Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar authors education reforms

 Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) is authoring a number of education reforms designed to give California students the best possible education that the state can deliver. His education reform agenda includes measures that address problems highlighted by the recent Vergara v. California ruling and other measures designed to put students first.

“Our children deserve the highest quality education we can give them,” said Senator Huff. “These modest reforms help deliver on this promise. These are educational reforms that provide better choices for parents and a top notch public education for students — no matter where they live.”

Senator Huff’s education reform bills include the following measures:

  *   SB 279 – Teacher Evaluation Study<>: This bill would require the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) to develop recommendations for the Legislature on how to evaluate certificated employees by using multiple measures that also include student achievement.  This report will be due to the Legislature by January 1, 2018.

  *   SB 381 – LIFO Exception<>: Senator Huff’s legislation seeks an amendment to the Education Code to allow for an exception to the Last In First Out (LIFO) hiring rule. This includes, but is not limited to, those who teach career pathway/Career Technical education courses or any course necessary for the Local Education Area to implement its Local Control Accountability Plan.

  *   SB 597 – District of Choice<>: Extends the 22-year running School District of Choice program, which fosters public school choice by allowing parents to transfer their children to participating school districts without a transfer agreement.

  *   SB 416 – Ensuring Local Control in Schools<>: This bill removes sections of law in the Education code that were made obsolete from the enactment of local control funding reforms. In order to ensure California closes the chapter on “strings attached” education funding, it is critical these antiquated laws are omitted.

“The California Constitution establishes a fundamental right of every child to a basic education and equitable opportunity to learn,” said Senator Huff. “Yet special interests continue to push for laws that are not in the best interests of children. California student performance on achievement tests consistently ranks near the bottom in elementary and middle-school reading and mathematics, and our high school graduation rates are mediocre at best. My reforms will improve our public schools and, more importantly, student achievement.”

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis joins Principal for the Day program

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis joined business and community leaders Wednesday in the Principal for the Day program in the Bassett, Rowland and Hacienda La Puente school districts.

“My home is actually about 10 minutes from here, where my mother still lives,” Solis said. “I’m a proud (La Puente High) Warrior,”

Growing up, Solis never expected to have the opportunities she has had.

“All I can tell you is that at a tender age I was once told not to dream, not to dream too big, to go along, get along,” Solis said. “Maybe just be a secretary … but I never thought I would receive a call from the White House to become the Secretary of Labor.”

PHOTOS: Hilda Solis joins Principal for the Day program

She credited local schools with giving her a good start.

“There were people in the school system that helped to direct me, to motivate me but also to give me the inspiration to go on,” Solis said.

After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, Solis earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from USC. Solis worked for President Jimmy Carter in the White House Office of Hispanic Affairs. Later, she became a management analyst in the Civil Rights Division.

“I know there are students we are honoring here,” Solis said. “Follow your dreams, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be or do what you want to do, because I know you can.”

Ten high school and two adult education students received scholarships for their outstanding achievements.

Solis called adult education and Regional Occupational Programs very important to the economy.

“It’s about the economic development, about education and continuing to open up a career path for all of us,” Solis said.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story PRINCIPAL

Mt. SAC Hosts Kepler Scholarship Event April 11

Mt. San Antonio College will host the 6th Annual Kepler Distinguished Lecture and Scholarship Dinner featuring guest lecturer Dr. Eliot Young on Saturday, April 11, 5 p.m., beginning in the college’s dance studio, building 2T, room 121. All proceeds from the event will go to the Mt. SAC Kepler Astronomy Student Scholarship Program. 

Young, a principal scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO, will be the featured speaker for the event. Dr. Young is known for his work in astronomy with stellar occultations and development of maps of Pluto.

His lecture for the evening,  “Pluto in Our Sights,” will cover what scientists currently know about Pluto and other similar icy objects in the outer solar system and what they expect to find out from the New Horizons spacecraft set to encounter the dwarf planet for the first time on July 14.                 

Collegewood Elementary celebrates 50 years in Walnut


By Walnut Valley Unified

Collegewood Elementary hosted a 50th birthday spectacular on March 20. “Our school was built in 1965!” announced fourth grader Sarah Armstrong on her way to the party held on the upper playground.  The school’s 600 students and staff couldn’t wait for the big day.

“We made birthday cards, hats, and decorated lunch bags for the hotdog picnic,” said 3rd grader Emily Yem.

Parent volunteers prepared 1,000 cupcakes and 1,200 hotdogs for the party.

“This is a very exciting day for Collegewood, we are ready to celebrate!” 2ndgrade teacher Elvonne Vance exclaimed. Earlier in the week, students and staff posed in a huge “50” for an aerial photo.CWD aerial

“Collegewood’s an amazing school. We’re excited that parents and community are coming out to celebrate the school’s 50th birthday,” commented Sandy Ibarra, parent of twin 2nd graders. “And it’s my birthday too, so I get to celebrate with Collegewood!”

Parents, alumni, former teachers, community members, and local officials joined the milestone occasion.  “Everyone who has been a part of this school has left a little bit of magic which has shaped who we are today!” Principal Joan Perez stated.

The event featured special music by the Collegewood choir, Walnut High Band Buddies, school trivia contest, and time capsule dedication.

“We want to make sure we leave our mark here at Collegewood. It will be un-earthed in 2065,” Perez said. “They will open up this time capsule and they will see what you left for them!”

Birthday hat contest winners from each class deposited keepsakes including photos, student writing, books, toys, and list of current technology.

“It’s exciting to see so many people today,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor. “It shows how important Collegewood is to our District and to the whole community of Walnut. So many people are so proud of what’s happened here for the past 50 years!”

Three of the school’s former principals Jack LeBrun, Dr. Susan Brown, and Robert Chang were on hand for the celebration.

“Collegewood has always had a great hard-working group of teachers and staff who really dedicate themselves to the students,” said LeBrun, the school leader from 1985-1992.

Several original alumni shared their memories from 1965.

“It was wonderful! We were excited to be in a brand new school,” shared Carol (Paine) Crouch, who was in the 3rd grade when the school opened.

“I lived on Collegewood Drive, so when the school was being built the neighborhood children weren’t happy they would lose their playground. We did lots of climbing in these hills!” Crouch added.

“I came here in kindergarten,” said Cheryl Fausel.  “We all brought flower seeds to throw on the hillsides!”

First grade teacher Jane (Dyer) Smith is the school’s most familiar alumnus.  She’s taught at Collegewood for the past 28 years.

“I was in the third grade with a very special teacher named Janey Browning. I can still remember the day that we moved into our brand new school. The classrooms seemed so big to us!” she said.

Students began the school year at the former location of Walnut Elementary, now Ron Hockwalt Academies, and then moved to Collegewood when it was completed.

“I remember walking on the hiking trails above the playground and we would have lunch under the trees. And since we were the first students we got to vote for the school colors and mascot!” Smith told students.

Smith acknowledged former teachers Eleanor Larks, 5th grade and Gene Garno, 6th grade, in the audience.

“Their special influence led me on the way to becoming a teacher.”

“I had lots of fun and remember we did square-dancing and special field trips,” recalled City of Walnut Mayor and alum Nancy Tragarz during a tree dedication at the party.

Ray and Nancy Fausel’s five children attended the new school and they wouldn’t have missed the big party.

He was one of the District’s original Board Members from 1964-1969, serving both the Walnut Elementary District and Walnut Valley Unified School District.

“Happy Birthday Collegewood – I think you’re great!” Nancy lauded.

After the ceremony, families enjoyed a picnic lunch and birthday cake.

Walnut gets Sprinkled with happiness by Suzanne students

Suzanne students sprinkled Walnut seniors with flowers, positive messages and hugs.

Suzanne students sprinkled Walnut seniors with flowers, positive messages and hugs.

By Kelli Gile, Walnut Unified

Suzanne Middle School students brought a whole lot of sunshine to parents, local seniors, and fellow classmates on March 18. Drama, PALS, and PLUS leadership members sprinkled happiness throughout the day.

The group of 80 students wore bright yellow shirts and big smiles as they greeted parents during the morning drop off. They carried happiness signs with positive messages like You are Loved, Breathe, and It’s Going to be All Right.

“Our kids were standing in the parking lot and street corners just wishing everybody a great day,” said math and drama teacher Helen Papadopoulos.

The Happiness Project, created by Laura Lavigne, founder of the Anacortes Center for Happiness is a simple way to share a powerful message.  People that were sprinkled might have been surprised at first, but the happiness spread quickly. They smiled, waved back, and some even honked.happy1

“We get to spread happiness all over!” exclaimed eighth grader Samantha Stone.

“We saw so many amazing parents driving by and smiling as they left the parking lot. So we feel like we did our job!” Papadopoulos added.

Later in the morning, the group trekked over to the Walnut Senior Center to make a surprise delivery of flowers, hugs, and smiles. The kids continued waving their yellow pompoms and signs at passing cars while they walked down La Puente Blvd.

When they arrived, they mingled through a morning senior aerobics class sharing the gifts of happiness. Seventh grader Mary Danganan made a beeline right over to Darlene Knox.

“I think it’s wonderful!” exclaimed the surprised retired educator clutching the colorful stems.

“We just wanted to spread love and happiness. And it’s fun!” Danganan gushed after giving a heartfelt hug.

Masa Nishida, a 35-year-resident, said he was brought to tears with the special gesture.  “It’s great!” he beamed.

“The seniors just loved the flowers from the kids,” commented Recreation Supervisor Gabriela Encinas.

“It was really fun to see them smile,” said 8th grader Priscilla Pranajasa after visiting the senior center.

At lunch, the happiness sprinkling continued. Random notes of kindness were passed out to students that said “You Matter, Sure You Can, Imagine, and You Can Do It.

“It’s Pass It On Week, so week so we’ve been spreading happiness!’ Pranajasa said.

“Today is about changing just one life at a time!” added teacher and leadership advisor Marla Rickard. Rickard wants students to see the impact of sharing a smile or kind word.

“It can not only change the lives of others, but they’ll change a little inside too.”

Pomona Unified wins for Tots, Teachers and Technology

The Pomona Unified School District has been selected as an “Honorable Mention” in the nationwide Magna Award competition, which highlights school district leadership and best practices for improving students’ quality of life and education.

The Child Development Department’s “Tots, Teachers and Technology” program – awarded a 2014 Golden Bell Award by the California School Boards Association – was chosen from entries representing nearly 250 school districts across the country as an outstanding example of innovation and excellence.

Pomona will be honored at a special presentation during the National School Board Association’s 75th Annual Conference to be held March 21-23 in Nashville, Tenn.

“Technology in the early learner classroom is revolutionizing learning and the Pomona Unified School District is proud to lead the way,” Superintendent Richard Martinez said. “Pomona is honored to receive this national recognition for innovative spirit and passion for education.”

The Magna Awards are sponsored by the American School Board Journal, which will highlight the PUSD program in its April 2015 edition.

PUSD’s “Tots, Teachers and Technology” program introduces 3 and 4 year olds to technology as a tool for early, interactive learning, while providing professional learning for teachers and a platform for parent engagement. Using SMARTboards, interactive tables, iPads and tablets, children learn through a hands-on, play-based curriculum while developing the “executive functioning skills” of collaboration and cooperation.

The program provides children with the academic, technological and social foundations needed for success in the 21st century.

Los Altos High students say goodbye for Every 15 Minutes

Grim reaper greets Los Altos High students (Photo courtesy of CHP)

Grim reaper greets Los Altos High students (Photo courtesy of CHP)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Saying goodbye to loved ones is hard, especially when they’re cut down in the prime of their lives.

Los Altos High students learned this the hard way, when they were asked to write goodbye letters to their parents as part of the Every 15 Minute event on Friday. A fake auto accident had claimed the lives of three students outside the bustling Hacienda Heights campus.

Justin Contreras broke down and sobbed as he tried to read his letter at the school assembly. The 18-year-old senior was comforted by other students who rose to hug him on the gym floor.

“If only I knew that once I left my house in the morning on March 12 that I wouldn’t return home. Maybe I would’ve hugged you longer mom and dad,” wrote Tori Sanchez in her heartfelt goodbye.

“Maybe I would’ve had told you how thankful I really was to both of you. Maybe I would’ve smiled more at both of you when you said good morning,” the 18-year-old continued. “Maybe I would’ve done a lot of different things.”

“I didn’t know that I was never going to see you both again. I’m sorry, because I made a dumb decision to get in a car with a drunk driver my life was taken away. I just turned 18 the previous day, I had my whole life ahead of me,” the senior said.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen. I was supposed to do so many other things in my life and within a blink of an eye all of my dreams and aspirations were taken away from me,” Sanchez wrote.

“I should’ve been more responsible. I should’ve listened to you both. I should not have taken life for granted,” the sad student said. “I’m sorry mom and dad that I have failed you, failed you in the way that you have now lost a daughter and have to bury me.”

The powerful prose moved her fellow students, as Sanchez warned the teens about how fragile life can be. It’s not something teens usually think about.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story GOODBYE

Walnut High wins trophies at writing competition

Walnut High won sweepstakes award at Eastern Los Angeles Journalism Education Association Write-offs Competition

Walnut High won sweepstakes award at Eastern Los Angeles Journalism Education Association Write-offs Competition

By Walnut Valley Unified

Walnut High School Publications garnered the Super Sweepstakes award for the third time in four years at the Eastern Los Angeles Journalism Education Association (ELAJEA) Write-offs Competition on Saturday, February 28.

The competition featured various categories of writing, photography, and yearbook design, and copy writing.

One yearbook team captured the 1st Place Yearbook Sweepstakes trophy while individual awards helped Walnut pick up a 3rd Place Newspaper sweepstakes trophy and 2nd Place Novice News sweepstakes trophy.

Walnut Valley schools swept all 1st Place sweepstakes trophies at the tourney, with Diamond Bar High School celebrating a 1st Place Newspaper Sweepstakes and 1st Place Novice News Sweepstakes victory.

Congratulations to the following WHS individual winners who qualified to advance to the State-Write-Offs:

Yearbook Layout: 1st Place – Crystal Chang, Aaron Yong, Yolanda Yu, Laura Zhang; Yearbook Layout: 3rd Place – Jezebel Cardenas, Emily Chen, Jessica Lee, Cynthia Lu; Yearbook Copy: 1st Place – Crystal Chang, Aaron Yong, Yolanda Yu, Laura Zhang; Yearbook Copy: 3rd Place – Jezebel Cardenas, Emily Chen, Jessica Lee, Cynthia Lu.

News Photography: 2nd Place – Andraes Arteaga; News Photography: 3rdPlace – Elaine Liu; Feature Photography: 4th Place – Sajid Iqbal; Critical Review: 1st Place  – Lisa Shen; Critical Review: 2nd Place  – Nikita Patel;Editorial Cartooning: 3rd Place – Gabrielle Manuit; Novice News: 8thPlace – Brian Wu.

News Writing: 6th Place  – Brandon Ng; Sports Writing: – 1st Place – Ted Zhu; Feature Writing: 1st Place  – Alison Chang; Feature Writing: 10thPlace – Spencer Wu; Editorial Writing: 1st Place  – Michelle Chang.


Inland Valley Regional Spell Bee picks champ at Mt. SAC

Nicholas Lee, 11, of Caryn Elementary School, center, raises his hand in victory.

Nicholas Lee, 11, of Caryn Elementary School, center, raises his hand in victory.

By Brian Day, Staff Writer

A fifth-grader from an Alta Loma school will represent the region in the Scripps National Spelling Bee after out-spelling 33 other hopefuls Saturday at the 8th annual Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee at Mt. SAC.

Nicholas Lee, 11, of Caryn Elementary School in the Etiwanda School District clinched victory by spelling the uncommon word, “sinecure,” defined as a job or position in which someone is paid to do little or no work.

“I didn’t think I’d get into the top 10,” Lee said as he posed for photographs next to a massive trophy.

Lee said he studied for about two hours a day over five weeks to prepare for the competition. His strategy: “Sound it out.”

Cheering Lee on from the audience were his parents, Johnny and Gina Lee, and older brother Michael Lee.

Gina said she encouraged her son to enter the spelling bee to build his vocabulary and be better prepared for SATs.

“I’m very proud,” the mother said. The event was Nicholas Lee’s first regional spelling bee.

In second place after a neck-and-neck spell-off with Lee was 12-year-old Brandon Lam, a seventh-grade student at Edgewood Middle School in the West Covina Unified School District.

He spelled such words as “longiloquence” and “Einsteinian,” before being stumped on the word “homophony.”

Only the first-place winner will go to Washington, D.C., in May to take part in the nationals. The second-place winner earned $300 and a trophy, and the nine other top spellers received $50 and trophies.

Each student who competed Saturday was the champion of their respective school.

Read more in Brian Day’s story BEE. 

Orange Grove Middle School on lockdown in Hacienda Heights

Orange Grove Middle School is in lockdown Monday while deputies continue searching for a third man suspected of breaking into a gentleman’s club Monday.

Deputies caught two of the suspects and recovered a safe stolen from the business, according to Sgt. Rick Thurlo of the sheriff’s Industry Station.

He said someone called the station around 7 a.m. and reported four men in a black Audi were possibly burglarizing a gentleman’s club in the 15300 block of Gale Avenue in Industry.

As deputies arrived, the car took off. Thurlo said there was a short pursuit which ended at 7th and Orange Grove avenues in Hacienda Heights. Three men got out of the car and ran into the canyon area, the sergeant said.  Deputies found two suspects hiding in the brush.

A K9 unit, a helicopter and deputies are still searching for a third suspect who was only described as a black man.

While the caller mentioned four men, Thurlo said it’s not confirmed yet that there was a fourth suspect. Three men were seen getting in and out of the car, he added. The school is located at 14505 Orange Grove Avenue in Hacienda Heights. The principal couldn’t be reached for comment.