Vejar Elementary students harvest awards at nutrition fair in Walnut

Students like their two-month-old classroom pet named Number Seven. Their Egg to Chick by Room 26 documented how they cared for the egg until it hatched.  And it earned a blue ribbon. (Photo courtesy of Walnut Valley Unified)

Students like their two-month-old classroom pet named Number Seven. They cared for the egg until it hatched. (Photo by Kelli Gile) 

Vejar Elementary fourth grade students harvested awards during the 2014 Schools’ Agriculture and Nutrition Fair. The Special Education class is celebrating four blue ribbons they received during the springtime contest.

Top prizes were awarded to their Grape Expectations sawhorse display, a Lion farm animal, and Classroom Garden bounty of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.  “The kids came up all the adjectives to describe why grapes are good,” said Teacher Jennifer Troudy.

The teacher printed out words including Sweet, Raisins, Dulce, and Jelly that were nestled among decorated vines and bunches of grapes.  The From Egg to Chick by Room 26 entry earned an additional blue ribbon.

The project chronicled the 21-day adventure of the little chick named Number Seven who hatched in the class.  Students love to pet the two-month-old spunky clucker who often flies around the classroom.

“He’s funny because he walks super fast and pecks at our shoes and sandals!” one student said.

Each day, he follows Instructional Aide Helene McDonald down the hallway to the nearby garden. Lucky Number Seven chomps on pesky pill bugs that like to invade the lush greenery.

McDonald credits the successful crop to  fresh coffee grounds provided each day by a local Starbucks and the tender care provided by the students in Room 26. A three-foot tall Tin Man Scarecrow created from empty coffee cans earned a 4th place ribbon.

“I am so proud of my students!  They worked hard all year to make our garden beautiful and I am so impressed with their garden knowledge,”Troudy added.

Nogales High School graduation

Padilla Grad Photo

Former Nogales High School Principal Dr. Nancy Padilla (who retired last year) got a surprise as she was allowed to present the diploma to her daughter, Allison Padilla, pictured with Rowland Unified School District Board of Education Clerk Angelena Pride.

NHS Val Jannette Choi


Nogales High School Valedictorian Jannette Choi began her speech with a “selfie” photo of her and her classmates.



The Class of 2014 at Nogales High School ceremony featured the release of doves over the heads of the 491 graduates in La Puente.NHS Doves at Graduation

Suzanne School teacher picked for Dream Team in Walnut

Helen Papadopoulos, a math and drama teacher at Suzanne Middle School, has been selected to the 2014 LearnZillion Dream Team. She is one of 77 returning members to the elite team.

 Over 4,000 educators applied for the 200 spots available on the 2014 Dream Team.  Members were selected for their content knowledge, grit and humility, these impressive math and English Language Arts teachers represent the best of district, charter and independent schools in 42 states and three countries.

Photo courtesy of Walnut Valley Unified School District

Photo courtesy of Walnut Valley Unified School District

The Dream Team will convene in New Orleans for TeachFest, a unique professional development event from June 4-7, where they will kick-off a rigorous summer-long collaboration to create high-quality formative assessment tools and resources that will support teachers implementing the Common Core across the United States.

Following TeachFest, Dream Team members will return to their respective districts and continue to work in facilitated online professional learning communities.

Being on the Dream Team is about more than world-class professional development and creating great content — it’s about being a member of a vibrant and enthusiastic community of educators who are eager to help others and hopeful about the future.

The diverse group brings over 2,300 years of teaching experience, ranging from two to 42 years in the classroom.

Papadopoulos is a 2007 California Teacher of the Year and 2012 Bravo Award winner.


Eagle has landed at Evergreen Elementary in Walnut

Evergreen 1st grader Elim Jiang won the school-wide design contest.  (Photo courtesy of Walnut Valley)

Evergreen 1st grader Elim Jiang won the school-wide design contest. (Photo courtesy of Walnut Valley)

The eagle has landed at Evergreen Elementary School. A beautiful tile mosaic of a soaring eagle, the school’s mascot, was unveiled during an assembly in May.  For 20 weeks, eight Special Education students worked with artist Robin Bott.

“All the students really loved creating the mosaic and were really excited to unveil it. The collaboration and teamwork they displayed was amazing,” said teacher Ashley Marshman.

The creative project was made possible through the Accessible Arts grant through the office of L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe.  Several months ago, a school-wide contest was held to create the mural design.

Third grade student Elim Jiang was named the winner. She received a certificate of recognition during the assembly. The 4-foot-by 3-foot mural depicts an eagle soaring above the clouds and through a rainbow. A golden sun shines over an apple tree.

 Jiang said her favorite part was the plane with an Evergreen banner flying above the eagle. Bott leads hands-on art projects with students throughout the county.

“First, the class started with paper mosaics and drew some eagles,” she said. Then the class selected one of the drawings submitted for the contest. “And it was so hard to choose because they were all so beautiful!” she said.

Bott then transferred the winning design onto the panel. Her artist father built the frame. And Bott cut hundreds of the colorful tiles.

“And then we started tiling!” she said.

First, students outlined the design with small tiles; then they used larger tiles to fill it in using a water-based glue. Student representatives from several classes also glued pieces of the tile mosaic.

“It has been such a joy to see the mosaic slowly coming to life as students worked diligently and cooperatively on it.  Now it serves as a wonderful vision to everyone that our Evergreen Eagles SOAR!  Evergreen was one of only 13 schools in the state to be named a California Exemplary Arts Distinguished School, and this mosaic project is one of many examples of the beautiful and creative activities that our dedicated staff provide for all our students,” Principal Carolyn Wills said.

Families like Spanish immersion classes in Hacienda La Puente Unified

Habla espanol? Kindergarteners at Valinda Academy and Los Altos Elementary do.

The tykes are just finishing their first year in the new Spanish immersion program in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. In addition to their ABCs and numbers, these 5-year-olds learned Spanish.

“My son Daniel didn’t speak a word of Spanish when he started,” said parent Daniel Caccam. “And he just won third place in the Spanish spelling bee.”

The proud parent said his son really likes the Spanish immersion class. They’ll continue next year as the school district adds Spanish to a first grade in both schools.

“We use a 90/10 formula, with the class instruction in Spanish 90 percent of the time and 10 percent in English,” explained Valinda Principal Elizabeth Bermejo.

Every year, English is gradually increased until instructional time reaches half English and half Spanish in the fourth through sixth grades.

Sandra Felix’s son, Raymond Anthony Gomez, did even better in the spelling bee, taking second place.

“He loves the Spanish class, now we even watch the news in Spanish,” said the happy mother, who plans to also enroll her 4-year-old daughter Emily in the dual immersion program.

Los Altos Principal Rosie Sinapi thinks so much of the program, that’s she has enrolled her own daughter in the Spanish class.

“The dual language program stimulates a child’s cognitive, social and linguistic development,” Sinapi noted.

The parents’ enthusiasm encouraged school board members Gino Kwok and Jay Chen. Kwok experienced some resistance from parents at first about the Spanish immersion class.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SPANISH.

Laura Santos is promoting a deal between her two districts

By Jason Henry, Staff Writer

Less than a week after her fellow Mt. San Antonio College trustees condemned her for holding two overlapping offices, Laura Santos appeared before a Baldwin Park committee to convince them to back a Mt. SAC satellite campus on a property owned by the second board she sits on.

The proposal removes all doubt about incompatibility between her dual elected positions on Bassett Unified and Mt. SAC boards, said Doug Johnson, a fellow at Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government.

“It makes it very concrete that there is a shared interest in the decision,” Johnson said. “She’s actually convicted herself.”

In California, an official may not hold two elected positions if there exists even a potential for a “significant clash of duties.”

“By promoting that agreement between these two districts, she has removed any question,” Johnson said.

Santos previously received legal opinions from both of her districts telling her she must resign from Bassett, but has refused to resign before June 30. The former lawyer receives monthly stipends from both organizations.

At the meeting of Baldwin Park’s 2+2+2 Committee, Santos handed out bullet-pointed documents listing the benefits of the Florence Flanner School, an under-used property Santos want to use to generate revenue for the small Bassett school district. Santos also shared building diagrams with the public committee, which includes members of the Baldwin Park City Council, Baldwin Park Unified School District and the Valley County Water District.

Mt SAC Flying Team wins top community college trophy in Ohio

The Mt. San Antonio College Flying Team won the Top Community College Trophy at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s national competition held May 12-17 at Ohio State University. The win marks the sixth time since 2000 that Mt. SAC has won the national award.

“It’s been a phenomenal run this year, and this is a great team that has put in a lot of hard work to achieve this,” said Mt. SAC Flying Team Advisor and Aeronautics Professor Robert Rogus.

With 76 points, Mt. SAC topped second-place Colorado Northwestern Community College with 27 points and third-place Central Texas College with 14 points to win the two-year college trophy. Mt. SAC’s Josh Spolar (West Covina) won second place in the instrumental flight event, and Evelyn Marquez (Pomona) and Spolar placed fifth in message drop event. Manutea Maurin (Diamond Bar) was Mt. SAC top scoring contestant with 32 points.

The airmeet included over 275 competitors from 27 teams that included Southern Illinois University, Ohio State, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Overall, Mt. SAC placed 14th overall against both university and two-year colleges. 

Over the years, the Mt. SAC Flying Team has consistently earned top honors as one of the best collegiate flying teams in the country. The team has won the Top Community College trophy at the regional competition every year since 1991. Mt. SAC has won the Top U. S.  Community College award at the national airmeet in 1984, 1985, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007.

Walnut Valley staff attends mini university

By Walnut Valley Unified

The first Walnut Valley Unified School District Mini University was held in April 18. More than 1,000 certificated and classified employees attended the conference held at Walnut High School.

“There’s a million people to thank – this has been a big team effort during the past several weeks,” said Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Matthew Witmer. “And here we are, I’m very happy to see everyone today!”

Staff members gathered in the gymnasium for the welcome and keynote address.

“I know today will be a great day,” said Superintendent Robert Taylor. “I hope you’re going to learn a lot. I hope you’re going to enjoy it.”

Taylor said the professional development day would also provide the opportunity for employees to reconnect with friends they don’t get a chance to see every day.  The morning kicked off with keynote speaker Dr. Greg Washington, Dean of the UC Irvine Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

Over 75 breakout sessions followed with a wide-variety of offerings focusing on Common Core State Standards, technology, college and career readiness, and more.  A large percentage of the presenters were WVUSD staff members.

Employees around the District gave the professional development day a resounding “thumbs up.”

“It was great to be able to spend the day reconnecting with our colleagues from other schools and learning from our peers,” said Helen Papadopoulos, Suzanne Middle School Math and Drama Teacher.

“I thought it was a great day to learn so some new skills and tools to take back to my school.  It was extremely well organized and I thought the keynote speaker was very engaging,” said Peggy Laine, Maple Hill Elementary Library Media Technician.

Diamond Bar and Walnut Highs ranked by US New & World Report

-U.S. News & World Report ranked Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools among the best in the nation in its 2014 Best High Schools report.  Both schools earned gold medals in the report issued on April 21. Only 500 public high schools in the nation achieved the top award.

Nearly 600 schools in California are ranked Best High Schools. Diamond Bar High ranked 40th in the state and 230th in the nation.  Walnut High ranked 84th in the state and 418th in the nation.  According to the report, the publication collected data from more than 19,400 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Schools are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on the performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college. In the 2014 national rankings, 1,519 public high schools received silver medals and 2,688 schools received bronze medals.

A three-step process determined the Best High Schools. The first two steps ensured that the schools serve all of their students well, using performance on state proficiency tests as the benchmarks.

For those schools that made it past the first two steps, a third step assessed the degree to which schools prepare students for college-level work.

For a full report, please visit