La Jolla High School

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La Jolla High School
LJHS Viking ship logo.png
750 Nautilus St.,
San Diego, CA 92037
Type Public school
Established 1922
Principal Dr. Chuck Podhorsky
Enrollment 1,588 (2014-15)[1]
Mascot Viking

La Jolla High School (LJHS) is a comprehensive high school for grades 9–12 located in La Jolla, California, a community within the city limits of San Diego. Opened in 1922, La Jolla High School (LJHS) is San Diego Unified School District’s second oldest campus. The site encompasses 12 acres with 14 permanent buildings. LJHS, one of the 16 high schools in the district, is located in La Jolla, a community of about 41,000 within the city limits of San Diego. The high school is surrounded by residential housing and private and public entities including the University of California, San Diego, Salk Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Scripps Health, Scripps Research Institute, and retail, financial and professional services, and located south of downtown La Jolla. Modernization of the school has been funded through Proposition MM, The Foundation of La Jolla High School, the ongoing efforts of the PTA, and other community partnerships.

In 2018, LJHS was cited as the 476th ranked high school in the nation and 80th in California (Newsweek[1]) and is also recognized as an Achievement via Individual Determination (AVID) School of Distinction. In addition, LJHS was the first public high school west of the Mississippi to earn a chapter in the Cum Laude Society.

In 2003, LJHS was named a California Distinguished School. It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). As a result of the most recent 2016 visitation and self-study cycle, WASC granted LJHS a 6-year accreditation term [2].


  • Principal: Dr. Chuck Podhorsky[2]
  • Vice Principal A: Cindy Ueckert[3]
  • Vice Principal B: Tony Meeks[4]


In 1997, the controversial PTA Volunteer Hours program was discontinued under former principal Dana Shelburne. The program, which was reportedly not put in writing until 1996, allowed PTA parents who volunteered over 75 hours to exercise specific control over their students' schedule and teachers. A PTA brochure stated that the program allowed parents to create a "dream schedule" for their child. Under heavy criticism from VEEP parents, Shelburne said that the program was shut down due to "the bookkeeping burden on the PTA and lack of benefit."[5]

The Foundation[edit]

The Foundation is the fundraising organization for LJHS. Funds raised by the Foundation have been used to fund security cameras, robotics class equipment, technology, textbooks and fiction books, teachers' professional development conference registration, academic league and team competition fees, athletic facility improvements, athletic trainer, and coaching fees among others.[6]

Site governance[edit]

The Site Governance team meets on the first Monday of each month. It consists of the following nineteen members: the principal; eight certificated staff representatives; one SDEA site representative; one classified representative; five parent representatives; one community representative; and two student representatives. Agenda items, which can be submitted by anyone, are turned in to the elected chair prior to the meeting. The role of the Governance Committee is to provide a forum for examination of issues relating to LJHS. The development, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies of LJHS fall within the purview of the Governance Committee. The School Site Counsel meets after Site Governance, and some members are in both groups.

Demographic data[edit]

The current LJHS population stands at approximately 1,500 students[7] in grades 9-12, supported by 109 staff members (a principal, 2 vice-principals, 67 credentialed teachers, 2 visiting community college professors, 4 counselors, a nurse, a psychologist, a librarian, a media tech, 6 custodial staff, a landscaper, and other support staff).

LJHS has two NBCTs (National Board Certified Teachers) in its English Department, as well as numerous AP (Advanced Placement) Instructors in English, Computer Science, Social Science, and Science Departments who serve as Readers or Table Leaders for the annual AP Exams, which are designed by the College Board to measure student achievement in college-level classes and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). All LJHS teachers have a valid credential for the subjects they teach and SDUSD has certified that the site is 100 percent No Child Left Behind (NCLB) compliant.

Caucasian students make up a little more than one half of the student population with Hispanic students comprising the largest minority population.

LJHS is made up of 61% residential students and 39% nonresidential. Of the approximately 1,500 students currently enrolled at LJHS, 24% are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Various students are enrolled in Voluntary Ethnic Enrollment Plan (VEEP), CHOICE, Program Improvement School Choice (PISC), NCLB, and special education programs. LJHS does not receive any Title I funds.

Discipline, dropout and graduation rate[edit]

LJHS seniors line up for 2018 graduation in Big Gym

La Jolla High's suspension rate is low, at about 115 suspensions per year; some of these suspensions are accrued by the same students. The main reasons (about 50%) are due to minor disruptions in the classroom. The other 50% of suspensions include reasons such as fighting, alcohol/drug/tobacco possession and/or use, and stolen property.

The dropout rate is 0.2%.

Students graduating with UC "a-g" credits increased from 70.7% to 79.4% in 2013-2014, the most recent year recorded by the district.[8] Class of 2016 students will be required to pass the "a-g" requirements for graduation.[9]

Assessment and testing[edit]

The most recent testing date is available on the California Department of Education website. The CST Standards Assessment and Reporting system was phased out in the 2014-15 school year and replaced with the new California Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC) in 2015. The SBACS are summative assessments for all 11th graders in English Language Arts and Mathematics to measure their achievement in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). On La Jolla's 2015 Adequate Yearly Progress (or AYP) Report, 81.9% of LJHS 11th graders scored at or Above Proficient in English Language Arts and 60.4% scored at or Above Proficient in Mathematics.

A more comprehensive breakdown of testing statistics related to English Language Learners, students receiving SpED services, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, and other subgroups can be found on the LJHS Mid-Cycle Review WASC document published on the La Jolla High website.[10]

Instruction and classes[edit]

All LJHS classes have a hard cap of 36 students per class, however certain AP courses and other classes are filled above capacity.

The school offers a breadth of courses at a variety of academic levels. These include:

  • 21 Advanced Placement courses
  • 9 college level courses: Poly Sci 101-102, Math 150-151, Math 245-254, Math 96, Bus 100, Mark 100, Organismic Bio, Nature, Mesa English 83
  • AVID classes for 26 students
  • GATE services through cluster, honors, and AP courses
  • Seminar Program/Independent Studies
  • English Language Learner support
  • Literacy Advancement classes (Bridging English for students in need of remediation)
  • Special Education courses in math, reading and transition skills
  • Credit recovery through APEX for eleventh and twelfth grade students
  • iHigh credit recovery

LJHS also has a Seminar Humanities program. In 2015, the number of seminar-identified students in grades 9-12 was 234. The number of students enrolled in a seminar-identified class was 152. There are no seminar classes for 12th grade, as seniors are expected to take AP's or college-level classes such Political Science (offered through Mesa Community College) on the LJHS campus.

Each year, approximately 72% of LJHS students attend four-year universities, with a significant number of students attending Ivy League schools, out-of-state institutions, and the University of California and California State University systems, an additional 20% of students attend 2 year community colleges for a total of 92% seeking higher education right after graduation.

Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, LJHS implemented late start Tuesdays for students, with first period at 8:50 am (rather than the usual 7:25 am), with the stated purpose of allowing teachers to meet to develop standards, assessments, instructional strategies, and curriculum to further teaching practices.

All classes are expected to conform to the Schoolwide Student-Learner Outcomes (SSLOs):

  1. Students will demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills, and will be able to use technology when applicable.
  2. Students will develop the interpersonal skills necessary to work collaboratively, ethically, and effectively with others in order to be contributing members in a global society.
  3. Students will be able to demonstrate the higher order thinking skills of analysis, synthesis, application, and evaluation.
  4. Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of the world's various viewpoints, belief systems, and cultures as well as American core values.

In 2013-2014, La Jolla High School did not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress criteria mandated under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), with an insufficient percentage of students proficient in Mathematics. LJHS did meet each of the other four criteria.[11]

2014 football concussion[edit]

La Jolla High School athletes conduct Physical Readiness Training in a four-day program hosted by the National Guard and National Football League in 2012.

In October 2014, La Jolla High School student Trey Enloe suffered a concussion in a Junior Varsity football game against Point Loma High School. Assistant coach Steven Wachs was suspended for the rest of the season following the incident, however, he said he was unaware of the player's concussion during the game. Former NFL player and LJHS Football Head Coach Jason Carter denied any knowledge of the incident. Carter told the Voice of San Diego (VOSD) that he "was present at the junior varsity game on Oct. 16, but didn’t see [the student] get injured." However, video footage obtained by VOSD through a Public Records Act request show Carter watching as the injured student was assessed.

VOSD reporter Mario Koran wrote that "Principal Chuck Podhorsky wouldn’t confirm whether the incident took place. The district said my inquiry was the first it had heard of the details of the incident." An internal email obtained by the VOSD revealed that Vice Principal Anne McCarty had notified all other administrators, including Principal Podhorsky, of the incident via email.[12]

According to his father, the student "now experiences a constant state of fogginess. He can’t read more than three lines at a time before a searing headache sets in ...[he] hasn’t formally withdrawn from school, his dad said, but his grades for the semester won’t count."[13]

In October 2015, the Enloe family filed suit against the San Diego Unified School District.[14]

ACLU settlement[edit]

La Jolla High School Free Speech Board as of February 2, 2015.

On February 17, 2012, a year after the former principal of La Jolla High School, Dana Shelburne, whitewashed students’ political messages from its free speech benches, a student represented by the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties agreed to a settlement with the San Diego Unified School District that greatly strengthened the free speech rights of all district students. The settlement goes well beyond the senior benches at La Jolla High, marking a major victory for student speech in California and the nation. The settlement includes an updated and constitutionally-sound free speech policy for all students in the San Diego Unified School District.[15]

The revised Free Speech policy, which was added to student planners after the ACLU victory reads, "Students may display messages on the bulletin board immediately southwest of the Senior Benches [east side of the administration building] and/or the 'Senior Benches,' consistent with AP 6210. All postings on the bulletin board must display the date of posting and may be removed after two weeks from that date." Additionally, "students are not required to ask the administration to review messages they intend to post on the bulletin board and/or paint on the Senior Benches."[16]

In late May 2015, LJHS' official school newspaper, the Hi-Tide, published an article revealing that it had obtained a set of letters written by the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties to Principal Dr. Chuck Podhorsky and SDUSD General Counsel Andra Donovan. The initial April 25 letter to Dr. Podhorsky took issue with modifications administrators made to the ACLU's original Free Speech policy by putting a new rule sheet on the Free Speech bulletin board on January 12, which ACLU lawyers argued violated the 2012 settlement.

Due to the removal of various anonymously created posters (some depicting members of the faculty and administration with electronically altered images; others unrelated), the Free Speech board continues to be a source of ongoing contention between LJHS administration, SDUSD legal counsel, and the local ACLU. In recent months, according to the Hi-Tide, posters on the Free Speech board have been removed before two-weeks have elapsed past the written date, which could construe a violation of the 2012 ACLU settlement. The controversy over these posters appears to stem from different perspectives over whether images of this nature constitute satire and "fair comment" in the public interest that bring attention to bear on issues relevant to the school; or whether these posters may be construed as evidence of willful intent to target and defame certain faculty and administrators.

In the April 27 letter to SDUSD General Counsel Andra Donovan, the ACLU made two specific requests. First, the ACLU lawyers wrote, “We would appreciate an investigation by your office and/or other appropriate District staff into whether LJHS officials are improperly removing postings from the student bulletin board. Given the history of free speech problems at LJHS, we believe such an investigation is appropriate.” Second, the ACLU lawyers also made a California Public Records Act request for video footage from 12:00 AM on Monday, April 20 to 11:59 PM on Friday, April 24 ; a week-long duration during which the Hi-Tide claims posters dated - perhaps ostensibly - 4/16 and 4/17 were removed prematurely by unknown parties.[17]

The Hi-Tide has not issued a follow-up story with any new information since the April 27 letter was sent.

2015 campus vandalism[edit]

Between Friday, February 20, 2015, and Saturday, February 21, 2015, LJHS was subject to campus-wide vandalism in the form of graffiti. In addition to graffiti that was graphic and sexual in nature, the San Diego Union Tribune reported that it was being pursued as a hate crime, in part because the words "White America" and a swastika were a part of the graffiti. The graffiti was found in various areas of the campus,[18] including on the Free Speech Bulletin Board.

News footage from San Diego CBS8 shows SDUSD employees removing student posters from the Free Speech Board indicated in the 2012 ACLU settlement in order to scrub explicit graffiti.[19]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "La Jolla High". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved November 18, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Administration: Principal Dr. Chuck Podhorsky". La Jolla High School. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Sherman, Pat. "Meet La Jolla High's new vice-principal: Cindy Ueckert". La Jolla Light. San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. UT Community Press. Retrieved 20 July 2015. 
  4. ^ "Vice Principal Tony Meeks". La Jolla High School. San Diego Unified School District. Retrieved 29 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Generoli, Doug (25 September 1997). "The Demise of Privilege at La Jolla High". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "About". Foundation of LJHS. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "La Jolla High School Mid-Cycle Progress Report" (PDF). La Jolla High School. San Diego Unified School District. April 22, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2016. 
  8. ^ "La Jolla High School - School Accountability Report Card" (PDF). Data Analysis and Reporting Department. San Diego Unified School District. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  9. ^ Maureen, Magee. "New graduation standards are daunting". U-T San Diego. San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "LJHS Mid-Cycle Review 2015" (PDF). La Jolla High School. Retrieved 27 June 2016. 
  11. ^ "La Jolla High School SARC Report 2013-2014" (PDF). San Diego Unified School District. SDUSD Data Analysis and Reporting. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "What LJHS Officials Knew About a Devastating Concussion (Hint: a Lot)". Voice of San Diego. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "La Jolla High Football Coaches Point Fingers After Student's Brain Injury". Voice of San Diego. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  14. ^ Alford, Abbie. "Family of La Jolla High School football player sues district over concussion". CBS8. WorldNow and Midwest Television, Inc. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  15. ^ "Settlement in La Jolla High Case Updates Free Speech Policy for All Students". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  16. ^ "La Jolla High School Free Speech Policy" (PDF). ACLU San Diego. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  17. ^ "Free Speech: ACLU v. Podhorsky?". Hi-Tide. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  18. ^ "Graffiti at La Jolla High called hate crime". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  19. ^ "Vandals graffiti La Jolla High School campus". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Robin Wright". Classmates. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°49′59″N 117°16′23″W / 32.833°N 117.273°W / 32.833; -117.273