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.

Ryan Seacrest honors Diamond Bar teacher

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, left, celebrates with Diamond Bar High music director Steve Acciani.

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, left, celebrates with Diamond Bar High music director Steve Acciani.

“American Idol” star Ryan Seacrest visited Diamond Bar High on Veteran’s Day to honor Music Director Steve Acciani, a semifinalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award.

The event was hosted by KIIS FM, which kept the students and families entertained while they waited for the television star to arrive.

Seacrest is an honorary chairman for the Grammy Foundation. He took time from his hectic schedule to meet one of the 25 national semifinalists. Music Director Buddy Clements at Walnut High is also a semifinalist.

Photos: American Idol host Ryan Seacrest visits Diamond Bar High

The award recognizes outstanding music teachers who have made significant contributions to music education.

“I was surprised when they called me two weeks ago and said they wanted to come out to meet me,” Acciani said. “I think its great for them to help support our music program.”

The gregarious teacher had to fight his way through the crowds to get to the stage when Seacrest called out his name. It seemed like all 700 students in the Brahmas music program showed up for the event.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story IDOL.

Ryan Seacrest visits Diamond Bar High for Grammy semifinalist

Please join American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, The Grammy Foundation, KIIS FM, and the Ford Motor Company to celebrate Diamond Bar High School’ Steve Acciani being named a national semifinalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award on Tuesday, November 11.

Come and help support the Diamond Bar High School Music Program!

Diamond Bar High School will be participating in the Ford Motor Company’s Drive 4 UR School national test drive program to help raise money for the school’s outstanding music program.

GRAMMY Foundation Honorary Chair Ryan Seacrest will be on hand to join members of the Diamond Bar community who participate and support DBHS by test-driving a new Ford vehicle.

For every person over 18 who test-drives at this one-day event, Ford Motor Company and Fairway Ford will donate $20, up to $6,000, to Diamond Bar’s music education program.

The event will also feature all 700 DBHS instrumental music students performing, and be hosted by KIIS FM.

The event will take place on Tuesday, November 11, from 11:00am until 5:00pm, with Ryan Seacrest expected to join the celebration from 1pm until 3pm.

Food trucks will be on hand, so come spend some time enjoying an afternoon out with the community.

Diamond Bar High School is located at 21400 E. Pathfinder Road in Diamond Bar.

Quail Summit students mix it up in Diamond Bar

Students stepped out of their comfort zones to connect with other students during Mix It Up Day at Quail Summit Elementary.

Students stepped out of their comfort zones to connect with other students during Mix It Up Day at Quail Summit Elementary.

By Walnut Valley Unified

Quail Summit Elementary students joined the national Mix It Up at Lunch Day on October 28. The event provides students with an opportunity to move out of their comfort zones and connect with someone new.

And that’s just what they did! As the youngsters came out for lunch recess they visited three stations where parent volunteers passed out conversation starter cards.

“The best thing about today is that they are making new friends!” said parent Vivian Liao.

The cards had prompts like “Find someone who likes to play handball” and “Find someone who has ridden Space Mountain at Disneyland.”

After the boys and girls met a new friend that matched their inquiry, they received a puzzle piece, and a new card. When they earned four pieces to solve the puzzle, the kids received a green Mix It Up Day wristband, frozen treat, and hand stamp. They could also join the Cupid Shuffle dance party hosted by teachers Jessica Cabral and Erin Ruhl.

Several 5th graders volunteered to help with younger students during the primary grade lunch.

“I remember doing this in 1st grade!” recalled Asha Longsworth. She buddied up with second grader Whitney who liked being with her new big friend.

The innovative activity helps to create a school environment where respect and inclusiveness are core values. Quail Summit was designated as a Mix It Up Model School in 2013.

Diamond Bar High names new dance teacher

 Kari Simonson copy

Kari Simonson is the new dance teacher for Diamond Bar High’s award-winning dance program. Simonson taught dance for two years and coached dance for eight years at Woodbridge High School in Irvine. She comes to us with over 20 years of dance experience.
Simonson is a graduate of Cal State University Fullerton and Chapman University. She has danced for well-known industry professionals like Mike Esperanza (BARE Dance Company) and Leanna Aldenda.
Simonson keeps her dance skills and knowledge current as a teacher and student at Defore Dance Center in Costa Mesa. She also has experience in Pilates and Barre fitness methods.