December 2017 Principal's Message

posted Dec 19, 2017, 3:09 PM by Vice President Communications

Happy Holidays, Walnut Acres Parents!

With our Winter Holiday around the bend, here’s what’s happening at school starting with two opportunities for you to provide input…

Healthy Kids Survey

Presently, 20 Walnut Acres parents have completed the parent survey, which seeks input from parents each year in order to evaluate relationships among students, parents, and school staff. The data is used at the district level and by Walnut Acres staff, School Site Council, and our Safety Committee as we analyze our successes and challenges leading to next year’s goals. The district is seeking a 70% survey completion rate and we are currently at a 3% completion rate.

The survey remains open until 12/31/17, so please go to the Walnut Acres website homepagehere and scroll to ‘Current News’ to complete the anonymous 15-minute survey. The link has also been sent to you via Konstella. You are welcome to request a paper copy of the survey from the office if you prefer. We have the Colab (B-6) open during parent conferences so that if you do not have the opportunity to complete the survey prior to your conference, you may complete the survey before or after your parent conference. 

Teacher of the Year Nominations for 2018-19  

MDUSD is looking for a nomination from each school site for Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year (TOY) 2018-19.  Administrators, teachers, parents, and/or students may nominate classroom teachers who have demonstrated a passion for teaching, an ability to differentiate instruction to meet students’ needs, and teachers who connect with and support their school community.  A description of the Teacher of the Year process and a brief nomination form may be found here: TOY processnomination form. Both items are also located on the district website. All nomination forms are due to the district office by Friday, 1/20/18.​


We lost a beloved member of our staff as of last Friday. Consuelo Sanchez, our head custodian, has transferred to Strandwood in hopes of having less stress on her back. There are fewer job-imbedded furniture movement requirements at her new site, especially with daily MUR lunch set-up. Consuelo has worked with diligence to keep our old buildings in shape, and she has practiced consistent positive patience with our very busy community as we all turned to her for facility-related support. I know you join me in thanking Consuelo for her years of dedication to excellence as we mourn her departure and wish her health and happiness at her new assignment! We will have a substitute custodian until a new lead custodian is selected.

Social-Emotional Learning

You may know that we have added “Be Kind” to our list of “Jaguar Way” rules to highlight that life skill along with our “Be Safe,” “Be Respectful,” and “Be Responsible” rules. We have been focusing on the value of kindness in December, and our effort will culminate with our Caring Sing-out on Wednesday, 12/20/17, starting at 8:00 a.m. for 3rd-5th grade students and repeated at 8:30 a.m. for TK-2nd grade students. Our Sing-outs are fun learning experiences for our children, and you are welcome to join us. Just remember that you are not witnessing a performance designed for parents, you are observing instruction in progress.

As we help students understand the life skill of Caring we have discussed attitudes of appreciation, feelings of empathy, acts of kindness, and we have considered the application of that learning to our treatment of one another at school. We will continue the conversation about treating one another respectfully and with empathy in 2018 as speakers from Soul Shoppe join us at a staff meeting and at an assembly.

And here’s an adult opportunity to support Caring at Walnut Acres: I ask all of you to make families from other cultures feel welcome at our school. I know we pride ourselves on being an inclusive community, and I ask you to help me ensure that our families from other parts of the world sense that welcome from us. As parents, you can do that with smiles of welcome, inclusion in your conversations, and invitations to join in fundraising and community event planning. It is also crucial to remind our children to welcome peers from other cultures, whether they wear a hijab or eat unusual foods or are learning English. For example, some parents are reporting to me that their children are hesitant to eat their ethnic foods at lunch because they are worried about getting teased at school! That saddens me, and our imbedded life skill curriculum will certainly address this issue, but I encourage YOU to tackle that topic at home and specifically reinforce the message your child receives about kindness, caring, and respect for those who are different in some way. Thank you!  

And one more caring consideration…If you are looking for a local donation site, consider HOPE(Homeless Outreach Program for Education.) The program is designed to provide needed supplies to homeless and foster youth within our district. At this time of year, the HOPE team focuses on gathering holiday treats for local MDUSD children and teens. Check out the letter with more details from Director James Wogan in the “Current News” section of our homepage on our school website. 

Academic Activities

Our powerful language arts instructional practices continue as we hone our Workshop implementation. Meanwhile, we are reviewing/piloting commercial phonics programs in order to articulate the decoding/encoding element of our K-2nd grade language arts instruction.

Our Math instruction now includes K-5th grade Math Talks at least twice weekly in order to ensure that all students are reflecting on how they attack math problems and engaging in rigorous peer discussions as they share their math thinking. We are also training to implement performance-based math activities on a routine basis to assist in making math learning meaningful. To highlight the performance-based math component of our math curriculum, we will implement a schoolwide Problem of the Month practice starting in January. Each month, teams of students or individuals across grade levels will tackle story problems at increasingly sophisticated levels, and their self-selected work will be posted for other students to review. The Problem of the Month instructional strategy is intended to enhance students’ enthusiasm to challenge their mathematical thinking and provide another level of student choice and differentiation to our math curriculum.

Technology/engineering activities continue, with ongoing strategies such as Hour of Code morphing to include pre-Hour of Code lessons. New engineering units are also being developed. This month, Ms. Galindo rolled out a robotics experience to 2nd and 3rd graders in which the students created Bristlebots and Doodlebots respectively. Next month and beyond, students in each grade level will participate in a robotics-based unit using a variety of materials including Spheros, Dashes & Dots, and Ozobots.

Working Collaboratively with your Child’s Teacher

I hope that your teacher/parent conferences are proceeding successfully. Your child’s teacher has worked diligently to collect and organize data and observations about your child to tell the story of your child’s school progress. I know the vast majority of these conferences are positive experiences for both you and the teacher and your collaboration will be stress-free.

For those conferences that are not easy, remember that you and your child’s teacher both want the same thing: success for your child. Please bring your concerns or questions to your child’s teacher directly and respectfully with that knowledge in mind. I am happy to support problem-solving as you and the teacher work together to support your child’s learning.

Click here for an article from the CA State PTA (Parent Teacher Association) about preparing for a teacher parent conference. It is worth reviewing as you prepare for and reflect on your child’s conference.

Best Wishes

I close with thanks for your collaborative work with school staff, particularly our hard-working teachers, to support your child’s learning and I offer my best wishes as your family prepares for the long winter break! May ‘the joy of giving and the blessing of family’ be the core of your child’s holiday experience, and may 2018 provide continued opportunity for us to collaborate in teaching our children to be the best they can be academically and emotionally.  As educator Dr. Marc A. Brackett says in his presentation  Creating an Emotion Revolution in our Nation’s Schools, "By listening to students and helping them develop their emotion skills alongside their reading, writing, and math skills, we can create the kind of classrooms, schools, and communities we all want to have – ones that are safe, open, kind, engaging and supportive."

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

See you in 2018!

Colleen Dowd,

Lucky principal