Palomares Academy of Health Sciences awarded ‘Distinguished’ status


Pomona Unified’s fledgling Palomares Academy of Health Sciences has joined the elite ranks of schools awarded the prestigious “Distinguished” designation by the National Academy Foundation, a recognition of the strength of the school’s program for preparing students for success in college and careers.

Just seven of National Academy Foundation’s network of 667 schools were added this year to its roster of “Distinguished” campuses for a total of 28 – less than 5 percent. It is the foundation’s highest level of achievement, based on an annual assessment that showed “exceptional fidelity” to its educational model.

Palomares, which opened a scant seven years ago as a grade 7-12 academy, is graduating its second class of seniors this June. Last year, 100 percent of its first senior class was accepted to four-year universities.

“This is a tremendous honor that recognizes not only the forward-thinking approach Pomona Unified takes to provide students with educational opportunity, but one that stands as a proud testament to the dedication, talent and determination of our educators,” said Board of Education President Andrew Wong.

The foundation’s system focuses on preparing underserved populations for college and careers in specific industries – finance, hospitality and tourism, information technology and health sciences. Under the model, students take rigorous, career-focused courses tied to real-world opportunities with business professionals.

Palomares provides an education focus on health sciences for a community that is primarily English learners, socio-economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. The school features project-based learning and a rigorous STEM curriculum. Students attend workshops at Western University of Health Sciences, work at Pomona Valley Hospital and showcase their skills at health fairs.

“Our experiences have borne out the promise that if you provide students with curriculum that is rigorous and focused on their field of interest, and give them the opportunity to succeed, they will shine,” said Palomares Principal Dr. Camille Ramos-Beal. “I am so proud of our team and our students for achieving this milestone.”

Palomares Academy will be recognized at “NAF Next,” NAF’s annual professional development conference in Anaheim in July.

“The success of our program at Palomares validates our approach to transforming Pomona Unified into a model for 21st century learning – a place where students can find their path to the future regardless of any challenges or barriers,” said Pomona Unified Superintendent Richard Martinez.


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.

Cal Poly Pomona students protest dorm plan

By Monica Rodriguez, Staff Writer

Cal Poly Pomona students are protesting on campus this afternoon about a proposed plan to build dorms on pasture land for the university’s horses.

The protest got underway at noon outside the Bronco Student Center.

School administrators explained at a meeting last month that the university lacks adequate room to house its students, and the dormitories they do have are crumbling.

Space on campus is limited, school officials say, and topography — hills and fault lines — further reduces their options for areas to develop.

At a Feb. 21 protest, students said they fear the loss of the pasture land could be one step in a process that may eventually eliminate natural resources from the campus.

The impact of losing the pasture land could affect future agricultural students, according to organizer Adam Mason.

“This land is used for education and a platform for students to have a one-on-one experience with rangeland management,” Mason said. “Once they take out these pastures and set concrete, it can’t be turned back into one. The fertile land used to feed livestock will be destroyed.”

More details to come.

35 spellers advance in Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee


By Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee

Facing the possibility of heavy rain on the day of the preliminaries, the volunteers of the Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee planned for the worst. But as luck would have it, partly cloudy skies and bright sunshine  prevailed.

Excited spellers and their families, friends and teachers piled into the Design Technology Center at Mt. SAC early Saturday morning.

After the throngs of school champions were registered and given their T-shirts, they lined up and marched into the auditorium to the strains of their favorite music.

Marsha Hawkins, Spelling Bee Director introduced the announcer Ken Mok, who explained what was going to happen that day. The spellers were separated into their red, blue and yellow color groups and escorted to their venues – written spelling, written vocabulary or oral spelling.

After three tense hours the tests were corrected and the points were tallied. 35 excited spellers were asked to come up to the stage where they were presented with medallions signifying their successful advancement to the final rounds.

These lucky spellers will spend this week studying hard and fast to be ready to face their competitors early Saturday morning, March 7.

Among those advancing to the finals are Rebecca Norden-Bright of Pioneer Jr. High in Upland, who has participated for the last six years, Hannah Sylvestro of St. Margaret Mary School in Chino, our champion in 2013 and Thordar Han of South Point Middle School in Diamond Bar who is making her second appearance at the Bee.

The finals will take place at 8 a.m. in the auditorium at the DTC. All 35 finalists will be seated on stage, where they will be called up one at a time to spell their word.

If they are correct, they will sit back down. If they fail to spell correctly, they will join their parents in the audience. This will go on until one student is able to out-spell all the others.

The finals of the IVRSB have always been exciting and the children are the show. They are funny, bright, excited and above all dedicated.

School champions compete in Inland Valley Spelling Bee


On Feb. 28, 106 school champions will gather at the Design Technology Center on the campus of Mount San Antonio College to compete in the eighth annual Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee.
Spellers represent cities from Baldwin Park to Fontana and the foothill cities to Ontario and Chino.
Manuel Baca, professor and Mt. SAC trustee, and Carolyn Anderson, Community Relations Director for Waste Management will join Chief Judge Steve Lambert as judges for the finals to be held on March 7.
The champion will go to Washington DC to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. There, the winner will face close to 300 of the best spellers from all over the English speaking world.
Hannah Sylvestro, winner from 2013, is returning along with several others who have competed before. Spellers range in age from a 7-year-old first-grader to 14-year-old Rebeccah Norden-Bright, who’s returning for her sixth competition.
When the competitors arrive at 7:30 a.m., they’ll be divided into three groups. Over the next four and a half hours they will compete in three contests: oral spelling, written spelling and written vocabulary.
At the end of the morning, spellers with the top 30 scores will go on the finals on March 7. At that event, they will participate in a traditional spell-off, competing head to head until one speller is left.
The top speller will be presented with the traveling trophy, a copy of Mirriam Webster’s Third Edition and an all expense paid trip to Washington DC provided by Quest Literacy Consortium.

Legislators propose changes to school vaccinations

By Susan Abrams, Staff Writer

As California measles cases edge closer to triple digits, two state senators are expected to announce legislation Wednesday to change the current immunization requirements in schools.

The senators — Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician who represents Sacramento, and Ben Allen, the former board president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District who represents much of the Westside and a portion of Torrance — would not say Tuesday what sort of changes their bill proposes.

But the state’s vaccination rate has raised concerns amid one of the worst measles outbreaks in 15 years.

Current California law allows parents to skip vaccinating their children under what is called a personal belief exemption. Parents who oppose vaccines must receive information by a health professional, unless their decision is based on religious belief.

More than 13,000 kindergartners are not vaccinated, according to published reports.

On Monday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted there were 102 measles cases in 14 states, including New York. The outbreak stems from an infected visitor to Disney Parks in late December, and cases then spread across the Golden State. Most are in California, where there are 92 cases statewide. Almost 20 percent are in Los Angeles County. An update is expected to be given on Wednesday during a news conference by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

While some school districts are telling unvaccinated children to stay home and a child care center in Santa Monica that reported one case remained closed, the Los Angeles Unified School District said there are no confirmed cases.

Measles vaccines have been available in the United States since 1963, and two doses have been recommended for infants since 1989.

The vaccine, which prevents measles, mumps and rubella, is 99 percent effective, but 1 percent of those who are immunized can still get sick, health officials have said. Those who are concerned about their safety can have a blood test to check their immunity.

Walnut Valley to refund athletic fees at Diamond Bar High

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Walnut Valley Unified has agreed to refund some athletic fees charged to students and families at Diamond Bar High School. The action comes after a formal complaint was filed by Kevin and Beth House with the California Department of Education.

The department agreed with the Diamond Bar family that fees charged in the football, wrestling and baseball programs were impermissible under state law.

In its rulings, the CDE notes that participation on a high school football team is an educational activity that must be free. If participation in a summer football camp is a condition of participation on the school’s football team during the regular school year, then the summer camp must also be free.

It disagreed with the district’s conclusion that the summer camp was recreational rather than educational.

The district also claimed the $100 payment for the camp and the $135 required for camp clothing and accessories were voluntary donations. But, the state found that while the 2014 summer camp form changed the word “fee” to “donation,” the camp was nevertheless described as “mandatory” and students were informed that in order to receive their uniform for camp, they must show proof of payment.

“A reasonable parent would believe that paying for and participating in the summer camp was a condition of participation on the team during the school year,” the CDE concluded.

But the CDE found that since the summer wrestling camp was not a condition of participation on the wrestling team during the regular school year, that fee was permissible.

The House complaint also addressed “spirit packs” bought by students. Walnut Valley said the spirit packs weren’t required purchases. It said it provides all necessary uniforms for football, wrestling and baseball, whether a uniform package was purchased or not.

The CDE determined that the evidence showed that in order to receive their football, wrestling and baseball uniforms, students were instructed to show proof of payment in violation of the Education Code. It noted that the availability of a fee waiver does not make the fee permissible.

Football’s summer spirit pack totaled $155, while the season’s spirit pack cost $222 for varsity players and $195 for other players. Wrestling spirit packs cost $100, $250 for new players.

The Houses also paid $125 for a baseball package.

The CDE ordered the district to refund money paid for football, wrestling and baseball spirit packs from May 15, 2013 through May 15, 2014.

The House complaint also asked for a ruling on working bingos to raise money for the athletic teams. Football parents are asked to work bingo or donate $50 to “opt out.” The wrestling team asked for a opt out fee of $100, while the baseball team requested $100 to opt out each night or $200 total.

Walnut Valley said teams are allowed to solicit voluntary donations and that bingo participation is strongly urged but voluntary.

The Department of Education decided the evidence shows that parents were required to work bingo or pay an opt out fee as a condition for a student to participate on the football, wrestling and baseball teams. Therefore, participation in bingo fundraising was not voluntary in violation of the education code and any opt out fees were impermissible.

It ordered Walnut Valley to refund any bingo opt out fees from May 15, 2013 to May 15, 2014.

When the ruling was made at the end of September, Walnut Valley was given until Nov. 30 to remedy the situation, but the district decided to seek “clarification” first.

“It was important that we clarified this issue with the California Dept. of Education (CDE) because this is an important policy question facing most school districts in California and we wanted to make sure that we were appropriately and effectively implementing the law,” said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Michelle Harold.

“With this guidance from CDE, we are taking several affirmative steps to change our policies, our practices, and our personnel’s approach to implementing the fee issues,” Harold explained.

On Dec. 12, Superintendent Robert Taylor sent out a letter to parents to offer refunds. He said the district will fully reimburse parents and students for the refunds ordered by the state.

Families must submit the refund form provided by the district by Jan. 23. Parents must also submit proof of payment, either a cancelled check or other evidence of payment.

If Walnut Valley doesn’t receive a form by Jan. 23, it will consider any payments to be a voluntary donation to the athletic programs.



Freshman to march in Rose Parade despite palsy

Freshman French horn player Brent Dillard, 15,

Freshman French horn player Brent Dillard, 15,

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Brent Dillard can’t wait to march down Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day with the Cypress High School Band. The 15-year-old plans to walk the whole 5.5 mile distance, even though he suffers from cerebral palsy.

This year’s parade theme is “Inspiring Stories.”

“We have our own inspiring story in Brent. He has worked tremendously hard to march in the Rose Parade,” said Cypress band director James Quirion. “Brent has become an true inspiration to me and his fellow bandmembers,”

Dillard has always wanted to follow in this father’s footsteps by joining the Cypress Centurion Imperial Brigade. A grand name for a 233-member band with a “big” sound.



“My dad played the clarinet and tuba in the marching band,” Dillard noted.

The teen chose the French horn for its rich sound. And he can play it with his one good hand, using the other to support the bell of the brass instrument.

The band took the field after school last week to rehearse for the grand parade. Under a cold threatening gray sky, Quirion put his centurions through their paces.

“Beginning Saturday, we start our marathon rehearsals, practicing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day,” said the enthusiastic band leader, who marched in the 101st Tournament of Roses Parade as a trumpet player with the Santa Ana Winds Youth Band.

He was 16 years old at the time, but he has always remembered the experience, and now he wants to share it with his high school students.

Pomona Unified superintendent joins White House Summit

Richard Martinez, superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 100 top school leaders from across America to participate in the first-ever National Connected Superintendents Summit, on Wednesday at the White House.

Superintendent Martinez is among exemplary local school chiefs who will be recognized for their leadership in helping transition their districts to digital learning. This unique conference will bring together officials from throughout America to share with one another and the Education Department promising approaches to using technology in classes.

“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to be invited to the White House to represent the Pomona Unified community and showcase the innovative ways our talented teachers are revolutionizing digital learning and education in the classroom,” PUSD Superintendent Richard Martinez said. “We are excited to be recognized for being trailblazers in the world of digital education and are proud to be a model of success that other schools can replicate.”

The Pomona Unified School District recently won two Golden Bell Awards from the California School Boards Association for its innovative use of technology in Early Childhood Education, and educational excellence at the Palomares Academy of Health Sciences. The school district offers its students career pathways in computer science in partnership with Harvey Mudd College and Microsoft Corp., and courses in robotics through Cal Poly Pomona. Village Academy High School offers career courses in Film Studies and Computer Science/Information Technology.

Every PUSD classroom has Internet access districtwide. Thirty-two Common Core/SBAC assessment-ready labs are being completed and campus-wide WiFi is expanding at all sites across the district. Mobile devices such as iPads, Chromebooks and laptops are available in PUSD’s K-12 schools, bringing educational technology into the classroom. Through community partnerships with EveryoneOn and Southeast Community Development Corp., PUSD is bridging the digital divide for Pomona USD families.

“School districts across the country are helping teachers harness the power of technology to create personal learning environments for all students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We want to make sure every child – whether he or she is in the inner-city, in a rural community or on a Native American reservation – has access to knowledge and the chance to learn 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The White House summit will be followed by a series of 12-15 regional summits that will focus on the digital progress made possible by local school districts.  The events will also include the unveiling of digital tools that facilitate incorporation of technology into short-term and long-range education planning.

To help spotlight the value of technology in schools, the Education Department is sponsoring a Future Ready Initiative aimed at showcasing outstanding school leadership and strategies.

“The Future Ready Initiative highlights the critical role of district leaders in setting a vision and creating the environment where educators and students access the tools, content, and expertise necessary for thriving in a connected world,” said Richard Culatta, director of the Department’s Office of Educational Technology.

Trio of teachers of year support Marshall Tuck

By Marshall Tuck campaign

Three former Teachers of the Year are stepping forward today to announce their support of Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. As awarded Teachers of the Year, Bhavini Bhkata, W. Kipp Morales, and Andrew Shean have seen firsthand how current rules and Sacramento bureaucracy hold back their chosen profession.

Despite being at the top of their profession, the three teachers have been pink-slipped nine times between them because of laws like those overturned in the Vergara case that hold back the profession and harm our ability to educate kids.

“As California public school teachers and educators, we have dedicated our lives to helping students learn and achieve. We know firsthand how important it is to have leadership that understands that in order for students to be successful, teachers must be supported and given the flexibility to work with our local communities, with school leadership and with parents to create the best possible experience for every child.

“We entered the profession of teaching to make a difference in children’s lives and ensure that all California kids are given the opportunity to receive a quality education. That is why we are supporting Marshall Tuck. His plan for supporting the profession through better pay, increased training, freedom from crippling bureaucracy and changes to laws like ‘Last in, First out’ are the right steps for California’s kids.”

“We are particularly disturbed by recent attacks on Marshall’s outstanding record improving schools in some of California’s toughest neighborhoods. As you know, Marshall has led two innovative school systems in high-need areas: Green Dot Public Schools and the Partnership for LA Schools.

“These school systems–both union systems–serve as national models for parental involvement, effective technology in the classroom, and excellent teaching methods. These schools have been good for teachers and we welcome Marshall’s leadership in Sacramento.”

About Bhavini Bhkata

School: Bradoaks Elementary School, Monrovia Unified

Award: Golden Apple Teacher of the Year Award

Times Pink Slipped: 6 (pink slipped or displaced based on seniority)

Additional Comments: “I’ve been a public school teacher for 10 years, and have been pink-slipped for 6 of them …. being a Teacher of the Year, and having received 6 pink slips — that doesn’t make much sense to anyone. Marshall understands what makes sense for students, for teachers, and for public schools. He is one of the first people I have come across who believes that teacher quality outweighs a teacher’s seniority. He is 100% for the best outcomes for kids. He believes teachers have the largest impact on students during their school day, regardless of their home environments. He doesn’t give up because students live in a certain zip code, instead, he welcomes the opportunity to provide a supportive and rigorous learning environment while kids are in school. Marshall is behind great teachers, he is behind great principals, and he is absolutely behind the students in our state.”

About W. Kipp Morales

School: Alliance College-Ready Public Schools

Award: Teacher of the Year

Number of times pink-slipped: 1

Additional statement: “I support Marshall Tuck’s innovative initiatives that seek to move student achievement, teacher compensation, and…yes…teacher unions…out of the self-created quagmire and into a culture of success like my school has obtained.”

About Andrew Shean:

School: Abraxas High School, Poway Unified School District

Award: Two-time Teacher of the Year

Number of times pink-slipped: 2

Additional statement: “We have to change a system that forgoes merit [and the] difference a teacher makes in the lives of children [during] tough budget decisions. It is time to start questioning the status quo and putting kids first. I fully support marshall Tuck and am hopeful others will too!”

Current role: Vice Provost of Curriculum and Innovation, Ashford University