Rowland Unified names Julie Mitchell superintendent

Rowland Unified applauds new superintendent Julie Mitchell. Photo by Watchara Phomicinda

Rowland Unified applauds new superintendent Julie Mitchell. Photo by Watchara Phomicinda

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

After a year of infighting and turmoil, the Rowland Unified School District named a new superintendent on Tuesday. Julie Mitchell, the chief personnel officer for the Tustin Unified School District, will serve as Rowland’s top administrator.

“Dr. Mitchell stood out among the highly qualified field of candidates for her passion and proven track record in making student-focused decisions that support academic success,” said RUSD school board President Heidi Gallegos. “She has in-depth expertise in instructional strategies and models using technology, innovative professional development programs and breadth in curriculum.”

The search for a new superintendent began last April, when Superintendent Ruben Frutos decided to step down. His tenure was marked by hundreds of teachers demanding that Frutos resign.

In February, the Association of Rowland Educators asked the board to search for a new superintendent.

The board hired Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to provide input on the qualities desired in a new superintendent. The firm held focus groups, community meetings and an online survey to canvas the community.

Families said they wanted someone who understood the learning process and the importance of new technology. But they also wanted a leader who was approachable and friendly.

More than 50 educators applied for the superintendent’s position. Board members whittled the field down this summer, conducting final interviews over the past couple weeks.

“I am excited and honored to have been chosen as the new superintendent and look forward to working corroboratively with the school board, staff, parents and community,” Mitchell said.

She brings 26 years of experience in public schools. Mitchell worked her way up from instructional aide to assistant superintendent in school districts including Anaheim Union, Capistrano and Irvine. Along the way, she taught middle and high school students, before becoming an assistant principal, then principal.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SUPER

Rowland High staff, students happy after renovations

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Even the blackboards at Rowland High School are “smart.” And it’s more than just the name of the fancy digital whiteboards found in the new science and business wings at the Rowland Unified school.

While the noise of construction has finally abated at the local high school, teachers and students said all the bother was worth the new facilities that opened this school year.

Students and staff have settled into their new digs over the past couple weeks. And the reviews have been positive.

Students gathered in the computer labs located in the renovated E wing. Teachers had taught last year in portable classrooms lined up outside the Raider gym.

Most of the portables are now gone, letting the Rowland instructors return to their usual classrooms. Which have become unusual with the all the technology crammed into them during the massive remodeling project.

“We gutted the whole wing and rebuilt it with new utilities and modern technology,” said Principal Mitch Brunyer.

Business teacher Caroline Manookian was learning how to use her smart board. The new digital projectors help instructors reach the tech-savvy students. The Raiders study everything from personal finance to advanced accounting in the business department.

“It’s really nice to have them all facing me now, before they sat around tables,” Manookian said. “The new furniture is much more efficient with plenty of room for their books. Plus, there’s lot of storage.”

Students found 160 new Mac computers bought for the remodeled classrooms.

“The computers will also be used for the online testing now required by the state this year,” said Brunyer.

On the other side of the building, the Rainbow Preschool was open for business.

“We’ve waited more than 30 years for this remodeling,” said preschool director Patricia Hakim earlier. “But it was worth the wait!”

For more, read Rich Irwin’s story RAIDERS.

Rowland Unified names new superintendent

Dr. Julie Mitchell has been named the new superintendent of Rowland Unified.

Dr. Julie Mitchell has been named the new superintendent of Rowland Unified.

By Rowland Unified School District

The Rowland Unified School District Board of Education announced at tonight’s meeting that Julie Mitchell, Ed.D., Chief Personnel Officer from Tustin Unified School District, has been appointed as the new Superintendent of Schools for Rowland Unified.

After an extensive five-month search process, the Board chose Mitchell for her broad and established instructional leadership roles across all grade levels, strength in collaboration and focus on increasing student learning and achievement. Her start date is October 1, 2014.

“The Board looks forward to welcoming Mitchell to our organization and to the families that we serve,” said Rowland USD Board President Heidi L. Gallegos. “Dr. Mitchell stood out among the highly qualified field of candidates for her passion and proven track record in making student-focused decisions that support academic success.”

“She has in-depth expertise in instructional strategies and models using technology, innovative professional development programs, and breadth in curriculum,” Gallegos said. “Her strength as a communicator and a collaborative leader focused on building positive relationships will continue Rowland’s successes. We want to thank our entire community who played an active role during this very public process, and we believe that Mitchell will be a visionary leader and a great match for our staff, students and community.”

Mitchell has 26 years of experience in public education. She has served as an instructional aide, middle and high school teacher, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent of human resources in school districts including Anaheim Union, Capistrano and Irvine.

For the past seven years as the chief personnel officer – a top-level district administrator in Tustin Unified – Mitchell was involved in the development of programs focused on curriculum, student learning and achievement, personnel leadership, professional learning communities, technology, college preparedness and signature instructional practices, such as Reader’s Workshop, Writer’s Workshop and Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI).

She also assisted with the passage of two bond measures: a $95 million school facilities modernization bond and a $135 million new technology bond for K-12 students and 21stcentury classrooms throughout the school district.

Mitchell has a strong personnel background with extensive experience in employee relations and contract negotiations and the creation and implementation of comprehensive professional development and leadership programs for teachers, classified support staff and management.

She also established a partnership to implement the Cotsen Foundation Program transforming capable educators into gifted teachers at schools throughout Tustin USD.

Her leadership has been recognized at the local, regional and state levels as the 2011 Orange County Personnel/Human Resources Administrator of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), Region 17, and as the 2012 State Negotiator of the Year by ACSA.

Mitchell has a bachelor’s degree in social science from San Diego University, a master’s degree in education from the University of La Verne and received her doctorate in administration/management from Pepperdine University. Mitchell is married with three children.

“I am excited and honored to have been chosen as the new superintendent and look forward to working collaboratively with the school board, staff, parents and community,” Mitchell said. “I’m committed to providing all students with an exceptional educational experience which will assist them with becoming productive members of an ever-changing global society.”

The Rowland USD Board was committed to a rigorous superintendent search process and with providing the community clear and comprehensive information and input that began last April.

The firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates was hired and conducted focus groups, community meetings and an online survey to provide extensive input on the desired qualities of the next superintendent.

Consistent themes shared included a person who held a deep understanding of the teaching/learning process and the importance of educational technology, a leader who was approachable/accessible, a leader who could articulate a clear and consistent message, who believed in public education, who was collaborative and someone who could build trust. More than 50 applicants applied for the position.

During the superintendent search process, the Board appointed John A. Roach, Ed.D, as Interim Superintendent in June.  Roach will continue to serve until the end of September and will work with Mitchell for a smooth leadership transition.

The Rowland Unified School District is proud to serve 15,000 students in the communities of Rowland Heights, Walnut, La Puente, City of Industry and West Covina at our award-winning schools.

Sunset Elementary honored as California Distinguished School

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

The sun has risen on a new California Distinguished School at Sunset Elementary School in La Puente. Family and friends celebrated the accomplishment with an ice cream social, while Hacienda La Puente Unified officials honored the school earlier.

“We wanted to celebrate everyone’s hard work to achieve this honor,” said Principal Leslie Miller.

Sunset Elementary was also recognized as a National Title I Academic Achieving School. It was the only school in Hacienda La Puente Unified School District in 2014 to receive these awards.

“I applaud these strong, thriving schools that are making such impressive strides in preparing their students for continued success,” said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction. “This award is well-deserved by these school communities for their enduring dedication to high standards, hard work, and unwavering support.”

Torlakson named 424 public elementary schools California Distinguished Schools. The schools were chosen for their strong commitment and innovative approaches to improving student academic achievement.

For the complete list, visit the 2014 Distinguished Elementary Schools Web page.

The California Department of Education notes an achievement gap among students. Closing this gap is a top priority, making schools work for all students, regardless of their background, condition or circumstances,

The Distinguished Schools Program focuses on students’ right to an equal education. It recognizes those schools that have made progress in narrowing the academic achievement gap.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SUNSET.

Mt. Calvary Lutheran school takes ALS challenge in Diamond Bar

Ice bucket challenge #2
Last week, the whole school at Mt. Calvary Lutheran in Diamond Bar, from preschool through 8th grade, got the chance to watch their pastor, Pastor John Scharlemann, and two church members, Sebe Garton and George Grinham, participate in the ice bucket challenge.
They did this to support a teacher whose sister passed away from ALS a few years ago.  This was a fun way to kick off the 31st school year.

Oswalt Academy raises $2,400 in ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

 

Oswalt Principal Kevin Despard takes the Ice Bucket Challenge in Walnut.

Oswalt Principal Kevin Despard takes the Ice Bucket Challenge in Walnut.

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Oswalt Academy Principal Kevin Despard and students K-8 took part in the ALS Ice Bucket challenge today, raising more than $2,400 in Walnut.

Each Rowland Unified student brought a minimum of $5, their own cup to be filled with ice and water by the Oswalt PTSA volunteers, a signed permission slip and a change of clothes.

Despard accepted the challenge from fellow school colleague, Shelyn Principal Sarah Opatkiewicz. Who’s next? Despard says Killian Elementary.

Oswalt Academy students take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Oswalt Academy students take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Walnut High offers ROP medical assistant course

The East San Gabriel Valley ROP and Technical Center offers a Medical Assistant certification program, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education programs (CAAHEP) at Walnut High School.

The class is held in the evening hours for graduating students as well as for adults in the local community interested in being trained in administrative (front office) and clinical (back office) skills. 

A great opportunity for Walnut High School students who want to pursue medical degrees but need employment to pay for their further education providing them with a head start and hands-on experience in the medical field. 

Walnut High adds ROP medical pathology class to

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Maybe a student from Walnut High will find a cure for the Ebola or West Nile virus some day. It could happen thanks to the new pathology class at the Walnut Valley campus.

Pathology is the branch of medicine that deals with the nature of disease. The new health class may be the link that drives a promising young student to go into medical research.

The class is one of several courses being offered by the high school through the East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program. ROP instructors now teach more than 300 Walnut students, according to ROP Coordinator Candice Marsano.

“The medical classes have become very popular at Walnut High,” said Marsano. “That’s why we continue to add new classes and sections.”

Principal Jeff Jordan has seen the ROP program grow from one instructor with 60 students to several teachers with hundreds of students over the past six years.

“Now, we have kids who graduate and go on to study medical careers at Cal State Fullerton, Mt. SAC and Azusa Pacific University,” Jordan reported. “They come back and thank us for giving them a head start in their medical careers.”

Marsano said two of the ROP courses, Intro to Sports Medicine and General Medical Pathologies, have been approved by the University of California.

“If our students pass the UC test, they can earn college credits here at Walnut High,” Marsano explained.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story HEALTH

Diamond Bar student takes second place in national leadership conference

Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (FBLA-PBL), the largest and oldest student business organization, held its National Leadership Conference in Nashville on June 29–July 2.

Participants from across the United States and two countries competed in more than 60 business and business-related events. Crystal Chang from Diamond Bar High School in Diamond Bar received national recognition at the FBLA Awards of Excellence.

Chang competed in Health Care Administration and brought home second place. The competition consisted of a timed 100-question multiple-choice test on a wide variety of healthcare-related topics such as infection control, health insurance, healthcare law and ethics, records management, and medical terminology.

“Crystal also qualified for nationals last year in Anaheim, as a freshman. This year, she placed higher than any other Diamond Bar student in the history of DBHS FBLA,” said Ty Watkins, DBHS FBLA chapter adviser.

The award was part of a comprehensive national competitive events program sponsored by FBLA-PBL that recognizes and rewards excellence in a broad range of business and career-related areas.

For many students, the competitive events are the capstone activity of their academic careers. In addition to the competitions, students immersed themselves in educational workshops, visited an information-packed exhibit hall, and attended motivational keynotes on a broad range of business topics.

Tech Trek grads to speak in Diamond Bar

Tech Trek is an annual science/math camp for Middle School aged girls held in July at UC Irvine. Four eighth grade scholarship recipients will report on their experiences at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 in the Windmill Room at Diamond Bar City Hall.

The speakers are Roya Rezvani of Chaparral Middle School, Theresa Lin and Kyla Jennell of Suzanne Middle School, and Ying Wang of South Pointe Middle School.

Everyone is welcome at this public event co-sponsored by the Diamond Bar-Walnut AAUW and the Friends of the Library.