About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

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

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

A forgotten milestone

In Jay Chen’s 2011 Year-in-review, he mentioned various milestones from 2011 for the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. These included a failed recall attempt against him, a HLPUSD board member, and his free college application seminars.

But what he did not mention may be more important:
The changing of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. School will start three weeks earlier and end three weeks earlier. The change was controversial and may be trend-setting.
Here’s a section from our story which ran in December:

The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District board voted 4-1 Thursday night to start the next school year on Aug. 7, three weeks earlier than usual. It is the first local school district to adopt an early start calendar for the entire PreK-12 population.

School will let out May 21, 2013, instead of in late June. A similar calendar was adopted for the 2013-14 school year. </em>

Some may call that decision of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest school district one that affects the most people — parents and children.It affect thousands of families in La Puente and Hacienda Heights. It could also lead to other districts doing the same thing.

Quite a milestone.

Hacienda La Puente votes for early school year

On Thursday, Dec. 8, the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District school board voted 4-1 to begin school three weeks earlier. It is the first district in the San Gabriel Valley to implement the early school year calendar.

School will start Aug. 7, 2012 and end May 21, 2013.

The early start means a shorter summer vacation for this year. There will still be 180 teaching days.

The board said the alignment with college semesters means no homework will be carried over from Christmas break. Also, teachers in May will be able to focus more on helping high school students prepare for AP (college entrace) exams. Now, they were given near the same time as statewide aptitude tests.

Rudy Chavarria voted against the proposal.


Chen becomes newest Walnut Valley board member

Phillip Chen, elected to the Walnut Valley Unified School District board in November, officially took his seat Monday.

Chen, a health deputy for Supervisor Mike Antonovich and a reserve sheriff’s officer, was sworn into office along with veteran board member Larry Redinger, who was re-elected to a sixth term.

In the election on Nov. 8, Chen came in first, taking the seat vacated by incumbent Carolyn Elfelt, who moved out of the district and was not eligible to run. Redinger kept his seat on the board.

“Quite frankly, it feels rather humbling,” said Chen on Tuesday. He was impressed with a Walnut Valley parent who spoke about bettering communications between parents and the district.

“It is helpful to know parents who have issues will come to the school board meetings to resolve them,” he said.

Chen said he hopes to learn the ropes from veteran board members Redinger, Cindy Ruiz, Nancy Lyons and Helen Hall.

Walnut Mayor Pro Tem Mary Su administered the oath of office to Chen. Mt. SAC board Trustee David Hall swore in Redinger, who was named board president.

-steve scauzillo