92129’s Middle Schools
are Laying Groundwork
for Successful Futures

The transition from childhood to adolescence is often considered one of the most influential and challenging experiences in the development of young men and women. In 92129, we depend on the dedicated work of a group of extraordinary members in our community to not only assist in this transition, but also help mold our young citizens into mature, well-rounded individuals. This pivotal time in students’ lives is spent at one of PQ’s two middle schools: Mesa Verde Middle School or Black Mountain Middle School. MVMS Principal Cliff Mitchell and BMMS Principal Charan Kirpalani help give perspective into the lives of both students and staff in the thick of the educational “sandwich” that is junior high.

And you better be paying attention to this required reading, as there will be a quiz at the end.

mesa verde
middle school







School Name: Mesa Verde Middle School
Principal: Cliff Mitchell
Assistant Principal: Dennis Panganiban
Total # of Students: 1,319
Total # of Staff Members: 50 teachers, 80 including classified
Grades Served: 6-8
School Motto: Soaring with Eagles

black mountain
middle school






School Name:
Black Mountain Middle School
Principal: Charan Kirpalani
Assistant Principal: Jo Ann Cooper
Total # of Students: 1,283
Total # of Staff Members: 78
Grades Served: 6-8
School Motto: Relationships, Relevance and Rigor


Cliff Mitchell
Mesa Verde Middle School Principal

What is your role as principal of Mesa Verde Middle School (MVMS)?
Though the role of any principal is inherently to lead their school, I also view myself as support. While it is my responsibility to guide the staff in the work that we do as a school, it is my job to make sure they have the support they need to carry out their objectives. It is also my job to set guidelines and expectations for the students, and to support them when problems or challenges arise. Moreover, it’s my responsibility to communicate the school and District goals and initiatives to our parents and likewise to provide assistance to parents who wish to find ways to give more to our community.

What is your responsibility to the students on campus?
My primary responsibility is their safety. If they are not safe, students will not feel comfortable enough to learn. The next is ensuring that our teachers are able to prepare our students for their next steps in preparing for high school and beyond. Finally, as middle school is a developmentally tumultuous time, it is my responsibility to ensure Mesa Verde is providing support and education to navigate social and emotional growth.

What is the most rewarding part about being principal? The most challenging?
Witnessing the incredible growth that takes place in middle school is definitely the most rewarding part of my job. Seeing the students come in as sixth graders, so young, wide-eyed, and nervous, and then seeing them grow to much more self-assured, mature students as they cross that eighth-grade promotion stage – it’s an incredible reward.

The biggest challenge is definitely being everywhere at the same time to meet the needs of students, parents, teachers and our district in a timely, yet effective manner. When I arrived at Mesa Verde in 2008, I had three administrators and two and a half counselors on our administrative team. Due to State budget cuts, we now have one assistant principal and one and a half counselors to support our community. Trying to provide effective and timely service to all is definitely the biggest challenge.

What are your goals that you have accomplished as principal? What do you hope to accomplish?
Surviving the State’s budget crisis so that our students didn’t feel the effects of the severely decreased budget was a goal we set, and I feel we have accomplished that to the best of our ability. That success was in large part due to the efforts of the Mesa Verde community contributing to our Foundation and PTSA. Our parent groups have made sure our teachers’ classroom budgets did not feel the cuts to our supply budget. In addition, our staff and faculty have worked hard to ensure our level of education and service did not fall despite the lack of support staff or increased class size. As an example of our staff’s commitment to excellence, many of our teachers offer tutoring before school and even during their lunch periods to help students needing extra guidance on a topic. Because of this commitment of our community and staff, we remain one of the top schools in San Diego County.
Looking to the future, one of my goals is to work with our staff to provide a seamless transition to the Common Core State Standards. Change is always a challenging process, but I’m confident our staff is up to the challenge. In addition, I want to seek solutions to improve communication with all of students, parents, and community members.

What does the Foundation do that assists with year-round activities? The PTSA?
In years past, the MVMS Foundation has helped to purchase enrichment items: such as our track and additional computer labs. Now, our Foundation spends a great deal of their budget on day-to-day expenses, such as teacher supplies, impact teachers and even re-paving our physical education blacktop, in addition to providing technology updates, such as a laptop cart and computer lab stations in all of our science classrooms.
While the PTSA has also used its funds to help with supplies and classroom computers, their commitment is to enrichment programs for Mesa Verde such as Red Ribbon Week, the Reflections art program, character events such as our Rachel’s Challenge program, community service and community building events and parent education workshops.

What are the major events MVMS is hosting this school year?
This year MVMS is hosting Red Ribbon Week events, the sixth grade Olympics, seventh grade History Faire, eighth grade Constitutional Challenge, our annual Jog-a-Thon, band, orchestra, and choir concerts, drama productions, and a monthly parent education series.

MesaVerdeWhat does MVMS do to prepare students for their future as professionals?
Our focus is helping students prepare themselves for the rigors of high school and beyond. It is our hope that our students leave us as critical thinkers, self-advocates, organized and adept at time management. In addition, though our budget constraints do not allow for as many electives as we’d like, by providing options such as ASB leadership, band, orchestra, drama, chorus, AVID, art, Spanish, and our award-winning yearbook program, we hope students get to explore interests and talents they may want to pursue in the future.

What are some of the highlights of students’ time at MVMS?
In addition to the events listed above, students participate in sixth grade camp, as well as our Science Olympiad and Math Club competition teams which traditionally end up competing at the state levels. Also, we have almost half of our student body involved in our very successful band, orchestra, and chorus programs. The opportunity to promote the arts in a positive way for so many students is a great part of MVMS. The fact that we have been repeatedly recognized for our outstanding programs is a source of major pride. In 2011, we received a proclamation from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for our ongoing efforts in music. Last year our band teacher, Jay Posterero, was selected as a District Teacher of the Year and this year he was named one of the top ten teachers in San Diego County.

What sports are offered to students of MVMS?
Mesa Verde Middle School does not offer sports through the school directly. Many of our students are already involved in a myriad of recreational and competitive club sports in soccer, baseball, football, basketball, volleyball, cheer, lacrosse, water polo, dance, field and ice hockey, gymnastics, ice skating, swim, martial arts, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some! Our facilities are often used by some of these clubs, but the sports remain outside of MVMS.

Please tell us about the wide range of afterschool activities that MVMS offers.
Mesa Verde offers Drama, Math Club, Science Olympiad, Robotics, and is proud to be home of the After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program, our grant-funded, before and after school program that was just recognized as one of the top three programs of its kind in San Diego County.

What are some of the activities that MVMS puts on throughout the year that students look forward to?
Sixth grade camp and sixth grade Olympics, seventh grade History Faire, eighth grade Constitutional Challenge, ASB run Spirit Days and dances are all popular activities each year.

What is your favorite thing to partake in with students?
Lunch! I love to hang out with the students and hear about their lives, what they are doing in the classroom, what they are doing after school, who their friends are generally getting to know our students better. We have such a vibrant, talented student body. Spending time with them is definitely my favorite thing!

Please tell us something about yourself that people may not know.
I was born and raised in Hawaii and left at age eighteen when I joined the Army. I love photography, scuba diving, history, and I’m a total computer nerd.


Charan Kirpalani
Black Mountain Middle School Principal

What is your role as principal of Black Mountain Middle School (BMMS)?
Middle school is an important time for our students. As our students make the transition from middle school to high school, we want to make sure they are equipped with social and academic skills that will make them successful in ninth grade and beyond. As such, I see my role as being able to provide whatever supports necessary to my teachers and staff so that they can better achieve this goal; to our parents and community, I want to foster a strong and open relationship where I, as principal, am as visible and accessible as much as possible; and for our students, I want to make sure that they have a middle school experience that is positive and prepares them for success.

What is your responsibility to the students on campus?
I want our students to feel safe and welcomed on our campus. It always hurts when I hear that a student doesn’t want to come to school or doesn’t feel like anyone cares about them. Along with Black Mountain’s dedicated staff, it is our collective responsibility to establish and sustain a culture in which all students feel safe and welcome, challenged and engaged, and are a part of our Black Mountain family. When you walk onto our campus, I believe that you will see and feel this.

What is the most rewarding part about being principal? The most challenging?
Being a new principal, my answer is pretty simple: to be able to say that I’m a principal at Black Mountain Middle School in the Poway Unified School District is unbelievable! It is extremely rewarding to be able to brag about all the good things that are going on at our campus and with our students and staff. There is a lot going on, and as principal, it is my honor to say that I’m a small part of that.
Thus far, the most challenging part of being a principal is making sure that everyone’s voice has been heard. While there may not always be 100% agreement, hearing from staff, students and parents is extremely important.

What are your goals have you accomplished as principal? What do you hope to accomplish?
A main goal for my first year is to learn and understand the culture at Black Mountain Middle School. I need to fully understand our programs and processes that we have, so in the future, our changes are informed changes. To do so, means that I need to be as visible as possible – in classrooms, hallways, blacktops and parking lots; I need to learn from the students, staff and parents.
Black Mountain Middle School is an amazing place with unlimited potential. As we move forward, my hope is to tap into this potential and continue to positively transform our school to meet the needs of our students.

What does the Foundation do the assist with year-round activities? The PTSA?
Both organizations play a vital role in the success of Black Mountain Middle School. We are fortunate to have great parents who put in a lot of time to support our school. If you are interested in joining either of these organizations, they’d love to have you!
Our Foundation plays a major role in fundraising for our school and programs. Last year, through their generous efforts, they were able to fund iPads for our classrooms, instruments for our music programs, and provide literacy software for our site. This year, the Foundation is continuing their support and targeting technology, professional development for teachers and student enrichment programs.
Our PTSA is a constant presence at our school. They support a variety of programs that serve our students, staff and community, such as Adopt-A-Family, Red Ribbon Week, the lunchtime Game Room, the lunchtime Ball Cart, After-School Art, and much more.
Both organizations are very active on the campus, and are very much appreciated by our staff. Thank you all!

BlackMountainWhat are the major events BMMS is hosting this school year?
We have many events on our campus, so I know that I’m only touching on a few. We just had our second annual FallFest celebration. This fundraising event brought together our Black Mountain community on a beautiful Saturday to enjoy lots of food, games and entertainment. If you weren’t able to attend this year, mark your calendars for next year!
Very soon, we will be hosting our Science Olympiad day where over 150 Black Mountain students will compete in various science-themed events such as Robotics, Genetics and Etymology. Eventually winners will move on to the regional competition.
If you have driven by Black Mountain Middle School, you may have noticed the sign that says we are an AVID National Demonstration School. Just recently, we hosted 50 new AVID District Directors at our site. This gave us a chance to showcase our students, teachers and classes. We will have more visitors in future months.
We also have our Orchestra, Band and Choir programs performing at various times during the year; our winter concerts are not that far away. One of the biggest events that Black Mountain will host is our eighth grade promotion, a great way to honor our eighth graders as they move forward to high school.

What does BMMS do to prepare students for their future as professionals?
Our teachers and staff work hard to create and refine their curriculum and instruction so that it is always rigorous, relevant and academically challenging. As was said earlier, our challenge is to make sure that our students are ready academically and socially when they transition to high school and beyond. As such, we work to incorporate important skills such as collaboration, critical reading and writing and organization in all areas of our curriculum and instruction. Mastery of these skills translates beyond the classroom and into the workplace.

What are some of the highlights of students’ time at BMMS?
One major highlight would be our sixth grade camp. This event brings together a majority of our sixth graders and their teachers at Camp Cuyamaca for a week of outdoor education and fun. This is an event that is long remembered beyond sixth grade.
Another highlight is the number of extra-curricular activities that students can become a part of during their career at a Black Mountain. We offer a good number of clubs such as Yearbook, Video Club and the Running Raiders, but also electives such as our Performing Arts, Journalism, and Technology. Within these clubs and electives, students have the opportunity to complete projects, compete in competitions and give performances – all highlights in my book.

What sports are offered to students of BMMS?
At Black Mountain, one of our major teams is our Running Raiders – this is our co-ed cross-country team. All grade levels can participate and compete against other local middle schools during a series of cross country meets which are a lot of fun.
Our After School Educational Services (ASES) program is looking to offer flag football, basketball and soccer this year. Competitions against other middle schools are being scheduled, and will be another way that our students will be able to showcase their Black Mountain pride.
Within our Physical Education program, students will be exposed to different sports. Two major tournaments will take place this year in basketball and in flag football – yet another highlight for Black Mountain students.

Please tell us about the wide range of afterschool activities that BMMS offers.
We are fortunate to have our After School Educational Services (ASES) program. This program offers many activities for our students geared around academics, but also, as mentioned earlier, athletics. Besides ASES, we have some academic competitive teams available, such as Science Olympiad, First Lego League, Math Team and others. The best source of information for these clubs and activities would be to go to our school website. All in all, our students have some great opportunities in which they can get involved with after school.

What are some of the activities that BMMS puts on throughout the year that students look forward to?
I hope that our students look forward to many of the activities that are planned through the year. As stated earlier, many of the clubs and electives have competitions and performances where our students have the opportunity to showcase what they have learned.
In addition, we have a wonderful ASB (Associated Student Body) on our campus who work together to put on events to enhance the middle school experience. Just recently, the ASB hosted a school dance with the theme “Under the Sea”. It was a great event with plenty of music, games and a photo booth. Currently our ASB is preparing for our Red Ribbon Week by planning lunchtime events and spirit days where our students can show their Black Mountain pride.

What is your favorite thing to partake in with students?
Thus far, my favorite thing has been walking around and talking to students during their lunch, in their classes, and in the hallway. They are very excited to talk about what they are working on and learning in school, but also what they are doing outside of school. Based on my conversations so far, I have learned a great deal about the newest music, the best books and the latest dance moves!

Please tell us something about yourself that people may not know.
I am a graduate of the Poway Unified School District. I went through Twin Peaks Middle School and Poway High School. My experiences during those times were great, so much so, that I knew that I wanted to come back and be a part of it.