Happy May, Walnut
School Site Council
Are there 3 parents who are
interested in joining the School Site Council (SSC) for 2013-14? Our group of 5
staff members and 5 parents meets every first Thursday of the month from 3-4:00
p.m. to discuss the activities, challenges and successes at our school. SSC
members also work with me to budget School Library Instruction Block Grant
(SLIBG) funds for the year. If you are interested in applying to be part of the
SSC, please write a brief paragraph indicating why you would like to join the
council and pass it to me along with your name and contact information.
If there are more than 3 volunteers, we will vote next month to elect SSC
members and I will include your paragraph in the ballot.
If you would like to be a paid
noon supervisor for the 2013-14 school year, please contact Denise in the
office. Supervisors work self-selected days from 11:30-1:00 p.m. If you
like children and want to help them have a relaxing, calm, eating/play
environment, come join us!
Odyssey of the Mind
Is there a parent(s) who would
like to lead an Odyssey of the Mind group for students? Odyssey of the Mind
supports out-of-box thinking and innovative collaboration among our students by
teaching them to think divergently with open-ended problems to solve. Call me
and I can put you in touch with a past Odyssey of the Mind leader so you can
discuss the volunteer position or check out the website (click
We want to support the Board of
Education wellness policy which includes healthy eating at school. School
lunches are being designed with this in mind in order to promote student
health. In fact, our salad bar will begin on May 28th and be
available on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I ask you to support the Board’s
effort by packing healthy snacks, lunches, and nutritious or nonfood treats for
parties and celebrations. You can check out suggestions from the Food and
Nutrition department on the district website (click here) for some creative ideas on
providing healthy foods that children might like. Go to Action for Healthy Kids
(http://www.actionforhealthykids.org), an organization working on
ways to reduce and prevent childhood obesity and undernourishment, for further
A parent has passed along
websites for vegetarian recipes, as well. If you’re interested, check out http://www.vegkitchen.com/kid-friendly-recipes/school-lunch-recipes/ or http://www.inhabitots.com/vegetarian-school-lunch-box-ideas-for-kids/
One more note regarding
nutrition, we have one last barbecue lunch (veggie option available) coming to
our site. Mark your calendars for 5/23.
STAR testing has
Each spring, Walnut Acres
participates in a series of state assessments designed to evaluate student
progress towards mastery of the California State Content Standards. The results
of these assessments serve as the basis of the California education accountability
system. These tests are part of the California Standardized Testing and
Assessment Reporting (STAR) system. The California Standards test (CST) is a
series of multiple-choice tests administered in English Language Arts and Math.
5th grade is also tested in Science. Modified assessments (CMA) and alternate
performance assessments are available for students with disabilities who
FYI, STAR testing will be with
us for one more year. For the 2014-15 school year, the second generation
assessment of Smarter Balance should be in place. Smarter Balance will be
computer-adapted and will include non-multiple choice response items.
Please talk to your students
about the annual testing and remind them of our motto, “Do your best, and
forget the rest.” We want students to give their best effort to the
assessment, but no one is to get nervous about the process. If you have a
student who is tense about testing, please let me know and I will work with you
to reduce your child’s anxiety. The best state of mind for learning and for
assessment is “relaxed alertness” – not stressed, not too casual- awake, but
not alarmed or anxious.
For information on the details
of the test, parents can look on line at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/resources.asp
For testing day-to-day
routines, here are a few tips for students...
at school every day. Please. Make up tests are difficult for everyone.
on time. Testing sessions are usually in the morning and often shortly after
school gets underway. Time to get settled into the classroom before
testing begins each day will help students relax.
rested and fed. Make sure that students have a good night's sleep and enough of
a breakfast to sustain them. This is always important. Do not, however,
think that your child should load up on a big breakfast for testing when a
lighter meal is their usual routine.
Thank you. Don't hesitate to
contact your child's teacher or myself if you have any questions.
I am excited to inform you that
our playground will be slurried
when summer vacation begins. That means that the blacktop will receive a
new coat of asphalt. When we repaint our games on it, we should have a pretty
spiffy looking play area! This work is being funded by Maintenance and Operations
and I thank them for their Walnut Acres focus on behalf of our kids! Note that
the playground will be unavailable for 5 days starting June 14th. Thanks!
Don’t forget our wonderful Open House Festival
on Thursday, May 23rd! It will be fun and educational. One request…please do not park in the teachers’ parking lot when you
arrive for the Festival. Some of our teachers like to go home and
freshen up (particularly those without air conditioning) before the big event
and may return with ‘stuff’ to lug. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
I hope you will join us at our Volunteer Appreciation event at noon on May 29th in the MUR! All
volunteers are invited, including parents, grandparents and friends of Walnut
Acres. If you help in any way to keep our kids happily and safely learning, WE WANT TO HONOR YOU!
Happy Mother’s Day to all moms and grandmoms in our
community! You are a hero because, as Erich Fromm so wisely commented, “Mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.”
Happy special day to all mothers who love unconditionally!
Happy April, Walnut Acres Parents!
I hope your break proved to be a delightful and restful
family time! We are back for 10 weeks of focused learning and we will do our
best to compete with the beautiful weather and myriad of sports activities. Here
is the scoop for April, a heads up for summer opportunities at Walnut Acres,
and fall planning requests:
Following our very successful Auction, Science Fair and
Art Show and in preparation for the annual 5/10 Golf Tournament, I want to take
this opportunity to say thank you to all who are helping our school community
continue to thrive in difficult financial circumstances. Your time, donations,
and joie de vivre are much appreciated!
If you want to provide input about how PFC money will be budgeted for
2013-14, you are welcome to attend the
next 2 PFC meetings, on 4/16 and 5/14. Thanks to your previous generous
spirit and your dedication to education, we have now hired a 6-hour a week,
Site Tech I, Laura Decker, to support computer lab sessions and provide
technical assistance, so that Patty Galindo, our Site Tech II, can spend more
time assisting teachers with technology device activities in classrooms.
month our CAP presenters will be with us visiting in kindergarten, 1st
3rd, and 5th grade classrooms. At the parent information meeting, The CAP
training folks graciously offered to share their handouts electronically with
the entire school community. The information
is now on our school website and in
the office. The Training Handbook for
Parents specifically presents concepts that will be shared during the workshop
in both child and adult language. I encourage you to peruse the handbook so
that you can better support your child in assimilating the workshop experience (click
here). The other handouts provide more general information about what to do
if you suspect abuse and local contacts for support (click
here). I particularly recommend the handout on cyber safety resources and
Also this month,
Spring pictures will be taken on 4/11. Lost
and found items will be donated to charity on 4/19, please check lost and
found soon for any child-owned clothing you are missing.
activities are routine for us, but check out the items below that are new to our community:
front page of our school website now has
a link to the local public library. (Click here for library site.) The CCC
libraries are offering online kid-friendly research support with 80 full-text
elementary school magazines, plus encyclopedias and an image collection. For
access to this kid-safe research section of the CCC Library website, follow
directions also on our site. (Click here
for directions to the site.)
of the public library, if your child is excited about writing, consider having your
author take on a creative writing
project at the Ygnacio Valley Library in honor of National Library Week.
The challenge is for K-5th graders to write a short story or poem
about what the library means to them and submit it between 3/25-4/19. Every
contributor who submits a product will earn a small prize, have their product
displayed, and receive an invitation to a recognition celebration on 4/22 at
one more intriguing new event in our district…MDEA (Mt. Diablo Education
Association) in conjunction with MDUSD is planning the 1st Annual Employees’ Academy Awards, scheduled for 5/17,
from 5:30-9:00 p.m. at Centre Concord. Nominations are now open to recognize
outstanding teachers, classified employees, and parent volunteers! The
Nomination Forms and Ticket Forms are both available on the MDEA website (click here) and you are encouraged to submit a nominee
to recognize, promote and celebrate the excellence of those you feel have
contributed to your child’s education in 2012-13. The crunch is that you must send in your nomination form by 4/12,
so “get to it if you want to do it”! The ticket price to attend the event is
$40 for the general public, but you don’t need to attend to make a nomination!
Summer is around the
corner and our school will host major opportunities for growth and FUN!
Consider these options…
Acres Children's Theatre's summer production, Summer Magic, featuring
scenes, songs and dances from Beauty & The Beast, Mary Poppins
and High School Musical has a limited number of spaces still
available. On Tuesday, 4/9 a registration form will be sent home with all 3rd
graders. Registrations must be mailed and spaces will be filled on a first
come first served basis based on postmarks. See the webpage (click
here) for more details.
Walnut Acre Day
Care will again
provide a Summer Fun Camp Program that includes weekly themed activities,
enrichment classes, active games and sports, community service, van trips and
bike excursions. For further information visit the website (click here).
Galileo Learning is offering
their first Walnut Creek summer program at our site from 6/24-8/2. The
curriculum is focused on art science and outdoor activities for budding
innovators, using the design thinking process developed at Stanford’s d school.
or call 1-800-854-3684 to learn more.
Finally, Walnut Acre families, can you believe that it
is time to begin planning for 2013-14?
That means that once again it is time to offer you an
opportunity to share any insights that you have about the placement needs of your
child for 2013-14. If you would like to
offer input about your child’s learning needs, please complete the “green
sheet” that will be on our website and in the office starting on, Monday, April
15th. Please note that
this is an opportunity to share any specific learning needs your child may have,
it is not a forum for parents to select their child’s teacher. The forms are available through Friday, April 26th.
am also looking for parents (or grandparents) who may want to take on 2 very
different, but valuable tasks for the coming school year.
Is there a parent(s)
who would like to coordinate our volunteer
project(s) for the 2013 Walnut Creek Community Service Day (September 28th
from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.)? Typically we submit gardening projects to the city
for volunteers to complete. This year we
may ask for community volunteers to clean our library books. Our coordinator
will attend a Project Leader training on September 12th, and in
mid-October, and cultivate materials or donations if needed.
Is there a parent
who would like to earn a small stipend as coordinator for a 4th/5th
grade recycling club? The club would meet once or twice monthly at lunch and take on
projects such as organizing a recycling poster contest, creating recycle
opportunities at school events, creating an art project from recycled
materials, or attending a materials recovery fieldtrip.
had hoped to talk about healthy foods this month in my newsletter because I
notice we are reverting to sugary treats, but there is so much going on for
April that I will focus on that topic next month when I also hope to share a
salad bar start date. I will tell you though, that the recent PFC food drive brought
in 1518 pounds of food which translates to 1214 meals. The Food Bank thanks the
community and I thank the Food Bank coordinators and donators!
the beautiful weather and your precious children. Just between you and me,
there are times when the obligations of this job seem overwhelming, and other
times, such as at our 3/29 Sing-out, when I am overwhelmed instead by the
amazing beauty and promise of your children. We are all so lucky to be the
adults in their lives who will help them become all they can be. Here’s to our
children and to all of us who do our best to help them flourish!
Hello Walnut Acres Parents,
Happy March to you all! We have about one month until Spring
vacation and we will spend it busily supporting student learning. I'd like to
share with you a few of our learning plan and event highlights.
Last month I mentioned to you that we were
piloting a new formative, computer-adaptive assessment, and thus far it appears
that the reports generated from that assessment will be useful to consider as
one measure of a multiple measurement process to inform instruction. We are
focused on analyzing the data reports this month. There are online lessons that
were provided to us to explore along with the assessment and we are also
investigating those during the month of March. Your child may access those
lessons at home, as well, so you may want to take a look at them. Ask to see
your child's label (hopefully in a binder) titled iready.com that indicates
his/her user name and password. (It's the same information your child uses to
Our 21st century growth efforts continue as we
learn more about the Common Core Standards and create student opportunities for
deeper thinking through the strategies that we implement at school, including
the use of technology devices. I hope you are beginning to see some of our
efforts at home through student products and/or student conversations. We will
be asking you in an end-of-year survey about your observations of our efforts.
I spend quite a bit of time reporting to you
about safety challenges and solutions. That is because we can't focus on
learning if we don't have a safe and secure environment for our children.
Recently our safety committee has completed an update of our Walnut Acres
Emergency Plan and they have developed goals for continued safety enhancement. Those
goals will include CAP services for 2013-14, a structured process known as the
Peace Path (through Soul Shoppe) to empower students in playground problem
solving, and 2 small areas of fencing behind the K rooms near the garbage
containers and near the gate backing Cedro. Once the district approves our
Safety and Emergency Plans in April, they will be placed on the district
website as public documents.
There are 2 recent changes to current safety
practices. First, Student Messenger attendance calls are being made earlier. If
your child is not at school and you have not called in the absence, you should
receive a call at 9:30 a.m. (There is a later call for late kindergarten
friends.) Second, our doors will remain locked each day, but Mr. DeLeon has fashioned
a wonderful little "tie" that can be placed in front of each latch,
effectively preventing the lock process. If there is a lockdown, the tie can be
shifted slightly and the door will lock. This practice allows us to have the
doors readily in position for an emergency, while allowing traffic flow in and
out of classrooms so as not to distract busy teachers and students.
So what noteworthy events are happening in
Our PFC is sponsoring a Food Drive
from March 11-15, 2013.Donating to the drive is a great way to model good
citizenship, our March life skill focus.
March 15, 2013, is noteworthy for 3 reasons. The Student Council
has decreed that day to be PJ Day. Secondly, and much less excitingly, March
15th is the end of our second trimester.
And the third event of March 15th? It is the
evening of the PFC Havana Night gala that preserves our
assistants working with students, keeps our science lab humming, helps us to
differentiate, and provides funds for our 21st century transformation, despite
continued financial cuts within the district. I thank you in advance for your
participation and your financial contribution at our annual auction! Click here to join
Child Assault Prevention (CAP) workshops will
be presented to students in kindergarten, 1st grade, 3rd grade and 5th grade in
April. Last year the workshops were successfully implemented in every
classroom. We hope to continue that developmentally appropriate conversation
each year with our youngest students and biannually with our 1st-5th grade
students as recommended by the CAP trainers. (Their research strongly concludes
that to keep children safe, it is crucial for parents and educators to have
ongoing conversations about empowerment.) The sessions will unfold as they did
last year and non-permission forms are being sent home this week so that
parents who do not want their child to participate in the workshops may
indicate that choice. If you have not had an opportunity to learn about the
workshop sessions, please attend the parent workshop scheduled for Wednesday,
March 27, 2013, in A-1 from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and bring any
questions you have.
Speaking of upcoming events, the Walnut Acres
Student Council is planning a special family evening of fun on Friday,
March 29, 2013.Starting at 6:30 p.m. there will be a free family movie
night in the MUR. Come enjoy the movie, Brave, with your family and purchase
some tasty treats as you relax and laugh together! Watch Enews for details
about RSVPing for the event.
On March 29th, you can also look forward to receiving a Progress
Report. Your students can anticipate a Walnut Acres Sing-out (8-8:20
a.m. for 3rd-5th grades and 8:30-8:50 a.m. for K-2nd grades) and a yummy barbecue
A wonderful presenter once commented to our
staff that we need to ask ourselves, "How great are our kids really?"
Let me give you one example of how great they are... The 4th and 5th graders
secretly practiced a Macarena dance and last week created a flash mob
performance that took my breath away and tickled everyone who was lucky enough
to watch it. I tell our students routinely that they are very special; I
encourage you to do the same.
"No one has yet fully realized the wealth
of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort
of every true education should be to unlock that treasure."
~Emma Goldman, author
month I shared with you our expansion of our 21st century work to include the
Common Core standard shift. I also mentioned that there will be a new
generation of assessment to replace STAR testing with the implementation of
Smarter Balance (planned for 2014-15.) The assessment will require responses
beyond multiple choice options and will be computer-adapted (meaning that
computer software dynamically
adapts the test questions to a difficulty level specific to the student's
knowledge or skill).
have a unique opportunity to pilot a formative
assessment that will introduce
our community to the online assessment process. The assessment is called
i-Ready and it will be given in lieu of the paper/pencil CA benchmark in
February. The i-Ready assessment is based on Common Core standards and it is
computer-adaptive, though it is still completely multiple choice. All
classes will participate in the online assessment process, so be sure to ask
your student his or her opinion of the experience. I hope the students will
enjoy the experiment!
subject of Common Core, I thank our district leadership for creating a Common
Core website page. Click here to link to the page and learn more
about the Common Core. This website is a work in progress and will be
embellished with further text and detailed explanations. Currently, the website
includes the standards themselves, as well as links to resources.
make thoughtful PFC monetary decisions as we work towards Common Core and 21st
century, our Strategic Planning Committee has been reviewing school requests
for PFC fund approval. With their recommendation, PFC has approved 5 laptops
for each of our second grade classrooms and our kindergarten teachers will soon
be asking to purchase 5 desktop computers per classroom. Meanwhile, our
MUR sound system is working again sans the ear-splitting feedback, and our 21st
coach will continue to support our teachers as we march towards becoming a 21st
century community implementing Common Core standards to prepare students for
college and career readiness.
also happy to report that we have recently received a $15,000 matching grant
for laptops from the Hedco Foundation. (Thanks to a parent grant writer who
wishes to remain anonymous.) We have 2 years to match the grant which will
allow us to purchase $30,000 worth of laptops. I'll inform you as the funds are
matched and expended.
am publicizing the generosity of our larger community, you should also know
this year through Donor's Choose, with strong support from Chevron, we have
received an LCD projector for 3rd grade, a boom box for each kindergarten
class, 4 cordless microscopes for the science lab, $800 worth of literature
sets for 4th grade, $400 worth of art supplies for the art room, and an ipad
for one of our SDC classes.
gratitude to you, to Hedco, as well as to Donor's Choose and Chevron, for much
appreciated support as we continue to grow and enhance our ability to serve
children! We are
indebted to our school community members and the larger community for their
would like to offer your services as we continue to enhance our educational
program, please consider the following work to be accomplished for our
for the new site tech I position (FTE .15) for
6 hours per week in the computer lab or talk to a neighbor who might be
interested in the job. For further information please refer to the MDUSD
website under classified job announcements (click here) or contact personnel office at
682-8000 X 7500.
to serve in the library every other Thursday from
12:15-12:55 p.m. so that we can have our library open for 4th-5th grade
students every Thursday. (Thanks to our wonderful library volunteers our
library will be open at lunch from 12:15-12:55 p.m. every Friday starting on
2/1 for students to enjoy. At this point, every other Thursday starting on 2/14
the library will also be open and we will have an ARF therapy dog visit so that
students may read to a 4-legged friend.)
at lunch recess a few times
this year. We need your support both in the lunch room and on the playground.
We now have lanyards for all volunteers to wear that designate a particular
area for each noon recess volunteer to oversee. We also have pocketsize
playground rules and suggestions for redirecting and guiding children at play
to guide your efforts.
more service request that we can all embrace -
folks have recently shared with me that they feel isolated at our school. That
saddens me because I know this is a caring and accepting community. I invite
you to smile and say hello to our most vulnerable students, our children with
autism. I also encourage you to take every opportunity to connect with parents
who may not be on campus as often as others, and those parents who may not feel
as connected due to language or ethnic diversity. Please
take an extra moment to be inclusive with a smile and hello or by engaging
folks in conversation. As
the wonderful educator and writer, Leo Buscaglia, used to say, "Too often
we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear,
an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the
potential to turn a life around."
to our continued learning and growing together,
Happy 2013, Walnut Acres Parents!
I hope your families created wonderful memories over
the holiday and that your children are happily returning to school to continue
their learning adventures. The Walnut Acres’ staff eagerly welcomes students
back to make the most of the excellent learning months before us.
As the new year unfolds, our teachers will be spending
focused time on understanding the “new” Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The
CCSS were developed through a voluntary state-led effort
coordinated by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National
Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with stakeholders from nearly
every state in the country contributing to their development in 2009.
The CCSS were officially implemented in CA in 2010, but were largely ignored
until 2012. Focus on the standards has heightened as two new national
assessments (Smarter Balance and PACE), designed to measure student learning of
CCSS, are being developed and piloted for 2014-15 implementation.
What are the Common Core State Standards? The CCSS specify
what students should know and be able to do at each grade level to be fully
prepared for college and career. Most exciting for us at Walnut Acres is the
reality that the skills and knowledge foundational to CCSS mirror those of 21st
century learning development. So our efforts to enhance critical and creative
thinking, as well as collaboration and communication, through the infusion of technology
and increased content integration, are redoubled rather than defused by the
MDUSD leadership has provided an introductory
presentation to all district teachers and we will now focus on deeper
understanding of the CCSS. That work will begin in earnest on our next
professional development day, 1/28/13, when we will contrast the CA standards
and CCSS then begin the process of unpacking the Common Core standards. As we
study the distinction between the old standards and CCSS we will be assessing
the differences between each set of standards and how those differences will
focus our 21st century learning development. We will also initiate
the long and detailed process of unpacking the standards by asking particular questions
about the essentialness of each standard and then deconstructing the most
essential by restating the standard in student-friendly vocabulary,
articulating rigor, format and assessment for mastery, detailing prior skills
for learning, establishing enrichment for standards, and formulating an initial
scope and sequence for learning.
To learn more about the Common Core State Standards go
to the Contra Costa County Office of Education website (click here) or the
California Department of Education (CDE) website (click here). Here is a link to
the introductory video presentation on the CDE website (click here).
signing off, I want to remind you of a few exciting opportunities offered this
month within our busy learning community. Your participation at these events is
welcomed and encouraged:
you want to know what is going at school and in the PFC?
HOW: PFC meeting
WHEN: 1/15/13 at 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: in the library
WHO: All PFC members
you want to help your child enhance social skills?
workshop that will offer strategies for peer conflict resolution at home or in
1/17/13 at 1 p.m.
WHERE: in A-1
Our school counselor, Alma Spring
Do you want to help your young child learn
to read at home?
attend workshop that will offer strategies for early literacy skill development
a child so you can practice each strategy that is shared with you)
1/22/13 from 6:45-7:30 p.m.
in A-1 at Walnut Acres
Our reading specialist, Lindsay McCormick
Do you want to help deepen your
child’s understanding of material read?
attend workshop that will offer techniques to enhance reading comprehension
a child so you can practice each strategy that is shared with you)
1/29/13 from 6:45-7:30 p.m.
in A-1 at Walnut Acres
Our reading specialist, Lindsay McCormick
Would you like to learn more about
programming in the company of other learners?
a fledgling programming club comprised of both adults and students is now
active under WHEN: TBA by group
TBA by group
Patty Galindo, our Site Tech II. To join
this adventure, contact Mrs. Galindo at firstname.lastname@example.org
with programming club as your subject.
one more upcoming meeting that I have not mentioned to you previously, the Walnut Acres safety committee will review
the current safety plan on Thursday, 1/22/13 in A-1 at 3:00 p.m. Please contact the office if you would like
to attend the meeting.
2013 be a safe and exciting learning year for all of our Walnut Acres community
members! I thank you, parents, for your continued work with staff to support
our children in becoming the best they can be. Here’s to learning and growing
together as a 21st Century learning community as we implement CCSS,
preparing our students for success in college and beyond!
season of caring and I thank you for all the ways that you practice compassion
and kindness. I particularly want to
thank all parents for breaking our record of Jaguar Fund contributions by
soaring to a 72% rate of participation! That community spirit is much
appreciated and sends an important message to our children whatever your
donation level. I wonder if we can increase that rate to 75%? No donation is
Conference time is a great way for
teachers and parents to collaborate in caring for students and I encourage
every parent to actively participate in your upcoming teacher conference. Here
are some tips for a successful conference from the National PTA:
1. Ask your child to share any concerns
before you go to the conference.
2. Bring written notes and questions.
3. See your child’s teacher as your
partner. Avoid antagonism.
4. Share any home challenges that might
be impacting your child’s learning.
5. Ask teachers to explain any
educational jargon you do not understand.
6. Ask for specifics about your child’s
work, including data (eg. CA results) and samples of classroom activities (eg.
7. Keep the conversation focused on your
8. Discuss strategies to support your
9. Take notes on plans or common goals
you develop together.
10. Ask for follow-up conversations or
e-mails as needed.
A few staff members
have developed new plans to support further collaborative caring for children as
we enter 2013. Consider participating in one or all of these options:
industrious reading specialist, Lindsay McCormick, is offering 2 evening workshops
for parents and their children on the topic of reading support at home. On
1/22/13 from 6:45-7:30 p.m., Mrs. McCormick will present strategies to promote
early literacy skills at home. Children are invited so that parents can immediately
practice the strategies presented. On 1/29/13, during the same timeframe, Mrs.
McCormick will present techniques to expand and deepen comprehension. Again,
parents are encouraged to bring their children to the workshop.
creative site technology II, Patty Galindo, would like to form a Walnut Acres
programming club to include both students and adults in our community. She is
hoping that some parents employed as programmers will provide some expertise
for the group. Mrs. Galindo hopes to create a group interested in experimenting. Dates, times and formats (skyping or
videotaped lessons) for meetings will be decided by the group once she has a
sense of interest. To join this adventure, contact Mrs. Galindo at email@example.com with programming club as your subject.
compassionate counselor, Alma Spring, is developing a list of strategies for
parent playground volunteers to use in response to parents who have expressed the
need for more direction when supervising children on the playground. Mrs.
Spring will provide specific guidelines and contexts for using those strategies
during an hour-long workshop offered on 1/17/13 at 1:30 p.m. in A-1. The problem solving ideas that Mrs. Spring
shares with you will also be valuable for resolving sibling conflicts and peer
Our caring for our students leads us
to 2 new activities that require parent volunteers…
has received a grant that will allow our students to have a salad bar on
Tuesday and Thursdays. This is a welcome addition to our lunch fare. We will
need parents to help supervise little hands at the salad bar, so if you are
signed on to be part of the volunteer lunch patrol, you will have another duty
to perform on salad bar days. Hopefully,
current numbers of lunch volunteers will be adequate to cover this Tuesday/Thursday
duty. More details on this plan will come in 1/13.
I thank you
for the many ways that you practice caring for students and our Walnut Acres
community! It is your diligent work borne of the caring you share for our
children and our school, that creates our vibrant Walnut Acres community. As
Vera Nazarian submits in The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration, “The
master of the garden is the one who waters it, trims the branches, plants the
seeds, and pulls the weeds. If you merely stroll through the garden, you are
but an acolyte.”
would like to have the library open at lunch for interested students. We are
piloting a program in which parent volunteers supervise the library on
Thursdays and Fridays from 12:15-12:55 p.m. so our 4th and 5th
graders can browse the library as a recess option. (The library is being used
for classes during the lower grade lunch times.) If you are willing to provide
supervision on Thursdays or Fridays during upper grade lunch, please contact Heather
LeBlanc at firstname.lastname@example.org or Giselle Stein at email@example.com. If this pilot is successful, we will try to expand the lunch library
Here’s to a
memorable holiday season for all master gardeners and the uniquely exquisite
flowers we are cultivating!
Colleen Dowd, Principal
Dear Walnut Acres Parents,
Your children continue to astound me and warm my heart. I am so lucky to be with them every day. While I brace myself for the potential of more devastating economic news, the children continue to light the way forward. I am charmed by their enthusiasm, their eagerness, and their creativity. Let me share a few examples of your children in action this week...
* Our students have taken ownership of our augmented recycling efforts. They carefully compost their leftover food items every day and a few student volunteers at each lunch session carefully double-check the choices made by peers to ensure we are properly recycling. But our students are more than just adorable in their earnestness; they have actually lowered lunch trash output by 3 big bags of garbage each day! Our kids are making a positive difference in the world in a very tangible way.
* One of our teachers recently confessed that she was very hesitant about exploring the POW (ipad on wheels) for the first time with her class. She finally just decided that she needed to "trust the kids." With that attitude she proceeded, found the experience enriching, and she proudly shared that the children "didn't let me down." She explained that they had a wonderful experience learning together, and she is planning her next POW activity with much more confidence, assured that her students will be both patient and supportive as the class works to use the ipads as producers.
* The Student Council has to approve the use of Student Council funds to purchase golden lunchbox items for our 1st-3rd graders. (These are the prizes given out on Fridays to the class at each grade level that best models our 3 Be's- Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible - for that week during lunch.) That approval has always seemed pretty much a rubber stamp process in the past, but this year, there was a shift. The Student Council members wanted to know exactly how much money was spent on the toys, and eventually vetoed the authorization request because the "toys are too expensive and just fall apart anyway." However, they still want to support good citizenship at lunch among their younger peers so they are looking for other avenues to maintain the golden lunchbox program. How's that for practicing accountability and taking ownership?
* A number of older students have been urging me to let them start a cartooning club. I told them we'd need to find an adult to supervise their club. They were very persistent and their tenacity paid off. Our wonderful Mrs. Galindo, who wants to support every creative technology idea our students have, took them in and reported to me that the students worked through their "Game Day" time and inspired her with their energy and focus on task.
* I was chatting with some students one day at lunch about making changes to our playground. I was impressed the next day when the girls brought me a visual plan for our playground renovation, complete with the ideas we had discussed, including a pool and an area for bowling. The plan is now on my door if anyone wants to take a peek at creativity in action.
I could continue enthusiastically with these examples of children thinking critically and creatively, working together and doing authentic good in the world, but I'll stop because I know my notes to you are always a bit too long. I just hope that as a school leader I do right by these wonderful learners you send our way every day. It is my intent to support our staff in providing opportunities for our children to continue to learn content and deepen their understanding of that content through real world experiences and opportunities that provide context and meaning for their learning.
Just one more thought, the girl scouts are collecting coat donations for those in need from 11/13-16. Perhaps rather than checking closets for old coats yourself, your child could take ownership of that very worthwhile task this year.
Yours in consistent effort to guide all our beautiful children to become all they can be!
Hello Walnut Acres Parents,
During our development as a 21st Century learning community we will maintain and enhance activities that encourage both critical/creative thinking, collaboration and communication, while maintaining our focus on the life skills. Our goal is to prepare our children for the dynamic, fast-paced, technology-driven world they will enter as young adults, and our assumption is that all our students will successfully grow their brain power as parents and teachers work together to support learning. Intelligence potential used to be considered genetically coded and therefore set and fairly intractable by birth, but current brain research clearly indicates that brain power grows according to experience. (I hope you saw our brain power display in the office.) We are working to evolve our educational program to maximize learning and actively engage our students through strategies that promote problem-solving, engagement, open-ended questioning, and student ownership of learning.
We have a couple of new community service activities to help us support our students’ growth. ARF-trained dogs will be joining us to listen to some of our students read (with parent permission) through a program called “All Ears Reading”, and CCCSWA (the County Waste Authority) will work with us to help our students become more environmentally aware through expansion of our “Wastebusters” recycling program. We have also again instituted our ROP program in which Northgate high school students, exploring a teaching career, join us 4 hours a week to work in classrooms. Our own 4th-5th grade leadership groups, Student Council and our Student Newsletter committee, will begin meeting this month.
The folks at the district office are our partners in building student brain power. They are not always seen as active partners in our educational efforts because they work behind the scenes, but their support is vital to our school functioning. Dr. Steven Lawrence, MDUSD Superintendent, has created a new format this year to connect to the school/parent community. He will meet regularly with parents who represent our leadership groups within each feeder pattern. The purpose of the meetings is to increase the opportunities that the Superintendent has to speak with a broader group of parents and address concerns that parents on leadership teams (PTA, PFC, School Site Council, ELAC) have around district issues.
The dates for Northgate feeder pattern meetings are Wednesdays on 10/10/12, 12/12/12, 2/20/13, and 5/8/13. Jane Moler is our PFC representative to the meeting and Julie Stokol is our School Site Council representative. If you are interested in joining our representatives as they attend the Superintendent forums, please contact me.
As I close this newsletter, I want to share a valuable message directly from the Walnut Creek Police Department. As of last year, all cell phone 911 calls in Walnut Creek are routed directly to the Walnut Creek Police dispatch. This direct routing means shortened response time for 911 calls made on a cell phone. In a recent special E-news I stated that cell phone calls in Walnut Creek are routed to the Highway Patrol. I apologize for the misinformation!
Police department staff also remind us all that we need to follow the signage on Cedro that indicates “No Parking” and “No Stopping”. For those of you concerned about drivers following safety rules on Cedro, I have asked Lieutenant Edwards to encourage officers to drive by during our drop-off and pick-up times to help us hold ourselves accountable for student safety. Lieutenant Lanny Edwards (Edwards@walnutcreedpd.com) is our Sector 3 liaison with the Walnut Creek Police Department and you are welcome to contact him with further safety questions or concerns.
It really does take a village…So, with thanks to our community colleagues, at ARF, at WCPD, at Northgate, at CCCSWA, at the district office, and with heartfelt gratitude to you for dedication to Walnut Acres as a PFC leader, volunteer, and loving parent, here’s to all of us as we work together to grow our children’s brain power!
Yours in community collaboration,
back, Walnut Acres Parents,
forward to another year of parent and teacher collaboration to give every
student a great learning experience! Working together we will continue our
movement forward as a 21st Century Learning Community in order to
prepare our children for the fast-changing, digitally-based, very connected
world in which they will live and lead.
A couple of
items are worth repeating from BTSN presentations. First, to support our
transformation efforts, the MDUSD district leadership gave Walnut Acres a
priority designation to receive a state-of-the-art 10 GB backbone that includes
new and faster switches and commercial grade wireless access points throughout
the school. That Measure C work has just
been completed and will allow us to serve as a 21st Century model
and pilot for other schools. To put this technological advancement in
perspective, no other school among nearby districts (except American Canyon
High School) has a system as strong. The new network should allow us to have any
student online with great speed and maintained connections despite large
numbers of other students on line simultaneously. We are very grateful to our
district leadership for their support of our 21st Century efforts!
the summer we also made progress implementing the plans from last spring’s Fund-A-Need
(Thank you generous parents!) New athletic equipment was purchased, a plan to
refresh the playground was designed (thanks, Ms. Rubenstein), and our
basketball backboards were repainted with district funds. (For this, we thank
MDUSD Maintenance & Operations personnel.) The district also laid asphalt
along most of the fourth turn of our track to alleviate the constant mud puddle
under the solar panel. I hope you notice this upgrade in cleaner clothes this
As we work
at school to establish 2012-13 school routines, we urge you support your
child’s mastery of school procedures by discussing the 2012-13 Student Conduct Handbook
with your student, getting your child to school on time every day, and
following the drop-off and pick-up directions designated in the Handbook. (Click here to view the Handbook on the Walnut
Acres website.) Please clearly communicate that all rules are in place to keep
students safe. I particularly urge you to very carefully comply with school
Heads up on
a new district opportunity that could benefit your family routines at home…Parents
may pay for MDUSD lunches through a program called My School Bucks. Click here to connect to this information. Using this site you will be
able to view your balance, pay through multiple methods, and receive e-mail
alerts when your balance is low.
A few other beginning-of-the-year reminders...
*Because MDUSD does not carry medical
insurance for students injured on school premises, the District has approved an
optional medical and dental insurance plan for presentation to parents. Click here , then click on the 5th item in the left column to
see the letter from Dr. Lawrence with further details of the plan.
*Click here to get to the Student Services page
on the website that has information regarding TDAP vaccinations required by
law. Clicking on the heading in capital letters at the top of the page will
give you information about community providers for immunizations and TB
*5th grade students will be
taught family life science this spring. The focus of the discussion will be how
bodies change and why. Materials used in this instruction are available for
inspection and preview at the District Instructional Media Center at Willow
Creek Center, at 1026 Mohr Lane, Concord, Monday-Friday, 10/8-10/12 from 8-4:30
p.m. and 6-8 p.m. and 1/28-2/1 during the same time frame.
*The CAC (Community Advisory
Committee) is comprised of folks specifically interested in special education
services. You are welcome to join CAC meetings from 7-9:00 p.m. at the district
office monthly. The next meeting is 10/7 from 7-9:00 p.m. in the District Board
Room, 1936 Carlotta Dr., Concord.
I know that your hopes for your child’s
learning this year are high. We will do our best to meet your expectations by
teaching our children content mastery, and the 6 C’s that they need to be
successful adults. I hope they also hear from all of us in a million little
ways the message of Pablo Casals, “You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the
years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. You have
the capacity for anything.”
Thank you for sharing your little
marvel with us, and thank you for being our partners on this educational journey!
Here’s to 2012-13!
Dear Walnut Acres Parents,
I hope you are all enjoying a lovely family summer. I am
disturbing your vacation time in order to update you on a variety of changes that
came our way towards the end of the school year. Some of these changes I’m sure
you’ve heard something about and I would like to make sure you have accurate
information, and other changes may be new to you.
First, the personnel news:
Mr. Remmers is leaving Walnut Acres. This is very sad news for our
community, but he is leaving for a very good reason. As Mr. Remmers shared in
the last 5th grade newsletter, “only one thing could make me leave
Walnut Acres – love.” Our wonderful Mr. Remmers is moving to Marin to marry,
live, and work with the love of his life. We wish him well, but we will miss
I am happy to report that Mr. Reilly McBride will be joining
the Walnut Acres team as a 5th grade teacher. His major teaching focus for the 2012-13
school year will be writing. Mr. McBride has been with us as a long-term
substitute in Mrs. Otsuka’s class. We are delighted that he remains part of our
Meanwhile, our beloved Mrs. Ryken is reducing her teaching
load so she can focus on providing Tuesday grade level choral classes to all
our students. She will also continue to create the wonderful grade level
performances we all treasure, she will support our Sing-outs and other special
events, and she will offer after-school enrichment classes, including the 5th
grade play. Her new home is in the MUR which provides more room for her large
group choral and performing work. The PFC will continue to fund Mrs. Ryken in
providing one music class a week for our students. The second music class that our 1st-5th
grade students receive each week will be taught by district-assigned music
teacher, Sherri Bensen. Mrs. Bensen has taught in the district at Monte Gardens
for 10 years and at Woodside for 1 year. She and Mrs. Ryken have been friends
and musical colleagues for 30 years, so they will collaborate well on behalf of
our students. Mrs. Bensen will provide music and add an instrumental flavor to
the children’s music classes. (Right
now, Mrs. Bensen is working with our dedicated volunteer grant writer, Tonia
Morr, to place a grant for ukuleles on Donor’s Choose.) Mrs. Bensen’s service
is paid by the district. I know you will welcome her to our site.
I also want to share with you that Walnut Acres has been
assigned two intensive autism classes. One class will be for students in grades
K-2nd and the other class will service students in 3rd-5th
grade. These classes will have 9
students each, and the experienced teachers, Ms. Robin Louchis and Ms.
Christine Cerullo respectively, will work along with their district-provided
assistants to support student learning. I am told that mainstreaming will be
limited, but I hope our students will have some opportunities to interact with
these newcomers and expand their understanding of diversity. As the school year
begins, we will take some time to introduce our student community to our
newcomers. I know that you will join me
in welcoming our new community members.
Our additional classes, a few teacher grade level shifts,
and an effort to maximize our air conditioning for optimal student coverage, have
led to some classroom changes. Although I reserve the right to modify this
plan, I am sharing the current room/grade level assignments with you:
K1 - Erdiakoff
K3 – Datzman
A4 – David
A8 – McGoldrick
A7 – Louchis
C1 – Ng
D2 – Aguilar
B2 – Amundson
B3 – Bangs
D3 – Reamy
D5 – Otsuka
B5 – McBride
B6 – Clark
B7 - Grebe
I understand that some parents helped teachers with their
classroom moves. Thank you so much for your assistance! I appreciate that our
school community spirit is alive and well through the summer months.
And speaking of our incredible parent volunteers, I welcome
Mrs. Halverson, Mr. Moler, and Mr. Wu to our School Site Council for the
2012-13 school year. I thank them for
their willingness to serve.
As you return to your summer activities, please enjoy your
family time and know that while Walnut Acres staff members are relaxing, we are
also preparing for a great 2012-13 so that your children have a super learning
year ahead! For those of you who feel
unnerved by changes at Walnut Acres, I will ask you to consider the words of
one of my favorite ex-bosses… “No
institution remains the same. It is either growing or it’s dying.” Here at Walnut Acres, we’re growing…and