Hollingworth celebrates 50th with family festival in West Covina

Hollingworth Elementary will celebrate its 50th anniversary today with a Golden Harvest Celebration from 4:30 to 7 p.m. today in West Covina.

Rowland Unified families and alumni, as well as community members, are invited to enjoy food trucks, games, music and a petting zoo.

Parking is available on surrounding streets and at Telesis Academy.

Community library opens today at Nogales High School

The Nogales High School Community Library hours opens today to serve the community with a variety of programs and resources for all ages. The community may park in the school lot, enter through the “H” building pass way, to the library located on the left. (Nogales High School is located at 401 S. Nogales Street, La Puente, CA 91744).

  • Free homework help 3 pm – 5 pm for students grades k-6 (parents must accompany students)
  • Free computer lab (all ages)
  • Check out books (all ages)
  • Story Time / Activity Thursdays 4 pm – 5 pm
  • Quiet places to meet, work or conduct small events

Hours :    Monday-Friday, 3 pm – 7 pm (except school holidays)

For more information, call Louise Garnica (626) 965-3437 ext. 3666

Nogales High School undergoes massive facelift in Rowland Unified

The giant steel beam twisted in the wind as the bright, red crane hoisted it high above Nogales High School in La Puente. Iron workers clambered up steel I-beams to guide the burly beam in place on the roof of the new two-story administration building.

This spring, work crews began to construct the new buildings that will completely change the face of Nogales High School. Eight-foot-tall metal letters will proudly proclaim the new Nogales.

Four new structures, as well as parking and entrance areas, will revitalize the school. The projected cost is between $30 million to $35 million, with a grand opening in the fall of 2015.

“It will be a beautiful campus when it’s finished,” said board member Lynne Ebenkamp. “We appreciate everyone’s patience during the construction. But the wait will be well worth it.”

Construction began almost two years ago, when contractors came in to install new utilities throughout the sprawling campus. Open trenches were the order of the day, but finally new electric, water, gas and sewers were safely underground.

Then, contractors began the process of remodeling the classrooms wings. After gutting the old buildings, work crews rebuilt them from the inside out. 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.

Last year, demolition crews came in to raze the front of the school, bulldozing the administration building as well as several others. Hazardous materials contractors cleaned up any asbestos and other toxic substances.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story NOGALES.

Ybarra Academy discusses social issues in Rowland Unified

The elementary student snuggled in his nest of newspapers, trying to get comfortable. Victor Sepulveda, 12, offered him more papers to use as a blanket at Ybarra Academy of Arts and Technology in Walnut.

Sixth graders throughout the sprawling Rowland Unified campus were presenting their International Baccalaureate projects for their final grades. Each team of students delved into a important issue to explore the problem’s cause and possible solution.

Victor was making a poignant point about poverty in Brazil. His team had also built a small cardboard shack to represent the homes of poor families in the South American country. He had a parent join three students in the paper house.

“Many children don’t go to school there,” the IB student explained. “They often work 9 hours straight in dirty jobs and get paid 58 cents an hour.”

Across the campus, another team was talking about the plight of the homeless in America. Phoebe Sales, 12, Rachel Song, Amber Delpina and Carmen Miranda, all 11, decided to reach out to the homeless in our area.

“We wanted to make blessing bags to give out,” Carmen explained. “So we’re giving a bag to each student to make a small care package for the homeless.”

Students lined up to put soap, band aids, combs, water and tissues among other items into the blessing bags. They included a small card of encouragement.

“The sixth graders spend a couple months working on their projects. They do all the research, compile information and create an activity to share with the younger students,” said IB coordinator Mariela Moscal. “Their presentations have been very professional.”

Another team of six graders explored the issue of social stereotypes. They wanted their classmates at Ybarra to realize some of the prejudices they may find in the outside world.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story ISSUES.

Rowland teachers declare impasse in contract talks with Rowland Unified

Rowland teachers have declared an impasse in the stalled contract negotiations with the Rowland Unified School District.

The Association of Rowland Educators is asking the state to send in a mediator to handle further negotiations. The state steps in when regular negotiations break down.

“We’re filing the paperwork now to declare an impasse with the state,” said ARE President John Petersen.

Union officials say the contract talks broke down during the eighth bargaining session last Thursday. In an email to the teachers, Nadine Loza, bargaining chair, explained what happened.

“The ARE bargaining team was disappointed (but not surprised) when the district presented their counterproposal after lunch. The district’s proposal was not significantly different from their last proposal. Overall, the district has not moved significantly from their initial proposal especially on critical issues like salary, benefits, planning time, adjunct duties and combo classes.”

The teachers’ representatives say they declared a impasse and cancelled the next bargaining session set for Thursday.

“There’s a backlog for mediators, so we don’t expect the state to assign one for at least six weeks,” Petersen said.

This mediator will meet with both sides to try and work out the differences. Petersen insists the bargaining teams will not meet until the state assigns a mediator.

When asked if this breakdown could lead to a teachers’ strike, Petersen was reticent to say what can happen if negotiations worsen.

“There’s no trust there. It took six months to agree that seventh- and eighth-grade teachers belong in the secondary classification,” Petersen said.

But in its newsletter, the association was more candid about whether there would be a strike.

“That is really up to the district at this point. The process of mediation is designed to help avoid a strike by bringing both teams under a mediator to try to reach an agreement. The association is committed to parity and will pursue all channels available to achieve this.

“It is the sincere wish of ARE to avoid the damage to RUSD caused by a strike. Having said that, our commitment to justice is stronger than our commitment to peace and we will move forward towards the inevitable outcome of parity.”

District officials said the teachers’ union moved from 12.5 percent raise over two years to 10 percent over one year. The district moved its offer from 3.5 percent to a 4.5 percent salary increase over two years.

“I won’t get into specific figures because that makes negotiations very difficult,” Petersen said. “But I have all the facts and figures that prove our teachers are paid much less than other school districts.”

Beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience earn an annual salary of $45,180 at RUSD and is ranked 18th out of 47 school districts, according to a salary survey from the Los Angeles County Office of Education dated June 2013. Arcadia Unified was No. 1 with starting salaries at $49,874; Bassett Unified was near the bottom at $38,776. Charter Oak was last at $38,495.

Teachers with a master’s degree and listed as the maximum salary step for RUSD earn $69,216, for a ranking of 21 out of 34 districts for which there was comparable data, according to the LACOE report.

The district also proposed increasing its maximum health benefits contribution for teachers by $850 over two years.

“We’re still paying much more for health insurance than other districts,” Petersen countered. “I’m paying $1,200 a month to cover my family.”

Steve Scauzillo contributed to this story.