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.

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

Rowland High Raiders plan 50th anniversary jubilee

The community is invited on Friday, Sept. 26,  to celebrate Rowland High School’s 50th anniversary with a fun-filled jubilee!

With a bow to its beginnings when Rowland was a small community where students were just as likely to ride a horse to school as drive a car, the 50th Jubilee will boast a good ole’ fashioned Country/Western theme.

Everyone is invited: alumni, students, parents, faculty/staff (past and present), and community members. The campus will be filled with activities such as food booths to tantalize a variety of tastes, game booths, entertainment, a trip down memory lane, and tours of the new modernized facilities will begin at 3:15 p.m.

Afterwards everybody is invited to the stadium to cheer the Rowland Raiders football team on to victory at 7 p.m.

Rowland High School Principal Mitch Brunyer is in charge of the volunteer committee. “Being a lifelong Raider as a student, teacher, and now principal of the school, I am very proud of its history and traditions. I look forward to highlighting the school and its connection to the community – we hope everyone can help support and attend this community event!”

COMMUNITY SUPPORT NEEDED:  Please help with this gala by donating funds and/or goods. All contributions are tax-deductible. Banners are available for purchase ($250-$1,000) for display outside the Rowland High School Tom Aney Stadium for the entire school year.Contact ASB Director Leslie Phillips at (626)965-3448 ext. 3323 orlphillips@rowland.k12.ca.usFor more information visit www.rowlandhs.org

FOOD & DRINK ITEMS IN NEED      SAMPLE OF OTHER ITEMS

Water bottles Toys & giveaways for game booths
Hot dogs/Hot dog buns

Hamburgers/Hamburger Buns

Paint (cans of red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, black, and white)
Condiments Brushes, Rollers, & Paint Trays
Soda, lemonade, ice tea Plywood
Individual bags of chips Poles/logs for hitching post & directional signs
Fruit or Fruit Trays Tall metal stakes to hang lanterns
Veggie Trays Hay bales
Rolls of Blue & white checkered tablecovers Plastic Sleeves for Scrapbooking
Paper Plates & Napkins Adhesive (Tombow) for Scrapbooking Pictures
Napkins & Silverware (Clear Plastic) Picture Canvas/Framed/Acid Free Pen
Troughs for ice/drink storage Mannequins, scarecrows/t-type poles to display
                DECORATION ITEMS clothing
Any Country Western Items/Style Decor 2 x 4 – 20 ft. STD/BRT Premium Doug Fir (need 6)
Old Wagon Wheels 2 x 4 – 12 ft. STD/BRT Premium Doug Fir (need 28)
Fake Horses for hitching post 2 x 4 – 16 ft. STD/BTR Premium Doug Fir (need 21)
Wine barrels to use for tables  
Cowboy Hats  
Electrical spools for tables

Rowland Unified surprises students on first day of school

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Rowland Unified started the new school year Monday with the usual hustle and bustle of students looking for their classrooms.

Killian Elementary in Rowland Heights even welcomed the kids back with 10 tables of free books.

But older students will notice the biggest changes in the district’s high schools.

Nogales High students were greeted by the steel skeletons of the massive new front wing being added to the school. Giant cranes continued to lift the steel into place for the complex.

The project will provide new administration offices and classrooms, as well as multipurpose rooms and food services. Four new buildings will revitalize the school at a projected cost of $30 million to $35 million. It will open in the fall of 2015.

Meanwhile, students are already enjoying the new classrooms renovated over the past two years. New walls and ceilings provide quiet, comfortable classrooms that save energy and lighting. A new digital infrastructure permits the latest technology for teachers and students.

Teacher Jane Richey certainly appreciates her new culinary center. Richey welcomed students to her Introduction to Cooking. The popular elective will have the young chefs cook in the eight modern kitchens featuring Jenn-Air gas stoves and microwave ovens.

The teens can watch four big-screen televisions as Richey demonstrates a cooking technique under the watchful eye of a digital camera.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SCHOOL.

Rowland’s Family Resource Center offers fresh start for homeless

Rowland Unified’s Family Resource Center will join many community partners to make sure that our homeless students have backpacks, school supplies, shoes, uniforms and dental supplies.

More than 250 students from across the district will receive these supplies on on Thursday at Hurley Elementary in La Puente and on Friday at Jellick Elementary in Rowland Heights.

Special thanks to Kiwanis Shoes That Fit and Faith Community Church for their volunteers.

Would you like to volunteer to help? Call the Family Resource Center at (626) 854-2228

New teachers receive orientation in Rowland Unified

New teachers pose for photo at Rowland Unified.

New teachers pose for photo at Rowland Unified.

New teachers from across the District participated this week in a two-day orientation to the Rowland Unified School District. Teachers engaged in collaborative learning around RUSD’s mission statement, efficacious instructional practices, Common Core standards, and ELD standards.

Rowland Unified launches new website

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Fresh Look to District Website!

Today we launched the new District websitewww.RowlandSchools.org

RUSD Employees – You now have access to helpful staff services and resources under the Staff Services Directory: Find links to Outlook Web Access, Aeries.Net, Aesop Sub Management, RUSD Forms, Rowland Blogs and Wikis, the District Staff Only Section of the website and more!

 

Rowland Unified passes $147 million budget with $9 million deficit

The Rowland Unified School Board has approved a $147 million budget for 2014-15 with a $9 million deficit. That amount could increase millions more if both sides approve the 8 percent raise reached in Tuesday’s tentative agreement with the teachers’ union.

In March, Rowland teachers declared an impasse in the stalled contract negotiations. The Association of Rowland Educators asked the state to send a mediator to handle further negotiations.

The school district announced the tentative agreement on Thursday. They said it had been reached 8 p.m. Tuesday during the fourth mediation session.

Under the multi-year agreement, teachers will receive a 4 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2013, as well as another salary increase of 4 percent effective July 1, 2014.

The school district’s maximum contribution to employee health and welfare benefits will also increase to $11,000, effective January 1, 2015. And there will be a $1,500 cash-in-lieu payment for eligible employees who elect to opt out of the district’s health and welfare benefits coverage.

“The association is pleased that after a very long struggle that a fair agreement has been reached and can be sent to membership for a vote,” said ARE President Shay Lohman.

“I am thrilled that the teams reached an agreement yesterday,” said Interim Superintendent John Roach. “The school year will begin with all employees focused on meeting the needs of our students.”

During the negotiations, the school board had to approve a budget for the coming school year, which will now have to be amended when the teachers’ new contract is approved.

Ajay Mohindra, Rowland’s interim chief financial officer, pointed out that 82 percent of the revenue next year will come from the new Local Control Funding Formula. Another 10 percent will come from the state, with the federal government kicking in 7 percent.

Total revenues should top $138 million, up from the $133 million received in the last fiscal year. As the new formula kicks in, revenues are projected to grow to $146 million in 2015-16 and more than $149 million in 2016-17.

But Rowland will still have to draw from its ending balance of $52 million to cover the double-digit deficit. That will draw reserves down to $41 million by the end of the next fiscal year, even more depending on the salary settlement.

“Nearly half of our expenditures is for teachers’ salaries and benefits,” Mohindra explained. “When you add the other classified salaries and benefits, that’s 79 percent of our budget.”

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story BUDGET.

Rowland Unified settles contract with teachers’ union

By Rowland Unified School District

The Rowland Unified School District Board of Education announced today that a comprehensive three year (2013-2016) tentative agreement was reached at approximately 8:15 p. m. on July 8 by the RUSD and Association of Rowland Educators (ARE) negotiation teams after meeting with the State-Appointed Mediator for a fourth mediation session.

As a result, there will be no formal negotiations during the 2014-2015 school year and only limited negotiations during the 2015-2016 school year.

“The tentative agreement reached clearly recognizes the dedicated work of our Rowland teachers while leaving the district in a solid financial position for the future. I would like to acknowledge the hard work done on both sides of the aisle by our bargaining teams,” said RUSD Board President Heidi L. Gallegos

Highlights of the Tentative Agreement include: multi-year agreement (2013-2016); salary increase of 4%, retroactive to July 1, 2013; Salary Increase of 4%, effective July 1, 2014; District’s maximum contribution to employee health and welfare benefits increased to $11,000, effective January 1, 2015; $1,500 cash- in-lieu payment for eligible employees who elect to opt out of District health and welfare benefits coverage; late start to continue at high schools for 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years; and reduced counselor ratios.

“The Association is pleased that after a very long struggle that a fair agreement has been reached and can be sent to membership for a vote. We are very grateful for the leadership provided recently by interim Superintendent Dr. Roach and we are excited about the possibilities that lay ahead for RUSD,” said ARE President Shay Lohman.

The tentative agreement will be presented to ARE members for ratification within the next 2-3 weeks. After ratification by ARE members, it will be presented to the school board at its’ Aug. 12 meeting. As part of the District’s review process, the economic provisions of the Tentative Agreement will also be shared with the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Each team vowed to work diligently to implement the terms of the agreement once the tentative agreement is ratified/approved by all parties.

“I am thrilled that the teams reached an agreement yesterday,” said Interim Superintendent, John Roach. “The school year will begin with all employees focused on meeting the needs of our students.”

Bargaining team members for the School District were: Ajay Mohindra, Interim Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services; Melissa Neal, Director Pupil Services; Jason Gass, Principal Killian; Sergio Canal, Principal Nogales High School; and Douglas Staine, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources.

ARE negotiation team members were: Eileen Fetters, Executive Director of ARE; John Petersen, Teacher Rowland High School; Clare Ruesga, teacher

Rowland High School; Gilbert Navarro, Teacher Oswalt Academy; Sharyn Sigler, Teacher Oswalt Academy; and Yvonne Martini, Teacher Hollingworth Elementary.