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!
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,