Category Archives: Local School News

Schools Honored For Outreach Efforts During Pandemic

Kelli Gile

Diamond Bar – C.J. Morris, Castle Rock, Evergreen, Maple Hill, Quail Summit, and Vejar Elementary Schools earned the 2020 California PBIS Community Cares Award for outstanding support to students, families, and communities during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Maple Hill Elementary staff sent students “Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons” video.

Maple Hill Elementary produced several outreach videos featuring the “Making Lemonade Out of Lemons” school closure theme.

“We wanted to support our families with weekly messages of encouragement, read-a-louds, and suggested activities to promote social and emotional wellness,” said Principal Kelly Morris.

In one video, staff members suggested fun stay-at-home “opportunities” including exploring nature, dancing, playing board games, learning family traditions, and even having a backyard picnic.

“Let’s seize the day – better yet squeeze the day!” Morris exclaimed.

Evergreen Elementary 5th graders penned caring letters to seniors living in quarantine.

Evergreen Elementary fifth grade students wrote letters to assisted living facility residents during the first weeks of quarantine.

“Hopefully you’ll get to see your friends and family soon,” offered one caring 10-year-old who said she was keeping busy reading Harry Potter books, playing with sisters, and watching TikTok videos.

“I understand that you might not be happy and you can’t travel or eat at your favorite restaurants,” said 11-year-old Kyra Chen.

“You should always stay positive and try to have a good time!”

“The seniors loved receiving the letters and some wrote the children back!” said Principal Trina Dreyer.

Challenge Accepted! Vejar Elementary families stay connected during distance learning by sharing online photos.

Vejar Elementary hosted online weekly spirit challenges, family activities, and sent daily text messages.

Families stayed connected while posting first day of school photos in a shared Google folder for the August 10 challenge.

“We are working to make sure we continue to recognize the positive moments from our students and celebrate them during distance learning,” said Principal Whitney Prenger.

This school year will include virtual student shout-outs, birthday celebrations, Bitmoji postcards, and monthly assemblies recognizing Valuable Vejar Vaqueros for demonstrating respect, responsibility, and safety.

“We also look forward to providing virtual classroom visits and school tour footage to get our students acquainted and excited to return as soon as it is safe to do so!” Prenger said.

C.J. Morris Elementary staff members distribute supplies for distance learning.

C.J. Morris Elementary staff members rallied together to provide supplies to students and families to support distance learning.

“We strive to be global citizens while implementing PBIS in conjunction with our IB Attributes,” said Principal Fayroze Mostafa.

“It truly takes a village!”

Quail Summit Elementary shared daily wellness activities and strategies to help students handle the stress of living in quarantine.

“Schools really need to think outside the box, now more than ever, when it comes to COVID-19,” said Principal Frances Weissenberger.

Castle Rock Elementary delivered messages of community, kindness, and
empathy during pandemic.

Castle Rock Elementary concentrated efforts on maintaining the sense of community built throughout the year.

“Students and staff alike were mourning the loss of one another and the connectedness we shared,” explained Principal Jen Alcazar.

“We focused on helping all our Knights demonstrate perseverance and grit while at the same time building faith that things would eventually return to normal.”

The school posted messages of hope and inspiration on social media platforms using photos, videos, and student highlights.

Homebound students were also challenged to reach out to others who might be struggling.

“They responded with love, compassion, and action doing what they could to uplift one another and by sending messages to essential workers,” Alcazar added.

Diamond Bar High Alum Jason Wright Makes History

Kelli Gile

Diamond Bar

Diamond Bar High School alumnus Jason Wright makes
history as the new president of the Washington Football
Team.

Walnut Valley USD proudly congratulates Diamond Bar High School alumnus Jason Wright (Class of 2000) who has been named president of the Washington Football Team.

Wright becomes the first Black person to hold the league title, and at age 38 is the youngest team president in NFL history.

Wright was a NFL running back for seven years with Atlanta, Cleveland, and Arizona and a business consultant at McKinsey & Company for the past seven years.

The popular Brahma football player and class president attended Northwestern University and earned an M.B.A from University of Chicago.

Diamond Bar High School alumnus Jason Wright has been named president of the Washington Football franchise. The star football player, #18, won back-to-back championships

In high school, he won back-to-back championships in 1998 and ’99 where he scored the winning touchdown to claim the CIF Southern Section Division II title and an undefeated 14-0 season.

“Jason was always an A-plus kid,” retired Diamond Bar High coach Terry Roche told the Associated Press. “It’s all a credit to his parents and family.”

“What a great day for him and his family and all of us that know him.”

The 1999 championship team was quarterbacked by Ryan Maine, who later became head coach at Diamond Bar, and is the current principal at Walnut High School.

Maine knew his friend was destined for great things since their days playing Pop Warner.

“He was always so smart, he was Diamond Bar’s class president, and he was going to Northwestern for medical school, but ended by being drafted and played in the NFL,” Maine shared with the Associated Press.

“He was our team captain and always one of hardest workers. He set an example. I always talk to high school students now and always tell them to surround yourself with people that make you better. I look at that class led by Jason, and he was one of those people that made us all better.”

Diamond Bar High Freshman Runs 30 Days to Feed Families

Kelli Gile

Diamond Bar – After months of being cooped up in quarantine, incoming Diamond Bar High School freshman L’Mio Edwards decided to get moving to help make a difference during the global pandemic.

Diamond Bar High freshman L’Mio Edwards ran a 5K a day for a month to raise funds during COVID-19. Photos courtesy of Smotherman Images.

During the summer, the talented track star ran a 5K (3.1 miles) for 30 straight days in her quest to feed families impacted by COVID-19.

Step by step, her efforts totaled 93 miles while raising funds for the New Earth non-profit organization that distributes free weekly groceries.

“People need to eat, especially during this coronavirus,” the 14-year-old said.

The #5KaDay4Food Challenge kicked off May 26 and has netted $9,600, just a few hundred dollars shy of her $10K goal.

“I’ve been running since around the third grade,” she said during a recent KNBC interview.

“After running for so long I thought I might use it for something if I’m going to be stuck at home.”

L’Mio began preparing her mind and body for the feat by completing a 6K each day for two and a half weeks prior to the event.

Her father, Deon, drove by her side during every run to ensure his daughter’s safety during the entire fundraiser.

The teen now happily sees others partnering in the #5KaDay4Food Challenge that provides assistance to food banks around the nation.

They donate and pledge to run their own 5Ks for 30 days, she said.

“Some people choose to run only a few days or whatever they can handle – which is equally awesome!”

She also joins 5Ks in various communities to continue raising funds for the cause.

“If you want to see a positive change in the world, it starts with yourself,” L’Mio says of her personal motto.

“This was a cool way of getting to know more people in the community and overall a great experience!”

Additionally, U.S. Congressman, Representative Gil Cisneros recognized the Diamond Bar teen for her successful fundraising efforts on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on July 21.

“Using her gift as a talented runner, she committed to running a 5K a day for 30 consecutive days in order to raise money for local food banks and help families in need. Our CA39 is so proud of her!”

Visit www.GoFundme.com/f/5KaDay4Food to support the fundraiser.

WVUSD Offers Free and Reduced-Priced Meals Through National School Lunch, Breakfast Programs

Kelli Gile

Walnut – Walnut Valley Unified School District announces its program offering nutritious meals to every student, every school day under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

Online meal application is available now www.lunchapplication.com or visit us online at www.walnutnutrition.org.

The household size and income criteria identified below will be used to determine eligibility for free, reduced-price, or full-price meal benefits. Children from households whose income is at or below the levels shown here are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Children who receive CalFresh, CalWORKs, or FDPIR benefits may be automatically eligible for free meals regardless of the income of the household in which they reside. Please contact Nutrition Services to verify if you have been Directly Certified, otherwise you may be asked to pay full price for meals.

Effective July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals if the household income is less than or equal to the federal guidelines.

Households do not need to turn in an application when the household receives a notification letter saying that all children automatically qualify for free meals when any household member receives benefits from CalFresh, CalWORKs, or FDPIR. Children who meet the definition of foster, homeless, migrant, or runaway, and children enrolled in their school’s Head Start program are eligible for free meals. Contact Nutrition Services if any child in the household is not on the notification letter. The household must let Nutrition Services know if they do not want to receive free or reduced-price meals.

Applications will be sent to the household with a letter about the free and reduced-price meal program. Households that want to apply for meal benefits, must fill out one application for all children in the household and give it to the Nutrition Service Office – 880 South Lemon Avenue, Walnut, CA 91789.

Households may turn in an application at any time during the school year. If you are not eligible now, but your household income goes down, household size goes up, or a household member starts receiving CalFresh, CalWORKs, or FDPIR, you may turn in an application at that time. Information given on the application will be used to determine eligibility and may be verified at any time during the school year by school officials. The last four digits of the Social Security number from the adult in the household completing the meal benefit application or checking that you do not have a Social Security number is required if you include income on the application.

Households that receive Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits, may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals by filling out an application.

Foster children are eligible for free meals and may be included as a household member if the foster family chooses to also apply for the non-foster children on the same application. Including foster children as a household member may help the non-foster children qualify for free or reduced-price meals. If the non-foster children are not eligible, this does not keep foster children from receiving free meals.

Your child’s eligibility status from last school year will continue into the new school year for up to 30 school days or until Nutrition Services processes your new application, or your child is otherwise certified for free or reduced-price meals. After the 30 school days, your child will have to pay full price for meals, unless the household receives a notification letter for free or reduced-price meals. Nutrition Services does not have to send reminder or expired eligibility notices.

If you do not agree with the decision or results of verification, you may discuss it with school officials. You also have the right to a fair hearing, which may be requested by calling or writing the hearing official:
Brandon Dade, Director of Pupil Services ~ 880 South Lemon Avenue, Walnut CA 91789 ~ (909) 595-1261 x 31311

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at the Filing a Program Discrimination Complaint as a USDA Customer page External link opens in new window or tab., and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call 866-632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2) fax: 202-690-7442; or

(3) email: program.intake@usda.gov

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT
Based on your annual earnings, you may be eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit from the Federal Government (Federal EITC). The Federal EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families. The Federal EITC has no effect on certain welfare benefits. In most cases, Federal EITC payments will not be used to determine eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, low-income housing, or most Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments. Even if you do not owe federal taxes, you must file a federal tax return to receive the Federal EITC. Be sure to fill out the Federal EITC form in the Federal Income Tax Return Booklet. For information regarding your eligibility to receive the Federal EITC, including information on how to obtain the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Notice 797 or any other necessary forms and instructions, contact the IRS by calling 1-800-829-3676 or through its Web site at www.irs.gov.

You may also be eligible to receive the California Earned Income Tax Credit (California EITC) starting with the calendar year 2015 tax year. The California EITC is a refundable state income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families. The California EITC is treated in the same manner as the Federal EITC and generally will not be used to determine eligibility for welfare benefits under California law. To claim the California EITC, even if you do not owe California taxes, you must file a California income tax return and complete and attach the California EITC Form (FTB 3514). For information on the availability of the credit eligibility requirements and how to obtain the necessary California forms and get help filing, contact the Franchise Tax Board at 1-800-852-5711 or through its Web site at www.ftb.ca.gov.

Potential 3/4-Cent Sales Tax Measure on the November 3, 2020 Ballot

Staff Reports

Diamond Bar – In 30 years as an incorporated city, Diamond Bar has maintained its status as a desirable community in which to live, work and visit. Contributing to this status are the safe neighborhoods, well-maintained roads, and clean and attractive parks, trails and recreation facilities. The City has been able to do its part to keep Diamond Bar looking and operating its best and to provide the programs and services valued by the community by practicing responsible fiscal discipline and thoughtful budgeting.

Although the City’s current financial condition is strong, Diamond Bar faces long-term financial challenges that will impact the City’s ability to continue to meet the community’s needs and priorities. In 2019, the City completed an extensive effort to assess its long-term financial outlook in light of growing costs and the absence of new revenue streams. This effort concluded that Diamond Bar is approaching a financial crossroads where measures will have to be taken to align expenditures with revenues. These measures may include deferring maintenance of roads and landscaped areas, delaying or abandoning plans for new construction or renovations of parks and public facilities, or paring down municipal services to core necessities.

Potential Sales Tax Measure: With expenditures anticipated to outpace available resources in the near future, the City is taking steps to ready itself for this fiscal challenge. Identifying new locally-controlled revenue streams to ensure the City can continue to provide and improve on existing service levels is one of these steps. Placement of a three-quarter sales tax increase measure on the November ballot is still under consideration by the City Council. For more information please sign onto www.diamondbarca.gov.

Singing DBHS Counselor Sends Message of Hope in Weekly Videos

Kelli Gile

Diamond Bar High GLC Dave Desmond delivers weekly virtual sessions and music during COVID-19 quarantine.

Diamond Bar – Unprecedented times are challenging educators to go to great lengths for their students amid the global health crisis.

Take Diamond Bar High School grade level coordinator (GLC) Dave Desmond, for example.

For the past eight weeks, he has been sending video messages to homebound students using social media.

From his living room, Desmond presents counseling strategies in easily digestible bites, capped off by performing a song on his acoustic guitar.

“We’re still in coronavirus time and unfortunately it looks like we will be here a longer,” he said on April 9.

The 27-year veteran educator has literally opened up his home for the virtual sessions directed to his sophomore class and he doesn’t seem to mind.

“This isn’t something I would have done in the past,” he shared.

“I normally keep my private life to myself, but these are strange times.”

His only fear was playing and singing in front of the world.

“I thought, man, if there’s some way that me providing a little entertainment for my students will distract them from the general sadness of this time for a bit, well, that would be cool,” he said.

“And hopefully they’re listening to the counseling as well!”

His colleagues are also reaching out with regular communications via videos, newsletters, and emails.

“The other GLCs and I really miss seeing the kids and having that daily connection with our students,” he added.

Desmond said the team relies on seeing kids face-to-face and “counseling via the phone, email, or zoom is kind of tough.”

“This is just another way to let them know we care about them and are thinking about them.”

Each week, Desmond clicks through a PowerPoint presentation featuring topics normally discussed during the school year.

Themes have ranged from goal setting and college applications to financial aid and preparing for SATs.

Knowing that students are facing increased anxiety due to COVID-19, Desmond admitted that he’s also struggling while living in quarantine on the May 10 broadcast.

“Just like you, I’ve been having a tough time and I think it’s good for all of us to find ways to relieve that stress.”

With that, he began demonstrating how he’s been keeping busy around the house, beginning in the kitchen with a pink frosted cake he baked for Mother’s Day.

Next, he dashed to the dining room for a hand of gin rummy, a game he’s currently playing with his daughter.

“Break up the day by playing a game with your family,” he offered the teens.

“Hey, I just won – that was fun!”

He suggested using DBHS online mindfulness resources including meditation, listening to waterfalls, drawing, music, and even a koala cam.

“Doesn’t he look relaxed? Aren’t you more relaxed just watching this guy?”

Then Desmond pivoted to a doorway to demonstrate a few pull-ups, sprinted to the backyard to hit golf balls, and pull a few weeds.

“Maybe you can help your parents clean up the house a bit,” he suggested to the high schoolers.

Desmond even shared a weekend project he’s been working on.

“See this patch of dirt – it will soon be transformed into a putting green!”

Being sheltered-in-place is the time to set small goals each day including academic, physical and social activities, and finding a way to help the family, Desmond suggested.

“Make dinner or write a letter to grandma and grandpa.”

“But, one of my favorite things to do to manage stress is playing a tune,” he said wrapping up the segment.

And with that, he picked up his guitar and belted out “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.

Desmond coordinates his tunes with each video theme from a memorized playlist of about 50 songs, including “Where is My Mind” by the Pixies, “Midnight Special” by Credence Clearwater Revival, and “Help Me, Stranger” by Jack White of the Raconteurs.

“Hold on, Brahmas, we’re going to get through this!” he exclaimed with a fist pump to the camera.

His message during May’s Mental Health Awareness Month is for students to keep doing their best.

“Do your best to live your life with some sense of normality while staying safe, do your best to help your family and friends get through this odd, difficult time, and do your best to take care of yourself. There’s so much about this situation that is beyond our control, so focus on what you can control and be good to yourself and to everyone around you.”

Diamond Bar High Crowns Prom Royalty With Surprise Home Visits

Kelli Gile

Diamond Bar – Diamond Bar High School made some special deliveries on Saturday afternoon.

Students are missing out on end-of-year experiences due to the coronavirus pandemic, including the “Night of a Thousand Lights” Prom which was to be held that evening.

So, Class of 2021 advisors Shari DeCambra, Jazmine Silver, Lisa Arionus, with class officers Daniel Min, Philip Ma, Aileen Park, and Chris Tan quickly began brainstorming ideas.

“As soon as our school was closed, staff went to work planning activities and trying to create memories for our students,” said Principal Jones who was excited to join the coronation.

A crew of Brahmas gathered up the glistening crowns, personalized banners, candy necklaces, and buttons and carpooled to homes to crown the royalty right in their front yards.

“We love our students and are determined to make the most of this difficult time,” he added.

Wearing protective masks, junior class vice president Philip Ma and committee member Cameron Tsai took turns ringing doorbells and then the royal winners were greeted with shouts of congratulations by the group.

King Irwin Chen, Queen Charlotte Tu – Class of 2020 and Prince Cristian Vargas, Princess Keili Ishitani – Class of 2021 were selected by student body online nominations and voting.

“It was exciting to still have a vote for prom court and honor the winners!” DeCambra said afterward.

Families marked the moment joining the celebratory photos on the lawn.

Diamond Bar, Walnut High Make U.S. News’ Best of 2020

Walnut – After crunching the numbers, U.S. News and World Report released its annual report of top performing public high schools in the country on April 21.

And it’s no surprise that Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools continue to lead the way through exceptional dedication to the success of all students.

This year, Diamond Bar High ranked #25 in Los Angeles Metro Schools, #68 in California, and #519 in the nation. Additionally, Diamond Bar placed #77 in STEM high schools.

Walnut High scored #35 in Los Angeles Metro Schools, #84 in California, and #601 in the nation.

The U.S. News Best High Schools rankings include data on more than 24,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Nearly 18,000 schools in the country, and 1,612 in California, were reviewed for performance in state assessments, graduation rates, and how well they prepare students for college.

Diamond Bar and Walnut offer an extensive roster of IB and AP courses to provide students with an opportunity to challenge themselves with college-level course work during high school.

“I’m very proud that Diamond Bar and Walnut High continue to be recognized on a national stage in preparing students for the next chapter in their lives,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

“This is a wonderful recognition for our students, parents, teachers, and school leaders!”

Additional information at: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools.

C.J. Morris Elementary Teacher Bakes Through Pandemic

Kelli Gile

Walnut —On a recent Saturday, C.J. Morris Elementary teacher Jennifer Veneracion eagerly removed the jar containing a bubbling yeast concoction from her kitchen cupboard.

After four days of stirring and waiting, the fermented starter was finally ready to be combined with a few cups of all-purpose flour and mixed into silky dough.

She would spend the next several hours methodically kneading, allowing for rising, and repeating before shaping and popping in the oven.

And when the timer sounded, out came the steamy, crusty loaves of success.

The C.J. Morris Elementary Title 1 Specialist has joined legions of homebound bread bakers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Veneracion decided to learn a new skill at the onset of stay-at-home orders that began in mid-March.

“Bread making seemed fun to do as well as something the entire family could enjoy, and it could carry on after the quarantine,” she explained.

The novice baker had always been too intimidated to attempt baking from scratch.

“I was afraid the rising dough would grow so big that I couldn’t handle it,” said admitted.

“It feels silly now that I’ve learned more!”

The baking got off to a slow start because the educator first became a student desiring to learn all about her new hobby before donning an apron.

First, she bought a bread book for beginners, and then became immersed in reading recipes, articles, and following popular bakers including Amber’s Kitchen and Bonnie O’Hara on social media.

And then there was the shortage of flour and yeast on supermarket shelves due to the surge in quarantine baking.

But once Veneracion started, she was “hooked.”

During the past several weeks, she has cooked up traditional Filipino Pan De Sal bread, ventured into loaves, sandwich breads, tortillas, cinnamon rolls, and more.

Her tried-and-true techniques include keeping the right tools at hand: a big bowl, kitchen towels, kitchen scale, and food thermometer.

And before each baking session she measures out all the ingredients, puts them in different containers, and then combines as directed.

“Kneading the bread is key,” she added to the list of tips.

“You might think the dough is too wet, but if you continue to knead it, it will develop gluten which will make it firmer.”

Veneracion has discovered the restorative magic of the experience.

“Now that I’ve learned a lot, bread baking as become a form of therapy for me,” she said.

“Teaching remotely and getting my three kids on track with their work is rough, so unplugging and working on a recipe is both relaxing and rewarding.”

In the end, Veneracion’s family decides if each bake is a winner.

“My kids are pretty honest and will tell me if the bread is a hit – with reactions ranging from ‘Mom, this is amazing’ to ‘Whelp, it’s bread, I guess,’” she said.

“Either way, I’m hoping they see the importance of learning a new skill, celebrating the successes, and powering through the failures.”

Diamond Bar, Walnut High Robotics Teams Help Fight Pandemic

Walnut — Over the past several weeks, tech savvy teens from Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools quietly answered a call to aide first responders during the global pandemic.

When students learned of the dire shortage of personal protective equipment for frontline medical staff and how anyone with a 3D printer could fill the void – they sprang into action.

Diamond Bar High’s DB Engineering and Team Sprocket robotics partnered with parent Joe Bloomfield, owner of Spyder3D, to design and manufacture reusable 3D printed facemasks and face shields.

Six members of the school’s Printed Works Club are creating a facemask that must be easily printable by those new to 3D printing, require little post-production work, be reusable, and accept multiple types of filters.

“Our team has developed a working prototype that meets all of our requirements,” said senior Logan Tang of the facemask that can also be easily scaled to fit different face sizes.

Next steps include calibrating the strap attachment points to increase comfort while holding the mask in place, he said.

Instructional Dean Gabriel Aguilar’s living room is currently in production mode on the project.

Since the school is shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Diamond Bar High administrator brought a bay of 3D printers home to aid a special effort.

“Several community partners contacted us to see how we could leverage our 3D printing and manufacturing capabilities to support the need for face shields,” Aguilar said.

“Rather than collecting dust, these machines are now producing 30 face shield frames per day, using materials donated by Spyder3D.”

WVUSD FIRST Robotics Teams joined forces with the SoCal Makers COVID-19 Response Team to create face shields using 3D printed frames and clear plastic transparency sheets.

To date, Team Sprocket, Walnut Valley Robotics, Aluminati and 2nd Rebellion have provided approximately 600 free face shields to this initiative, which has supported nearly 100 medical centers, including West Covina Medical Center, Pomona Valley Medical Center, and Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.

Walnut High’s Wolf Corp Robotics team members are making do-it-yourself (DIY) face shields for health care workers and those providing essential services, including Walnut Valley USD Nutrition Services staff serving weekday Grab & Go meals.

The shields are low cost and very easy to make with three main components: foam, elastic band, and a transparency sheet.

Each member has pledged to construct 15-20 protective face shields from home and over the weekend 50 additional gifts were delivered to essential workers in the community.

Aerospace engineer and mentor Eric Gever established the SoCal Makers initiative organizing groups of colleagues, robotics students, and local makers interested in making a difference and helping to produce the face shields.

Teens are not only solving real-world problems, but getting more interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic.

“While many students may be thinking of this time away from school as an extended break, those who have remained involved in the Socal Makers Response Team have stood to benefit greatly though their participation in this project,” Gever said via Go Fund Me.

Feeding Our Walnut Valley Families During School Closure

Walnut – Walnut Valley USD Nutrition Services Division is ready to feed children each day during the COVID-19 school closures.

On Monday, over six hundred “grab and go” meals were distributed at Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools.

“We’re passing out a breakfast and lunch item with milk, chips, juice, and fruit,” explained

Josette Macias, a Nutrition Services Worker, as her team met cars in front of the gymnasium at Diamond Bar High.

The free meals are available to all children under 18 years old, who must be present during pick-up, for the drive-through service that runs 7:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Monday through Friday.

“Yesterday we served over 300 and are expecting a lot more today,” shared Walnut High staff member Ana Aguilera on March 17 as a steady stream of cars entered the staff parking lot.

“We’ve got to take care of our kids – kids come first!” said Eva Generalao who was in kitchen helping prepare meals at 6:30 a.m.

At the end of the morning shift, over 1,800 meals, triple the number from the previous day, had been served at both high schools.

“It’s a good feeling because the District can share this food with our students,” Aguilera said.

“And the people are so appreciative!”

“It’s nice to help at a time like this,” shared Rachelle Serrano as she provided the curbside service to families.

Parents signaled the number of children in each vehicle and then staff quickly handed off the packaged meals.

Serrano also delivered something special to each car – a friendly smile, a wave, and a “have a good day!”

For more information, please visit www.walnutnutrition.org.

Diamond Bar High Students Perform Virtual Recital

Diamond Bar – When Diamond Bar High’s Performing Arts Academy spring recital was cancelled due to COVID-19 school closures, students decided that the music must play on.

The advanced musicians, who were quarantined at home, took to the internet’s world-wide stage during a live virtual concert held Wednesday night.

The teens were able to join online rehearsals before the big 8 p.m. performance with the help of industry professionals that provide assistance to the program that boasts 700 students.

“They are working diligently through these tough times to provide much needed opportunities for the kids to express themselves and stay connected,” said director Steve Acciani.

Then, through the magic of technology, the first group of students began playing with a flute, clarinet, French horn, oboe, and bassoon if they were in the school’s theatre.

Quartet members Alex Hong, Erin Miyahara – euphonium, Patrick Zhang, and Alan Lu – tuba performed a moving rendition of “It’s A Wonderful World” while sequestered in their homes.

A special “furry” guest audience member made an appearance during the finale of the 45-minute concert.

Lu, a sophomore, was joined on the sofa by his trusty golden retriever, Thunder, who was looking for some attention.

In the opening notes, the adorable pet began gently pawing at Lu until he freed a hand from the glistening silver instrument to offer a quick pat on the head.

And then the content companion laid down and appeared to be listening as the talented foursome played the remainder of the song.

“At first. Thunder didn’t enjoy it very much (when I played), but now he’s almost always next to me when I’m practicing,” Lu said.

“The virtual concert was a lot of fun since it was something new – and it kept me busy for the day!”

The complete concert may be viewed on Facebook.

DBHS Senior Surprised with $40,000 STEM Scholarship from So Cal Edison

Diamond Bar — Diamond Bar High School senior Sean Chang is one step closer to realizing his dream of becoming an engineer.

This week he was named a 2020 Edison Scholar, a prestigious award that comes with a $40,000 college scholarship from Edison International.

A surprise announcement had been planned during Sean’s fourth period orchestra class with school officials, parents, and a representative from Southern California Edison.

There would have been lots of cheers and maybe a few tears when the big check was revealed.

But, it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 epidemic and resulting school closures.

Sean instead received an email video notification with the news, and he’s OK with that.

“This scholarship means a lot to me because it lifts a huge burden off my parents’ shoulders and will grant me additional education opportunities in the future,” he said.

Sean is among an elite group of 30 dynamic and innovative high school seniors in Southern California Edison’s service territory to receive a total of $1.2 million through the Edison Scholars Program this year.

Edison Scholars have bright futures ahead and these scholarships help turn innovative ideas into real-world solutions.

Sean loves the beach and has always been troubled by the amount of trash and pollutants that he sees sprawled across the shores.

After a summer internship at Boeing, he realized that he wanted to build a machine to clean up these pollutants while protecting aquatic ecosystems.

“As an aspiring engineer, I hope to create hundreds of cost-efficient ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles) that are connected through a large network, that can automate and expedite the clean-up of our oceans,” he said.

Sean plans to attend University of Pennsylvania next fall and study mechanical engineering.

He is captain of the Walnut Valley Hydromechs Robotics team and a member of the Diamond Bar Symphony Orchestra.

Each Edison Scholar will receive a scholarship, paid over four years, to further their academic pursuit of STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, or math studies – at a four-year accredited U.S. college or university.

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.

COVID-19 Patient Visits Walnut, Dies in Pomona

Staff Reports

Walnut/Pomona – On March 11, the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PCHMC) announced that a patient who passed away at their hospital confirmed positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This was the first reported COVID-19 death in Los Angeles County.

On March 9, the patient went to the hospital by ambulance and was in full cardiac arrest. Staff provided lifesaving care to stabilize her condition. Based on her travel history and symptoms, the patient was placed in isolation and infection control protocols were implemented according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). LACDPH authorized to obtain samples for COVID-19 testing, but the patient died shortly after “due to complications from their illness,” according to a PCHMC statement. On March 11, LACDPH confirmed the patient tested positive for COVID-19.

A family member disclosed the patient’s travel status, which included a residence in the City of Walnut. However, the County confirmed that the individual “did NOT circulate around the City of Walnut and stayed primarily at the residence,” according to Walnut Public Information Officer, Melanie Tep. She stated that the City is communicating with LA County’s Department of Public Health for more information regarding the patients’ travel details. “We will communicate more information as it becomes available from the County.”

In addition, the LA County Department of Public Health confirmed that the patient’s family members are currently in quarantine.  PCHMC is also following LACDPH guidelines for the staff that came into contact with the patient.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the patient and family,” said Daniel Gluckstein, MD, Medical Director of Infectious Disease at PVHMC. “At this time, our top priority remains protecting public health and ensuring the safety of our patients, visitors, Associates, physicians, volunteers and community.”

“We understand people are feeling anxious about potential exposure to coronavirus, but we want to reassure our patients and their families that the risk of exposure from this case is low,” stated a PVHMC statement. “PVHMC remains a safe, high-quality facility to seek medical care.”

The City of Walnut issued a reminder stating that Public Health continues to recommend that the public do the following to protect themselves and others from respiratory illnesses:

• Stay home when you are sick.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Limit close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
• Facemasks are most effective when used appropriately by health care workers and and those directly caring for people who are sick and by people who are sick (source control).
• Get a flu immunization if you have not done so this season.

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 High Teacher Goes Above And Beyond To Support Special Needs Student

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Walnut High School junior Bradley Conrad gives his teacher Kirsten Thibeault a thumbs up for a special Lego birthday gift.

Teachers are long known for dipping into their own pockets to provide classroom supplies. This Walnut High educator went a step further for one of her students.

By Kelli Gile

Walnut–Walnut High School teacher, Kirsten Thibeault, usually spends time in the evenings correcting homework and creating lesson plans for her six English courses. On Tuesday night, however, she put aside the schoolwork to sort through boxes and boxes of Lego building blocks, platforms, and characters. Thibeault was motivated to comb through her son’s long outgrown collection to offer a personalized birthday gift to one of her students. “I have this amazing special-needs student named Bradley Conrad who is in my general education College Prep English class,” she said. This is his first time in his high school career the senior has been in this type of English class. “Bradley makes everyone smile, he volunteers for everything, and his optimism is contagious,” she described.

The teen had recently written an essay about how the Thomas the Tank television show along with Lego “guys” help him, and other kids with autism, learn to navigate the world. Conrad also shared with his teacher that his 17th birthday was coming up and he wanted to start a YouTube channel about the railway series. Thibeault mentioned that her son had a ton of unused toys and would he want them? “That would be the greatest birthday present ever!” he replied. After two hours of sorting, the giving educator ended up with a huge plastic box of pirates and knights and dragons and boats along with about 200 additional tiny Lego figurines.

Thibeault made true on her promise and presented the wrapped gift on September 21. She even created a huge birthday card with Lego stickers that all his classmates signed. “I was very surprised!” Conrad said after receiving the thoughtful present. “No other teacher has ever remembered my birthday,” he commented. Conrad came up with the idea to use Lego figurines to create custom characters because they are small enough to fit inside Thomas’ cab and on the wooden train track. “One of the first customs I did was Mr. Fergus Duncan, the railway controller, and his arch nemesias, Mr. Peregrine Percival,” he proudly recalled. “I have a lot of ideas for these new pieces,” he offered.

Conrad is excited because the first period class is already helping him stay on course for plans after graduation. “It’s not just English, Ms. Thibeault is giving life lessons and helping me prep for college!” he said.

 

WVUSD Trustees Appoint Matthew Torres as Assistant Superintendent

By Kelli Gile

Walnut- The Walnut Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Dr. Matthew Torres as Assistant Superintendent of Business Services during the September 19 meeting. The veteran educator brings over 20 years of experience and expertise to his new post. Torres has a strong background in the Business Services Division, serving the past 13 years in the Fruitvale School District in Kern County. Since 2011, Torres successfully led the team as Assistant Superintendent of Business Services and Chief Business Officer (CBO). He has previous administrative experience as Director of BusinessServices, Director of Specially Funded Programs and Evaluation, and Coordinator of Specially Funded Programs.

Torres offers expertise in budget development, position control, categorical program monitoring, municipal bonds, and collective bargaining. “He possesses leadership qualities, technical knowledge of the position, and proven ability to perform effectively in this administrative role,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor. Torres has also served as adjunct professor in a variety of areas in fiscal analysis at California State University, Fresno, California State University, Bakersfield, and Point Loma Nazarene University. Prior to joining the Fiscal Division, he was a fifth-grade teacher at Columbia Elementary in the Fruitvale School District for eight years.

Torres holds a bachelor of arts from Pepperdine University, master’s degree in education leadership from University of La Verne, and doctoral degree in educational leadership at University of Southern California (USC). Additionally, he completed the School Business Management Certificate Program at USC. “This is a chance of a lifetime,” Torres said during the meeting.

“The opportunity to join a District such as Walnut Valley Unified which has proven leadership, a collaborative culture, a rich history of excellence, and a deep commitment to the students, staff and community, is what every educator hopes for,” he added. He and his wife, Tina, will be relocating from Central California. “We’re excited to move to the community!” This appointment fills a vacancy in the department.

 

Diamond Bar Students Make Their Mark

Courtesy: Kelli Gile
Dot Day! Quail Summit Elementary third graders, shown with teacher Criss Sykes, create artwork inspired by Kandinsky’s Squares with Concentric Rings watercolor

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR – Quail Summit Elementary took a spot-on approach to promoting creativity, art, and collaboration during Dot Day held September 14.

“It’s a day where we celebrate making a mark in this word, believing in yourself, and others,” said elementary learning specialist Leann Legind.

The annual event was inspired by the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynoldsabout a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark.”

What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper inspires people around the world to discover the power and potential of creativity in all they do.

“Dot Day is about not fearing creativity, but rather embracing it,” said Principal Frances Weissenberger.

In the past few years, Dot Day has become an international celebration with over 13 million students in 178 countries participating each September.

“Students were so excited to create art on this special day!” Legind said.

The children and staff members arrived at school decked out in polka dot clothing, hats, socks and headbands, with dotted t-shirts and jeans, and even a few spotted faces.

Teachers read The Dot to their students and classrooms created canvas dot art to be featured in a unique gallery.

The Quail Summit youngsters joined an outdoor collaborative art project throughout the day by painting designs on pink, purple, blue, green, green, yellow, orange, and red circles.

Each grade level also had the opportunity to learn about famous artists such as Wassily Kandinsky who created the Squares with Concentric Rings watercolor in 1913.

Third graders in Criss Sykes class painted their own Kandinsky-inspired masterpieces.

“Dot Day inspired me because anyone can draw anything if their heart wants to,” Macie Marquez shared.

“Even simple things can be art and art doesn’t have to be perfect. It teaches us to persevere and never quit,” added classmate Ian Xia.

“We connected the dots at Quail Summit to inspire creative teaching and learning!” Legind said.