Category Archives: Local School News

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.

 

33 WVUSD Students Named National Merit Semifinalists

By Kelli Gile 

WalnutThirty-three Walnut Valley USD seniors from Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools have been distinguished as 2019 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

Congratulations to the following teens who have been recognized for demonstrating exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies:

Diamond Bar High: Grace Ge, Samantha Hong, Wesley Ip, Christine Lee, Ryan Li, Amy Miyahara, Isaac No, Ashley Pang, Phoebe Scaccia, Andrew Seo, Alice Wang, Yuwen Wang, Keith Wong, Ted Yarmoski, Timothy Yeh, Angela Zhang, Catherine Zhang, and Christine Zhou. 

Walnut High: Angela Cao, Jeremy Chang, Ashley Chen, Flora Jin, Karen Liu, Amy Lo, Dylan Song, Jordin Wang, Justin Wang, Christopher Yang, Michelle Yee, Tiffany Yeh, Brandon Young, Alice Zhang, and Angela Zhu.

 “We are extremely proud of these 33 seniors for receiving this nationwide honor!” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

 “This level of success is a testament to the caliber of educational experience they are receiving at our high schools each and every day.”
More than 1.6 million students entered the Merit Program as juniors by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

High scorers were designated semifinalists, representing less than 1% of the state’s graduating class.

In total, just over 16,000 talented seniors qualified nationwide.

These students will continue to compete for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships that will be offered in the spring.

The WVUSD senior scholars will advance to the finalist level upon completion of additional requirements.

They must maintain an outstanding academic record throughout their senior year, be endorsed and recommended by their principal, submit SAT scores that confirm their earlier qualifying test, and complete an essay and scholarship application detailing their leadership and community activities.

The 2019 National Merit Scholarships will be awarded beginning in April and concluding in July.

 

Full STEAM Ahead!

South Pointe students learn coding from ‘Scratch’

By Kelli Gile

Diamond BarSouth Pointe Middle School 7th graders are immersed in learning coding concepts in a STEAM 2 course.

This week, students have been busy designing interactive stories and games with Scratch, an online programming community.

“All students, some having no experience with coding, are given an opportunity to be creative with the smallest of details about their game or story and it is amazing to see what they can do,” said technology teacher Crystal Dira.

Students have been experimenting with ideas as they drag and drop programming blocks to create movement and animation effects.

“Our project is like a Flappy Bird game,” Trey Rosales and Jas Singh explained on Wednesday.

“There’s a bat that’s traveling across these trees while trying to get to the end of the level,” Rosales said.

Another design team, Helena Tran and Aayati Sangal, collaborated to create a catching game with balls and meow sound-effects.

“You can’t catch the orange ball!” Sangal exclaimed.

Throughout the year, students will participate in numerous hands-on activities and projects that integrate the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.

STEAM 2 students will also be coding robots along with stop-motion animation, music, and short story videos.

The class has been designed to expose students to both to Engineering/Computer Science and Video Production which are two different paths in Technology available for 8th grade students.

“They really are using technology to create their future,” Dira said.

 

Vejar Elementary 4th grade celebrates the Golden State

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
“California history is the heart of fourth grade and we wanted to celebrate the day it became a state in 1850!” said teacher Janine De Vera.

California Day!

By Kelli Gile

Walnut – Vejar Elementary fourth graders are becoming map masters while learning about California’s unique coastal beaches, mountains, central valley, and desert regions.

To wrap up the recent geography studies, an entire day was devoted to paying tribute to the Golden State on Monday.

“California history is the heart of fourth grade and we wanted to celebrate the day it became a state in 1850!” said teacher Janine De Vera.

About 100 students kicked off the morning by making California-shaped cookies and marking each region with colored sugar.

“We’re singing songs and making cookies today!” Nathan Chavez shared after creating his confection.

“We shaped the dough with our hands,” he added.

“And we painted the coastal areas green, the central valley yellow, the mountain areas purple, and the desert region orange” explained Caden Sakai.

Then the children dotted the different mountain ranges with chocolate chips.

They admitted that a few of the delicious morsels may not have made it onto the cookie dough.

“We got to eat a couple!” shared Jaxson Highstreet.

“They smell so good!” chimed in Colete Drake as parent volunteers took dozens and dozens of the sweet treats out of the oven.

In preparation for California Day, students researched and prepared state landmark projects.

They also searched for information about national parks, colleges, museums, and popular vacation destinations.

While the cookies baked, students presented their landmark reports in classrooms.

They ended California Day by inviting parents to see the projects on display in the multipurpose room at 2 p.m.

The children performed “I Love You, California”, “Oh California” sung to the tune of “Oh Susanna” the traditional Gold Rush song, “Latitude and Longitude” that helped them learn geography and map skills, and “California Regions” sung to the tune of a popular Katy Perry song.

“You can travel the world,” the group sang on the amphitheater stage.

“But nothing comes close to the Golden Coast. Once you vacation here, you’ll be falling in love!”

And, of course, they gobbled up the freshly-baked cookies!

 

WVUSD Announces Leadership Team Appointments

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT—The Walnut Valley Unified School District is pleased to announce the following administrative appointments:

 

Education veteran Dr. Resma Byrne has been named director of educational projects and assessments.  Byrne served as Castle Rock Elementary principal for the past four years. Prior to that, she was assistant principal at Clara Barton Elementary in the Corona Norco USD and a teacher in the Montclair USD. She is also an adjunct professor at California State University, Pomona. She holds a bachelor’s degree from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, master’s degrees from Cal State University, San Bernardino and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and doctoral degree in educational leadership from California State University, Fullerton.  Byrne succeeds Jacqueline Brown who was named interim assistant superintendent of educational services.

 

The Board of Trustees appointed two new school leaders with extensive experience during the summer. Jennifer “Jen” Alcazar was named the new principal at Castle Rock Elementary. During her career in Walnut Valley, she served as assistant principal at Chaparral Middle School and principal of the Walnut Valley Institute of STEAM and Humanities.  She was also a science teacher and technology coach at Chaparral for nine years.  Prior to that, she spent a decade working with University of California, Irvine facilitating professional development offerings in technology and science for K-12 teachers. She also taught science in the Santa Ana Unified School District. Alcazar earned a bachelor of science degree from Loyola Marymount University, master of arts degree from Concordia University, and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree. She is married with two children that attended Castle Rock Elementary, Chaparral Middle School, and Diamond Bar High.

 

Sandra Lee was approved to take the helm as the new principal at Westhoff Elementary. This accomplished educator brings over 12 years education experience to her new post and comes highly recommended by administrators, teachers, and support staff. Most recently, Lee served as the director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in Aspire Public Schools in Los Angeles. Some of her additional educational experiences include being an elementary principal for five years, a lead literacy specialist and Response to Intervention coordinator, and has taught multiple grade levels.  Lee earned bachelor of science, master of science degree, K-12 Literacy specialist credential from California State University, Fullerton, along with her K-12 literacy specialist credential and administration credential. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education focusing on common core standard of complex text.  She is married with a daughter. Lee succeeds Denise Rendon who retired in May after a 33-year career in Walnut Valley USD.

 

Matthew Brummett was named assistant principal at Suzanne Middle School. He brings eight years of educational experience, all at Diamond Bar High School, to his new post. Brummett served as instructional dean and assistant summer school coordinator for the past three years. Prior to that, he was a social studies teacher for five years. He also coordinated SBAC testing and co-wrote a WASC accreditation application. Additionally, he served as girls head varsity soccer coach for five years. Brummett earned bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from University of California, Irvine. He is married to a Diamond Bar High grade level coordinator and they have one daughter.

 

Lam Bui was approved as information technology manager. Bui brings 20 years of experience in the field of technology to his new position. He previously served as database engineer in Walnut Valley for two years. During that time, he successfully managed the process of converting the student information and student assessment systems. He was previously a claims analyst and senior IT specialist at Construction Program Group. He earned a bachelor of science degree from California State University, Los Angeles. Bui is married with two children that attend Walnut Valley schools.

 

Sarah Ammon brings 17 years of educational experience to her new position as coordinator of special education. She served as program specialist in Walnut Valley for the past three years.  She also served as a District school psychologist, inclusion specialist, and special education teacher.  Additionally, she was a program specialist, autism spectrum disorders at East San Gabriel Valley SELPA for two years. Ammon holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from California State University, Long Beach and masters of education in educational psychology from Chapman University. She succeeds Jean Hicks who retired in May with over 25 years of service in Walnut Valley.

 

Denise Loera joins the Diamond Bar High School staff as an instructional dean. Loera brings nearly 20 years of educational experience to her new post. She served as a mathematics teacher, department chair, BTSA Mentor, and technology coach at Chaparral Middle School for the past 11 years. Prior to that, she was a math teacher in MUSD at Eastmont Intermediate School and Schurr High School in Montebello.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from California State University, Los Angeles and master’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles. Loera is married with three children, two that attend Walnut High School and one attending Evergreen Elementary School.

 

Julie Galindo brings over 24 years of educational experience to her role as instructional dean at Diamond Bar High School. She served as interim instructional dean during the 2017-2018 school year. Prior to that, she was an English teacher at Diamond Bar High for 21 years.  She was also an adjunct English teacher at Chaffey College for two years. Galindo earned a bachelor of arts degree in communications from Azusa Pacific University and masters of arts in English from California State University, Fullerton. She is married with two children.

 

A Great Start!

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
2018-2019 Classes begin in Walnut Valley

By Kelli Gile 

Walnut — Summer break is over and students will soon be getting into the rhythm and routine of the new school year.

Teachers and staff members on 15 campuses welcomed nearly 14,400 students in the Walnut Valley Unified School District on Monday morning.

By 7:30 a.m., Vejar Elementary Principal Whitney Prenger was out front offering high fives and hugs as families began arriving.

The energetic school leader also brought something special to kick off the new school year – a bubble-blowing machine.

The children toting new backpacks and lunchboxes were happily surprised as they walked through the stream of iridescent soap bubbles at the front gate.

“I wanted the children to have a memory from their first day at Vejar that would last a lifetime!” Prenger said.

During the opening lesson, transitional kindergarten teacher Irene Carter admitted to her new young charges that she was a little nervous.

“There are lots of parents here in our class and I had to get up early and leave my dog, Phillip!”

“And I don’t like leaving Phillip,” she shared.

“So, I’m happy, excited, and a little nervous.”

Next, the clever educator encouraged the youngsters to raise their arms like a sliding snake if they were a little scared or nervous too.

Several little arms cautiously went up in the air.

Then she invited the children to raise their arms like a wiggly worm if they were exited to begin school.

More arms went up.

And finally, she asked the kids to wave their hands to signal they were happy.

All of the hands eagerly shot up in the air!

“Monday went well, Tuesday was OK, and Wednesday was super with barely any tears!” Carter happily reported later in the week.

Over 45 new educators were hired for the new school year, including Chaparral Middle School 7th grade math teacher Macy McGuire.

“I’m excited to meet the kids and get the ball rolling!” she said.

“I already have my first month planned out – every homework assignment and every activity,” McGuire added.

“The fish tank is set up and we’ll name our beta as a class!”

“I think it’s going to be a great school year!”

Over the summer, the Board of Trustees appointed new principals Jennifer Alcazar at Castle Rock Elementary and Sandra Lee at Westhoff Elementary.

“I am thrilled to have served in Walnut Valley as a teacher, administrator, and parent,” Alcazar said.

“It is truly an honor to be given the opportunity to return to Castle Rock where my children experienced so much love and growth!” said Alcazar.

“We are so excited to welcome our students back to their second home,” said Lee, a District newcomer who brings over a dozen years of educational experience to her new post.

“It’s going to be a fun school year filled with amazing memories!” she added.

Westhoff Elementary kindergarten teacher Roxanne Dennen is beginning her 25th year in Walnut Valley.

After a morning snack and water break on August 13, students took their places on magic carpet squares to join their teacher in the classic “The Wheels on the Bus” song.

“My 25th first day of school was as exciting as my very first day,” Dennen said.

“I do what I love because I love what I do!”

Over 2,700 Diamond Bar High students gathered in the gymnasium during two opening-day assemblies featuring pep and band performances.

Principal Reuben Jones encouraged the teens to set goals for themselves this school year.

“We want everyone to achieve, create opportunities for learning, and respect yourselves and each other,” he said.

Walnut High Principal Brandon Dade visited every classroom to welcome the Mustang-powered teachers and staff members.

“I’m going to do this every week throughout the year!” he said.

At Suzanne Middle School, students dashed to classes during passing periods with schedules in hand.

“I’ve been all over the school this morning!” said 6th grader Melody Yu.

“I’m excited to see my friends and meet my teachers,” shared Chloe Siu.

Suzanne Language Arts teacher Alice Chen utilized Google Classroom to connect with students a week before school began.

She was able to post a welcome message along with course information for her 120 students.

When Chen saw that some students responded with personal messages, she was absolutely thrilled.

“Digital tools gave me the ability to get to know my students before I met them face-to-face,” the tech-savvy educator said.

“I love that my students were just as excited as I was for the start of the new school year!”

Language Arts teacher Lauri Ujita begins each year with three simple rules she asks her 6th grade students to live by: Work Hard. Stay Humble. Be Kind.

“These are the rules I try to live by too!” she shared.

Fifth-grade students in Kari Penzes’ class at Westhoff Elementary were eager to log onto new laptop computers on Tuesday.

“These one-to-one Chromebooks benefit students by providing immediate access to the most current technology and keeping pace with the 21st century world,” the teaching team commented.

The children were lined up outside Janine De Vera’s 4th grade class before the first bell rang at Vejar Elementary.

“The beginning of the year is such an exciting time – everyone gets a fresh start!” De Vera shared after greeting each youngster..

“I’m looking forward to California day, track, and recess!” beamed nine-year-old Taryn Schilz.

“I’m excited to go to class and see the panda decorations,” added classmate Eleanor Reyes after peeking through the window.

Quail Summit elementary learning specialist Leann Legind used social media to communicate with educator friends the night before school began.

“Tomorrow get ready to change the world – one sweet student at a time!” she offered.

 

Walnut Valley USD is a Great Place to Be!

Photo: Kelli Gile
Nearly 1,000 teachers, classified personnel, and district leaders gathered to kick off the 2018-2019 school year during a Welcome Back celebration held this week at Calvary Chapel in Diamond Bar.

Staff members kick off 2018-2019 school year

 Kelli Gile

WALNUT – Nearly 1,000 teachers, classified personnel, and district leaders gathered to kick off the 2018-2019 school year during a Welcome Back celebration held this week at Calvary Chapel in Diamond Bar.

 

The 15th annual rally featured recognitions of over 200 long-service employees, Teachers of the Year, Cornerstone Award winners, and keynote message by Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

 

As staffers from all 15 schools and departments mingled and visited during the outdoor continental breakfast on August 8, they enjoyed music provided by the Diamond Bar High commercial music rock band under the direction of Steve Acciani and Daryl Hernandez.

 

Inside the venue, the program began with pep music provided by 100 members of the Walnut High Blue Thunder marching band under the direction of Corey Wicks and Katie Takahashi.

 

Diamond Bar High junior Taylor Moore took the stage to perform the national anthem and Boy Scout troop #777 led the opening flag ceremony.

 

“Regardless of what your job is and what you do – all of you touch kids in a way that betters their education. And for that, I really thank you,” Superintendent Dr. Taylor said to the assembled group.

The schools chief reminded educators that the impact they have on their students lasts “forever and is truly immeasurable.”

 

Over the summer, Walnut Valley was recognized as a National Schools to Watch District – one of only 17 out of more than 11,000 school districts in America.

 

“This is truly an amazing achievement,” Dr. Taylor said.

 

To mark the occasion, every employee received a “I work for a nationally recognized school district” t-shirt symbolizing the District’s 48 years of excellence, tradition, and history.

 

In addition, the WVUSD staff members were given backpacks filled with classroom supplies made possible through a generous donation.

 

“We want to say thank you for all that you do and hope this helps you have a fresh start to the new school year!” Dr. Taylor said.

 

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Matthew Witmer and Administrative Director Dr. Sergio Canal hosted the special event that included over 30 raffle prizes provided by local businesses.

 

Criss Sykes, the District Teacher of the Year and Kathy Frith, the Classified Employee of the Year, offered encouraging words to their peers during the program.

 

“It just takes one teacher, who teaches with passion and warmth to spark a child into a life of amazement. And here in Walnut Valley our students have 600 such teachers!” said Criss Sykes, a third-grade teacher at Quail Summit Elementary.

 

“This is a fantastic community and I am so proud to be a small part of it,” commented District Office receptionist Kathy Frith about the caring and supportive culture at the schools.

 

“Classified or certificated, it is the people here in Walnut Valley that make it such an amazing place!”

 

Mt. SAC Sporting Complex

Photo: Mt.SAC Athlectics
The opportunity to build a sporting complex nestled amongst mountains and valley’s in such a natural setting is a unique opportunity in California.

By Anthony Saude

Walnut – Mt Sac may have lost the Olympic Trials but that will not deter them from moving forward with the planned upgrades they had in place when the trials were coming to town. The athletic tradition runs deep at Mt. Sac and the new upgrades will carry that tradition well into the future.

“All the construction on the major buildings has begun, the finish work is pending, the project is about 25-30% completed,” said Gary Gidcumb, the manager of the design and construction of the project. ““We have the opportunity to build a sporting complex nestled amongst mountains and valley’s in such a natural setting is a unique opportunity in California. The complex is in the city but the location makes one feel that they have escaped to an urban setting if even for an hour or two,” said Gidcumb. Nobody knows what the future brings and if it brings the Trials back someday, they will be ready.

Mt. SAC has always prided itself on providing service to the sport by hosting world-class events. Like the Mt. SAC Relays and Cross Country Invitational that they have hosted for more than 60 years. Gidcumb said that the motivation for the design is to preserve the integrity and history of the past but overlaid with new, said Gidcumb. We wanted to preserve the most loved traditions of the program without remaining stagnant.” We are proud and passionate about the role this new complex will play in the future histy here at Mt. SAC,” concluded Gidcum.

The college’s plans to build a stadium for their students and community and to keep hosting top notch sporting events remain remains unchanged. Mt. SAC officials are confident that they can continue to be the place where the world’s best athletes compete.

 

Free, Reduced Price Lunch and Breakfast

Kelli Gile

WALNUT – Walnut Valley Unified School District announces its policy to serve nutritious meals every school day under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

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 are automatically eligible for free meals regardless of the income of the household in which they reside.

Effective July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals if the household income is less than or equal to the federal guidelines.

 

Free Eligibility Scale for Breakfast, Lunch, and Milk                          Reduced-price Eligibility Scale for Breakfast and Lunch

Household Size Year Month Twice Per Month Every Two Weeks Week Household Size Year Month Twice Per Month Every Two Weeks Week
1 $15,782 $1,316 $658 $607 $304 1 $22,459 $1,872 $936 $864 $432
2 $21,398 $1,784 $892 $823 $412 2 $30,451 $2,538 $1,269 $1,172 $586
3 $27,014 $2,252 $1,126 $1,039 $520 3 $38,443 $3,204 $1,602 $1,479 $740
4 $32,630 $2,720 $1,360 $1,255 $628 4 $46,435 $3,870 $1,935 $1,786 $893
5 $38,246 $3,188 $1,594 $1,471 $736 5 $54,427 $4,536 $2,268 $2,094 $1,047
6 $43,862 $3,656 $1,828 $1,687 $844 6 $62,419 $5,202 $2,601 $2,401 $1,201
7 $49,478 $4,124 $2,062 $1,903 $952 7 $70,411 $5,868 $2,934 $2,709 $1,355
8 $55,094 $4,592 $2,296 $2,119 $1,060 8 $78,403 $6,534 $3,267 $3,016 $1,508
For each additional family member add $5,616 $468 $234 $216 $108 For each additional family member add $7,992 $666 $333 $308 $154

 

 

Mt. SAC Board Considers Bond Measure

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org
The meeting is to consider a resolution that would place a general obligation bond measure on the November ballot.

By Anthony Saude

Walnut – The Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees scheduled an additional regular meeting for Tuesday, July 24 at 6:30 p.m., in Founders Hall. The meeting is to consider a resolution that would place a general obligation bond measure on the November ballot.

The college’s Educational and Facilities Master Plan has been approved by the board and it lays out how to best serve Mt. SAC’s students for the next decade and beyond. A bond measure would help fund infrastructure repairs, expand career technical education programs and improve the college’s security and emergency systems.

An independent community survey was recently taken and it shows that residents strongly support the affordable, quality programs Mt. SAC offers. The survey provided insight into constituent perspectives on current academic needs. Concerns about safety, vocational education and affordability are at the top of the list. Eighty five percent of respondents want Mt. SAC to expand access to its high quality, affordable education so that more students can attend college.

Residents identified a number of their priorities including: preparing students for transfer to four-year colleges and universities, repairing deteriorating gas, electrical and sewer lines, repairing decaying walls, drainage systems and leaky roofs, improving student safety, improving access for disabled students, and expanding career technical education programs.

Residents recognize the need to keep students safe and expressed their support for upgrades and improvements to the college’s security and emergency systems through the installation of cameras, lighting and other measures.

Up to 76 percent of respondents indicated they would support a 55 percent requirement education bond to make essential upgrades to Mt. SAC.

For the complete report of community survey results, visit http://www.mtsac.edu/efmp/documents/Community_Survey-2018-05.pdf.

 

Mt. SAC Students Win Seven Medals at Nationals

By Anthony Saude

WALNUT– Mt. San Antonio College health careers students won seven medals at the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) national competition. More than 9,000 secondary and post-secondary students competed in 57 different health-related events at the national leadership event held June 26-30 in Dallas, Texas.

Derek Hawkins (Pomona),  Sho Kitada (Rowland Heights), and Griselda Venezian (Chino Hills) won silver medals in the biomedical debate competition. Hector Alvarado (Montclair), Ezra Dureault (Pomona), Hector Herrera (La Puente), and Robert Solis (City of Industry) won bronze medals in the creative problem solving competition.

“The majority of the teams that they competed against were from universities around world, and amazingly, they surpassed the university competitors,” said Mt. SAC psychiatric technician professor and HOSA advisor Mary Ellen Reyes.

HOSA, established in 1976 by the U.S. Department of Education, is the national organization for secondary and post-secondary health career students. The mission of HOSA is to empower HOSA-Future Health Professionals to become leaders in the global health community through education, collaboration, and experience.

The organizations core values are We value learning. We are committed to learning and becoming respected, knowledgeable and skilled health professionals.  We will respect the experiences and contributions of our teachers, peers and patients and seek to learn from them.

We value leadership. We will serve as role models in our academic program, profession and community. We will be ethical, accountable and trustworthy.  We will use our influence to empower others to strive for excellence.

We value service. We are dedicated to serving others with compassion. We believe that individuals are important, and we will treat everyone with respect and care.

We value innovation. We are dedicated to enriching the lives of others. We will continuously seek the knowledge and skills to address challenges and improve the health professions.

 

 

Students Take Top Awards in National Math Olympiad

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT – More than fifty students from Suzanne Middle School joined nearly 150,000 students in the United States during the 2017-18 Math Olympiad.

 

The annual contest enables “mathletes” to challenge themselves and to compete against other students nationwide.

 

Math Olympiad is comprised of five monthly contests held from November through March, each containing five high-level math problems.

 

For the first time ever, Suzanne 7th and 8th grade students scored in the top 10% of all teams in their division nationwide earning a highest team achievement award.

 

The 6th through 8th grade students also competed among schoolmates during nationwide challenge.

 

Eighth grader Joshua Hsu earned the title of top school winner with a perfect score of 25. He was awarded the individual George Lenchner Award of Excellence.

 

Additionally, Joshua received a 1st place trophy and gold pin signifying his outstanding top 2% in the nation score.

 

Seventh grader Chandrark Mudddana took the 2nd place award and silver pin for scoring in the top 10% nationally.

 

Eighth graders Daniel Ji and Deven Tseng tied for the 3rd place award scoring in the top 10% nationally.

 

The top 6th grade winners were Lucas He and Louis Xie, both scoring in the top 10% nationally. They earned 1st place trophies and silver pins.

 

Second place winners Adora Ma and Harris Song also scored in the top 10% nationally and earned silver pins.

 

Phillip Chen took the 3rd place award and recognition patch for scoring in the top 25% nationally.

 

In addition, several 7th and 8th grade students were honored for their high scores.

 

Serena Huang, Benjamin Jin, Lewis Lui, and Kevin Yu scored in the top 10% nationally and received silver pins.

 

David Hu, Bella Liu, Andrew Shi, Max Eibert, and Eric Wang scored in the top 20% nationally and received silver pins.

 

Oscar Chen and Siarra Huang scored in the top 25% nationally and received patches.

 

Allison Lin and Joseph Shen scored in the top 30% nationally.

 

Jayaraman Donath, Kevin Zeng, Matthew Carreon, Andrea Florendo and Ella Lin scored in the top 40% nationally.

 

Megan So, Andrew Wang, and Aaron Zhang scored in the top 50% of the nation.

 

Several 6th grade students were recognized for their high scores.

 

Andrew Qi, Nathan Chung, Aidan Do and Eric Tsou scored in the top 40% nationally. Vito Lin and Lorraine Wu scored in the top 50% nationally.

 

Congratulations Suzanne Middle School students and coach Amy Erickson.

 

Suzanne MS Students Join Special Olympics

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Blue Ribbon Day! Four Suzanne Middle School student-athletes participated in the Special Olympics Southern California held May 18 at John Muir High in Pasadena.

By Kelli Gile 

WALNUT – Four Suzanne Middle School student-athletes participated in the Special Olympics Southern California held May 18 at John Muir High in Pasadena.

 

Several months before the games, the children began training with adapted physical education (APE) teacher Greg Sasaki.

 

“Preparing is its own challenge,” said special education teacher Melanie Kobayashi.

 

The children had to learn that the very loud sound from the starter pistol was the cue to begin racing.

 

“Loud sounds can be very disturbing to people with autism and the students had to get accustomed to that and react appropriately,” she explained.

 

The racers learned how to take their place at the starter line and run in the lane, focusing on themselves, not the stranger competing next to them, all the way to the finish line.

 

And they had to do it with hundreds of unfamiliar faces around them in a place they had never been before.

 

All four students participated in either a 25-meter walk or run earning the highest reward – a 1st Place blue ribbon.

 

They also received green participation ribbons in the softball throw event.

 

To prepare for the ball throw, they had to learn to step and throw overhand from behind the line.

 

“They were amazing!” Kobayashi shared.

 

“It was a lot of work and they made us very proud!”

 

Walnut Valley Tapped For New National Award

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT—Walnut Valley Unified School District will be honored with a new national recognition as a Schools to Watch District on June 30.

 

The award celebrates Walnut Valley’s dedication to providing an exemplary educational experience for students.

 

In the past two years, all three middle schools – Chaparral, South Pointe, and Suzanne – earned the prestigious Schools to Watch designation for demonstrating academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents, and social equity.

 

These model schools have been recognized at the state and national level and have become examples for middle schools across the country.

 

Walnut Valley is among only eight school districts in California and 17 in the nation that have earned this distinction.

 

“This is truly a compliment and a reflection of the commitment, dedication, and pride that all of our teachers, classified employees, support staff, administrators, board members, and personnel commissioners have placed in our 15 schools and our wonderful school district,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

 

The Schools to Watch District award will be presented by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform in Washington D.C.