Category Archives: Local School News

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.

 

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!”