Case Studies

Samer Alzubaidi – Moreno Valley Unified School District

Enhancing the school experience for the modern student

Today’s children grow up with 24/7 access to every Disney movie and TV show, high-speed Internet capabilities, video games and streaming devices that make Atari and Nintendo seem like early humans created them.

So, it makes sense that modern schools need to provide a high-tech learning experience befitting the times.

Samer Alzubaidi | Director, Facilities | Moreno Valley Unified School District

Samer Alzubaidi | Director, Facilities | Moreno Valley Unified School District

For the Moreno Valley Unified School District in Southern California, that experience includes state-of-the-art science labs, athletic facilities and more, spearheaded by Samer Alzubaidi, the district’s facilities director for the past seven years.

“The district isn’t moving in one direction, but rather multiple directions to create an environment for students to thrive,” Alzubaidi says. “Shiny new classrooms are nice, but also a diversity of programs is a big part of the future.”

MVUSD in Riverside County is the 23rd largest school district in California. It has over 32,000 students learning at 40 schools: 23 elementary schools, seven alternative schools, six middle schools and four high schools. There is also a preschool program, online academy and adult education program.

21st-century education

After joining MVUSD in 2016, Alzubaidi began guiding renovations to the four high schools in lieu of building a new one—ongoing work that’s included adding multipurpose rooms, science labs, a new stadium and athletic field and tennis courts, and a performing arts center. He says that the middle and elementary school renovations are scheduled to begin in January 2024.

Improved facilities have also enabled the addition of vocational and career training programs. Though Alzubaidi has guided adding the infrastructure to support the programs, he says getting the go-ahead to establish them was a comprehensive team effort by MVUSD staff and administrators.

Samer Alzubaidi | Director, Facilities | Moreno Valley Unified School District

“For the career tech programs, we worked as a unit with different stakeholders from the county, universities and private industry, because these programs require buy-in and support from people from different areas to be successful,” he says.

The six vocational programs include stagecraft, welding, culinary arts, cybersecurity, cosmetology and medical. The cybersecurity program is one of a kind, Alzubaidi says, and superintendents from across California have come to Canyon Springs High School to learn about it.

A public school district is not a for profit enterprise, but it does compete—with the community it serves—with neighboring cities and school districts to attract new families and talented students. The upgrades made to the academic programming shows everyone that the district is committed to growing and staying at the cutting edge of education.

The campus experience

Regardless of grade levels served, modern school campuses should include facilities designed to add to the student’s educational experience and classrooms equipped with technology to complement standard instruction.

Alzubaidi says the district has incorporated a 360-degree concept as it improves students’ facilities and on-campus experience. Classroom walls have marker boards and flexible furnishings that ensure fuller student engagement and collaboration.

Samer Alzubaidi | Director, Facilities | Moreno Valley Unified School District

Moreno Valley High School Performing Arts Center by John Sergio Fisher & Associates.

He says school districts can enhance the campus experience for students by prioritizing several key factors. First, creating a safe and inclusive environment is paramount, where students feel physically and emotionally secure. Investing in modern facilities and technology can improve the learning environment, making it engaging and conducive to collaboration.

Promoting extracurricular activities, clubs, and sports can help students find their passions and build a sense of belonging. Additionally, fostering strong relationships between teachers, staff, and students through mentorship and open communication can significantly contribute to a positive campus experience.

Lastly, he adds that considering students’ feedback and involving them in decision-making processes can ensure that their unique needs and perspectives are considered, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling educational journey.

A new endeavor

Alzubaidi earned a degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in civil engineering with an emphasis on construction management from Cal State Fullerton.

He spent three years as a senior project manager for Vanir Construction Management before moving into the public sector.

His first foray into education was as the director of facilities for the San Bernadino Unified School District for nearly nine years, where he managed a billion-dollar capital improvement program that built eight schools, modernized 55 schools and worked on stadiums and other facilities. He joined Moreno Valley in 2016. Alzubaidi has been an adjunct professor at Cal Poly Pomona since March 2011.

Samer Alzubaidi | Director, Facilities | Moreno Valley Unified School District

After nearly 20 years of working in education, Alzubaidi decided to change. He founded SJB Management Corp. in July 2023, a company specializing in construction management services for California school districts and community colleges.

As a highly experienced program manager with a track record of successfully leading complex projects, Alzubaidi was excited to offer his expertise to support capital improvement initiatives for K-12 clients.

With over 20 years of experience in program management, he has overseen a wide range of projects, including school construction, renovations and facility upgrades.

“My comprehensive understanding of project management principles, coupled with my ability to lead cross-functional teams and manage budgets, makes me well equipped to drive the success of any district’s capital improvement program,” Alzubaidi says.

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IX 2023 Edition here.

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