Class Notes

Education and school news, observations and gossip from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Whittier Daily News

Class Notes

Olympic champion skates into hearts of young readers


There’s not a lot of ice skating in Walnut. Though it’s almost felt cold enough lately for this popular winter pastime.

Nevertheless, Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi stopped by
Walnut Elementary School on the first day of spring to read her new
children’s book to excited students.

The famous ice skater quickly captured the kids’ hearts with her
trademark smile as she read her new book “It’s a Big World, Little Pig.”
The story follows the title character as she competes as a skater.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story OLYMPIC.

Jellick students celebrate new school in Rowland Heights


The Jellick Jaguars were roaring with delight as they proudly showed off their newly renovated school on March 14.

The Rowland Heights school welcomed friends and neighbors with
a great pancake breakfast. The elementary students greeted visitors
under an arch of colorful balloons.

The kids took the smiling parents on a tour of the remodeled facility, proudly pointing out the grand improvements.

Students and staff were glad to be back home. They had moved
to the empty Farjardo campus so work crews could focus on the

“Packing everything up for the move twice was the hardest part,” explained special education teacher Libby Fadden.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story JELLICK.

Mt. SAC students learn reality TV in Walnut

You won’t find Dan Smith’s Reality TV class in
the studio. They’re usually outside – somewhere – toting remote cameras
on their young shoulders and tipping fuzzy boom mics into the nonstop

The 25 students in this one-of-a-kind class are learning the
ins and outs of a growing phenomenon in the entertainment industry: How
to shoot a reality TV show.

“There is no book for this,” said Smith. A 15-year veteran of
the rough and tumble entertainment industry, Smith, a professor at Mt.
SAC since 1998, has done a bit of everything, from Sizzler commercials to public access cable.

And that’s the point. Through Smith’s hands-on approach, he’s
built up a TV production program that rivals those in four-year schools.
His biggest problem is hanging onto students before they get
cherry-picked by reality TV show producers and directors.

A recent defector is Chris Rehnke, who left his class to work
on “American Gladiators” and then “Ice Road Truckers” at the end of
2006. Now, he’s producing web-based videos for a YouTube channel.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story REAL.

Families have fun with science in Rowland Heights


Blandford students went to the moon, Jupiter
and Venus. They split water atoms, built buildings out of pasta and
hammered some nails with a banana.

Just some of the fun families had during family science night at the Rowland Heights school on March 6.

“We brought in science teachers from from Mt. SAC, Rowland High,
Alvarado Intermediate and Telesis Academy to help our own instructors,”
explained coordinator Barbara Daniels.

Students explored the wonders of science with their parents at the festive evening event.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SCIENCE.

Walnut High offers “Wonderful” musical


Walnut is a wonderful town. But it’s not the
subject of the spring musical “Wonderful Town” this weekend in the high
school’s performing arts center.

Rather, the light-hearted comedy follows two Ohio sisters who move to New York City to search for love and their fortune.

“Basically, our characters are sent to the big city to find
husbands,” explained Elizabeth Horn, the Walnut senior playing the older

Along the way, the sisters learn about love and life in the Big Apple.

“My character wants to become a journalist and develops a
crush on the editor at a big city paper,” the alto said. “At the end of
the play, he tells me he loves me.”

But don’t worry, even knowing the ending doesn’t

ruin this romp through New York in the 1930s. The
songs and themes stand the test of time, according to the young
thespians we talked to.

Director Joanne Karr notes the cast of 51 is one of the largest in
a performing arts production. Of course, all those feet come in handy
during the bustling street scenes.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story WONDERFUL.

Diamond Bar football players are CHAMPS off the field too


The Diamond Bar High School football team is proving that they’re champs off the gridiron as well.

The Brahmas are tutoring kids at Castle Rock Elementary in the CHAMP (Creating Honorable Aspiring Mentors with Purpose) program.

“When Coach Ryan Maine asked if his players could come over to work
with our kids I was excited,” recalled Principal Carol Sullivan.

So it’s become a usual sight for the big football players to jog onto
the Diamond Bar campus one day a week to pick up their little buddies.

“It’s good for our players as well as the youngsters,” Maine
suggested. “It teaches them responsibility and gives them a chance to
give back to their community.”

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story CHAMPS.

Rowland Unified joins city and sheriffs to stem crime


After the east side of town experienced a rash of
crimes in recent months – including a rape and home-invasion robbery –
Veronica Ortiz began feeling unsafe for the first time.

“It’s never happened before and was never this bad,” said Ortiz,
30, whose three children attend nearby Hurley Elementary School. “I see a
lot of kids walking home from school, but I don’t let mine walk. I
don’t think they’re safe.”

To combat crime, and bring security back to residents, officials and community members are taking action.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, city of La
Puente, Rowland Unified School District and Hurley Elementary School
have partnered to develop a community policing and safety program.

Read more in Juliette Funes’ story WALL.

Parents begin opting out; superintendent’s Power Point goes awry

In case you missed the story today, Monday, March 12, some parents from the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District are opting their children out of statewide assessment tests. Thy are doing this in protest of the HLPUSD’s early start program.

I was told that Superintendent Barbara Nakaoka was to give a detailed defense of the program at the last board meeting on March 8. But her Power Point presentation did not work. Instead, she summarized some of her points.

But the Power Point presentation was posted online on the district’s website.

Here’s the story:

Parents at Hacienda La Puente school district opt children out of state tests in protest

By Steve Scauzillo, SGVN


Several parents have sent letters to schools in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District saying their children will not be taking the upcoming state standardized tests that determine a school’s API score.

The boycott is in protest of the district’s decision to institute an early calendar year that cuts into family vacations and requires students to be in class during the hotter months of the year, parents say.

Documents show the parents participating in the boycott have children at Los Molinos Elementary School in Hacienda Heights.

“There are still more coming in. We are even hearing from parents at the high schools,” said Manuel Acosta, a leader of the loose-knit group Concerned Parents of Hacienda La Puente Unified School District.

The group has repeatedly spoken against the early start school year, saying it won’t benefit the district’s 21,000 pre-K-12 students, will hurt the school’s Average Daily Attendance (ADA) and funding, and is only being done at the behest of some labor groups.

The school board by a 4-1 vote approved the early start calender in December. The 2002-13 school year will begin Aug. 8 and end May 21, 2013. The beginning of the school year is two weeks earlier than in previous years. In 2013-14, school will start Aug. 7 and end around the same time in May, instead of late June.

The district has said the early start will give students longer to prepare for tests and help high school students focus


on AP tests by separating them from other tests. By ending the first semester at winter break, homework and group assignments will not stretch into the break. And ending sooner “allows high school students to get a jump on summer jobs,” according to the district’s website.

Acosta said he’s seen opt-out letters for five students attending three different schools, including Los Molinos as well as Los Altos Elementary School and Newton Middle School.

As of Friday, emailed letters obtained by this newspaper were only from parents with children at Los Molinos. If the district reverses its early start calendar vote, the parents indicated they would allow their students to take the standardized tests.

Acosta said the group has asked the school board to revisit the issue. They have formally asked for the early calendar to be placed on a future board meeting agenda. It’s not clear whether the item will be on the agenda of the next meeting March 22.

Board member Jay Chen, who supports the early calendar, objected to the group’s boycott tactic. “I don’t think they should be using their children’s education as bargaining chips,” he said in an interview last week.

In a district survey last year, almost two-thirds of respondents said they “did not like” the early calendar, while only 34 percent indicated they “like it.” The district said the number of survey responses was too small for the results to be significant.

626-962-8811 Ext. 2237

Land sale may reap $25 million for Walnut Valley Unified

A real estate deal in the works for nearly 30
years is finally coming to fruition and will net the financially
strapped Walnut Valley Unified School District a whopping $25 million.

The district-owned land in question is a 30.36-acre empty lot
in a very prominent spot – the southeast corner of Brea Canyon Road and
Diamond Bar Boulevard. The long-discussed plan calls for an
all-residential development not to exceed 200 homes.

The Diamond Bar City Council Tuesday night signed off on a
complicated zoning plan and development agreement that gives the school
district the green light to sell the property it owns, known by most as
“Site D,” to a to-be-determined developer for pure profit.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story LAND.

It has begun

The first of what could be several children opting out of California Standards Tests at various Hacienda La Puente Unified School District schools has begun. The group, Concerned Parents of the HLPUSD, seem to have targeted Los Molinos Elementary School. They are objecting to the early calendar, whereby school would start on Aug. 8 this year and Aug. 7 next year.

Here’s an email they sent to the news media today: It appears to be a copy of an email or a letter sent to Angela Lin, principal of Los Molinos School:


Dear Principal Angela Lin of Los Molinos Elementary School,
As a demonstration of protest against the Superintendent and School Board Members’ decision to approve the early start calendar year, despite all the parents’ cases stated against this decision and the evidence presented on how detrimental this would be for children at all grade levels, my husband and I will be exercising our right to opt-out of state testing this year for our 3rd grader, Nathan Pelayo (who scored “advanced” in all areas last year).
It is apparent that our School Board is not a board that values transparency nor a board that seeks to earn the trust of parents they are elected to represent. This Early Calendar change was not developed to benefit our students, but rather to appease special interest groups.
Whittier Daily News: “Hacienda La Puente parents against early start calendar, survey says “ 
Thank you for your attention.

Lissette and David Pelayo