory of Chris Prewitt, beloved VUSD Assistant Principal, who passed away in 2014.

Julie Blevins, a kindergarten teacher at Mound Elementary School in the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), received the “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” last week. The “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” was created in memory of Chris Prewitt, beloved VUSD Assistant Principal, who passed away in 2014.

Chris was an incredible teacher, water polo coach, administrator, and friend to all lucky enough to spend time with him. Chris’ unrelenting passion for life inspired the staff and students of his schools and the community. Each year a recipient is honored with this award. The honorees of this award show the same spirit and passion that Chris carried with him daily and have positively impacted their school sites in the same way that Chris affected his.

This year’s winner, Ms. Julie Blevins, is the epitome of an eternal optimist. She teaches kindergarten at Mound Elementary School and wears a constant smile on her face. In addition, she volunteers for School Site Council and the Parent Teacher Organization in her free time. Others describe her as always proactive and positive. She always has a kind word for those she meets.

“Julie remained positive and a bright light through the complications of COVID-19 for Mound and its students. She is loved by students, colleagues, and parents alike. Anyone who meets her would agree that she deserves this recognition,” stated Principal Bobbi Powers.

“I am humbled and honored by this award. Chris Prewitt was an amazing man,” stated Ms. Blevins.

Superintendent, Dr. Antonio Castro, presented Ms. Blevins with the award in front of her kindergarten class, who gave her a standing ovation.

dignitaries cutting the ribbon at ceremony
Marieanne Quiroz

Ventura City Council Member Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios, the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, and the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) Board of Education joined VUSD staff and families for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, August 30, 2022, to officially mark the opening of VUSD’s newest K-8 school. The Academy of Technology & Leadership at Saticoy (ATLAS) joins two other schools in the District, serving students in a K-8 environment.

Ventura City Council Member Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios, the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, and the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) Board of Education joined VUSD staff and families for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, August 30, 2022, to officially mark the opening of VUSD’s newest K-8 school. The Academy of Technology & Leadership at Saticoy (ATLAS) joins two other schools in the District, serving students in a K-8 environment. 

Before COVID, families in the Ventura Unified School District requested that VUSD look into transitioning some of its elementary school sites into K-8 options, allowing for a smaller learning community compared to more traditional middle school options. The Board and VUSD staff conducted research, received feedback from staff, students, and families, and decided to transition two of its elementary schools into K-8 options. These schools joined Sunset K-8 School, located in Oak View, which has been in place for many years. Lemon Grove School transitioned to a K-8 last August 2021. ATLAS will begin with a 6th-grade class this year, add a 7th-grade class for the 2023-24 school year, and complete its transition in 2024-25 by graduating its first 8th-grade class. 

“This District has a long history of providing as many options as possible for families because we understand every student is different and what they need is unique. We try very hard to offer a wide array of opportunities to really see what your child is interested in and meet them there,” stated Board President Sabrena Rodriguez. 

ATLAS is a Leader in Me school. The Leader in Me program is an evidence-based, comprehensive model that builds leadership and life skills in students, creates a high-trust school culture, and lays the foundation for sustained academic achievement.  

“We became a Leader in Me school in 2013. We then became a Leader in Me Lighthouse School in 2017. Being a Lighthouse School means we are in the top 10% of all Leader in Me schools in the world. There is over 5,000 Leader in Me schools in all 50 states and over 50 countries,” stated ATLAS 6th-grade student Brooklynn Hall. “I am so excited to be in 6th grade; this is a whole new start. We at ATLAS have come so far. If you think about it, we might not be standing here if Ms. Winslow weren’t our Principal; we are so lucky to have her, this school, and all of the people that support us.”

VUSD Board of Education Hires New Superintendent of Educational Services
Martin Foley

The Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) Board of Education has voted to hire Dr. Greg Bayless as the new Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.

VENTURA, CA, July 26, 2022- After a competitive sear​ch, the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) Board of Education has voted to hire Dr. Greg Bayless as the new Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. Dr. Bayless will begin his new role on August 1, 2022. Dr. Bayless will replace Dr. Antonio Castro, who was recently named incoming VUSD Superintendent after Dr. Roger Rice announced his retirement. 

In this new role, Dr. Bayless will oversee departments such as; Curriculum and Instruction, Early Childhood Programs, Multilingual & Multicultural Education, Special Education, Expanded Learning Opportunities Program, Student Support Services, and Health Services and Prevention Programs. 

Dr. Bayless has over twenty-five years of educational experience with the Ojai and Ventura Unified School Districts. He has recently served as the Executive Director of Educational Services at Ventura Unified. Before that, he served as VUSD’s Director of Secondary Education since 2017. He also stepped in as Interim Co-Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services during the 2020-21 school year. 

Dr. Bayless’s extensive experience in Educational Services Administration will serve him well as he successfully leads this team. In addition, he has served as the Assistant Principal of Curriculum & Instruction and as Principal at Nordhoff High School in Ojai. He also served as the Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction for the Ojai Unified School District before joining VUSD. Dr. Bayless’ strengths lie in his ability to build trust with families and partnering and supporting teachers and staff, serving as a conduit when needed between the sites and the District offices.

“I believe that Dr. Bayless’ background in leading curriculum improvement, his reputation for building positive relationships with District personnel and families, his familiarity with implementing districtwide initiatives, and his drive to serve his community will serve him well in this position,” stated Dr. Antonio Castro, incoming Superintendent. 

The Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) is located in Southern California, in the coastal city of Ventura, approximately 70 miles north of Los Angeles. The District is made up of an early childhood education program, 26 elementary, middle, and high schools, with more than 16,000 school-age students, an adult education center, 2,000 staff, and a wealth of parents and community members who all strive to help our children find their passion—academically and personally. For more information, visit www.venturausd.org or call 805-641-5000.

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