News & Resources

2017 Honoring Our Own Awards Dinner

January 29, 2018  |   Comments Off on 2017 Honoring Our Own Awards Dinner

Emcee Jim Esterbrooks, Dianna Carberry and Amanda Brooke wait patiently for the next awardee to take the stage at the 15th Annual “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner in San Diego on April 28, 2017. Congratulations to the 26 awardees who received recognition for excellence in their field!

Our business partner sponsors played a major role in the success of the gala event where over 500 educators including school board members, friends, family and sponsors gathered to celebrate.

Every Student Succeeding 2017

January 29, 2018  |   Comments Off on Every Student Succeeding 2017

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Poway student finds redemption after prison

His fall from grace is difficult to comprehend. Rodney Lacanienta had a self-described “good and normal upbringing.” He grew up in a two parent household with a loving family. Rodney Lacanienta was not lacking for anything or anyone. But somewhere along the way, something changed that sent Rodney on a downward spiral.

“It started when I was around 13 or 14,” Rodney said. “I got jumped in a gang. Started smoking weed. Started drinking a lot of alcohol. Stealing cars. Then I got into drugs heavily. And I just liked that feeling. I did crystal meth. That first feeling was just the rush. And I was just chasing it ever since then. It wasn’t a cheap drug. At 14, we don’t have jobs or anything so we do what we gotta do to get money. I stole cars. I robbed drug dealers. I robbed people that loved me because that was the easiest one.”

Rodney says he’s been arrested more times than he can remember.

“I’ve been to all the jails in San Diego and all the jails in Nevada,” he said.

After two stints in prison in Nevada, Rodney was released in 2015. It had been eight years since he made contact with his family. When asked how he could explain the lengthy estrangement, Rodney chalked it up to fear and disappointment.

“I love my family,” he said. “I love my mom and dad so much that when I’m on drugs, I don’t like them to see it. I don’t want to be around them. So as long as I’m on drugs, I stay away. It just hurts me for them to see me all strung out and messed up. So I just stayed away. Because of my embarrassment, I would never have the energy or the power to even call or reach out and call them.”

Rodney called his mom and said he was ready to return home to San Diego. His parents welcomed him with open arms. But his father had one rule: Rodney needed to return to school and earn his diploma.

“I would not tolerate him being with me and not doing anything,” Jose Lacanienta said. “I’m not going to have him languish, watching TV all day and do nothing.”

Rodney enrolled in Poway Adult School where he quickly excelled as a student.

“He was so eager to make a change in his life,” Poway Adult School teacher Johanna Reynolds said. “And to just finally finish up his education. He knew what he wanted to do. And he did everything he could to do it well. So he took pride in his work. And he took pride in his choices to make a better life for himself.”

Rodney initially feared he would struggle going back to school. But he credits his teachers for his success.

“I just felt like I could do this,” Rodney said. “They made me realize my potential. And they gave me so much encouragement and it became a reality for me.”

On Aug. 2, Rodney graduated from Poway Adult School and plans to pursue a college degree in theology in hopes of becoming a faith-based counselor.

“It doesn’t matter how far gone you are,” he said. “You can always pick up the pieces and succeed if you want to. It’s not going to be easy. I can tell you that. But if you want it, you can have it.”

The Communicator, Fall 2017

January 29, 2018  |   Comments Off on The Communicator, Fall 2017

Volume 47, Number 1
Fall, 2017

Read this issue


  • President’s Message
  • Region 18 Calendar
  • Leadership
  • “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner
  • Administrator of the Year Awardees
  • SDCSBA Awardees
  • Imperial County Awards
  • Event Sponsors



Every Student Succeeding 2016

February 16, 2017  |   Comments Off on Every Student Succeeding 2016

The All-American Refuge

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Mohammed Mohammed’s story has a happy ending. But the cruel reality is Mohammed’s story is the exception.

“He’s a very inspirational case,” said Sophia Jacoub, an English language coordinator in Grossmont Union High School District. “Not every student who comes in to a new country at 14 or 15 years old makes it this far.”

Mohammed, ACSA’s Region 18 Every Student Succeeding Award recipient, was born in Iraq. His father owned a car dealership. Terrorist groups used the family’s wealth as an opportunity to incite fear and threaten violence.

“They would always tell my father that they were going to kidnap me, but if he paid them money, they wouldn’t kidnap me,” Mohammed said. “From that, he didn’t let me out of the house. He told me to stay home and be safe.”

In 2008, the same terrorist group kidnapped Mohammed’s father. His mother sold the family’s house to pay off the ransom, but his father was never returned, and they never saw him again.

“Some people say he’s alive and some people say he’s not,” said Thekra Betrus, Mohammed’s mother, in her native language of Arabic. “But I don’t really care because we’ve missed him for eight years now, and he hasn’t shown up. I’ve been the one raising my son. So whether or not I have my husband, it doesn’t matter because God gave me a son, and I care about him the most.”

Mohammed’s mother made the difficult decision to move the family to Syria. When they first arrived, Mohammed described his new country as “another United States.” But that quickly changed when the civil war began in January 2011. The United Nations estimated more than 90,000 people were killed in the first 28 months of the war. More criminal groups began kidnapping children in Syria, just as they had done in Iraq.

“I was really scared, and I just thought that it was the end,” Mohammed said. “My family is all going to get murdered by those people, by the terrorists. But then my mom stepped up and she said, ‘We need to leave this area. We need to move on with life.’”

In November 2012, Mohammed and his mother escaped Syria with the help of the UN and made the journey to the United States, ultimately ending up in El Cajon. Knowing very little English, Mohammed struggled to adapt to his new environment. But he quickly discovered, he was not the only refugee in El Cajon. The city is believed to have the second-largest number of Iraqis in the United States. El Cajon Valley High launched two summer school programs to help refugees assimilate and adjust to their new lives: Hope, Opportunity, Prosperity and Education (HOPE) and Perseverance, Responsibility, Independence, Dedication and Education (PRIDE). Mohammed flourished, and before long he was named captain of the school’s soccer team and was crowned Homecoming King.

“When I heard his name, I cried because I felt this is who deserves it because the students vote and it just proves how liked and well-respected he is on campus,” English teacher Melissa Drake said. “It was the greatest moment.”

Mohammed suffered through two wars, multiple attempted kidnappings and the loss of his father. He graduated from El Cajon Valley High and has dreams of becoming a doctor.

“His impact on campus transcends being a refugee,” El Cajon Vice Principal Jason Babineau said. “It’s not about being a refugee to Mohammed. It’s about him impacting groups of people throughout the entire campus, including staff members, including teachers, including vice principals.”

But more than anything, Mohammed Mohammed is safe and secure. And that’s what matters most.

“At first I always thought that I would be murdered or kidnapped,” Mohammed said. “And I would always have that fear. But right now in America, I don’t have any feeling of that. I’m in a better place. I’m in a place where it’s safe.”





2016 “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner

January 19, 2016  |   Comments Off on 2016 “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner

2016 “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner

Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel & Resort

Region 18’s 2016 Awardees were celebrated at the Honoring our Own Awards Dinner on March 18, 2016. Read the story and view photos in the Fall, 2016 issue of the Communicator.

Awards Dinner Emcee, Jim Esterbrooks, welcoming our 2015 Region 18 ACSA/San Diego County School Boards Association Student Scholarship winner, Andria Montgomery, to the stage at the Honoring Our Own Awards Dinner on March 18, 2016.

The Communicator, Summer 2015

January 19, 2016  |   Comments Off on The Communicator, Summer 2015

Volume 45, Number 1
Summer, 2015

Read this issue


  • Presidentʼs Message
  • Region 18 Calendar
  • Leadership
  • “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner
  • Administrator of the Year Awardees
  • SDCSBA Awardees
  • Imperial County Awards

2014 Every Student Succeeding

March 3, 2015  |   Comments Off on 2014 Every Student Succeeding

Alannamae Charfauros

Daniel Boone Elementary School, San Diego USD

During the 2012-13 school year, Alannamae endured a major tragedy and was sent to live with her extended family. The English language learner had already proven herself to be tenacious and talented enough to become classified as a GATE student. Her resolve only continued to grow.

Alannamae maintains excellent grades and is a model school citizen despite hardships she faces in her home situation.
Alannamae’s circumstances would weigh so heavily on the average student that the pressure would keep them from functioning. Alannamae, however, found the warm environment of Boone school to be a nurturing place where she could thrive and make school success a priority. Alannamae is an excellent example of how Boone Elementary School staff surrounded and supported one of its own; school is a safe haven where she can blossom and grow.

2015 Region Administrators of the Year

February 10, 2015  |   Comments Off on 2015 Region Administrators of the Year

View a list of the 2015 Region 18 Administrators of the Year:

2015 Region 18 Administrators of the Year

2015 Every Student Succeeding

January 19, 2015  |   Comments Off on 2015 Every Student Succeeding

Kamil Robinson
Hoover High School, San Diego USD

Supporting ACSA Member: Joe Austin, Principal, Hoover HS
Support Team: Robert Robinson, Teacher, Hoover HS; Terena White, Counselor, Hoover HS

Determination and grit are what best describe Kamil Robinson, a recent graduate of Hoover High School in the San Diego Unified School District. In September 2014, Kamil’s mother suffered a heart attack. Although she survived, he and his siblings were going to be placed in foster care. Luckily, his grandmother was able to care for the children. However, his mother and grandparents decided it would be best for the family to move out of state, a decision that Kamil feared would derail his plans to finish high school and attend college in California.

The day before the family’s scheduled departure, his mother agreed that Kamil could live with his teacher in order to remain on track for graduation. Since that time, Kamil raised his grade point average, competed in Hoover High’s first-ever divisional championship football game, and received letters of acceptance to several colleges. He intends to pursue a degree in political science and criminology, so he can take on a career in law to help others through social change.

Along with students from all of ACSA’s 19 regions, Kamil was honored at the Leadership Summit Every Student Succeeding Luncheon on November 5, 2015 in Sacramento.

Every Student Can Succeed

September 17, 2013  |   Comments Off on Every Student Can Succeed

Region 18 2013 Every Student Succeeding

Eduardo Arredondo is a student who could have easily fallen through the cracks. In middle school, his grade point average was 1.93, and by eighth grade, he had eight failing grades. By the time he entered Vista High School, he had 28 absences and 38 tardies. He was brought before the School Attendance Review Board, which found he was in dire need of intervention and counseling services.

His principal brought together a student study team, and developed an individual education plan to help him reach his academic and behavioral goals. His principal would call him early in the morning to make sure he was up for school. Weekly counseling sessions from his therapist helped him gain the confidence to stay the course.

By his senior year, Eduardo earned a 3.67 grade point average and a previously unattainable goal of attending college.