Happy March, Walnut Acres Parents,
As I compose this e-mail a small army of parents are working behind the scenes to create an enjoyably memorable, financially fruitful auction fundraiser. At this point I have no idea how successful it will be, but I do know that the valiant effort, along with the dedicated labor of many parent volunteers focused on other fundraisers and events make it possible for us to continue to thrive at Walnut Acres. Our children are privileged because our parent body chooses to sponsor education over and above the basic monies provided via taxes. The determination of parents means that we may continue providing services and programs that Walnut Acres could not otherwise afford.
Please join us on Thursday, 4/17, at 8:00 a.m. in the MUR as a VIP at our Volunteer Appreciation Day! The Walnut Acres staff would like to thank you for your volunteerism in and out of the classroom, your leadership skills, your creative efforts and your business acumen on behalf of our children. We picked the day and the time in the hopes of increasing the numbers of wonderfully supportive parents who join us for a little music, a tasty treat, a few tokens of our thanks, and some heartfelt words of appreciation. The event will start with our April Trustworthiness Sing-out.
The PFC is constantly planning support to our school and they listen carefully to what teachers, parents, and I have to say. They need to hear your voice! Please click here for the PFC survey or access the survey through the PFC Website. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Jana Corral.
And speaking of sharing what's on your mind, please note that our Superintendent, Dr. Meyer, is continuing her meetings at various sites to inform you about the new Local Control Funding Formula and collect parent input about how funds should be expended. I had the opportunity to attend the meeting held at Northgate and parents were actively involved in giving opinions about site needs verbally and through posting of input. Take this opportunity to let your voice be heard! You are welcome to attend meetings scheduled for:
3/18 at Concord High, choir room
4/8 at Mt. Diablo High, Romaine Hall
4/10 at Riverview Middle, MUR
5/20 at College Park High, library
Our Citizenship Sing-out is scheduled for 3/28 at 8:00 a.m. for 3rd-5th grades and 8:30 a.m. for K-2nd grade in the MUR. You are welcome to peek in at the students because I know that listening to them sing is a delight, but please sign in at the office first, and remember that the Sing-outs are not productions - they are capstone experiences for the children of various life skill discussions and activities.
Have you noticed the new gate near the large waste containers at the SE corner of our property? The MDUSD Maintenance & Operations team placed that tall gate for us at the request of the safety committee in order to prevent anyone from entering school grounds through that back area near the kindergarten playground where we do not have security cameras.
We are happily receiving other safety upgrades...Thanks to an industrious parent, Mrs. Omski-Salmon, and the hard-working engineers in downtown Walnut Creek, there are some changes afoot for the drop-off area on Cedro Lane. Traffic orders have been approved for modifications that include: a red-painted curb, posted signs, and well-placed stanchions to cordon off the pedestrian walk area on the south side of the street leading from Walnut Acres towards Foothill. These modifications will enhance safety for all students.
The Walnut Creek City Engineers are also studying the potential of placing a crosswalk nearer our back fence so students don't have to walk to Wiget or Cafeto to cross Cedro legally. The same engineers are going to paint the curb white and add loading zone signs as close to day care on Wiget as possible.
We are continuing our 21st century transformation as a learning community and signs of our progress are everywhere. Here is a small sampling of activities:·
5th graders are teamed with Northgate design students to learn a few physics principles and apply their understanding to create a roller coaster ride in collaborative teams during design lab classes.
- 4th graders are improving written communication skills as they complete research and write arguments that will persuade district personnel to return chocolate milk to the lunch menu.
- 3rd graders are creatively applying their knowledge of Walnut Creek to develop Futuristic Walnut Creek projects that predict what our city will look like in 100 years.
- 2nd graders are learning to practice persistence and choice as they participate in Daily 5 activities that support skill building.
- 1st graders are expanding their critical thinking as students brainstorm ways to add numerals and keep math journals about alternative approaches.
- Kindergarteners are working collaboratively with parent facilitators to design and create leprechaun traps.
- Our 5th grade recycle club, led by Mrs. Cohen, organized and held a successful "Recycled Art" Contest for interested 5th graders.
- 4th graders, led by Mr. and Mrs. Leach, formed an Odyssey of the MInd team and recently represented us proudly at the S.F. Bay Regional Tournament.
- Our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders who expressed interest in Odyssey but did not join a team, had the opportunity to participate in 4 Odyssey of the Mind Saturday experiences recently with classes led by MDUSD teacher, Alex Pike. The students participated in design thinking through creative problem solving challenges.
I look forward to showing the Distinguished School visiting team our classes in session when they arrive on 4/15 to observe and visit with staff, parents and students. They will see our Signature Practices in action. These include our 21st century transformation and our targeted, strategic PFC financial, volunteer, and leadership support. Our visitors will have a chance to watch our beautiful children at work- learning collaboratively, problem solving as they play, and communicating effectively to support one another. I am fiercely proud of our parents and our teachers as we work steadfastly to enhance learning at Walnut Acres, but it is our amazing children who fill my heart with their trust, their spirit, and their amazing capacity to learn.
You may know I like to close my messages with a quote, but today I'm signing off with a portion of a letter I just received from a 3rd grade student. The good citizenship and caring infused in the message is heartwarming and representative of the wonderful children who arrive every day at Walnut Acres to continue becoming the best they can be.
"Dear Dr. Dowd, I was thinking it would be nice for the school to plant an apple tree. So if you would plant just one, would it make our school a better place? I hope you will consider planting a tree. If someone forgets their lunch or snack, they could just pick an apple."
Here's to the global problem solvers of the future and the joy they bring to us in the present!
Walnut Acres Principal
Happy February, Parents,
Thanks to you and our hard-working teachers and staff, life is good at Walnut Acres. Our children are learning both academically and socially, and we are doing our best to help them enjoy that process. We may be recognized by the state for our joint efforts on behalf of our children. Our Distinguished School application passed the written phase of the process and we will have a visit from a Distinguished School Committee on Tuesday, 4/15/14, as the last step towards being declared a 2014 Distinguished School.
Academically, our transformation to become a 21st century learning community continues. We began 4 years ago learning about 21st century work and ultimately began shifting our instruction to provide for more student choice and ownership of learning. Hopefully, you now see signs of deepened critical thinking in the work your child is completing, and you are hearing anecdotes from your child about collaborative learning activities and technology-infused instruction. We are still learning skills and strategies to enhance our implementation of the 6 Cs, but we are well on our way. For those of you who are not familiar with the foundational 6 C's of 21st century learning, they are:
It is energizing and timely that the state is implementing Common Core State Standards (CCSS) because it emphasizes our 21st century endeavors, while providing specific guidelines for Content mastery. The standards themselves, the skills and knowledge that students are to learn, will entail a comparatively small portion of the shift in our teaching. In fact, 85% of the Common Core Standards actually parallel the CA State Standards previously in place (although some standards have shifted to new grade levels). It is more the depth of rigor mandated by the CCSS that requires enhanced constructivist-type instructional strategies and student activities. Students will need to be able to wrestle with real-life problems, and become genuine problem solvers who can share their thinking and learning effectively. That shift in approach has been and will continue to be the work of our 21st century learning community transformation.
The accountability for CCSS is the Smarter Balanced assessment which is being piloted across the state this spring. If you would like to take a practice test or check out a training test, click here to download the secure browser that allows you to take either test. The practice tests are designed to provide a grade-specific testing experience; while the training test's purpose is to help students understand the test format and how they will interact with the technology.
Please note that there will be no Smarter Balanced assessments results for our school, teachers, or parents from this year's Smarter Balanced assessment. Instead, the assessment results will allow the California Department of Education to check test validity and system capacity for online testing. There will be results for 5th grade CST Science testing.
Our testing date will be in early May and I will keep you posted on further details so you can ask your student about their experience. Meanwhile, I am reminding you of a number of activities happening in February:
Tomorrow, Tuesday, 2/18, is a very important PFC meeting with the hot topic of 'fund raising - your crucial role in keeping WA functioning.' It is being held at 8:15 a.m. in the library. Please join us so you can learn about your collective role in maintaining the programs and practices at our school.
On Thursday, 2/20, Soul Shoppe will be returning to Walnut Acres to present an assembly titled, "Being an Ally". This is the same group that introduced the Peace Path and led our peacemaker trainings. Each grade level will have a 45-minute presentation on the theme of students supporting one another. Research tells us that one of the most effective ways to reduce bullying is for students to stand up for one another. You are welcome to join us, but remember to sign in at the office first and please sit in the back of the room so you don't distract the audience. Check with your child's teacher for the time of your child's assembly. (All assemblies are in the MUR, except for K assemblies in A-5.)
The student council would like me to tell you that Friday, 2/21, is a special Spirit Day. It will be a Twin Day.
On Saturday, 2/22, we are hosting an e-waste collection. If you have any electronics you would like to discard, pass through the drive-through between
9-1:00 p.m. and volunteers will take them off your hands.
On Tuesday, 2/25, Dr. Meyer, MDUSD Superintendent, will speak to parents in the Northgate cafeteria regarding the new local control funding (LCFF) formula and its impact to MDUSD. (In my previous message I indicated the meeting would be in a different part of campus. Please note the change to better allow for collaborative discussion.) Dr. Meyer is also seeking input from parents as the district develops a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). To assure students get the support they need, the plan must address 8 target areas of learning clustered in the 3 groupings of Conditions of Learning, Pupil Outcomes, and Engagement. Please join Dr. Meyer from 6:30-8:00 p.m. to learn about the new funding formula and provide input regarding the soon-to-be-developed accountability plan. I highly recommend this opportunity to you. For further details, click here. If you cannot make the meeting, note other opportunities to participate from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on:
2/20 at Diablo View Middle, MUR
3/18 at Concord High, choir room
4/8 at Mt. Diablo High, Romaine Hall
4/10 at Riverview Middle School, MUR
5/20 at College Park High, library
I close this message with my heartfelt thanks for your support of our wonderfully dynamic school. YOU help make Walnut Acres a great learning environment for our children through the events you sponsor and the money you raise to support school processes and programs.
As I prepare this message, we have recently completed a very successful Science Fair event, thanks to our parent coordinators, Terry Lindeman and Emily Johnson. We are starting our PEP program in which trained parents, led by Julie Connelly and Laurie Light, reinforce our life skill work. And we are offering valuable after-school enrichment classes thanks to Lisa McGuiness and Naomi Hughes. Soon our annul Art Show, coordinated by Robin Piantidosi, will take center stage. These are powerful additions to our school-sponsored programs.
Coming soon, the most crucial fund raiser of the year, our school auction, will be taking place. I know that you will do what you can to support this fund raiser so that we can continue the work of providing our students with the academic and life skills they will need to succeed as citizens and leaders in a dynamic, globally-interdependent society. Visionary educator, John Dewey, who lived in the mid-20th century wrote, "If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow. " A student on a You Tube blog, bluntly shared the same sentiment this way, "I cannot create my future, with tools from your past." Thanks for your ongoing efforts to help prepare our children to meet their future.
Walnut Acres Principal
Happy 2014, Walnut Acres Parents!
Welcome to the new year and to a long period of focused learning before spring break. Here are a few highlights of our activities and plans over the next month and beyond:
Curriculum and Instruction
- We were invited by the state to apply for an update to our Distinguished School designation. With the help of parents from our School Site Council, our innovation team, our current and past PFC executive council, as well as school teachers and staff members, we developed an application packet that is now with the State Selection Committee. In the application we described our school and we shared 2 signature practices that we believe mark us a Distinguished School. The first practice that we detailed is our ongoing 21st century transformation and the second is the active role of our parents in helping us to thrive during the Great Recession. If our written application is successful, we will be asked to host a Distinguished School team to observe our work for a day. I will let you know if the state asks us to schedule a visit to our site.
- Nicole Padoan, our Writer's Workshop coach, is reoffering her parent workshop on Tuesday, 1/28, from 3:15-4:15 p.m. in the library. The workshop is designed to guide parents who volunteer to support writing in the classroom and to assist those who would like to help their students with writing at home. We are especially hoping to get 5th grade parents to the training!
- Our 21st century work continues in the form of teacher training including Common Core workshops, coaching, and grade level Symposiums. Remember that on 1/27, students will not attend school because that Monday is an all-day training for teachers.
- Parents have an opportunity to observe some Common Core lessons in action during Common Core Night on Tuesday, 2/4, at Pleasant Hill Library from 6:30-8:00 p.m. Our own Mrs. Otsuka will be on the teachers' panel! Check out the details here.
- Our Hour of Code was a great success with a few unanticipated benefits. The Northgate STEM club assisted our students with their programming exploration and would like to continue to supporting student practice. We are discussing future potential collaborative efforts. We also had our efforts highlighted in the Times. Patty Galindo, site tech II extraordinaire, spearheaded our Hour of Code and she offers her thanks to you...
Dear Walnut Acres Community,
It has been a month since the Hour of Code. Thank you to all the parents and volunteers who helped make it such a wonderful experience for the children. It is exciting to see how the students were able to take on new challenges in an exhilarating environment, and collaboratively generate creative solutions. The spirit of the event was to allow the students to see the potential they have to become creators of digital solutions instead of just consumers. It was my hope that they view the digital tools as a possible means to make a change in this world and become a part of the problem solvers. Through this coding experience, the students were able to "write" programs that achieved a desired goal such as leading the "angry bird" to where the pig was hiding, or lead the "robot" to light up a tile or make an interactive scene come to life. I plan on repeating this adventure next year with your assistance as well as that of Northgate High School students and Foothill Middle School students - our community.
For the news article that came out in the Contra Costa Times, click here.
To keep the creativity going, click here for continued coding adventures.
To find more resources and give your own input, click here.
Thank you again,
Site Tech II @ Walnut Acres Elementary
- Walnut Acres is slated to offer a Transitional Kindergarten class starting in 2014-15.
- Take a look at the PFC enrichment classes on the PFC website. Check out the fun and innovative new offerings for our students. Registration is open and classes start next week!
- Hooray! Our ball wall is complete except for painting and students are happily putting it to good use!
- Measure C funds are being used to upgrade facilities, and we are slated to get improved security system infrastructure and a new security system. Work began on 1/20 and is scheduled around student class times over the next month so that there will be no negative impact to learning.
- Jeff McDaniel, M&O Director, has directed that our gophers be eliminated, our holes filled and our bald spots reseeded on our playground field.
- The Governor has proposed more money for K-12 education in his latest budget. His plan includes an elimination of deferrals which means that school districts would get money from the state in a timely manner. For further information regarding the proposed budget check out Governor's Proposed Budget - Year 2014 (CA Dept of Education).
- The funding formula and its interpretations are complex. Dr. Meyer plansto lead a meeting with parents from each feeder pattern to discuss LCFF and the MDUSD budget. The Northgate feeder pattern meeting will be Tuesday, 2/25, at Northgate Little Theater at 6:30 p.m. Click here for further information on the website.
- Here's some budget-related news that's closer to home... Congratulations to Read-A-Thon student participants! Collectively our students read over 6791 hours and raised over $19,000. Aren't they amazing! I was "silly-stringed" on 1/14 at the end of the school day by students who read the most hours within their K-5 grade levels - Robyn, Sophia, William, Jocelyn, Luka and Gillian respectively, and top fundraisers per grade level - Brook, Patrick, Colin, Aaron, Nathan, and Gillian.
- The PFC is looking for someone with accounting/book keeping skills to serve as treasurer in 2014-16. If you would like to consider this crucial volunteer position, check out the PFC website for the treasurer's duties. (Scroll almost to the end of the list.) For a contact to answer questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We are still looking for another lunch duty supervisor to work 2-3 days a week. If you have any interest, give the office a call and we'll be happy to answer questions and give you an application.
- We would like to put a microwave oven in the teacher's lunchroom. Anyone remodeling and getting rid of a microwave?
I close this message with a heartfelt note of thanks to you all. I have been sharing with various committees that the Distinguished School process encouraged me to reflect deeply on our vision, our progress, our challenges, and our successes. Whether or not the state recognizes our status, I want you to know that I consider you all distinguished! The time, energy, and dedication that you devote to our school is inspiring and our students benefit from your love and devotion every day. As the great philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, has pondered,"Some people care too much...I think it's called love."
Colleen Dowd, Principal
Hello Walnut Acres Parents,
Our December school session tends to feel like a blur of activities between holidays, as we continue our busy schedule of helping our students to grow and learn. This December is even more frantic than most due to our invitation to update our Distinguished School status. Here are some highlights starting with an upcoming unique adventure...
Hour of Code Experience
We are participating this week in a very exciting national event sponsored byCode.org and Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Boys & Girls Club, and over 100 others organizations. It is called "Hour of Code" and it is offered during Computer Science Week so that every student has an opportunity to get a taste of the computer science world. We are participating in this innovative experience to give our students an opportunity to think in computer language, create in code and have a blast! The activity is a great next step to our 21st century transformation and it may challenge some students to learn more about coding. Did you know that new programming jobs are growing 3 times faster than the number of students entering the field? Did you also know that more than 50% of all math and science jobs are for computer scientists and that computer science positions are the highest paying jobs for new graduates?
Our plan is to have students at every grade participate in one hour of code instruction in the MUR this week under the direction of our site tech II, Patty Galindo. The event organizers have provided many opportunities to investigate code, including tutorials featuring Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates. Below are the dates, times, and activities at each grade level:
M 12/9 @ 8:15-9:15 2nd grade Angry Birds Tutorial and Hopscotch App
M 12/9 @ 9:45-10:45 K Light Bot (hands-on) & Light Bot app
W 12/11 @ 8:05 -9:05 5th grade Scratch on laptop to make holiday card & Scratch programming lessons
W 12/11 @ 9:15 - 10:15 4th grade Scratch on laptop to make holiday card & Scratch programming lessons
Th 12/12 @ 8:15-9:15 3rd grade Angry Birds Tutorial and Hopscotch App
Th 12/12 @ 9:45 - 10:45 1st grade Light Bot (hands-on) & Light Bot app
I share the specifics of our plan because we invite you to be a part of it! Please consider volunteering to support our children as they embark on their coding adventures. For further information about the Hour of Code, please check out the wealth of information and support in Computer Science Education Week. You can also view the videos here. If you would like to assist our children in their coding experience, please contact Patty at email@example.com.
Lifeskill of Caring
Our life skill continues to be caring and we are practicing and singing about caring for one another. PFC and scout drives support our message of caring for others and we will culminate our efforts with our Sing-outs on December 20th at 8:00 a.m. for students in 3rd-5th grade and 8:30 a.m. for our K-2nd grade students. If you would like to provide another opportunity to model caring for your family, consider the district food and gift card drive. The district is collecting food for homeless families in our community. To learn more about this drive, contact the office of James Wogan at 682-8000 extension 3054.
Distinguished School Status and Other Educational Updates
We have been invited to apply to be a 2013-14 Distinguished School. A working group of parents, staff, and teachers, are initiating the written application process this week. Unfortunately, although we just received the invitation to apply, the application is due on 12/30/13. If you would like to help with rewriting or editing of our application, let me know.
Our new parent representative for School Site Council is Erin Roeder.
The National PTA website has some great updates for parents regarding the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) posited by Governor Brown and approved by the legislature. Check it out
if you want to know more about the new funding system for California public schools.
Parent Teacher Conferences
Our Hour of Code will be followed very quickly by our annual parent teacher conferences. Each conference is a golden opportunity to support your child's growth and achievement. Here are a few key ingredients that the NEA (National Education Association) has developed to enhance the value of each parent conference:
1. Show up, please!
"We know parents are busy, but it is important to carve out time to invest in your child's education and ensure success at school," said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. "To get the most out of parent-teacher conferences, parents need to take an active role in their child's education year-round and come prepared to discuss how their child can reach their full potential."
2. Get Ready.
Do your homework prior to parent-teacher conferences. Prepare by writing notes to yourself concerning:
- Any questions about the school's programs or policies.
- Things you can share with the teacher about your child and his life at home.
- Questions about your child's progress.
3. Ask Important Questions.
Don't be afraid to engage in a frank conversation with your child's teacher. Your goal is to develop an action plan for your child's success at school. Good questions to ask the teacher include:
- What are my child's strengths and weaknesses?
- How does my child get along with classmates?
- Is my child working up to her ability? Where could she use improvement?
- What can we do at home to support what you are doing in the classroom?
4. Initiate the Action Plan.
Start immediately on the action plan you and the teacher put together. Discuss the plan with your child and track his progress. Stay in touch with your child's teacher throughout the year with regularly scheduled "report card" conferences that can keep the communication lines open.
Van Roekel concludes his article by reminding us of the obvious, but at times overlooked reality that, "When teachers and parents work together, we can help a child have a successful school year."
Here's to collaboration between teachers and parents during this very special month of caring!
Colleen Dowd, Principal
Happy Thanksgiving to You, Walnut Acres Parents,
During this special season there is personnel-related news...
We have a new custodian! Consuelo Sanchez has accepted the Walnut Acres Head Custodian position effective Monday, November 18, 2013. Ms. Sanchez has been with MDSUD since 2004 and she has most recently served as night custodian at Valle Verde. She is very excited to join us. I encourage you to introduce yourselves to her and make her feel welcome at our site.
A big thank you to Alex Helton who has been a superb substitute head custodian! I have passed to Alex the many compliments you have shared with me regarding his hard work, his dedication, and his eagerness to serve our children. Please feel free to send along a note of thanks to him directly during the week of November 12th, his last week with us.
We need a parent to join our School Site Council (SSC). Mrs. Halverson, who represented parents well, is stepping down as a representative. Please send your request to be a SSC member to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, November 22, 2013, with a brief statement about why you would like to serve. Your time commitment will be the first Thursday of the month from 3-4:00 p.m. Parents will vote the week of December 2, 2013, for one new parent via a ballot process to complete our SSC of 5 school staff and 5 parents.
District-related news and reminders to offer...
MDUSD has a facebook page! Enjoy reading the Special Edition of the Mt. Diablo Unified GoodNEWS Letter to announce and invite you to "Like" them on the "official" District Facebook page recently launched! The Special Edition "Good NEWS" Letter is viewable online or on Facebook.
I have previously suggested that you visit the MDUSD website for information about Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I recommend it to you again as you read more about Common Core in the media.
Intradistrict Transfers for grades K-12 must be submitted between 0ctober 1, 2013-January 15, 2014, for the 2014-15 school year. No application will be accepted after the January 15, deadline! Visit the district website for complete information on types of transfers and for an application to transfer or come to the school office for an application.
Intradistrict transfer applications for incoming kindergarteners may be requested after the student is registered at a school of residence on kindergarten registration day, February 4, 2014. Applications should be submitted no later than February 28, 2014.
Other school news and reminders to share...
Hooray! Construction on our second ball wall will begin this week! During the building process a small portion of the playground will be cordoned off for student protection.
Speaking of student protection, I feel compelled to remind everyone of school safety rules. Some of us are rather lax regarding school safety and I think it's because we can't imagine anything untoward really happening in our idyllic setting. With that mindset I realize that my cautions may seem capricious to you, but our rules exist for very good reason...to protect our children. It may not be likely that a horrific incident could befall a child, but it is our collaborative responsibility to insure that nothing does. Let me share a quick story that certainly brought the point of proactive safety home to me. Years ago, my husband and I had a recurring argument about whether it was safe to keep my daughter's second-story bedroom window open at night when we first moved to Las Vegas. We decided to ask and comply with the advice of my boss at the time, a wise man who had lived in the community for many years. Following the plan, I asked my boss if our open window practice was safe. He replied, "It depends." Of course, I countered, "Depends on what?" Without missing a beat he whispered, "On how much you love her."
Please do not leave your student unsupervised on the playground before 7:45 a.m. or after school, follow drive-through rules, and keep non-therapy dogs off campus. We all care deeply about the beautiful children who trustingly join us here at school every day, and while no one can guarantee safety, we want to do everything possible to reduce the risk of a child being harmed.
And my gratitude...
To all of you who send your unique learners to Walnut Acres every day to be challenged and encouraged and engaged, thank you for your trust. Thank you as well for working passionately through PFC donations, events and volunteering to help our school become a place in which every child feels empowered and excited about learning. Thank you for believing that our work together is a mission of profound import both on the grand scale of shaping the future and in our seed work of instilling a love of learning and self-confidence in every child. Thank you for working with me to bring to life the words of the classic Whitney Houston song, "We believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside."
I wish you and your family a memorable Thanksgiving!
Hello Walnut Acres Parents,
WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF OUR 21ST CENTURY TRANSFORMATION THUSFAR. Do you see signs of our growth? Are you happy with our efforts?Please complete our Walnut Acres School survey on our website (click here) by 11/1/13. Your input is needed as we continue to grow as a 21st century learning community. This survey went out last year, but our response rate was abysmal. I know it was because the end of the year craziness was upon us all. Let's try again. Please take the time to share your thoughts and know that your perspective matters!
If our playground appears a little more colorful, you are noticing our newly painted checkerboard and our US map. Both upgrades, along with an inviting area across from A-6 to relax and wait for students, and attractive planters at our front entrance, come to us thanks to the volunteers of Walnut Creek Community Service Day! We appreciate the efforts of both adults and children, including local scout troops, to support our school, and we thank Mrs. Denman for her organizational leadership!
There are many opportunities to practice creative leadership on behalf of our students. If you are interested in supporting our feeder pattern with your management and strategic skills, know that PEAK (Parents for Educational Achievement K-12) is looking for volunteers to grow the educational foundation that supports all schools which feed into Northgate High School. PEAK (click here) is NOT requesting funds from parents, instead they collect monies from local businesses and community groups. They are eagerly seeking volunteers who would like to give their energy to growing the K-12 "Northgate feeder pattern" Foundation. Our feeder pattern includes Foothill, Valle Verde, Bancroft, and Walnut Acres. Last year, PEAK donated $4877 to Walnut Acres with monies earned through participation in the Walnut Creek Turkey Trot. Call 627-4243 or e-mail www.peakwalnutcreek.org for further information.
Speaking of other schools within our district, please be aware that 1st-5th grade intradistrict transfers are being accepted between 10/1/13-1/15/14. Forms submitted after 1/15/14 are late. The last day for kindergarten intradistrict transfers is 2/28/14.
Educational history was made last week. Assembly Bill (AB) 484 became law which means that STAR testing is now defunct, with the exception of science tests which will be given to our 5th students. For further information about AB 484,click here. In lieu of STAR testing, schools will pilot portions of the new second generation assessment, known as Smarter Balanced assessments. The assessment process will be fully implemented during the 2014-15 school year. To view an example of an assessment click here.
The STAR test was jettisoned a year early to encourage all education personnel in California to focus on implementation of Common Core Standards. For further information about the Common Core standards check out the CDE website (click here.) This focus to learn and implement the Common Core Standards is part of our Walnut Acres plan, but it is gratifying to know that we will not have to subject our students to the outdated STAR assessment.
Information about the new assessment system is part of the Common Core parent presentation offered by MDUSD SASS (Student Achievement & School Services) leadership. If you missed the first two presentations, you will be happy to know that two more remain.
- 10/15/13 from 6-7:00 p.m. at El Dorado Middle School
- 10/29/13 from 6-7:00 p.m. at Riverview Middle School
While it is crucial to prepare our students for Common Core and energizing to share with you the upgrades to our facility, safety is more foundational than either of these topics. Everyday our beautiful children come to us to learn and grow. The most basic obligation we have as a learning community is to keep them safe while they are here.
We have policies and procedures in place to support safety at school and we review those policies throughout the year. I ask you to please follow safety regulations to keep children safe in transit to school and home. We would all be heartbroken if a serious accident, such as that which occurred in Byron recently, happened here at Walnut Acres. I have asked the Walnut Creek Police Dept. to be a frequent presence at drop-off and dismissal to encourage safe driving and pedestrian choices around our school.
Once our students are physically safe we also want them to feel emotionally secure. Our Peace Path is evolving as a wonderful addition to our program to help children feel empowered and capable of solving the inevitable interactional challenges they face every day. (Click here for further information.) Parent Orientation for our school peace path process is 10/22/13, at 6-8:00 p.m. in the MUR. Please plan to attend in order to learn about the Peace Path, Tools of the Heart, and how to apply these strategies at home. Our very own WA Day Care will offer childcare during the meeting. The cost is $20 and permission paperwork should be submitted to WADC by 10/17/13. Permission forms are in our office and at the daycare office.
On behalf of the Walnut Acres staff, I welcome you to the beginning of a busy holiday season. Our season starts with our Book Fair this week followed by our wonderful Walnut Acres Carnival on Sunday, 10/20/13. The Auction Team will offer the first opportunity to purchase your tickets in advance and enter the "Celebrity Treatment" raffle. Please click here for more details. Hope to see you there!
Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author, wrote that, "Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun!" Come see for yourself...
Walnut Acres Principal
Dear Walnut Acres Parents,
Our 2013-14 school year is now in full swing and we are once again a dynamic and busy learning center. I thank all of you who took the time to participate in our Back to School events and I encourage every parent to attend the remaining introductory nights if you have a child in 1st or 2nd grade. As you attend these evenings, I hope you get a sense of our continued 21st century transformation and the efforts we are making to empower students and deepen their learning experiences.
To enhance our continued transformation, we are training as a staff in the areas of Common Core instruction and intervention for differentiation. We are also working with expert coaches; Nicole Padoan is supporting our Writer's Workshop efforts, the district is providing Being A Writer support, and Hellena Postrk will provide math guidance.
The district will host parent information sessions regarding the Common Core this year. I will inform you of the meetings as I learn more details about this plan.
We are once again piloting the i-Ready benchmark assessments in lieu of the CA assessments required by the district. The i-Ready assessments are based on Common Core standards, they are computer-based, and they are adaptive, which means that every question on an assessment is based on the previous answer provided by the student. The i-Ready benchmark assessment process for the collection of baseline data will begin over the next few weeks.
Student Leadership Opportunities
Our student leadership programs, including Student Council and student newsletter team, will return this year. We hope to augment these student opportunities with a recycling club and special event activities. Our first special event is an MDUSD Cook-Off "Iron Chef" competition for 4th and 5th graders. See your child's teacher for further information. We also have a very special after school opportunity for 3rd-5th grade students...Odyssey of the Mind is finally returning to Walnut Acres! Parents of students in 3rd-5th grade are invited to an information meeting on Thursday, 9/26, from 6:00 PM -7:00 PM in A-1. Alex Pike, MDUSD teacher, and past Walnut Acres teacher, will lead the Odyssey of the Mind group this year. Odyssey of the Mind is an after-school program designed to promote design thinking and it is a perfect extension of our 21st century work. It gives students practice in collaborative problem solving, as well as critical and creative thinking.
Implementation of the 6 Cs (critical and creative thinking, collaboration, communication, global citizenship and global citizenship) requires the ability to get along with others and make good life decisions. Life skills are a cornerstone of daily life at Walnut Acres and our monthly life skill focus, our sing-out celebrations, our recycling program, as well as our 3 'Be rules' and awards, will continue. This year we are augmenting our life skill curriculum and instruction in a number of important ways.
1. We are extending our life skill instruction to our expanding work on the internet this year. Students attended an assembly to introduce the concept of Digital Citizenship. The ethics and etiquette for using the internet will continue throughout the year. Mrs. Galindo, our amazing site tech II, (available thanks to your generosity as PFC contributors) will introduce various citizenship lessons as a part of computer lab curriculum, and teachers will continue the lessons in classrooms. You are welcome to check out Common Sense Media ( click here) to view some of the lessons that students will experience.
2. We are introducing the Peace Path. This is a process for problem solving that will hopefully become a set of valuable skills for students to use throughout their lives. The basic components are called "I messaging" and "Clean-up". "I messaging" is a practice for asserting oneself in a respectful manner and "Clean-up" is a method of cleaning up a messy situation with a friend just as one would clean-up one's room or desk. We now have 2 peace paths with footprints and sentence starters on our playground (and one simplified version on the K playground) that are intended to visually guide students through their "Clean-up". We've had an introductory assembly by Soul Shoppe (click here to check out their website) to kick off our work this year with the peace process and now Mrs. Spring, our valuable counselor (available to us thanks to PFC funding), will meet with individual classes of students to practice using the peace paths. In October, Soul Shoppe will return to our site to train 3rd-5th graders to be peace pal leaders who support peers in routinely using the path. Parents are invited to a Parent Awareness Workshop to learn more about the Peace Path process on Tuesday, 10/22, from 6:00 PM-8:00 PM. in the Library. You may learn strategies that you wish to extend to problem solving practices at home and you certainly will master vocabulary that your children are learning to use at school!
3. We are adding a Positive Behavior Referral process to our current Discipline Referral Process to help us honor students that model our life skills. Just as students with a discipline referral are sent to me to discuss their problematic behavior choices, now students who earn a positive referral will also be sent to the principal's office to review their exemplary choices. This will hopefully be a reinforcer for the students, not to mention great fun for me!
I close this message with a thank you to all parents and friends of Walnut Acres who support the many programs, people, and materials that allow us to maintain and grow our instructional program. (For a detailed accounting of how PFC money is allocated, click here for a link to the PFC website financial page.) The donation and fundraising work that you do is truly tremendous and pivotal to our success. I met with the School Site Council (SSC) last week and shared with them that while the SSC supervises the categorical funds provided to our site, those funds total about $32,000 while the PFC maintains a budget of almost $400,000 to provide personnel, programs and materials! The difference is staggering and speaks to the enormity of PFC's role in maintaining our learning environment.
Your service in donating money, time, and energy on behalf of our children is most appreciated. As we start the school year I thank you especially for your contribution to the Jaguar Fund.
"I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy." ~Kahlil Gibran
May your service bring you joy.
Walnut Acres Principal
Dear Walnut Acres Parents,
Our dynamic 2012-13 school year is coming to an end and it is with great appreciation that I thank you once more for the time, talent, and treasure that many of you have given to our school. Your efforts have been crucial in supporting our successes and our opportunities for growth as we deepen learning experiences of Walnut Acres children. Our staff members will be taking a well-earned vacation soon, but planning for the new 2013-14 school year is well underway.
First, our dedicated teachers have made plans to collaborate over the summer as they develop common core learning opportunities for students and continue our transformation to become a 21stlearning community. Many of our teachers will also be attending training offered through Mt. Diablo Unified School District this summer.
While Mrs. Genyk moves with her family to the Midwest and Mrs. Reamy stays at home next year with her baby girl, our 4th and 5thgrade teams welcome new colleagues. Mr. Bob Caldoni will join the 4th grade team. Mr. Caldoni was an insurance agent for many years before making the career shift that led him to us after 8 years of teaching 4th grade at Westwood Elementary. We will also be joined by Mr. Steve Aring, a 17-year veteran from Meadow Homes, who has taught K, 1st, 2nd and 5th grades in his career. Mr. Aring will join the 5th grade team. Both of our new teachers will be attending Writer's Workshop (Columbia Teacher's College) training this summer and they will work closely with a writer's workshop coach throughout the year as they focus on writing skill development for 4th and 5th grade students.
We recently asked 4th grade parents to respond to a survey regarding the rotations in 4th grade during the 2012-13 school year. Those results are on the home page of the Walnut Acres website. Another survey is being formulated to get input from all parents about our school program. Watch for that online survey to be sent to you next week. Your valuable input will be used to help the innovation committee develop next steps in our school's Common Core/21st century transformation.
Also in preparation for the 2013-14 school year, we will add 3 new parent members to the School Site Council who will work with our team of teachers and parents to implement our school plan and oversee the SLIBG budget. A ballot will be sent home this week with your child. Please vote for parent member candidates and return the ballot to school by Friday, June 6th.
If the stars remain properly aligned, our playground will have a facelift when we return in August. Please remember that we must all remain off the asphalt for 5 days starting on June 14th. I have also been promised that our second ball wall will be ready for use when the new school year begins.
In the first months of the new school year we will be saying good-bye to an old and dear friend of Walnut Acres. Our longtime custodian and devoted guardian of our facility, Mr. Andres DeLeon, will be retiring on October 10, 2013. He will be very much missed by all stakeholders.
As you prepare for a memorable family summer, I leave you with the perspective of Bruce Feiler, writer of a recent NY Times article entitled, "The Stories That Bind Us". (Click here to connect to the article.) Mr. Feiler reviewed the work of Dr. Marshall Duke, Emory University psychologist, who has spent years exploring the myth and ritual of the American family. Dr. Duke suggests that what holds a family together- what makes it resilient in times of stress - are family stories. The stories don't have to all be happy ones, but here's the bottom line, "If you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family's positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones." This is called the oscillating family narrative and it is an effective tool to create in our children a strong sense of what sociologists call "intergenerational self." Knowing that they are part of something bigger than themselves, helps children develop self-confidence.
So here's to your summer vacation, and to memorable family adventures that will become fodder for family stories! May the fun that you have together, the conversations you share, and the laughter that connects you, work in tandem to build your child's sense of self, confidence and resiliency!
Happy summering, Walnut Acres clan!
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!