Category Archives: Local News Cover Story

Instrumental Music Building Construction Begins at Diamond Bar High

Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor, Principal Dr. Reuben Jones, Board Members Helen Hall, Cindy Ruiz, Larry Redinger, Dr. Tony Torng, Layla Abou-Taleb, DBHS alumni Janeen Yamak, Katie Samrick, Teachers Marie Sato and Steve Acciani.

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR, CA—Walnut Valley USD marked the groundbreaking of a three-story Instrumental Music Building at Diamond Bar High School on February 19.

Over 150 residents, parents, students, staff, and community leaders attended the celebration for the state-of-the-art addition to the premier music program.

“It’s truly going to be amazing!” exclaimed Principal Dr. Reuben Jones at the site of the building located on the northwest end of the campus at Brea Canyon Road.

“I am so excited to say that we’re going to have the best instrumental music building in the country!”

The nearly $9.8 million project was made possible by voter approval of Bond Measure WV passed in November 2016.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor celebrates groundbreaking of new instrumental music building at Diamond Bar High School on Feb. 19.

“We are tremendously grateful for the support of our community,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

The new 15,700 square-foot “Music Box” will feature three strategically designed levels with a 4,320 square-foot band room at the ground level, mid-level floor ensemble rooms, recording studio, library, and office space, and upper level 3,631 square-foot orchestra classroom with adjacent rehearsal spaces for piano, harp, percussion, and individual practice.

The 465-day construction project is slated for completion in Summer 2021.

“I am truly moved to think about how many thousands of students will pass through this building in the next 10 or 25 or 50 years and the impact it will have on the lives of so many young musicians,” Taylor commented.

DBHS Principal Dr. Reuben Jones, Alumni Janeen Yamak, Katie Samrick, Teachers Marie Sato, Steve Acciani, and Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

The District chief also praised music teachers Steve Acciani and Marie Sato for their “relentless commitment and dedication to the program” and for engraining a love and appreciation of the arts into the school community.


“It is truly a part of the culture here and we’re thankful for that,” he said.

“I’d to thank our spectacular Diamond Bar High students and staff who gave up their time to help the Measure WV campaign and our amazing community for responding to their efforts,” said Board President Larry Redinger.

Diamond Bar High’s comprehensive, 700-student, instrumental music program comprises nearly one-third of the school’s population.

The program has earned the prestigious Grammy Signature Award as the top school in the nation.

For the past nine years, Diamond Bar High has broken records with the number of high school students selected for the SoCal and All-State Bands and Orchestras.

“The best thing about the new building is that it is designed around the specific needs of the uniqueness of our program at Diamond Bar High,” Acciani explained.

“Even though we have tremendously successful large groups, the program is structured around the maximizing potential of individuals.”

Two teen leaders spoke of their passion that generated impressive student involvement during the campaign.

“Measure WV gave us the opportunity to give back to our school and leave a legacy behind,” said 2017 graduate Janine Yamak.

“I remember spending every weekend knocking on people’s doors and calling people,” Yamak said.


“We did it for a purpose because we knew that all our hard work would pay off with a new three-story band building. I’m very excited to see the end result!”

Diamond Bar High alumni Katie Samrick, Janeen Yamak take stage during groundbreaking ceremony.

Katie Samrick, a 2019 graduate, hoped the efforts of fellow band members would make an impact on future generations who spent weekends walking precincts in the “blazing sun to inform homeowners of the benefits.”

And it did.

“The morning after the election day, November 7, 2016, Mr. A. (Acciani) informed us that Measure WV had passed!” We couldn’t be happier!”

Attendees were able to take a tour of the plans using 3D virtual reality goggles and view architectural renderings on display.

“Music is such a powerful thing,” said Principal Jones. “It will be truly wonderful to have it coming from this new building.”

To view a virtual walkthrough video, please visit: http://bit.ly/2w16AzY.

Planes of Fame Airshow 2020

Planes of Fame Airshow Fans

Planes of Fame Air Museum is proud to present the Planes of Fame Air Show on May 2-3, 2020 ‘Victory Through Air Power’. Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII we will be  featuring over 50 historic aircraft, including the B-25 Mitchell, P-47 Thunderbolt, P-38 Lightning, F4U Corsair and P-51 Mustangs flying for your enjoyment. We invite you to join us in honoring the history, contributions, and sacrifices of our Veterans.

USAF Heritage Flight

Performers include: USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II Demo and Heritage Flight, Pacific, European & Korean war era Flight Displays, Gregory ‘Wired’ Colyer T-33 Aerobatics, Philipp Steinbach GB1 GameBird Aerobatics, Sanders Sea Fury Aerobatics, John Collver AT-6/SNJ Aerobatics, Rob Harrison the Tumbling Bear and more!

USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II Demo Team

There will be a Kids Zone, static displays and plenty of food & vendors!

In addition to many other fantastic airplanes that will be performing and on static display, there will be a special panel discussion with some of our honored Veterans. Follow our Planes of Fame Facebook page to receive up to the minute news on Performers, attending Aircraft and Veterans!

Start your Air Show weekend early! Planes of Fame Air Museum opens at 10:00 am on Friday May 1st. Regular admission to the Air Museum includes a tram ride out to the display area as well as access to Planes of Fame Air Museum. Participating aircraft will be arriving throughout the day. Display area closes to the public at 4:00 pm.


Planes of Fame Air Show, Saturday and Sunday May 2-3 2020  8am – 4pm   See all of your favorite airplanes fly!

Get there Early, you don’t want to miss the ‘Victory Through Air Power’ Opening Ceremony and National Anthem Commemoration!

F4U Corsair. Over 40 WWII aircraft will fly.

Free Admission Kids 11 Years & Under, General Admission $30, Preferred Parking $20,

Grandstand Seats, Sunrise Photo Access Passes and RV Parking are available to purchase online at: WWW.PLANESOFFAME.ORG

SAVE $5 on General Admission Tickets when you purchase online! (Limited Time Offer)

FOR INFO AND TICKETS GO TO WWW.PLANESOFFAME.ORG

For more information please contact :

Harry ‘T’ Geier

Director of Marketing Planes of Fame Air Museum

14998 Cal Aero Drive, Chino, CA  91710

Tel – 909-597-7576   harry.geier@planesoffame.org   http://www.planesoffame.org

Teacher Arrested On Suspicion Of Cruelty To Student

Staff Reports

Chino Hills – A teacher in Chino Hills has been arrested for allegedly attacking a student at school according to a news release issued by the Chino Hills Police Department.
On January 24, officers investigated a report about a 6-year-old- boy who was allegedly attacked by his teacher the day before at Butterfield Ranch Elementary School in Chino Hills.
Police identified the teacher as Tina Bozikis-Coccia, 62. The alleged incident happened on Jan. 23 at 2:20 p.m. at the elementary school. The specifics of what happened were not provided by officials.
Following an investigation, Bozikis-Coccia was arrested on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child, according to the news release.

Shining With Kindness

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT, CA—Westhoff Elementary launched its Great Kindness Challenge with a “Wheel of Fortune” game show on January 24 starring grade level teams competing to solve word puzzles in three categories: Great Kindness Challenge, Shine, and Rock Garden.

Westhoff Elementary students join a “Wheel of Fortune” game show during the Great Kindness Challenge.

Counselor Erica Robledo performed as television host Pat Sajak during the interactive digital contest assisted by Student Council co-hosts and Elementary Learning Specialist Therapi Kaplan flipping letters in true Vanna White style.

Players took turns spinning the wheel and guessing letters of familiar phrases including Westhoff Shines, Smile at Others, The Golden Rule, Make A New Friend, Give a Compliment, Do Your Best, and more.

You are my sunshine! Westhoff Elementary unveils new rock garden during Great Kindness Challenge kickoff.

The kindness week kickoff also featured the unveiling of the new Westhoff Shines garden.

Six hundred rocks were painted bright yellow and then decorated by students and staff with powerful messages and affirmations aimed at inspiring kindness.

“We’re hoping the impact of this massive kindness movement will create a positive change throughout the school culture,” Robledo said.

“This will help decrease bullying and make kindness shine at Westhoff Elementary!”

Daily activities included students wearing nametags to encourage greeting each other by name, schoolwide Bingo, arts and crafts, and mindfulness exercises promoting the “Shining with Kindness” motto.

Westhoff Elementary’s new kindness rock garden features 600 inspiring messages written by students and staff.

On Thursday, students dressed in sunny colors and classes joined a kindness garden walkthrough taking a moment to read messages written on the rocks like “You are loved” and “Be the light when others are in the dark”.

On January 31, the final day of the challenge, youngsters journaled feelings about kindness, including how they felt about giving and receiving gifts of thoughtfulness.

Fifth grader Sienna Duong successfully completed a personal goal of smiling at 25 schoolmates during the challenge.

“I liked that we set aside a week that was all about kindness – it was really fun!”

“When I look at the rock garden it makes me feel happy inside because of all the kind messages everyone wrote,” added second grader Jolyn Yu.

Teachers and staff members were also observed performing random acts of kindness by inviting students into their classes, making conversations with youngsters sitting alone at lunch, and pulling together to help alleviate the burden of a sick team member.

“This week, Westhoff Elementary took on the Great Kindness Challenge to inspire others, never give up, encourage teamwork, and shine!” said Interim Principal Denise Rendon.

Walnut Valley USD Trustees Laud Star Parents, Students

Suzanne Middle School parents Betsy Castellanos and Sonal Choksey honored with Partner in Education Awards. Shown with Principal Dr. Amy Smith and Board President Larry Redinger. Also shown with staff and family members.

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT, CA–During the January 15 meeting, the Board of Trustees paid tribute to stellar students and parents from Maple Hill Elementary, Walnut Elementary, and Suzanne Middle School.

Maple Hill Elementary 4th grader Irene Park honored as winner of 2019 holiday greeting card contest. (Shown with Principal Kelly Morris and Board President Larry Redinger.

Maple Hill Elementary 4th grader Irene Park received a certificate of special recognition as the winner of the 2019 holiday greeting card contest. Irene’s creative submission depicted a friendly snowman in a winter wonderland scene. The contest was open to third and fourth grade students throughout the District. Irene also received a gift card courtesy of Yogurtland in Walnut.

WVUSD Board of Trustees honors Walnut Elementary fifth grader Alicia Clark with Super Star Student Award on Jan. 15. Shown with Principal Robert Chang and Board President Larry Redinger.

Walnut Elementary fifth grader Alicia Clark was spotlighted with the Super Star Student Award. Alicia is an outstanding student who always has a positive attitude in everything that she tackles. She displays great enthusiasm toward learning and academics, and gives 100% effort in class projects, assignments, and tests. She is involved in singing, dancing, and acting, and her creative talents have earned an award for a short film in China. She also displays exemplary leadership qualities while guiding and teaching her peers how to sing and dance. Additionally, Alicia is one of the few students on campus who is helping choreograph the upcoming Lunar New Year Celebration.

Parent volunteer Stella Hess receives the Partner in Education Award. Shown with Principal Robert Chang, Board President Larry Redinger, staff, and family members.

Parent Stella Hess received the Partner in Education Award for her dedicated work as Community Club vice president and schoolwide volunteer. Six years ago, Stella started out as a classroom helper and quickly found herself “addicted” to volunteering, according to Principal Robert Chang. “She soon was in the Library, carting around our STAR prize store, revamping the whole STAR Store system, heading the library volunteers, cheering at the track meet, reading aloud to our Genius Hour Story Time and Sketch class, chaperoning field trips, and organizing book fairs,” he said. Stella thinks with her heart and makes sure everyone on campus feels welcomes, loved, appreciated, and noticed. She is truly a cheerleader for educating the whole child by making the school a better, happier, safer, and more fun place to learn and grow.

Suzanne Middle School parents Betsy Castellanos and Sonal Choksey honored with Partner in Education Awards. Shown with Principal Dr. Amy Smith and Board President Larry Redinger.

Suzanne Middle School parents Betsy Castellanos and Sonal Choksey were honored with Partner in Education Awards. “They are not only phenomenal volunteers, but also help build stronger school and family relationships,” said Principal Dr. Amy Smith. They have helped raise over $175K as Community Club Booster Fundraiser co-chairs for the past two years. During summer registration, they helped advertise the impact of the parent volunteer group, highlighting technology, field trips, grade level summits, assemblies, and much more. They have a true passion and dedication for students!

Suzanne Middle School 8th grader Calvin Chen presented with Super Star Student Award. Shown with Board President Larry Redinger.

Suzanne Middle School 8th grader Calvin Chen was lauded with the Super Star Student Award for academic achievement, displaying outstanding character, school activities, numerous volunteer efforts, and striving to make those around him successful. Teachers describe Calvin as being “hardworking, a good citizen, respectful, and caring.” Most recently, the talented pianist and violinist was recognized during the Challenger Breakfast while volunteering at the event. Calvin also strives to make the world a better place through his efforts for disaster relief organizations, Breast Cancer Week, Toys for Boys, and tutoring, he is amazing!

Walnut Valley USD Pays Tribute to Top Classified Employees

A Class Act! Maintenance Worker Louie Del Real is named the 2019 Classified Employee of the Year.

WALNUT, CA–The Walnut Valley Unified School District honored to a dozen standout employees during the 22nd Annual Cornerstone Awards held January 23 at the Pomona Valley Mining Company.

Congratulations to the following 2019 honorees: Mary Weir, School Administrative Assistant – South Pointe Middle School; Lydia Garcia, Instructional Aide II-Special Education – Collegewood Elementary; Louie Del Real, Maintenance Worker III – Maintenance; Debbie Brown, Secretary II – Transportation; Susan Tran, Instructional Aide II-Bilingual/Bicultural – Castle Rock Elementary; Lena Tran, Instructional Aide II-Special Education – Maple Hill Elementary; Gary Reyes, Custodian II – Collegewood Elementary; Ron Honore, Custodian II – Walnut High School; Pete Rodriguez, Custodian II – C.J. Morris Elementary; John Archer, Custodian II – Suzanne Middle School; Francisco Espinosa, Custodian I – Diamond Bar High School; and Anita Guerrero, Nutrition Services Worker I – Evergreen Elementary.

Classified (non-teaching) employees work with dedication and commitment to improve the lives of students every day. They feed and transport students, nurture their minds, support teachers and administrators, and create a positive learning environment.

“I truly appreciate all that our classified employees do for kids on a daily basis,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

“They are the backbone and heart of our organization!”

The monthly Cornerstone Award recognizes exemplary classified staff members who have gone “above and beyond the call of duty” in providing outstanding customer service to the District and community.

Louie Del Real was named the 2019 Classified Employee of the Year at the culmination of the program.

“I work with an awesome team and Walnut Valley is the best!” he commented after accepting the award from Personnel Commissioners Ray McMullen, Michael Cobarrubias, and Gayle Pacheco.

Louie has been a valued Walnut Valley team member for 19 years and consistently rises above all expectations.

He is a talented “Jack of All Trades” craftsman that can tackle everything from carpentry, to painting, HVAC, and electrical work – and he even drives a truck.

“Louie truly cares about the wellbeing of Walnut Valley students and staff and that dedication is reflected in his quality workmanship,” said retired manager and nominator Ron Clouser.

The employee recognition ceremony was hosted by Dr. Matthew Witmer, deputy superintendent of Educational Resources and Dr. Danny Kim, administrative director of Human Resources.

A special thanks to the following sponsors who provided generous support for the Cornerstone Awards: Massage Envy, Benihana Restaurant, Chaffey Federal Credit Union, Schools First Federal Credit Union, California Pizza Kitchen, In-N-Out Burger, Sandy Best-McGriff Insurance, Walnut Valley Educational Foundation, and Lifetouch Photography.

Congratulations to the 2019 Cornerstone Award honorees. Front row: Mary Weir, Susan Tran, Louie Del Real, Gary Reyes, Ron Honore, Lena Tran. Back row: Lydia Garcia, Debbie Brown, Pete Rodriguez, John Archer, Francisco Espinosa, Anita Guerrero.

Eastvale Girl Graces New Girl Scout Packaging

            Sunday marks the official start of Girl Scout cookie sale season, and a familiar face will be featured on the newly redesigned packaging.

            Girl Scout Anneliese Brasher, of Eastvale, will be featured on the newly redesigned 2020 packaging for the Caramel Chocolate Chip variety, which debuted as a new gluten-free flavor last year.

          Now a fifth grader, Brasher, 10, has been involved with the Girl Scouts since kindergarten.  She says that her six years of Girl Scouts has helped her to become more confident, outgoing, and fearless. “My Girl Scout sisters always encourage me if I am scared to try something new,” she said.  

          Her chance to appear on the group’s famous cookie boxes came in 2018, when the Girl Scouts ran a contest for the honor. Brasher submitted an application with the simple goal of earning a limited edition patch, answering essay questions about her cookie-selling techniques, goals, and accomplishments within the organization.

            Her primary technique, Brasher said, was to anticipate all the ways a customer could say no, and have a response ready.  Short on cash? “I take credit cards, debit cards, and Venmo,” she said.  Still sticking to your New Year’s diet resolutions?  “It you can’t eat them, treat them!” Brasher said, “we accept donations,” noting that she personally delivers her cookie donations to the local fire department.

In May of 2018, Brasher was notified that she had won the cookie-box contest, selected as the sole Brownie Girl Scout “Cookie Pro” in an organization of 2.5 million – she was sworn to secrecy until the nation-wide debut of the new packaging this year. 

            Her victory included a trip to New York City, where she was able to meet with female business leaders, designers of the new cookie packaging, and Girl Scout CEO, Sylvia Acevedo.

            During the trip, Brasher also participated in a photo shoot for the contest, the results of which are now featured on this season’s boxes of Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies as a part of the packaging redesign that was eight years in the making.

            The refreshed Girl Scout cookie packaging continues to emphasize what the cookie program is all about.  The updated images feature actual Girl Scouts like Brasher, and every package showcases girls participating in a diverse range of leadership experiences from exploring science, designing robots, to adventure-packed camping and canoeing.

            The Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies and other varieties of Girl Scout cookies are on sale beginning January 26, and as always, will only be available for a limited time with sales ending in mid-March. 

            Brasher hopes that her appearance on the box will inspire more girls to join the scouting organization.  “Girl Scouts has given me the opportunity to do things that I never thought I’d get to do – like archery, surfing, indoor skydiving, and or being on a cookie package!  I hope other girls see that they can do anything they dream of too!”

DB Church Volunteer Arrested for Sexual Misconduct

Photo Courtesy: LASD
Church volunteer, Chee Lim Chook, 55, was arrested and charged with seven felonies and one misdemeanor

Staff Reports

Diamond Bar– A volunteer for a church in Diamond Bar was arrested after allegedly having sex with a 16-year-old girl.

Chee Lim Chook, 55, was arrested and charged with seven felonies and one misdemeanor, including oral copulation with a minor, unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, digital penetration of a minor, and oral copulation with a minor.

Chee was also accused of offering the girl pornography to watch during their encounters, which took place at the church, authorities said.

The alleged victim was a family friend of Chook, who worked as a volunteer at River of Life Community Church in Diamond Bar, according to the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

The alledged victim, now 18, reported the alleged relationship to the Sheriffs Department last February and claimed the incidents happened two years ago when she was 16.

Chook is being held in lieu of $140,000 bail. His next court appearance is Monday, March 25, in Pomona. 
Investigators believe there could be more victims connected to Chook. Anybody with information about Chook or the case is asked to contact the LASD Special Victims Bureau tip line at (877) 710-5273 or by email at specialvictimsbureau@lasd.org