Tag Archives: Walnut Valley Unified School District

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.

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.

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!”


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



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.


Trustees Recognize Star Students and Parents

Courtesy: Kelli Gile
Board Members Layla Abou-Taleb, Dr. Tony Torng, Larry Redinger, Cindy Ruiz, Helen Hall, and Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor recognize Coordinating Council President Lily Eibert for dedicated service to the Walnut Valley Unified School District.

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT The Walnut Valley USD Board of Trustees recognized exemplary students and parent volunteers from Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools during the May 16 meeting.


Diamond Bar High senior Marisa Umeh was honored with the Super Star Student Award. Marisa has a passion for filmmaking and publishing. She created a film about women’s health at the Girls Impact the World Film Festival organized by the Harvard Social Innovation Collaboration. Last summer, Marisa was selected to attend the Women’s Science STEAM Initiative in Malawi, Africa as a U.S. Department of State Youth Ambassador. Marisa serves on the Junior State of America State Cabinet, yearbook editor, mock trial team, and hosts a web series titled #LikeHer in which she interviews influential women in typically male-dominated fields. She will attend UC Berkeley and plans to work in international human rights law and virtual reality corresponding.


Parent Rachel Chang received the Partner in Education Award. Rachel has served as the Mag 7 President for the past four years.  Mag 7 is the parent organization that coordinates the school’s seven parent groups:  Brahma Boosters, CAAP, CAPA, HOPE, KAPA, SAPA, and Brahma Foundation. Rachel has helps support Open House, Rodeo Round-Up, Back-to-School Night, Staff Appreciation Luncheon, and many more school activities. She has also served as president of the Korean American Parent Association (KAPA) for the past six years. KAPA has donated numerous supplies for the school including microphones for classrooms and monitors for front office. “Rachel is truly a partner at Diamond Bar High and helps us in so many ways!” said Principal Rueben Jones.


Walnut High senior Adam Ng received the Super Star Student Award. Adam is an extremely motivated, academically driven, and disciplined student. His rigorous academic program and campus activities are a testament to his maturity and focus. Brandon has been involved in FBLA, Model of United Nations, Speech and Debate, Mock Trial, Class of 2018 President, Varsity Basketball, MIT Launch club and Health Occupations Students of America. As the Inland Section President of FBLA, he has created a liaison system for 32 schools in the Inland Empire. Adam is the southern California Area 7 Director of the Rotary Interact Organization, CEO of the “For All Mankind” club, and President of the WHS Hoops4Hope club and FBLA. “Adam’s service club involvement is spectacular!” said Principal Brandon Dade. Adam aspires to work in public policy or corporate law. He hopes to become an attorney and eventually an ambassador for the government.


Walnut High parent Sammy Lee was honored with the Partner in Education Award for her involvement with the Korean American Parent Association (KAPA). Over the last three years KAPA has graciously provided the school with monetary donations, gift baskets, and staff appreciation events. Sammy hosted and coordinated this year’s Staff Holiday Party that featured entertainment, food, goodie bags, and wonderful hospitality. “Thank you for giving so generously during this past school year. I know your time is valuable and your willingness to contribute to Walnut High School staff shows your commitment to the well-being of your child and all of our students,” Dade said. “The efforts of volunteers like you are a vital part of our community!”


Coordinating Council President Lily Eibert received a special recognition from the Board of Trustees. “Lily has been the leader of all of our parents for the past two years,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor. “I believe we have the strongest parent support and involvement of any school district in the entire state.” Board President Cindy Ruiz lauded Lily for the growth of Coordinating Council under her “amazing” leadership. “I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with Lily during the past few years.  She goes above and beyond not only for the school district but for the community!”



Walnut Valley Schools Make State Honor Roll

The 2017-2018 Honor Roll recognizes public elementary, middle, and high schools that demonstrate consistently high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement over time, and reduction in achievement gaps.

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT —After an extensive analysis of student data for every public school in California, the following Walnut Valley USD schools have been recognized as clear leaders in getting students to grade level and beyond: Collegewood Elementary, Cyrus J. Morris Elementary, Evergreen Elementary, Quail Summit Elementary, South Pointe Middle, Suzanne Middle, Walnut Elementary, and Walnut High.


These schools have been named to the 2017-2018 California Honor Roll presented by Educational Results Partnership (ERP) and the Campaign for Business and Education Excellence (CBEE).


The 2017-2018 Honor Roll recognizes public elementary, middle, and high schools that demonstrate consistently high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement over time, and reduction in achievement gaps. For high schools, Honor Roll recognition includes high college readiness in students.


This year, 1,798 higher performing schools are distinguished for their academic achievement and for closing achievement gaps.


“These Honor Roll schools and districts are improving student achievement and we have the data to prove it. It’s critical that the business community support and promote educational success as today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce,” said Greg Jones, ERP and CBEE board chairman.


Evergreen 5th Graders Vie in Robot Rally

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
About 40 students were invited to show off their skills during four rounds of maneuvers, including sumo wrestling and a gate crashing bridge during the single elimination tournament.

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BARTop fifth grade teams took over the multipurpose room during Evergreen Elementary School’s 1st annual robotics competition on Wednesday.

About 40 students were invited to show off their skills during four rounds of maneuvers, including sumo wrestling and a gate crashing bridge during the single elimination tournament.

Students have been working all year learning to build and program Xbot robots using Lego Mindstorm kits, according to teacher Laura Mowrey who introduced the STEM program five years ago before joining the staff.

“Our team offers robotics lessons twice a week as part of our science education,” she said.

Teacher Dr. Cathy Patterson explained in one of the challenges, the Xbot, teams used precise measurements to make their robots follow a track.“They are programmed to go distances and make turns according to angular measurements using the wheel circumference and rotations as calculated through the year and logged into their robotics journals,” she said.

The robot closest to the finish line took the win during each heat.

“All of them were within 10 millimeters – it was really close!” Patterson said.

“Our robotics program is not just a great way for the kids to use their math and science skills, but it is also a chance for them to practice working as team through cooperation and collaboration,” said teacher Lynn Otsu.

Throughout the three-hour competition, students used their CAD skills and calculators making final programming adjustments to edge out competitors.

“We’re telling our robot what to do,” said Team Pi member Adam Loch moments before the finals.

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
About 40 students were invited to show off their skills during four rounds of maneuvers, including sumo wrestling and a gate crashing bridge during the single elimination tournament.

“Right now, we’re programming it to go slower.”

“It’s a good robot. This lift helps it bump people off during the sumo match!” added teammate Caleb Sohn.

On stage, an eager group of students watched robots roll through the gate crashing bridge as teacher Kristine Kobzeff recorded each attempt.

The Xbots were programmed to go five feet in seven seconds before the gate opened, then stay up for three seconds before going down.

“The robots had to make it through before the gate crashed down on them!” Mowrey said.

Students Anthony Chang and Jack Liu designed the impressive engineering project.

On black round mats, sumo wrestling robots were programmed to fight to the end.

“We made the final sumo round!” exclaimed Sienna Simmons, a member of an all-girl team before the match.

“Our robot’s kind of small which makes it go fast! We had a good feeling about it,” added teammate Hana Bouindani, 11.

“It’s a long process, but by the end of the year they really know how it all works,” Patterson added.



Diamond Bar, Walnut High Schools America’s Best!

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT – Hats off to teachers at Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools for grabbing medals in U.S. News & World Report’s Best High School rankings for 2018.

The annual list looks at nearly all public high schools in the country – more than 20,500 in all – to sift out the best with an eye on college readiness.

Diamond Bar High earned a gold medal, ranking 59th in California and 376th in the United States.  Additionally, Diamond Bar placed 146th in STEM high schools.

Walnut High earned a silver medal, ranking 111th in California and 639th in the United States.

Both standout schools have been included in the report every year since the publication began its ‘Best High Schools’ search in 2009.

U.S. News looked at overall student performance on state-required tests, high school graduation rates, and evaluated on how they prepare students for college using participation and performance data from AP and IB exams.

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

This year, 85 California schools received gold medals, 439 received silver medals and 82 received bronze medals.

“I’m so proud that our premier high schools continue to be recognized on a state and national level for preparing students for college and beyond,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.


Evergreen Odyssey Of The Mind Team Qualifies For State Tourney

Courtesy: WVUSD

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR—Evergreen Elementary STEAM Odyssey of the Mind team won first place in the Los Angeles County regional competition held on February 24.

The champions will now go on to compete at the state level March 24 at University of California, Riverside.

The Odyssey of the Mind program promotes creativity and problem solving skills.

The two parts of competition are the long-term and spontaneous problems.

The spontaneous problem is private and cannot be spectated, however the long-term problem comes in the form of a skit that anyone can watch.

The plot, props, and actions in the 8-minute skit are all created from scratch by the students.

This year team’s long term problem is “Emoji, Speak for Yourself”.

Teams build several devices as the communication tools to perform a detective investigation story by operating different mechanic functions without any human verbal voice at all during the skit.

Evergreen team members are Evan Auyeung, Ianna Lin, Reese Chen, Sarah Teng, Andrew Tsai, Audrey Doraton, and Rohan Chakrabortyguf. They are coached by Sam Lin, Rajesh Gupta and Sean Lin.


Recognizing Excellence

Walnut Valley Trustees honor star students, partners in education

By Kelli Gile

WALNUTIn keeping with tradition, the Walnut Valley USD Board of Trustees honored outstanding students and partners in education during the February 21 meeting.

Castle Rock Elementary crossing guard Donna Aquila received the Partner in Education Award.

Donna, known as “Miss D” to students, has served the Diamond Bar campus for the past seven years.

“She has built relationships with students, teachers, and families,” said Principal Dr. Resma Byrne.

Donna has a special way of connecting with people whether it’s her joke of the day or sharing a personal story.

The caring crossing guard even brings a pocketful of quarters each Friday to help the children purchase popsicles.

“She loves our Castle Rock students,” Byrne said.

Donna is described as humble, takes her job seriously, and leads her life with integrity.

“She also brings staff the sweetest tangerines and homemade peanut brittle!” Byrne said.

The arrival and dismissal of students is often the most chaotic time of the day.

“But with Miss D, it’s actually fun. We’re so lucky to have her in our corner!”

Castle Rock Elementary 5th grader Austin Lee received the Super Star Student Award.

“Austin has taken great strides in learning how to take risks, make key friends, and persevere,” Dr. Byrne said.

He has also learned the art of taking a failure and turning it into an opportunity.

“We try to teach our students to work hard, analyze their mistakes, and learn from them,” the school leader said.

This is something that’s not easy for anyone, regardless of their age.

“When I look at my IB Learner Profile, I think about the traits we want our students to embody: to be caring, risk takers, thinkers, open minded, and reflective,” she described.

“I see Austin!”

“We want to recognize him tonight, not for academic success, but for his courageous attitude and ability to take risks, because that is what it’s all about.”

Quail Summit Elementary Community Club President Anna Amezcua received the Partner in Education Award.

“In my 32 years in education, I have never seen anyone as committed to every single student as Anna!” said Principal Frances Weissenberger.

“She is amazing!”

Anna stepped up to fill a vacancy as president about three years ago, and since then, has totally enriched the school’s relationship with the community at large.

Anna has established a welcoming environment that has set the tone for community and staff involvement.

The hard-working parent volunteer continually provides support for students and is a strong advocate for school programs.

She tirelessly handles her duties and has been called upon on “time and time again” to provide assistance with mother’s workshop, Santa’s Workshop, Friday Snacks, Room Parent Schedules, and more.

“Thank you for all you do, Anna. I wish we could give you a car with a red ribbon!” Weissenberger said.

Enthusiastic, optimistic and empathetic are three words that describe Quail Summit 5th graders Tristan Skipper and Brian Vu, who were honored with Super Star Student Awards.

The student leaders are rarely seen without each other and often work together to help a teacher or a fellow classmate.

Tristan and Brian both interviewed for the positions of Student Council President and Vice President.

“They were determined to make a difference and even told their teacher before the interviews that if they did not get a position, they would still want to be involved in some aspect,” Weissenberger said.

The boys were elected and now lead monthly Spirit Assemblies and daily morning flag salute.  They collect recycling every Thursday with a smile and monitor the student council fundraisers and bulletin board.

“They work with other members of student council and they contribute to any other project we challenge them with great leadership and poise,” she added.

Tristan and Brian also show leadership in the classroom, completing extra class jobs because they are reliable. They are always kind and including of other students.

“They have grown so much over the years and are models of what Quail Summit is all about… A school with a Heart,” Weissenberger said.

“Brian and Tristan are truly kind and spread their kindness to all they meet. They are role models for all our students!”


WVUSD Welcomes New Faces

By Kelli Gile

Board approves Emmalyn Coles as director of nutrition services and Ryan Gaviola as director of technology

WalnutThe Walnut Valley Unified School District is proud to announce two new members to the administrative team.

The Board of Trustees approved Emmalyn Coles as the new director of nutrition services.

Coles brings over a decade of experience in the food industry, human resources management, staff development, training, and team building.

“Coming to Walnut Valley has been a game changer,” she said.

“It’s improved my quality of life being closer to my children and participating in their activities. The challenges of coming to a new organization have provided opportunities for personal and professional growth. The support from colleagues, staff, and administration has been astounding. I’m honored and humbled to be part of the Walnut Valley family.”

Most recently, Coles served as director of food services in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District for the past six years.

Prior to that, she was food services assistant director of food services and operations supervisor in HLPUSD.

Additionally, she was a general manager for Eurest Dining Services, food services director at Huntington Culinary, area supervisor for David & Margaret Home, McKinley Children’s Center, and Leroy Haynes’ Center.

Coles holds a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles and master’s degree in business administration from University of Phoenix. She graduated with honors from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

Her family resides in Walnut and children, Aya and Isa Al-Juraishi, attend Walnut High School.

Ryan Gaviola was appointed as director of technology during the January 17 Board Meeting.

Gaviola brings 18 years of IT experience to his new post, 13 of those years in a K-12 environment.

“I am honored to be given the opportunity to serve this community and feel blessed as a member of the Walnut Valley team,” he said.

Gaviola was director of technology at San Gabriel Unified School District and Lowell Joint School District for the past decade where he was instrumental in the development of new technological initiatives.

Prior to that, he served in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer information systems from DeVry University.

Gaviola resides in Walnut with his wife Chelo, a WVUSD graduate, and daughter Camille, who attends Vejar Elementary.


WVUSD Board Celebrates Star Students, Community Members

By Kelli Gile

WALNUTThe Walnut Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees paid tribute to star students and community partners during the January 17 meeting.

C.J. Morris Elementary 5th grader Madeline Toh received a certificate of special recognition as the winner of the 2017 “Holidays Around the World” greeting card contest. Madeline’s submission depicted ornaments decorated with a globe and flags of several countries. She also received a gift certificate courtesy of Yogurtland in Walnut.

Walnut Elementary 5th grader Quinton Mendoza was saluted with the school’s Super Star Student Award. The multi-talented student is a scholar, athlete, and speaks multiple languages. He has been described as compassionate, humble, kind, and funny.

“Quinton is a lot like gravity – a quiet force that affects everyone,” said Principal Robert Chang.

One example of Quinton’s big heart is his willingness to give up his morning recess each day.

He reports to the bus drop off area and picks up the tots kindergartners to make sure they arrive safely to their special education class.

On days he has 100-mile running club practice, Quinton makes sure to notify his substitute, whom he personally trained.

“Quinton doesn’t do these things for recognition, he simply acts from his heart and reaches for his goals,” Chang said. “He’s one of a kind and makes our school a better place!”

Longtime parent volunteer Molly Mendoza, and Quinton’s mom, was presented with the Partner in Education Award.

“Molly has done so many wonderful things for our school and truly deserves this honor,” Chang said.

The Community Club president has devoted countless hours organizing and participating in fundraisers, activities, and field trips.

“Molly always gives 110% and has been a part in everything going on at the school,” Chang said.

“You have not only left shoes that will be extremely difficult to fill, but have left footprints in hearts and changed our lives for the better.”

Ron Hockwalt Academies (RHA) senior Demetrius Lowery received the Super Star Student Award.

“He’s a great kid and has been a blessing on our campus,” said Principal Dr. Donna Hunter.

Demetrius has done a lot of hands-on work in the school’s HOPE garden and has a gift at fixing things, she explained. The teen even brought a crate of oranges to present to the Trustees.

The school’s HOPE program is designed to help students create a future they want. HOPE stands for Heart, Opportunity, Perseverance, and Excellence

“He’s showing HOPE and heart for all his schoolmates, staff, and school. We are very proud of Demetrius!” Hunter said.

Ernie Quejado, founder of the Sanlo Homestay Foundation, was honored with the school’s Partner in Education Award.

Ernie has adopted RHA and for the past three years has donated a $1,000 each year for student leadership.

“We’re a small school and these funds go a long way,” Hunter explained.

RHA is able to provide field trips, incentives, and activities through this generous support.

“We appreciate him and his support for our campus!” Hunter said.


School Lunch And School Breakfast Programs

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, 2017 through June 30, 2018, children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals if the household income is less than or equal to the federal guidelines.





eligibility scale



eligibility scale


household size Annual monthly twice monthly every two


weekly annual monthly twice monthly every two


1 $ 15,678 $ 1,307 $   654 $  603 $  302 $ 22,311 $ 1,860 $   930 $   859 $  430
2 21,112 1,760 880 812 406 30,044 2,504 1,252 1,156 578
3 26,546 2,213 1,107 1,021 511 37,777 3,149 1,575 1,453 727
4 31,980 2,665 1,333 1,230 615 45,510 3,793 1,897 1,751 876
5 37,414 3,118 1,559 1,439 720 53,243 4,437 2,219 2,048 1,024
6 42,848 3,571 1,786 1,648 824 60,976 5,082 2,541 2,346 1,173
7 48,282 4,024 2,012 1,857 929 68,709 5,726 2,863 2,643 1,322
8 53,716 4,477 2,239 2,066 1,033 76,442 6,371 3,186 2,941 1,471
For each additional household member, add:
  $ 5,434 $453 $    227 $   209 $ 105 $  7,733 $   645 $    323 $   298 $  149


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

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

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

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

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

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

If you do not agree with the decision or results of verification, you may discuss it with school officials. You also have the right to a fair hearing, which may be requested by calling or writing the hearing official:

Danny Kim, Director of Pupil Services ~ 880 South Lemon Avenue, Walnut CA 91789 ~ (909) 595-1261 x 31311

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.


South Pointe’s Puppy with a Purpose

Photo courtesy: WVUSD

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR-Passionate educators are willing to do just about anything to foster student success.

Meet Kevin Duh, a social studies teacher at South Pointe Middle School in Diamond Bar.

The out-of-the-box thinking educator has found a way to combine his desire to address the emotional needs of his 8th grade students and his love of dogs.

This year, Duh was granted permission to bring a 3-month old puppy named Laker to his class as an official therapy dog-in-training.

Since the first day of school in August, the lovable Goldendoodle, has been at Duh’s side at all times during the school day.

“I take him wherever I go because I want him to understand the dynamics of the campus,” he said.

“He’s like my shadow!”

Duh, who has been teaching for six years, said he chose the popular “designer” hybrid dog for several reasons.

“Laker has the intelligence and hypo-allergenic qualities of a Poodle, friendliness of a Golden Retriever, and people aren’t afraid of him,” he said.

“Already, two of my students have gotten over their fear of dogs,” Duh reports.

Laker, who is now 8-months old, has proven himself as a source of unconditional love to the young teens.

“This year, the kids seem much happier in the classroom,” he says.

Duh says his 160 students quickly developed a wonderful relationship with the gregarious and playful pup.

“I think he brightens our class up,” confirms Katie Song, 13.

“Sometimes when we’re feeling stressed, he’s just always there for us!”

“I like having Laker in class,” added classmate Kris Ng.

“He helps us feel better to just reach down and pet him during the day,”.

More than that, Laker is a comforting resource for students having a bad day or going through tough times with family issues.

“I know there’s a lot of brokenness in our community. He just brings a light into that,” Duh said.

“Laker provides a place where students can drop their anxieties on him.”

Duh has data that his dog has aided three students with testing anxiety during his short time on campus.

“For example, one student had a 65% average and I suggested he take Laker with him for his next test,” he explains.

“Within a couple weeks his scores went up to 84%. It’s a huge jump!”

Laker has also provided dozens of students with comfort of being a furry companion.

“I love Laker, he’s my best friend,” says classmate Kristin Joe, who doesn’t have a dog at home.

What’s it like bringing a puppy to school?

“He’s very playful, loving, likes to be petted, and be in constant contact with people,” Duh explains.

“For some reason, he has an instinct that when I’m teaching or doing something important, he holds off his energy!”

Duh admits that animals in school settings haven’t traditionally mixed, and with a dog it’s a “goliath” of a responsibility.

But this teacher is very dedicated to constantly making sure the dog is well-taken care of and that his students wash their hands after they pet him.

He also carves out time each day to “run out” Laker’s puppy energy.

“There’s a huge time commitment – it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be!” Duh admits.

The adorable curly-haired pup was even introduced as a new staff member during a Board Meeting, took an official school ID photo, and has hundreds of Instagram followers @lakerthegoldendoodle.

Laker will be able to take the test to become a certified therapy dog this summer when he reaches his first birthday.

Once Laker passes his test, the school plans to integrate the therapy dog into its social-emotional wellness program, according to Principal Susan Arzola.

The Community Club provides support by funding the puppy’s training classes and insurance.

“We are all cheering on Laker to make sure he passes all his classes!” said Arzola.

“This year, he’s a cute puppy. Next year, I want him to be a schoolwide resource,” adds Duh.

“I would also love to see this program grow throughout our district and for a therapy dog to be at every site.”

“I feel like we’ve stumbled onto something that’s untapped!” Duh adds.

For now, the puppy with a purpose will continue bringing joy to the students at South Pointe.

“Laker will be here with me as long as he’s able. It’s very exciting!” Duh said.


Scout Gives Back to Elementary School

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR—On Tuesday, Evergreen Elementary students had a surprise on campus when they returned from the three-day holiday weekend.

An enormous 16’x27’ colorful map of the United States had been painted on the amphitheater stage.

Diamond Bar High senior Jarrett Dang, 17, a member of Boy Scout Troop #730, decided to give back to his alma mater by completing his Eagle Scout Project at the school.

The Eagle Project is an important step in obtaining the highest Boy Scout ranking.

Dang designed and carried out the community service project with the help of 33 fellow Boy Scouts, volunteers, friends, and parent leaders.

He thought the map would serve as a “good educational tool for teachers” on the campus.

“I hope my project will serve as a fun and interactive way for students to learn the geography of their country!” he said.

After weeks of preparation and fundraising, the teen went to Evergreen on Friday to prepare the area by scrubbing the cement with a degreaser.

The following day, the volunteer team carefully laid out and taped down eight large stencil pieces that outlined the map and borders of each state.

The group then carefully spray painted holes in each stencil that marked the state borders.

After lifting up the stencils, the scouts began connecting the dots to form the borders.

By the end of the day, they painted all 50 states according to the blue, yellow, red, and green color scheme.

“I decided to paint California green because Evergreen’s colors are green and white,” he shared.

He also added a white diamond shape where the Diamond Bar school is located.

On Sunday, the crew applied a second coat of paint and touched up the borders, while the adults spray-painted the state abbreviations.

The final step was adding “Boy Scout Troop 730 Eagle Project 2018” in the southwest corner of the artwork.

“The students love looking at Jarrett’s gift to the school,” said exclaimed Principal Trina Dreyer.

“We are grateful that he chose his elementary school as the place to complete his Eagle Scout project!”


Walnut Valley USD to begin enrolling for 2018-19 school year

By Kelli Gile

WALNUTThe Walnut Valley Unified School District will soon begin registration for the 2018-2019 school year for children in transitional kindergarten and kindergarten through fifth grade.

Registration dates are:

January 16-19, 2018for those children with siblings already attending school in our district;

January 22, 2018 & onfor those elementary children new to the district, at any grade level.

You may register for transitional kindergarten if your child turns 5 years old September 2nd – December 2nd.  Students must be 5 years of age on or before September 1, to enroll in kindergarten for the 2018-2019 school year.

Space is limited!  Please visit your neighborhood elementary school to enroll your child for the upcoming school year.

At the time of registration, parents will be asked to present a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate or passport, proof of the child’s immunizations, and for kindergarten and first grade proof of an oral health examination.  For residency verification, parents will also need to provide either final escrow papers, mortgage statement or lease/rental agreement, along with a current utility bill (gas, water or electric bill) and a driver’s license (or California I.D.) with current home address.  Enrollment is on-going, and your residence address determines the elementary school where you should enroll your child.

The Walnut Valley Unified School District offers a quality day care program at all elementary sites, for both before and after school hours.  You may contact the Child Care Office at 909-444-3460 for additional information and fees.


A strong start for young learners! Walnut Valley USD will soon begin registration for transitional kindergarten (shown) and kindergarten through fifth grade for the 2018-2019 school year.


Busy Hands, Hearts a Night of Giving

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT The sounds of holiday music, delightful conversation, warm hearts, and busy hands filled Walnut Elementary School’s multipurpose room during a Family Night of Giving held December 15.

Students penned letters to show support for first responders that would later be distributed through the Operation Gratitude project.

At another table, families worked side-by-side tying knots on fleece blankets for City of Hope patients while enjoying cookies and hot chocolate.

Students also made a take-home snowman craft to remember the evening of compassion they shared with family and friends.

In total, over 100 pairs of pajamas, a truck full of toys for needy children, and blankets for local shelter animals were collected for the giving event.

“We hope that our small contribution this holiday season will provide a bit of cheer to children, animals, and first responders,” said elementary learning specialist Jill Takayama.