Help Los Altos Elementary get a community garden grant in Hacienda Heights

Los Altos Elementary wants everyone to vote for them in the Seeds of Change competition on-line at

The organic seed company based in Rancho Dominguez donates 1 percent of its net sales toward sustainable organic farming initiatives worldwide. This year, it is awarding $190,000 in grants to community or school gardens.

In its grant application, the Hacienda Heights school said it would like to hold community events in the garden, where it would teach kids and families about healthy eating.

In addition, the school wants to show kids students what sustainability means. They’d show kids how to help the environment by composting and recycling.

The school has started a small garden club. It would like to do even more by adding an outside gate so community members can access the garden. They would add an area for residents to garden during the summer.

To vote for Los Altos Elementary, go to The voting period ends on April 21 and you may vote once a day.

Westhoff honors two with partners in education awards in Walnut Valley

Parent Christina Cerioni was named the Westhoff Elementary Partner in Education. Shown with Principal Denise Rendon and Board President Cindy Ruiz.

Parent Christina Cerioni was named the Westhoff Elementary Partner in Education. Shown with Principal Denise Rendon and Board President Cindy Ruiz.

Westhoff Elementary recognized Christina Cerioni and Jennifer Chisholmas recipients of the Partner in Education Award at Walnut Valley Unified.

“Parents and partners in education, like Christina Cerioni, make our school a more fun and enriching environment for our students to learn. We appreciate her selfless gift of time and her tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm,” said Principal Rendon.

 Christina is an exemplary model of a parent partner. She began volunteering at the school after enrolling her daughter in kindergarten.

“Mrs. Cerioni instantly became an essential part of our school’s day-to-day experience,” Rendon added.

In a very short time, she became involved in reading groups, book bags, yearbook production, substitute noon-aide, fieldtrips, classroom parent and more. She also provided the first Jewish table at the school’s cultural fair. At the end of Christina’s first year at the school, she was voted the Community Club 1st Vice President.

“She has a wonderful way of bringing people together to help our school. Westhoff appreciates Christina’s “can-do” attitude and ability to bring new and exciting ideas into our school events.” Rendon said.

Jennifer Chisholm is a very special Partner in EducationShe spent a total of 33 years in the Walnut Valley Unified School District as a GATE resource teacher at the District Office and 2nd grade teacher at Westhoff Elementary. She retired from teaching in 2009, but has continued working with Walnut Valley students, along with numerous church and community activities.

“She sets aside time to work with our Westhoff students. For the past four years, Mrs. Chisholm has volunteered for the after-school Out of the Box enrichment program for GATE students in 4th and 5th grades. She meets each week to provide enrichment activities these scholar students. Jennifer has given Westhoff the incredible gift of time and we are profoundly grateful for her service,” Rendon said. Mrs. Chisholm was unable to attend the Board Meeting because she was volunteering at her church teaching catechism.

“She is a wonderful partner at Westhoff,” Rendon added.

Walnut Valley names new assistant superintendent

Matthew Witmer

Matthew Witmer

The Walnut Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees approved Matthew Witmer as the new Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. The veteran educator brings 18 years of experience to his new post.

Witmer has a strong background in the area of curriculum and instruction, and has led the transition into Common Core State Standards.

“Witmer possesses the leadership qualities, technical knowledge of the position, and proven ability to perform effectively in this administrative role,” said Superintendent Robert Taylor.

“I look forward to working with Witmer.  He will make a great addition to the Walnut Valley family,” he added.  Witmer assumed his duties on March 3, 2014.

Since 2012, Witmer served as Director of Educational Services in the Corona-Norco Unified School District.  He was responsible for all areas of the division in the 54,000-student district.  During Witmer’s tenure, CNUSD was selected as a 2012 and 2013 finalist district of the Broad Prize for Urban Education.

Under his leadership, as Director of 7-12 Instruction, the Garden Grove USD was named winner of the 2004 Broad Prize for Urban Education.

Additionally, Witmer is an adjunct professor of Educational Leadership at the University of California Irvine Extension and Azusa Pacific University.  Prior to that, he worked as an associate professor, director, interim program director, principal, assistant principal, and teacher.

Witmer received a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Azusa Pacific University.

“The reputation of the Walnut Valley Unified School District has been outstanding for a long time, and I look forward to supporting our students’ learning and contributing to the district’s future success,”  Witmer said.

Witmer has filled a vacancy in the Educational Services Department

Enrollment in Rowland Unified begins on April 7

Enrollment in the Rowland Unified School District for the 2014-2015 school year for Transitional Kindergarteners/Kindergarteners and new students through grade 12 begins April 7. Parents can pick up registration packets at school sites now. Parents who need to find their home school can click on My School Locator at or call the Pupil Services Office at (626) 935-8203.

Transitional Kindergarten (TK) classes are available at all elementary schools. TK is a bridge between preschool and Kindergarten, giving younger children (students who turn 5 years old betweenSeptember 2 and December 2) more time for hands-on, interactive learning and provides a high-quality Kindergarten readiness at no cost to parents with classes taught by credentialed teachers.

For more questions about Transitional Kindergarten, parents can visit or speak with RUSD TK Specialist Annabelle Danneman at (626) 854-8544.

School of Choice Applicants: On April 7, parents of students accepted to a school of choice for the 2014-2015 school year must start the enrollment process. The parents of students accepted through the Choice program must complete and turn in all required enrollment packets and documentation to the schools of choice, by April 30. If the parent fails to submit the required enrollment packet and documentation, Choice is forfeited and the student will need to enroll at their school of residence for the 2014-2015 school year.

For general information regarding enrolling your students in any RUSD program or school, please feel free to call Pupil Services at (626) 935-8203 for further assistance.

Vejar Elementary competes in Mt SAC Relays in Walnut

Vejar relay

By Walnut Valley Unified

Vejar Elementary students participated in the 2014 Mt. SAC Relays on March 22. The runners proudly showed determination and skill during the annual race day.

Fifty-five members of the school’s Track Team practiced for several weeks before the big day. And they wore special red team t-shirts during the track and field events held at Hilmer Lodge Stadium in Walnut.

“All our students did a great job,” said Principal Jennifer De Anda.

Every participant wins pins and ribbons at the Mt. SAC relays.

Parent volunteers helped pass out water and energy bars during the event. The kids enjoyed pizza and hamburgers when they were finished.

A special thanks to the numerous coaches and parent volunteers for their commitment to the team and to local business that donated snacks and food for the young athletes.

Rowland Unified needs input for Local Control Accountability Plan

The Rowland Unified School District  is seeking input from the community on the educational priorities to be included in its Local Control Accountability Plan, which ensures that funding is targeted to the needs of all students.

Community members are encouraged to take part in the LCAP Survey available through March 31. To participate in the online survey (also available in Chinese and Spanish), the community can visit the “Your Voice” section of the District website and on every school website. Hard copies will also be available at each school site.

California school districts now have the flexibility to prioritize resources in order to meet the specific needs of its student populations with a new funding formula. The new method of funding public schools is called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).

The LCFF has been passed by state legislation to allow local insight and meaningful conversations to take place between parents, employees and the community about their schools.

The advisory process began on March 6, 2014 when 25 stakeholder representatives met to receive an overview. They included PTA, community members, students, teachers and  principals. Materials shared at the meeting can be found on the District website under Local Control Funding Formula – Unified for Excellence.

The Rowland Unified LCAP Advisory Committee will review the survey results and use the information as they develop the draft of the Local Control Accountability Plan. Stakeholders’ recommendations will be compiled in a report that will be provided to the Board of Education.

After a public hearing, the governing Board of Education must review and approve the RUSD Local Control Accountability Plan in June, 2014.

Rowland Unified breaks ground for new family center in La Puente

Family Resource Center Coordinator Jennifer Kottke, left, and Community Liaison Irma Almanza have fun saying goodbye to the old portable by painting on it before it is torn down.

Family Resource Center Coordinator Jennifer Kottke, left, and Community Liaison Irma Almanza have fun saying goodbye to old portable by painting it before it is torn down.

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

It’s been 35 years, but the Family Resource Center and medical clinic in La Puente is finally getting a new building. Rowland Unified broke ground for the new facility this week next to Northam Elementary.

Bulldozers have already demolished the two old trailers used by the dental and medical clinic, as well as the district family resource staff.

Everyone is looking forward to moving into the new 3,200 square-foot facility this summer. The modular building will allow the district to expand its services to students and their families.

“I’ve been dreaming of having our own building for the past 35 years,” said Jane Rosser, director of the Children’s Dental Program.

Rosser remembers the clinic opening in an old Army trailer. She jokes about holes in the roof that would let the rain drip in.

Later, the dental program moved into a much larger trailer where it served thousands of children in the La Puente area.

The district’s dental clinic still serves more than 600 students a year. It offers low or no-cost screening and treatment services for low-income students.

“We help a lot of single parents, as well as large families whose parents already work two or three jobs to support their children,” Rosser said.

She and dentist Lester Lim are very excited about the new building. It will have two dental treatment rooms, with a third room for expansion later.

Next door, the medical clinic will have its own new home. The clinic provides free immunizations. It also offers medical care on walk-in basis to uninsured, low-income children 3 to 18 years old.

Read more in CENTER.

South Pointe holds fun run today in Walnut Unified

Eighth grader John Dempsey was the Fun Run winner in third Period during the Fun Run. P.E Teacher Cameron Silvas met him at the finish line for a silly string celebration.

Eighth grader John Dempsey was the Fun Run winner in third Period during the Fun Run. P.E Teacher Cameron Silvas met him at the finish line for a silly string celebration.

By Walnut Valley Unified

South Pointe Middle School students grabbed their tennis shoes and took to the track during a Fun Run held today.

Students ran during their Physical Education classes throughout the day. Most wore their gym clothes, while other dressed up in crazy costumes with super hero capes, ballerina tutus, leopard tights and hot pink wigs during the first-time fitness event.

The 1½ mile-course took runners around the grassy field, through the gym, and then looped back to the field and to the finish line. The South Pointe Panthers competed for engraved 1st Place trophies and best costume prizes.

Teachers joined the fun with water spritzers and giant bubbles at stations around the course.  The Art Department designed signs and the school band played during morning classes.

Sixth grade friends Juhi Doshi, Itzel Cavral and Ariel Cardona dressed up in tutu outfits for the Fun Run.

“It was long, but it was really fun!” Cardona said.

“Run, run, run and finish strong!” encouraged P.E. teacher and organizer Cameron Silvas as students crossed the finish line.

“There are just so many adult runs on the weekends, I thought why not bring it here?” Silvas said.

Next year she plans to host a Color Run at the school where teachers throw colored powder at students as they pass stations.

“When they cross the finish line they’re a rainbow!” she said.

Adopt an engineer from Los Altos Academy

The Los Altos Academy of Engineering is preparing for an electric vehicle contest in Florida on April 26. The young engineers plan to race three vehicles in the Emerald Coast Electrathon.
The Los Altos High School team needs $11,000 to cover expenses to Pensacola. They hope the community will adopt a high school engineer by contributing $10 or more.
For more information, call 626-330-1096.

Rowland Unified teachers, administrators far apart on salary talks

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Rowland teachers have declared an impasse in the stalled contract negotiations with the Rowland Unified School District. The Association of Rowland Educators is asking the state to send in a mediator to handle further negotiations. “We’re filing the paperwork now to declare an impasse with the state,” said ARE President John Petersen on Monday.

Union officials say the contract talks broke down during the eighth bargaining session last Thursday. In an email to teachers, Nadine Loza, bargaining chair, explained what happened.

“The ARE bargaining team was disappointed (but not surprised) when the district presented their counterproposal after lunch. The district’s proposal was not significantly different from their last proposal. Overall, the district has not moved significantly from their initial proposal especially on critical issues like salary, benefits, planning time, adjunct duties and combo classes.”

District officials were surprised by the sudden impasse, but they say they remain open to fair negotiations with the union’s 700 members.

“We’re still committed to negotiating with them in good faith,” said Superintendent Ruben Frutos.

Both sides say pay raises remain the largest stumbling block. The teachers want a 10 percent pay raise next year, the district has offered 2.5 percent the first year and 2 percent the next.

“Originally, the teachers wanted a 12 percent raise, 6 percent the first year, then 6 percent the second,” recalled Assistant Superintendent Douglas Staine. “We were surprised when they changed to 10 percent for one year.”

Rowland Unified had originally offered a 3.5 percent raise, 1.75 percent the first year and the same the second year.

Read more in SALARY.