Parent Handbook

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    Dear Parents/Guardians: 


    Welcome to Empower Academy and to the 2022-2023 school year! We are honored to have the opportunity to work with students and their families. Our staff has been busy preparing and ensuring all is ready for students. We are looking forward to working as a community to provide students with academic and social-emotional education. This handbook is designed to provide you with important information about Empower Academy. We at Empower believe every child has the potential to learn, grow and achieve success. We are committed to developing lifelong learners by providing every student with academic, social, and emotional support. 

    The Empower staff is caring, patient, supportive, and motivated to help every student gain academic, communication and self-management skills to improve and achieve success. Parents are an integral part of our program, and we encourage parent input and involvement. You know your child best and building common goals between school, home, and community lead to student success and growth. 


    Thank you, 

    Iman DeGano 


    Empower Staff 



    Iman DeGano


    Administrative Assistant

    Dan Saleem



    Jesika Perea Google Voice # 619-828-3251

    Devon Wells   Google Voice # 619-821-9697

    Gara Atroshi Google Voice # 619-839-5670



    Brian Place

    Jessica Padilla

    Jessica Nuno


    School Psychologist

    Priscilla Ramirez


    Speech and Language Pathologist

    Leeann Ibarra


    Behavior Intervention Specialists support teachers and students in each classroom with academics, social emotional learning and supervision. They provide an atmosphere that encourages students to engage and participate in learning, and build positive rapport with others and use social skills to interact and succeed at school and in the community.  


    Empower Academy Vision and Mission: 

    Empower academy is a compassionate therapeutic educational program that serves children with significant emotional, social, and behavioral needs.  We are dedicated to the cultivation of life and academic skills with the goal of developing high-functioning individuals who have self-worth, dignity, hope, and resilience and who will contribute to society. 

    Our focus is to develop interpersonal relationships, in order to build trust, safety, confidence, and the feeling of personal importance. These relationship skills allow students to discover their strengths, their ability, and their desire to learn and make academic growth and utilize skills to make safe and positive choices and function daily to their best ability. 


    Empower School Hours:

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    Monday Early Dismissal 8:30 A.M. - 1:30 P.M.   

    Tuesday - Friday 8:30 A.M - 2:30 P.M. 


    Arrival Procedures: 

    School begins promptly at 8:30 am and students arriving after that time are marked tardy.  Students not riding the school bus can be dropped off at or after 8:15 A.M. Please do not drop your child before 8:15 am. Staff is not available to supervise students before 8:15 as they are preparing material and assisting teachers. Once students arrive at school, they must remain inside the school gates. After students arrive, they will be provided breakfast. 


    Closed Campus: 

    In order to ensure student safety and to protect the learning environment, state law mandates a closed campus.

    • Only enrolled students may be on campus when school is in session. 

    • Students leaving campus without permission are considered truant.

    • Students who ride the bus are considered “still at school” when they board and while on the bus. All school rules apply on the bus.

    • After arriving at school, students are not permitted to leave the campus at any time during school hours, unless checked out by a parent or guardian. 

    • If a student elopes campus, a parent/guardian will be notified. School staff will monitor for safety and encourage the student to return to campus. Should the situation become a danger for the student or anyone else, staff will utilize Pro-Act interventions as needed to ensure the safety of the student and others. If a higher level of intervention is needed, law enforcement or the Psychiatric Evaluation Response Team (PERT) will be notified.



    All visitors must go to the Empower school office, room #6 located down the hall from Empower to check in or check out students. Upon first visit to Empower, visitors must show a driver's license or govt. ID to office staff. If your child needs to be picked up early, please call the office (619-593-5211) or send a note so your child can be ready for pick up after you have checked them out with Mr. Dan. Parents, family members or authorized individuals indicated on the emergency card must be over 18 years of age and bring a government-issued ID to sign out a student. Students cannot be released to anyone not on the emergency card without parent permission. 


    While on campus:

    • Please abide by school norms: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible 

    • If you have questions regarding your child, please call, email or schedule an appointment with your child’s teacher following your visit. 

    • If you have a concern regarding another student, please address it with your child’s teacher, not with the student directly.

    • Please refrain from communicating or engaging with other students on campus or on the bus.  

    • Please keep communication with staff positive and professional. If you have a concern, please contact your child’s teacher or administrator. 

    • Allow staff to support and redirect students on campus and on the bus. It’s important for parents and students to understand that development takes place over the course of the school year and that our trained staff and teachers are responsible for providing educational and behavioral support and redirection. 



    Critical for students’ success in school is daily and punctual attendance. Frequent absences and tardiness interfere with student progress. Regular attendance is required by law, and students with unexcused absences are considered “Truant”. Excessive unexcused absences will result in a letter to the parent/guardian and/or may result in the student being referred to SARB (School Attendance Review Board) and juvenile authorities.   


    How Regular Attendance Builds School Success

    Attendance is more than a student’s physical presence in the school building. Regular attendance builds school success, mental and intellectual engagement, social interactions, and emotional responsiveness. The very nature of the school experience challenges the student to encounter success in a variety of areas. Attendance is the opportunity for  a student to develop in three ways and each is important for success. 


    • Successful academic achievement is directly related to attendance. Success in academics builds readiness for the additional learning and forms the foundation for adult careers. 

    • School attendance also provides opportunities for emotional growth. Students are able to develop their own identity in an environment of peers. They have the opportunity to experience the culture of their school and build their understanding of the behaVIors that are needed for success. 

    • School attendance also gives students the opportunities and practice required to build the social interactions and skills needed to develop positive relationships with others. 


    Absences for personal illness, quarantine, personal medical or dental appointments, or funeral attendance for immediate family members are the only excused absences according  to the California Education Code. In addition, an absence may be excused for court appearance , observation of a religious holiday, or funeral service of a person who is not an immediate family, provided the absence is approved in written form in advance. Parents may provide the office with an explanation by phone (619-593-5211) or written note. 


    We encourage students to attend school daily to make academic and social growth. However; we understand that at times students do become ill. If your child is absent due to illness, medical or dental appointment, court appearance or a funeral, please call 593-5211. This will take the place of having to send a note with your child when he/she returns to school. It is imperative that we verify every school absence with a note or phone call. All unverified absences will be marked as unexcused absences.  If your child arrives late to school, you must check your child-in at the Empower office (room 6) with Dan Saleem.  


    If a student feels ill while at school, staff will contact parents/guardians to pick up the student as soon as possible. If neither parents/guardians or emergency contact can be reached, the students will remain at school until they can be picked up, but will be isolated due to COVID. Students that are ill may not walk or bike home. A parent or authorized individual must check out an ill student from school. Students need to be free of fever for 24 hours before returning to school.



    Please visit our COVID-19 Information page at for updates and information.

    Please visit CVUSD website at for Guidelines for Parents With Ill Students. If your student presents with COVID symptoms, they must stay at home.  


    Bus Regulations:

    All School Rules apply to students on their way to and from school and while on buses. In addition, students are expected to:

    1. Follow the directions and rules of the bus driver and bus staff at all times.

    2. Have respect for one another by keeping hands, feet and objects to self. 

    3. Use respectful and kind language. 

    4. Always stay in their seats facing front. 


    Empower Academy Discipline: 


    Empower Academy utilizes Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Trauma Informed Care paradigm. The staff utilizes positive reinforcement, modeling and role playing to teach replacement behaviors and coping skills. From the first day of school, students learn about appropriate behavior, just like they learn math or science. Students are taught social skills, including how to act in different settings, such as the classroom, on the bus or with friends. They may learn through role-playing, modeling or through actual lessons. Staff at the school regularly reinforce students for making positive choices.

    The Empower staff focus is building rapport and helping build student strengths and lagging skills to empower students to make positive choices, participate in learning and interact positively with others and in their community. 


    Teachers use Class Dojo and token economy to reward students for following directions, staying on task, listening, making safe decisions, respecting others….. These points are used to earn privileges. Teachers also use the points to track data that will support and guide instruction and student goals. 


    Our schoolwide and classroom rules and expectations include but are not limited to : 

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    Be SAFE

    • Keep objects, hands and feet to yourself

    • Take a break when frustrated

    • Use coping skills

    • Stay on campus

    • Follow Staff directions 

    • Move away from problem behavior 

    • Communicate positively


    Be Responsible

    • Be an active listener

    • Follow along with teacher 

    • Start and/or complete tasks 

    • Raise hand to talk

    • Put things away where they belong


    Be Respectful

    • Listen while others speak

    • Use kind words & actions

    • Ask before you borrow

    • Respect personal boundaries

    • Support educational environment


    Behaviors or Actions which may result in either suspensions or expulsions from school and possible reporting to law enforcement authorities.

    It is a top priority of the Cajon Valley Governing Board to have a safe, secure and effective learning environment for all students. In order to ensure that a positive and safe environment exists, the Cajon Valley Union School District has adopted a “Zero Tolerance” policy. 


    A “Zero Tolerance” policy means that any student who engages in behaviors or activities listed below will face arrest, suspension and or expulsion proceedings. In other words, the intent of “Zero Tolerance” is to keep these activities out of our schools. 

    1. Possession of a weapon including knives, razors, sharp pointed objects, explosives, guns, etc. 

    2. Robbery, theft or extortion of school or private property. 

    3. Possession, sale of use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco products.

    4. Sexual harassment

    5. Causing serious physical injury to another person or threatening to cause harm. 

    6. Serious or habitual disruption of school or classroom activities.

    7. Serious defiance of school authority.



    Communication among teachers, parents and administration is very important. Empower Academy will communicate important information via Parent Square, teacher Google Voice text or email. If you have questions or concerns, please call or email your child’s teacher or our school office. Please contact your child’s teacher with important information that may impact your student’s performance at school. 

    • Your child’s teacher will contact you if your child was injured, or sick, eloped campus, was in a  Pro-Act restraint, has made serious threats, and/or if police/PERT was informed/contacted. 

    • Teachers use Google Voice to communicate with parents via phone calls or text during school hours.  Teacher Google Voice numbers are:

      • Jesika Perea google voice # 619-828-3251

      • Devon Wells google voice # 619-821-9697

      • Gara Atroshi google voice # 619-839-5670

    • Communication will be sent out about school/family events and gatherings via Parent Square.


    Classroom support staff (BIS) are not permitted to provide student information to parents/guardians. If you have questions, please contact your child’s teacher. Empower phone number: 619-593-5211.  


    Student Re-enrollment and Emergency Contacts: 

    Cajon Valley Union School District parents can now access student information through the District’s parent portal.  Parent Connection is a powerful tool for obtaining information about your child to ensure they are successful at school.  You are able to review your student’s class schedule/teacher assignment, grades, and attendance 


    For assistance setting up a Gmail account, please visit the following website:


    Please refer to the following documentation for step-by-step instructions on how to use the Parent Portal:


    For assistance with the parent portal, please contact the Empower office at 619-593-5211 Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM.


    On an annual basis, parents are required to re-enroll their child/ern through the District’s Parent Portal located on the CVUSD website. Please make sure that the emergency contact information is up to date. Parents are asked to provide cell phone numbers/work numbers and at least two local numbers of individuals who will be responsible for the student when parent/guardian can’t be reached. You can update this information on the parent portal at and clicking on the Parent Portal-Q and log in with your pin and password. 



    Medication should be taken at home if at all possible. If it is necessary to take medication of any kind, including over the counter (OTC) medication during school hours, the medication must be brought to school office in the original bottle or OTC packaging, accompanied by a completed Form #CH-41- Physician’s Recommendation for Medication to be checked in. Students are NOT PERMITTED to carry medication with them at any time. 


    Dress Code: 

    Appropriate school attire enables students to focus on academics. It is inappropriate to wear anything that distracts from or disrupts the learning environment or educational process. Cajon Valley Union School District Administrative Regulation 5132 states: Parents/guardians will be contacted if there is a violation of the dress code. 

    1. Closed toed shoes, such as tennis shoes, are required during PE and during any physical activity.

    2. Students shall not wear clothing items that contain messages that are vulgar, offensive, or libelous; that denigrate others on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; that promotes alcohol or drug use or violence; or that are otherwise contrary to the school’s educational mission. 

    3. Clothing, jewelry, wristbands and personal items (backpacks, fanny packs, gym bags, water bottles, etc) shall be free of writing, pictures, or any other insignia which are crude, gang related, vulgar, profane, or sexually suggestive, which bear drug, alcohol, or tobacco company advertising, promotions and likenesses, or which advocate racial, ethnic, violent or religious prejudice. Waist chains for wallets are not allowed at school. 

    4. Hats, beanies, hoods, bandanas, sweatbands, wigs or other headgear are not allowed and shall not be worn except for medical, religious purposes, or special school events. In such cases, a doctor or parent note is required. Sunglasses should not be worn unless prescribed by a physician. 

    5. Brief and revealing clothing is not appropriate apparel in school. The following are guidelines on brief clothing examples and do not cover all situations: 

      1. Students shall not wear halter tops, garments with spaghetti straps, or strapless garments (recommended 1” wide to cover undergarments)

      2. Garments that are “see-through”,  low cut, are off the shoulder, or expose one’s midriff are not acceptable.

      3. Hems of skirts or shorts must reach the fingertips when arms are relaxed at sides. 

      4. Undergarments must not be visible

    1. Students shall only wear pants that when fastened, do not “sag” or have the waistband fitting below the waist. All pants must fit around the waist and be properly fastened. 

    2. Hair must be clean and neatly groomed. 


    Cell Phones, Electronics and Backpacks: 

    Students are prohibited from using cell phones/electronics at school. Cell phones/electronics are a distraction to the learning process and can be susceptible to damage, loss or theft. Electronics should not be brought to school and cell phones should be left at home. If your child brings a cell phone to school, it needs to be turned off and turned into staff  at the school gate to be locked in a cabinet to ensure safe keeping. Cell phones will be returned to students at dismissal from the bus or if a student is picked up at the school gate. If a student refuses to turn off cell phones or uses cell phones during school hours, parent/guardian will be contacted to come pick up the cell phone. The District or school is not responsible for lost, damaged or stolen phones/electronics. All backpacks will be turned in at the school gate and returned at dismissal from the bus to ensure safekeeping and reduce distractions. 


    Chromebooks and Classroom Computers:

    Students will have the opportunity to utilize chromebooks in class to complete classroom assignments, research and classroom projects. It is important that students take extra measures to handle the chromebooks with care. If students mishandle, abuse or do not respect the rules for using the devices, students will lose the privilege of using these important technologies. Students cannot use chromebooks or computers without staff permission. Chromebooks remain at school. 


    Food and Nutrition: 

    Breakfast and lunch will be provided to the student at school; however, parents/guardians are welcome to send a lunch or snack to school. Energy drinks and highly caffeinated drinks are prohibited. Students are not permitted to bring opened beverages to school. If students show up with an open container, it will be discarded. 


    Birthday celebrations should not be disruptive to the learning environment. No delivery of flowers, balloons or presents will be sent to classrooms during instructional time. They must be picked up after school. HOMEMADE FOOD IS NOT ALLOWED per Wellness Policy adhered to by the CVUSD. 


    Classroom Store: 

    Students will have an opportunity to earn class points in order to access items from the classroom store. If students have food or drink restrictions or allergies please notify the school as soon as possible. Student health and safety are very important. 


    Toys, games, and valuable items: 

    Children are not permitted to bring toys, games, sports equipment, technology equipment or other objects from home unless specified or requested by teacher or staff. These items can be a distraction to learning. If students need sensory support, such as, finger fidgets, playdough….,we will provide those objects for students to use at school. The school takes no responsibility for any items that are lost, stolen, or damaged at school. 



    Empower Academy enriches student learning experience through educational excursions/field trips. Excursions are scheduled regularly to various El Cajon and San Diego destinations including: San Diego Zoo, parks, hiking sites, business, etc. Walking field trips to local businesses and parks are also scheduled and earned. Teachers will send home learning excursion permission slips for parent signature.  Students must demonstrate safe, respectful and responsible behavior in the community.  


    Prohibited Items at school:

    There are specific laws against dangerous and inappropriate items being brought to school. Students in possession of these items, may be subject to suspensions/explosion.The following items listed below are prohibited. 

    • Explosives of any kind, such as, fireworks, stink bombs, and shell casings.

    • Alcohol, narcotics and drugs, nicotine products and/or paraphernalia.

    • Inappropriate pictures and written material

    • Gambling and gambling equipment.

    • Knives, lighters, other dangerous objects and shooting devices (to include guns, darts, slingshots, bows and arrows or facsimiles).

    • Aerosol sprays or pump sprays are not permitted. Inhalants (including white-out) are not permitted unless accompanied by a doctor’s prescription. 

    • Roller skates or blades and heelies are not allowed. 

    • Possession or use of laser pointers on school premises, unless used for a valid instructional or other school related purposes, including staff (Penal Code 417.27).  The Principal or designee shall determine whether the requested use of the laser pointer is a valid instructional or other school-related purpose.


    Weapons Violations  BP/AR 5131.7/5144-5144.2/5149/6185:

    Students are prohibited from possessing weapons, imitation firearms, or dangerous instruments of any kind in school buildings, on school grounds or busses, at a school-related or school-sponsored activity CAJON VALLEY UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT Page 13 away from school, or while going to or from school. Students possessing or threatening others with any of the weapons listed above are subject to suspension, expulsion, and/or involuntary transfer to an alternative school.


    When a school official suspects that a search of a student or his/her belongings will turn up evidence of the student's violation of the law or school rules, such a search shall be conducted in accordance with BP/AR 5145.12 - Search and Seizure.


    (cf. 5145.12 - Search and Seizure)


    Use of District or personal devices to record or video other students, community members or staff without the prior permission of the supervising certificated staff member and/or principal is prohibited. . 


    All bikes, skateboards, and scooters must be parked and locked in their designated areas/racks. Do not ride them on any area of the school campus. Helmets must be worn when riding bikes, and skateboards to and from school.  

    Emergency Drills and Procedures 


    FIRE AND EMERGENCY DRILLS: In all drills, follow these procedures:

    1. Students are to follow the instructions of their teacher.

    2. Drills are to be carried out in a quiet, orderly manner.

    3. Students are to leave the room in a single file line.

    4. Students are to return to the classroom, when instructed by the teacher, after the all-clear from an administrator.

    5. Should the fire alarm sound during lunch or between classes, students are to report to the predetermined location on campus. 

    6. Drills may be and have been unannounced to students and families in order for authorities to observe authentic reactions of students and staff during lockdowns and evacuations. 

    7. Treat every drill as the real thing.


    Last updated 08/06/2022