Big dreams at Hoover High School

Hoover High School Principal Joe Austin says a key benchmark of success is seeing fewer City Heights families opting to send their students away from Hoover.

Hoover High School Principal Joe Austin says a key benchmark of success is seeing fewer City Heights families opting to send their students away from Hoover.

Hoover High School is creating a community Wellness Center on its El Cajon Boulevard campus that will bring together under the same roof a student medical clinic, the Community Law Project, a burgeoning restorative justice program and other community services.

Site and district administrators, who have been working with the City Heights Partnership for Children and others, hope to open the new Wellness Center at Hoover sometime this fall. Plans for Wellness Centers are moving along at multiple sites throughout San Diego Unified this year, but the one slated for Hoover High is seen as among the most fleshed out because of the many programs already in place on that campus.

“There is absolutely no shortage of people and organizations who want to help families in this community,” Hoover High School Principal Joe Austin said. “The challenge can be in bringing those people and organizations together. This Wellness Center would be one way to do that.”

California Western School of Law, for example, runs the Community Law Project, which currently operates out of the parent centers at both Hoover High and Rosa Parks Elementary. The Community Law Project sends attorney volunteers and law students to provide free consultations every week for families who have legal issues.

La Maestra operates an on-campus, part-time medical and dental clinic in another area of Hoover High School. And Hoover’s teachers and staff have implemented restorative practices – a process that already has slashed suspensions by 80 percent in its first year – with conferences taking place wherever space happens to be available at the time.

Administrators are intent on moving these services under a single roof, creating a holistic one-stop shop of sorts and providing these services to all members of the community, not just Hoover High School students.

Other Hoover High School initiatives this year include:

–       Expanding a fledgling restorative practices program that currently includes mediation sessions and “restorative circles,” in which a teacher or administrator pulls students from a class into a circle for a heartfelt discussion on how a particularly disruptive classmate’s actions affect them. The alternatives to punishment have reduced suspensions by 80 percent, Austin said, but plans are in the works to add a teen court and student-led mediation sessions – options that are flourishing at Crawford High School.

–       Enhancing a partnership between Hoover High and the San Diego Symphony, funded through a federal arts grant, along with expanding the school’s working relationship with galleries and museums in the region.

–       Building on the Common Start concept that Austin introduced last year, in which every class during the first week of school focuses its lessons on the school’s Instructional Plan. “The theme of this year’s Instructional Plan includes promoting a ‘growth mindset’ at Hoover and helping students become metacognitive and perseverant,” Austin said. “These mindsets, along with a collection of skills (communication, cognitive and study) are used explicitly in all subject areas, and during the Common Start, teachers will highlight both how these skills and mindsets will serve students in their specific content area, and introduce some of the ‘big thinkers’ of the content area. Students also are schooled during the first week on Hoover’s ‘Skills for Success,’ that includes common sense guidelines on dress, attendance, use of cellphones and more.

This will be Austin’s second full year at Hoover High School, and he couldn’t be happier.

“I’m seeing more and more families opt to keep their kids at Hoover rather than leaving our community to explore options elsewhere,” he said. “We’re setting a high standard here and the perception is starting to change.”