Walnut Valley begins first day of school

By Kelli Gile, Walnut Valley Unified

It’s back-to-school time in the Walnut Valley Unified School District. Nearly 14,600 students began classes in the 15 campuses on Monday, August 18.

“We had a great first day,” said Walnut High School Principal Jeff Jordan. ”Students and staff were excited to be back. There was an upbeat attitude all day.”

The teens happily chatted at break time, stopped by their lockers, and checked schedules before dashing off to their next class.

Maple Hill Elementary in Diamond Bar opened doors to its completely modernized campus in Diamond Bar.

Everyone was relocated to portable buildings during the $5.6 million construction project last year.

This was the first chance for students and their families to see the new school.

“We made it!” exclaimed Principal Nancy Stingley. “Everybody’s here and inside, everybody’s happy, and everybody’s smiling.”

“Wellyn’s very lucky she’s going to a brand new school,” said kindergarten parent Jocelyn Wong.

Fourth graders Gabrielle Zabresky, Valentina Yonemoto, Carlie Law and Ella Liu were excited to see their new classrooms before the school bell rang.

What do they like best about school?

“We love math – it’s fun!’ the girls exclaimed.

“It’s really nice,” commented parent Grace Wang just outside her child’s classroom.

Fifth grade teacher Shirley Conner greeted students who were lined up before the 8 a.m.school bell rang.

“Welcome back to school. It’s beautiful inside!” she said

“It’s such a gift to us,” beamed fourth grade teacher Tami Berry.

“Everything’s new and wonderful, and different. As we had time to get to know the school, you all will have time to get to know the school,” she told her students.

“It’s going to be a very fun place to learn,” Berry added.

The school has a brand-new interior design, multipurpose room and exterior landscaping. Classrooms feature state-of-the-art technology, skylights and generous storage cabinets. Six hundred new desks and chairs were purchased for the campus.

“It’s big and roomy, everything is clean and new, and up-to-date technologically,” said kindergarten teacher Lisa Esse, who has been at the school for 20 years.

“And every teacher is excited!”

“It’s like a new beginning for us. It’s beautiful, it’s kid-friendly and we have a lot of new technology that we didn’t have before,” said third grade teacher Sue Conrad-Kanstul.

Teachers will now use wireless microphones and be able project assignments using cool mobile stations that adjust up and down, she explained.

Kanstul is happy that she will no longer have her back to the screen while at the front of the class.

“The kids used to say ‘Mrs. Kanstul I can’t see the board.’ And now I can watch what I’m projecting. I would say it’s 21st century.”

“I look forward to another great school year at Suzanne Middle School,” said Principal Les Ojeda.

“We have a great number of returning students and new students that seem incredibly intelligent, enthusiastic and eager to learn.”

Westhoff Elementary celebrated the first day of school with balloons, chalk greetings, posters, music and a staff with welcoming smiles.

“It’s going to be a great school year!” said Principal Denise Rendon.

Maple Hill Elementary reopens after $5 million renovation in Diamond Bar

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Maple Hill Elementary students found a new school when they arrived Monday morning for the first day of the new year.

Diamond Bar families have waited patiently the past year while workers renovated the Diamond Bar campus.

“The district spent $5.6 million to remodel this school,” said Walnut Valley school board president Cindy Ruiz. “I wish my children went here, it’s great environment for kids.”

Lush landscaping greets parents as they drive up to drop off their children. The vibrant shrubs and trees set the tone for the striking campus.

Inside, architects have balanced energy efficiency with high technology to produce a state-of-the-art school.

“We can have rainbows all day long,” said kindergarten teacher Lisa Esse.

Esse explained how light tubes channel sunlight into each classroom. Teachers can control shutters to allow just the right amount of light into their room.

“If you tweak the control just right, the prisms will form a faint rainbow,” Esse laughed. “The kids will love it.”

Ruiz turned off the lights to show how much natural light pours into the classrooms. It was still be easy to read a textbook.

“We have also installed new LED lighting throughout the school,” said Jeff Roule, construction manager for Walnut Valley Unified. He estimates the new lighting systems will save the school 20 percent on its electric bill.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story RENOVATION.

Rowland Unified surprises students on first day of school

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Rowland Unified started the new school year Monday with the usual hustle and bustle of students looking for their classrooms.

Killian Elementary in Rowland Heights even welcomed the kids back with 10 tables of free books.

But older students will notice the biggest changes in the district’s high schools.

Nogales High students were greeted by the steel skeletons of the massive new front wing being added to the school. Giant cranes continued to lift the steel into place for the complex.

The project will provide new administration offices and classrooms, as well as multipurpose rooms and food services. Four new buildings will revitalize the school at a projected cost of $30 million to $35 million. It will open in the fall of 2015.

Meanwhile, students are already enjoying the new classrooms renovated over the past two years. New walls and ceilings provide quiet, comfortable classrooms that save energy and lighting. A new digital infrastructure permits the latest technology for teachers and students.

Teacher Jane Richey certainly appreciates her new culinary center. Richey welcomed students to her Introduction to Cooking. The popular elective will have the young chefs cook in the eight modern kitchens featuring Jenn-Air gas stoves and microwave ovens.

The teens can watch four big-screen televisions as Richey demonstrates a cooking technique under the watchful eye of a digital camera.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SCHOOL.

La Puente girls get new shoes, backpacks

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Local companies gathered Friday to help low-income girls get ready for the new school year in Rowland Unified. The generous gifts included new shoes, backpacks, school supplies and haircuts.

More than 300 students from Villa Corta, Hurley and Northam elementary schools were selected by school staff for the sixth annual Aldabella Scarpa Giveback Event.

The Covina shoe designer started the event as a way of encouraging young women in low-income areas.

“We want these young girls to have an amazing, positive experience and not allow circumstances in their lives to create limits,” said co-founder Monica Gonzales. “We want to show them that our community supports them and we want them to dream big.”

Gonzales and her sister, Ann Marie Smith, went to school at Villa Corta and wanted to do something special for the La Puente school. So six years ago, they began giving a new pair of shoes to deserving students.

Over the years, the event has continued to grow as more sponsors joined the ranks. California Credit Union provides new backpacks filled with school supplies. Other sponsors include Walmart, Global Processing System, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks and Stater Brothers.

Free haircuts were given by Supercuts of West Covina, helped by OMG Hair Accessories.

“The part I like the best is the kids’ smiles,” said Villa Corta Principal John Martinez. “It shows our students that lots of people in our community support them.”

Martinez will welcome 525 students in transitional kindergarten to sixth grade on Monday, when Rowland Unified begins the new school year. The young women will have everything they need to start school.

Families flocked around four tables filled with craft activities courtesy of Home Depot in Industry. The Cake Mamas from Glendora were very popular, giving out their award-winning cupcakes. The backpacks even included coupons for free food from Taco Nazo in La Puente.

Sara Posadas, 12, of La Puente loves the five pairs of shoes she received while attending Villa Corta. Now, she was helping her 8-year-old sister Johana get ready for the fourth grade.

“I was always excited to get new shoes and a backpack,” Sara recalled. “Now my sister is excited too.”

The Romero sisters from Northam Elementary agreed. Dayanara, 9, and Jennesse, 6, were both loaded down with their new shoes and backpacks.

“Their family says this is a big help for them,” translated Principal Martinez.

For the sisters, they incorporated the donation as part of their business model. Smith and Monica Gonzales design shoes for their Covina boutique Aldabella Scarpa at 832 N. Grand Ave. The company donates a pair of “I Matter” tennis shoes to disadvantaged youths for every set sold in stores. The shoes retail for $42.

The sisters say their great-grandfather was a shoe designer in Mexico. He passed his craft on to their grandfather and father.

“They were both cobblers in Monterey, Mexico,” Gonzales explained. “So we always knew the importance of quality shoes.”

The Spanish-speaking women grew up in La Puente, where they learned the importance of education in the Rowland Unified schools. Smith became a educator, serving 24 years as a teacher and administrator.

“It was hard starting a new business during the recession, but our company has grown slowly on-line at www.aldascarpa.com,” Gonzales said. “Today, we employ 10 people, who handle sales of more than $500,000 a year.”

And the Covina company recently added an clothing line to its inventory.

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Rowland teachers train for Common Core

By Richard Irwin

It may be called Common Core, but the teaching techniques are anything but common. As instructors in Rowland Unified discovered during two days of workshops.

School districts have been gearing up for the implementation of Common Core over the past couple of years. Anxious teachers have been learning how to adapt their teaching styles to the new guidelines.

“They’re anxious because it sounds like everything is new,” explained Jeanette Chien, Rowland’s executive director of educational services. “But this is their opportunity to share ideas because we need to teach differently for Common Core.”

She says the goal is to develop students who can think independently. This is quite a change from the memorization that many of us grew up with.

“The instruction will be more rigorous for both the students and the teachers,” Chien said. “But, we need to do a better job of preparing our students for college and careers afterward.”

For more read http://m.sgvtribune.com/sgvtribune/article/dkI6bzAU

Applications open for Spotlight Program at the Music Center

The Music Center today announced that applications are open for The Music Center’s 27th Annual Spotlight Program.  Southern California high school students who are interested in the performing arts are encouraged to apply to participate in Spotlight, one of the nation’s premier arts education and scholarship programs for teens.  

The program, which provides arts training by professional artists and awards more than $100,000 in scholarships, is part of The Music Center’s commitment to helping all students receive outstanding arts learning experiences in their schools and in the community.  

More than 40,000 students have participated in Spotlight to date, and the program has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships to aspiring performers and artists.

Spotlight is free and open to all students who attend high school in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.

 Students of all skill levels can apply in one of seven categories, including ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental, jazz instrumental, and acting, a new category added this year.  

Those students applying to the acting category must apply by October 1, 2014.  Students interested in all other categories must apply by October 20, 2014.  Applications are available at musiccenter.org/spotlight.

Spotlight was developed by The Music Center to offer distinctive learning opportunities at every stage of artistic development.  According to Jeri Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program, Spotlight provides invaluable professional guidance in the performing arts to thousands of Southern California high school students each year.

 “Spotlight is much more than a competition; it provides an opportunity not only for artistic growth, where young artists can improve their audition and performance skills, but also a pathway for personal growth as young performers gain confidence and self-esteem.  Those are skills that are critical for success in life,” she explained.

All students enrolled in the program work with professionals to develop audition skills and knowledge in their performance disciplines.  Those students selected by professional judges to advance as semifinalists participate in master classes, compete to perform at The Music Center and receive cash scholarships.  

Grand Prize Finalists in each category receive $5,000 scholarships.  Honorable Mentions receive $1,000 scholarships and semifinalists receive $300 scholarships.  In addition, selected preliminary students will receive $100 scholarships.

In addition to the new acting category, The Music Center announced several changes to The Spotlight program for 2014, including the discontinuation of the two-dimensional and photography categories in favor of a greater emphasis on the performing arts.  

More opportunities will be added for students to gain insights about preparing for college and careers in the arts and related fields.  This year, the culminating performance will be presented on stage at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Numerous Spotlight participants have gone on to successful professional careers.  Fifteen finalists are Presidential Scholars, and many more have joined or performed with professional companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater, Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, among others.  

They include Misty Copeland, who made history as the first African American female in two decades to be appointed soloist at American Ballet Theatre; Adam Lambert and Josh Groban, pop recording artists; Erik Altemus currently starring in Pippin on Broadway; Yao Guan Zhai, associate principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony; Gerald Clayton, Grammy Award winning jazz recording artist; and many others.  Many alumni return to the program to participate as judges and class instructors.

 Fredric M. Roberts is founding chairman of The Music Center Spotlight Awards, and Walter Grauman is creator/executive producer.  For more information about The Music Center’s Spotlight program, visitmusiccenter.org/spotlight or join the conversation onfacebook.com/spotlightawards.

Rowland’s Family Resource Center offers fresh start for homeless

Rowland Unified’s Family Resource Center will join many community partners to make sure that our homeless students have backpacks, school supplies, shoes, uniforms and dental supplies.

More than 250 students from across the district will receive these supplies on on Thursday at Hurley Elementary in La Puente and on Friday at Jellick Elementary in Rowland Heights.

Special thanks to Kiwanis Shoes That Fit and Faith Community Church for their volunteers.

Would you like to volunteer to help? Call the Family Resource Center at (626) 854-2228

Tami Pearson named new superintendent of La Puente Valley ROP

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Tami Pearson hasn’t travelled far geographically, but the Hacienda Heights native has certainly gone a long way in her career.

The local educator was recently named the new superintendent of the La Puente Valley Regional Occupational Program.

Board President Anthony Duarte says Pearson brings a wealth of experience with her to the new job.

“It was a tough selection, because we had so many good candidates,” the Hacienda La Puente School Board member said. “But, Tami served on the district’s coordinating committee and had an intimate knowledge of ROP, so we knew she could hit the ground running.”

Duarte said the unanimous selection was a step in the right direction to mend fences between the district and ROP.

In March of 2013, the district notified ROP that it wanted out of the cooperative. This angered the other two school districts, Rowland Unified and Bassett Unified.

At the time, Hacienda La Puente Unified contributed almost 60 percent of the ROP budget, while Rowland gave 30 percent and Bassett 10 percent.

Then Associate Superintendent Cindy Parulan-Colfer said Hacienda La Puente paid ROP nearly $3 million, but only received classes worth $1 million.

“It’s about being fair,” Parulan-Colfer said. “We have no intention of getting rid of career-tech education.”

Since then, the three districts have reached a new agreement with ROP. And relations have improved. For more, read ROP

New teachers receive orientation in Rowland Unified

New teachers pose for photo at Rowland Unified.

New teachers pose for photo at Rowland Unified.

New teachers from across the District participated this week in a two-day orientation to the Rowland Unified School District. Teachers engaged in collaborative learning around RUSD’s mission statement, efficacious instructional practices, Common Core standards, and ELD standards.

Rowland Unified launches new website

websiite

Fresh Look to District Website!

Today we launched the new District websitewww.RowlandSchools.org

RUSD Employees – You now have access to helpful staff services and resources under the Staff Services Directory: Find links to Outlook Web Access, Aeries.Net, Aesop Sub Management, RUSD Forms, Rowland Blogs and Wikis, the District Staff Only Section of the website and more!