Walnut Valley begins first day of school

By Kelli Gile, Walnut Valley Unified

It’s back-to-school time in the Walnut Valley Unified School District. Nearly 14,600 students began classes in the 15 campuses on Monday, August 18.

“We had a great first day,” said Walnut High School Principal Jeff Jordan. ”Students and staff were excited to be back. There was an upbeat attitude all day.”

The teens happily chatted at break time, stopped by their lockers, and checked schedules before dashing off to their next class.

Maple Hill Elementary in Diamond Bar opened doors to its completely modernized campus in Diamond Bar.

Everyone was relocated to portable buildings during the $5.6 million construction project last year.

This was the first chance for students and their families to see the new school.

“We made it!” exclaimed Principal Nancy Stingley. “Everybody’s here and inside, everybody’s happy, and everybody’s smiling.”

“Wellyn’s very lucky she’s going to a brand new school,” said kindergarten parent Jocelyn Wong.

Fourth graders Gabrielle Zabresky, Valentina Yonemoto, Carlie Law and Ella Liu were excited to see their new classrooms before the school bell rang.

What do they like best about school?

“We love math – it’s fun!’ the girls exclaimed.

“It’s really nice,” commented parent Grace Wang just outside her child’s classroom.

Fifth grade teacher Shirley Conner greeted students who were lined up before the 8 a.m.school bell rang.

“Welcome back to school. It’s beautiful inside!” she said

“It’s such a gift to us,” beamed fourth grade teacher Tami Berry.

“Everything’s new and wonderful, and different. As we had time to get to know the school, you all will have time to get to know the school,” she told her students.

“It’s going to be a very fun place to learn,” Berry added.

The school has a brand-new interior design, multipurpose room and exterior landscaping. Classrooms feature state-of-the-art technology, skylights and generous storage cabinets. Six hundred new desks and chairs were purchased for the campus.

“It’s big and roomy, everything is clean and new, and up-to-date technologically,” said kindergarten teacher Lisa Esse, who has been at the school for 20 years.

“And every teacher is excited!”

“It’s like a new beginning for us. It’s beautiful, it’s kid-friendly and we have a lot of new technology that we didn’t have before,” said third grade teacher Sue Conrad-Kanstul.

Teachers will now use wireless microphones and be able project assignments using cool mobile stations that adjust up and down, she explained.

Kanstul is happy that she will no longer have her back to the screen while at the front of the class.

“The kids used to say ‘Mrs. Kanstul I can’t see the board.’ And now I can watch what I’m projecting. I would say it’s 21st century.”

“I look forward to another great school year at Suzanne Middle School,” said Principal Les Ojeda.

“We have a great number of returning students and new students that seem incredibly intelligent, enthusiastic and eager to learn.”

Westhoff Elementary celebrated the first day of school with balloons, chalk greetings, posters, music and a staff with welcoming smiles.

“It’s going to be a great school year!” said Principal Denise Rendon.

Maple Hill Elementary reopens after $5 million renovation in Diamond Bar

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Maple Hill Elementary students found a new school when they arrived Monday morning for the first day of the new year.

Diamond Bar families have waited patiently the past year while workers renovated the Diamond Bar campus.

“The district spent $5.6 million to remodel this school,” said Walnut Valley school board president Cindy Ruiz. “I wish my children went here, it’s great environment for kids.”

Lush landscaping greets parents as they drive up to drop off their children. The vibrant shrubs and trees set the tone for the striking campus.

Inside, architects have balanced energy efficiency with high technology to produce a state-of-the-art school.

“We can have rainbows all day long,” said kindergarten teacher Lisa Esse.

Esse explained how light tubes channel sunlight into each classroom. Teachers can control shutters to allow just the right amount of light into their room.

“If you tweak the control just right, the prisms will form a faint rainbow,” Esse laughed. “The kids will love it.”

Ruiz turned off the lights to show how much natural light pours into the classrooms. It was still be easy to read a textbook.

“We have also installed new LED lighting throughout the school,” said Jeff Roule, construction manager for Walnut Valley Unified. He estimates the new lighting systems will save the school 20 percent on its electric bill.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story RENOVATION.

Four Diamond Bar students earn rank of Eagle Scout

Four members of Diamond Bar High School’s Class of 2014 earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America organization. Congratulations! The new Eagle Scouts are Matthew Kim, Nathaniel Rodriguez, Darren Wijaya and Samuel Hwang.  All of them are members of Troop 730 that meet at Calvary Chapel in Diamond Bar.
Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). A Scout who attains this rank is called an Eagle Scout or Eagle. Since its introduction in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 2 million young men. The title of Eagle Scout is held for life, thus giving rise to the phrase “Once an Eagle, always an Eagle”.

Diamond Bar couple engaged where it all began, Quail Summit

Sometimes, you know from the first dance, the first kiss, that she is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. Sometimes, it takes 17 years.

Michael Siacunco and Sarah Lin of Diamond Bar became engaged Friday night at Quail Summit Elementary. Not something you see every day in a public school.

Siacunco, an airman who works in systems engineering at Buckley Air Force Base outside of Denver, recently returned home for leave. He thought it was time for the next step in their relationship. His younger brother, Cody, pushed Michael to ask Sarah, now a cardiac unit nurse at UCLA Medical Center, to marry him.

“I thought it was time for all or nothing, the title of our first dance,” Michael said.

So the young man began his campaign to win over Sarah’s heart. Gathering his friends, Michael planned a special night that would remind her of their time together.

He recruited her friend to “hang out” with Sarah last Friday. The friend took her on some “errands.” They stopped at Chaparral, where friends held up a sign reminding her of the first kiss.

They stopped at Diamond Bar High, where other friends reminded them of their shared past, then the Diamond Bar Center, where the couple had spent so many hours talking about life.

Arriving at Quail Summit, Sarah started crying when she saw rose petals on the sidewalks lit by candlelight, with strings of lights on the railings. A movie screen showed a special video made by Michael.

Friends led her to the amphitheater, where Sarah had chased a little boy 17 years ago. “It was kind of blurred because I was crying so hard,” she said.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story ENGAGED. 

Music teachers at Walnut and Diamond Bar highs named quarter finalists by Grammy Foundation

Four Inland Valley educators were among 222 music teachers from 208 cities in 41 states who were selected as quarter finalists for the Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.

They were selected from more than 7,000 nominations from all 50 states.

The local honorees are Steven Acciani of Diamond Bar High, Anthony Allmond of Kaiser High in Fontana, Buddy Clements of Walnut High and Eufemio Escalante of Vina Danks Middle School in Ontario.

In September, a list of semi-finalists will be announced after which 10 finalists will be selected.  One recipient will be selected from the 10 finalists and will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award, attend the Grammy Awards ceremony, and receive a $10,000 honorarium.

The other nine finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists also will receive matching grants.

 

The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current educators (kindergarten to college, public and private schools) who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.

 

Link: http://www.dailybulletin.com/social-affairs/20140605/four-area-educators-nominated-for-national-award

Walnut Valley honors 26 retirees with 584 years of service

Walnut Valley Unified honored 2014 retirees  during a reception on May 21.

Walnut Valley Unified honored 2014 retirees during a reception on May 21.

Walnut Valley Unified School District gathered to celebrate the 2014 retiring staff members during a reception on May 21. Twenty-six employees were lauded for providing a total of 584 years of outstanding service to students.

Each retiree received personal tributes, retirement watch, and certificates of special recognition. “Thank you on behalf of the Board of Trustees,” said President Cindy Ruiz. “We appreciate every one of you and you will be missed!”

 Congratulations to the following retiring staff members:

Diana Thorneycroft – Senior Administrative Assistant, Business Services

Bonnie Lee, Instructional Aide, Castle Rock Elementary

Brad Chapman, Teacher, Chaparral Middle School

Sharon Mocho, Food Service Worker III, Chaparral Middle School

Marian Nelson, Attendance Clerk, Chaparral Middle School

Kerry Volkov, Instructional Aide II, Chaparral Middle School

Linda Gandana, Food Service Worker II, Collegewood Elementary

Edith Yu, Food Service Worker I, Collegewood Elementary

Jon Goode, Grade Level Coordinator, Diamond Bar High

Dennis Thomsen, Teacher, Educational Services

Gayle Douglas, Teacher, Maple Hill Elementary

Marsha Dickerson, Teacher, South Pointe Middle School

Jean Fujihara, Teacher, South Pointe Middle School

Claudia Huff, Teacher, South Pointe Middle School

Nadine Aquinaga, Food Service Worker I, Suzanne Middle School

Susan Gilbert, Administrative Secretary, Transportation

Lorraine Meier, Bus Driver, Transportation

Nea Tyler, Bus Driver, Transportation

Sandra Harutunian, Teacher, Vejar Elementary

Patricia Ackman, Food Service Worker II, Walnut Elementary

Tricia Aragon, Secretary II, Walnut High

Scott Cassells, Grade Level Coordinator, Walnut High

Lily Jacquot, Teacher, Walnut High

Christine Nagashima, Office Assistant, Walnut High

Patricia Finn, Teacher, Westhoff elementary

Diamond Ranch coach resigns amid hacking accusations in Diamond Bar

Roddy Layton resigned late last week as Diamond Ranch High School varsity football head coach as accusations swirl that the Panthers coaching staff hacked into rival Diamond Bar’s Hudl account to obtain important scouting information during the week of their game on Oct. 18, 2013.

Layton said his resignation is not related to a letter obtained by this publication and sent to the CIF-Southern Section last week by Diamond Bar that alleges Diamond Ranch coaches obtained Diamond Bar’s account information on Hudl and used video archives and notes to help prepare for the game.

Diamond Ranch won the game 34-20, but the night was marred by a benches-clearing brawl that led to the suspensions of several players from both teams. Diamond Bar forfeited its following game because it could not field a team. Diamond Ranch went on to win the league with a 6-0 record.

CIF-SS informed Diamond Bar the hacking accusations are a league matter. Hacienda League principals are expected to discuss the situation in a regularly scheduled meeting this week.

In the letter, Diamond Bar documents a steep rise in clicks or hits on its Hudl page the week of the game. Hudl.com has become a popular resource for coaches who can store game video, practice video and notes for game preparation. According to the letter, a former Diamond Ranch coach came forward to Ryan Maine, Diamond Bar’s head coach at the time, about the hacking.

Read more in Aram Tolegian’s story RESIGN.

Diamond Bar freshman selected for Math Olympiad program.

Diamond Bar Freshman Benjamin Chen is among a very small group of about 53 students (from the original pool of over 210,000 American Mathematics Competition participants) invited to take part in the 2014 Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program.  This year’s program will be held on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The purpose of the program is to broaden the participants’ view of mathematics and foster their excitement toward further study.  It will better prepares students for possible future participation on our International Mathematical Olympiad team as well as for possible careers involving mathematics.

South Pointe band performs at Heritage Festival in Chicago

The South Pointe Middle School Band performed at Chicago Symphony Hall during the Festival of Gold.

The South Pointe Middle School Band performed at Chicago Symphony Hall during the Festival of Gold.

the South Pointe Middle School Band recently performed in the Heritage Festival of Gold at the renowned Chicago Symphony Hall.  South Pointe was the only middle school ensemble among 22 high schools at the “Windy City” concert.

“We were the only band out of eight there to receive a standing ovation!” said Director Susan Willmering.

The 116-member group qualified to perform by submitting a recording and from consistent high scores during past Heritage Festivals.  During their Chicago experience, March 28-April1, the musicians participated in three clinics and three master classes at Northwestern University.

Students received extensive one-on-one time with internationally known musicians. The French horns sections worked with Gail Williams and the percussionists worked with She-e Wu.

South Pointe students also toured the city. They trekked to the top of Willis Tower, walked out onto the glass, and gazed out at the 103-story city view

They took in the Cloud Gate sculpture, unofficially dubbed The Bean, at Millennium Park; visited the Museum of Science and Industry where students controlled a three-story high tornado; saw an exciting Blue Man Group concert, and more!

“It was an amazing experience for everyone involved,” Willmering said.

Evergreen Elementary celebrates Earth Day in Diamond Bar

Recycled art was on display at Evergreen Elementary during the Earth Day celebration held on April 25. (Photo by Kelli Gile, Courtesy of Walnut Valley.)

Recycled art was on display at Evergreen Elementary during Earth Day celebration. (Photo by Kelli Gile of Walnut Valley)

By Kelli Gile, Walnut Valley Unified

Evergreen Elementary kindergarten students celebrated Earth Day during a spring program held April 25. Families gathered in the amphitheater as the children sang about the land and sea and springtime blossoms.

They performed This Land is Your Land, Magic Penny, Baby Beluga, Everything Grows, Springtime Magic, and We All Live Together. Teacher Mona Warren happily strummed her guitar behind the children during the Octopus song.

“Kindergarteners, you did an awesome job today,” said Principal Carolyn Wills.

“Parents you will be hearing a lot more about S.T.E.A.M – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. And here at Evergreen, it starts with our kindergarteners!”

After the music, several Common Core activities were held in the kindergarten play yard. Families posed for a “ Jaws” keepsake photo and estimated the length of a blue whale with yarn, rulers, and wrapping paper tubes.

The head of the giant 100’ mammal was drawn on the playground with chalk, and families with their kindergarten students had to use assorted tools provided to solve the challenge of “How far would this 100 foot whale reach?  How could we measure it with the tools we have?”

Austin Teng, age 6, promised to recycle and pick up trash to help the Earth. Teacher Sam Li gave a science lesson during the Float or Sink Jellyfish demonstration.  The children placed plastic jellyfish into liter-sized water bottles and learned they floated because oxygen is lighter than the water!

Inside classrooms, families worked together to fill in an attribute chart of student created artwork in categories such as vertebrates, invertebrates, and many other terms that showed how much they had learned. They also worked together on an ABC Earth Day word search and make pledges to take care of Mother Earth.  Sophia Tian said she would ride bicycle to take care of the Earth.

Earth Day was also celebrated with creative artwork. Recycled art pieces were on display outside classrooms and recycling pledges framed the playground. Students created a replica of themself as an Earth Kid, holding the planet and creating a personal pledge of how they can take care of our Earth.

“Our dedicated kindergarten teachers, Mona Warren, Kathy Riddle, Melody Fernandez, Julie Jeon, and Sam Li completely revamped the kindergarten spring program to create experiences that foster creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

This is an excellent example of the new Common Core State Standards and STEAM instruction that our students need to be successful in college, career and beyond!” said Principal Carolyn Wills.