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.

Inland Valley Regional Spell Bee picks champ at Mt. SAC

Nicholas Lee, 11, of Caryn Elementary School, center, raises his hand in victory.

Nicholas Lee, 11, of Caryn Elementary School, center, raises his hand in victory.

By Brian Day, Staff Writer

A fifth-grader from an Alta Loma school will represent the region in the Scripps National Spelling Bee after out-spelling 33 other hopefuls Saturday at the 8th annual Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee at Mt. SAC.

Nicholas Lee, 11, of Caryn Elementary School in the Etiwanda School District clinched victory by spelling the uncommon word, “sinecure,” defined as a job or position in which someone is paid to do little or no work.

“I didn’t think I’d get into the top 10,” Lee said as he posed for photographs next to a massive trophy.

Lee said he studied for about two hours a day over five weeks to prepare for the competition. His strategy: “Sound it out.”

Cheering Lee on from the audience were his parents, Johnny and Gina Lee, and older brother Michael Lee.

Gina said she encouraged her son to enter the spelling bee to build his vocabulary and be better prepared for SATs.

“I’m very proud,” the mother said. The event was Nicholas Lee’s first regional spelling bee.

In second place after a neck-and-neck spell-off with Lee was 12-year-old Brandon Lam, a seventh-grade student at Edgewood Middle School in the West Covina Unified School District.

He spelled such words as “longiloquence” and “Einsteinian,” before being stumped on the word “homophony.”

Only the first-place winner will go to Washington, D.C., in May to take part in the nationals. The second-place winner earned $300 and a trophy, and the nine other top spellers received $50 and trophies.

Each student who competed Saturday was the champion of their respective school.

Read more in Brian Day’s story BEE. 

Diamond Ranch names Welker as new head football coach

Diamond Ranch High School has appointed veteran athlete and accomplished college and high school coach Jimmy Welker as its new head football coach.

The Pomona Unified Board of Education approved Welker’s appointment during its March 3 meeting.

“Diamond Ranch and its athletics program has been anxiously anticipating Coach Welker’s arrival and we are pleased that he is here,” said Board of Education President Andrew Wong. “It’s exciting to know that the Panthers football program will be headed by such a talented athlete and coach, who can be a role model to our student-athletes and lead them to victory.”WELKER

Welker – an avid four-sport athlete who earned multiple varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track and field while at Notre Dame High School – has been coaching football for the last six years. He will begin serving as Diamond Ranch’s head coach immediately.

“I am thankful for this great opportunity to be the head football coach at Diamond Ranch,” Welker said. “This is a program with a rich tradition of producing high quality student-athletes, but more importantly, high quality people. I’m looking forward to teaching our players how to strive for excellence and success, both on and off the field, by giving a championship effort in everything we do.”

Welker, who holds a master’s degree in sports management from Jacksonville State University, launched his coaching career at University Lab High School in Baton Rouge, La., as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach in 2008.

His numerous coaching positions include: outside linebacker coach and junior varsity defensive coordinator at Notre Dame High School; wide receiver coach for the United States Coast Guard Academy; a graduate assistantship with Jacksonville State’s football team; and, most recently, quarterback and defensive line coach at Redondo Union High School for the last two football seasons.

Throughout his coaching career, Welker has helped more than 50 young men accomplish their goal to play football at both the collegiate and professional levels.

“I am excited to welcome Jimmy Welker to the Diamond Ranch High School football program,” Principal Suzanne Ripley said. “He brings a wealth of experience, knowledge, energy and commitment. He is enthusiastic about our four pillars of leadership, character, academics and community and he is laser-focused on taking DRHS to the next level in high school football.”

In addition to his achievements as a coach, Welker is a stellar athlete.

After graduating from high school, he was offered the opportunity to play quarterback at Louisiana State University, reaching his goal to play at a Top 25 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) college football program. During his college football career, the team boasted a win-loss record of 43-9 and included LSU’s clenching of the 2007 College Football National Championship over Ohio State.

Welker played quarterback in the Arena Football League for the Tulsa Talons in 2009 and the Bossier-Shreveport Battlewings in 2010, accomplishing his goal to play football professionally.

“It is our pleasure to welcome Jimmy to the PUSD family,” Superintendent Richard Martinez said.  “Jimmy’s sense of professionalism, strong work ethic and passion for football serves as a great source of inspiration to our high school athletes. We wish him and the Panthers a successful season in the fall.”

Diamond Bar singer to perform with LA Opera

Sophomore Madison Landi will be performing with the LA Opera in their production of Noah’s Flood. She earned the role of “Gossip 2”. The performances will be March 6 and March 7 at 7:30pm. 

CLICK HERE for the website of “Noah’s Flood”.

Other highlights of Madison’s young singing career include performing at the House of Blues in Anaheim and at The Grove of Anaheim with her band “Matsune”. She has also worked at Disneyland as a singer. In addition to her singing, she is in Diamond Bar High School’s Advanced Drama class.

For the past seven seasons, LA Opera has been honored to work with the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown Los Angeles to present free, large-scale community performances that have included Jonah and the Whale, Noah’s Flood, Judas Maccabaeus and The Festival Play of Daniel, all under the baton of James Conlon.

These community opera performances include singers, actors and orchestra members from the community, performing alongside professional soloists and orchestra members from LA Opera. 

For the 2014/15 season, LA Opera is reviving its successful production of Benjamin Britten’s Noah’s Flood (Noye’s Fludde). Conducted by James Conlon, LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director, Noah’s Flood will be performed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 7:30pm.


Castle Rock student on to regional spelling bee

Castle Rock Elementary second grader Jaylin Dalal won the school’s Scripps Spelling Bee

Castle Rock Elementary second grader Jaylin Dalal won the school’s Scripps Spelling Bee

By Walnut Valley Unified

Second grader Jaylin Dalal was crowned the winner of the Castle Rock Elementary Scripps Spelling Bee on Jan. 14. The eight-year-old won the school title by correctly spelling “commitment” during the final round of the competition.

Dalal will now represent his school next month during the preliminary regional Scripps Regional Spelling Bee at Mt. San Antonio College. The top thirty students qualify for the finals in March. The regional winner wins a trip to “Bee Week” – the National Spelling Bee Championship Washington D.C. in May.

This year, each class at Castle Rock hosted their own spelling bee using official Scripps words. Students received grade level study guides in December to prepare for the competition.

Classroom winners competed during the finals held in the multipurpose room. The contest was broadcast school-wide.The top winner from each grade level received a medal and then vied in the championship round.

Finalists included Grant Wang – 1st grade, Jaylin Dalal – 2nd grade, Emily Lu – 3rd grade, Sean Shih – 4th grade, and Nicole Miyoshi – 5thgrade.

“Congratulations finalists, you have all worked very hard. Most of all be proud of yourselves and have fun!” said teacher Matthew Morrison, who administered the exam with elementary learning specialist Kelly Morris.

The audience of fourth and fifth grade students cheered “Let’s go finalists, let’s go!”

During the 12-round battle, students were given a word that was then used in a sentence. They had the option to ask for a definition and were told to speak loudly and clearly.

Many students used higher-grade level lists to prepare for the competition.

“We have such great spellers here at Castle Rock!” Morris exclaimed.

Spelling champ Dalal studied to grade level 16.  “I was astonished,” he said about winning the competition. I was just smiling and giggling and feeling proud!”

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.



Walnut Valley honors East San Gabriel Valley ROP

Walnut Valley Unified gave East San Gabriel Valley ROP special award. Chief Financial Officer Josephine Quach, Deputy Superintendent Kim Case with WVUSD Board Members Helen Hall, and Cindy Ruiz.

Walnut Valley Unified gave East San Gabriel Valley ROP special award. Chief Financial Officer Josephine Quach, Deputy Superintendent Kim Case with WVUSD Board Members Helen Hall, and Cindy Ruiz.

By Walnut Valley Unified

The Walnut Valley Unified School District presented the East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupation Program and Technical Center with an Award of Special Recognition during the December Board Meeting.

“We’re very fortunate to work very closely with the East San Gabriel Valley ROP. Our students and community benefit a great deal from this partnership,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

ROP recently won two worldwide awards: Global Best in North America for 2014 and Overall Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Program.

This summer, Board Member Helen Hall flew to Brussels, Belgium to attend the awards ceremony with ROP Superintendent Dr. Laurel Adler.

“We’re very grateful for the time and energy Helen spends representing us,” said Board President Cindy Ruiz.

They met people from the other countries that were nominated including Africa, India, Finland, Scotland, Germany, South Africa, and Canada.

“We all spent several days exchanging information from our very different programs. And we didn’t know who would win until the awards night,” Hall said.

Deputy Superintendent Kim Case and Chief Financial Officer Josephine Quach were on hand to accept the award during the WVUSD Board Meeting.

“Thank you for your passion for all students and the programs that you create,” Hall said.

“The key is to keeping kids in school. ROP has a 13th Year Program for students who are not sure when they finish high school. They can go to ROP, take classes, get focused, and really move in the right track. It’s an amazing program and I’m glad our students benefit from this,” she stated. Hall also serves as a Board Member for the ESGVROP.

The highlight of the Brussels trip was meeting a young lady from NASA who worked on the Orion spacecraft, Hall explained.

“She offered our District the opportunity to send eight students and a teacher to NASA for a week. And they will pay for the trip to encourage more students into the space program.”

And WVUSD is very excited to participate!

Chaparral Students ‘Keep it Moving’ at JPL Design Contest

upside-down rubber band catapult pushed a spinning ball to the top of a 20-foot rain gutter ramp.

upside-down rubber band catapult pushed a spinning ball to the top of a 20-foot rain gutter ramp.

By Walnut Valley Unified

Congratulations to Chaparral Middle School sixth grade students Karissa Wong and Joshua Chou who won top awards in the “Keep it Moving” Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) Design Competition.

The team brought home a 4th Place award at the regional contest last year and advanced to the finals.

The Chaparral students competed among 20 teams at the finals. Most were at the high school level, but that didn’t stop these determined middle school students.

Wong and Chou won 3rd Place and the Most Creative Design awards.

The objective of the Keep it Moving challenge was to invent a device to move a billiard ball between five to eight meters using three modes of transportation – gravity, any sort of spring, and a free choice of energy like a motor.

They designed an upside-down rubber band catapult to push the ball up to the top of a 20-foot long rain gutter ramp. The ball had to be kept moving (spinning didn’t count) the entire time during the contest.

The billiard ball rolled down the ramp by gravity until it was blocked by a servomotor arm, which moved back and forth to keep the ball moving very slowly for timing accuracy.

At a specific time, a computer commanded the arm to open up to let the ball continue to roll down and hits two triggering switches to turn on loud buzzers.   The entry also needed to initiate an audible sound as close to 20 seconds as possible, by the ball.

The Chaparral students clocked an impressive 20.218 or 0.218 second over the 20-second mark!

What was the best part of the experience?

“We liked the meetings and practices at Chick-fil-A best!” the pair exclaimed.

Diamond Bar High’s Acciani in finals for a Grammy

Diamond Bar High School Instrumental Music Director Steve Acciani

Diamond Bar High School Instrumental Music Director Steve Acciani

By Walnut Valley Unified

Diamond Bar High School Instrumental Music Director Steve Acciani has been named a finalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award. Ten teachers were selected from over 7,000 nominations around the country for their significant contributions to music education. Each finalist will receive $1,000 honorarium.

“We are extremely proud of the recognition that Mr. Acciani has earned from the Grammy Foundation. He is an inspirational music teacher and an integral part of who we are as a community. We are so happy for him!” said Principal Catherine Real.

This is Acciani’s 26th year teaching in the Walnut Valley Unified School District.

“I feel so fortunate to live and work in a community that recognizes the importance of the arts for our students. The school district and community continues to provide fantastic support for our programs, allowing us to do some pretty amazing things,” Acciani said.

While the Grammy ceremony is held to present artists with the recording industry’s most prestigious award, the Grammy Foundation and Recording Company will also honor one local hero. The winner will be announced during the 57th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 8.

For the second year, the Grammy Music Educator Award will pay tribute to a special teacher for his/her remarkable impact on students. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award, attend the Grammy Awards ceremony, and receive a $10,000 honorarium.

On Nov. 11, Grammy honorary chairman and “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest visited Diamond Bar High to congratulate Acciani on being named one of the 25 semifinalists for the award.

Diamond Bar High was named the 2014 National Grammy Signature School becoming the first high school in California to receive the prestigious award.

Teen accused of school shooting threat Diamond Ranch High School

Deputies on Monday arrested a 17-year-old Diamond Bar boy for allegedly posting on Twitter a threat to shoot up Diamond Ranch High School. They also confiscated a 22-caliber rifle.

The alleged threat didn’t say when the shooting will occur, according to Lt. Edward Wells of the sheriff’s Walnut/Diamond Bar station. The station found out about the threat around midnight Sunday.

Well said the station got a call from someone who saw on Twitter a picture of a guy holding a rifle and saying he will shoot up the school. Deputies identified the person as a 17-year-old Diamond Bar resident who is a student at the school located at 100 Diamond Ranch Road in Pomona.

Deputies arrested the boy at his home around 1:45 a.m. and recovered a rifle, Wells said. The teen was booked on suspicion of making criminal threats. He is being held at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey. Deputies didn’t release his name because he is a minor.

The tweet with the alleged threat couldn’t be found on Twitter by Monday morning. School staff referred the paper to the superintendent’s office for comment.

Fernando Meza, administrative director for pupil and community services at Pomona Unified School District, said deputies contacted school officials Sunday night. He cannot verify yet if the suspect attended Diamond Ranch High School.

The district notified parents and school staff via email and text message that deputies conducted an investigation over comments made on social media, the person involved was taken into custody and it’s safe to be at school today, according to Meza. He said the high school has about 1,800 students.