Principal's Messages

Principal's Message - December 16, 2019

posted Dec 16, 2019, 8:29 AM by Vice President Communications

Season’s Greetings to You and Your Family, and Best Wishes for the New Year!
I wish the entire Walnut Acres community a peaceful, restful, and joyous holiday season.  May you enjoy spending time with your loved ones, and along the way, be able to do something special for yourself.  Most importantly, remember to take care of yourself as the holidays can be a stressful time.  Take a break and read with your children, cook with them, take a walk, or play board games and card games.  These precious moments build memories and fun for all.

Thank you families and friends for your generosity and enthusiasm for reading. We raised about $34,000 and this money goes toward funding school programs and hiring personnel.  Congratulations to Ms. Beuchotte’s first grade class and Ms. Buckingham’s fourth grade class for raising the most money, and, consequently, earning an ice cream party. A special thank you goes out to M’Lissa Fleming and Carolyn Bargagliotti for leading this successful fundraiser and making it fun with a western theme.  Teachers and students displayed great school spirit by dressing in western gear on the last day of the Read-A-Thon.  Yippee-Ay-Oh!

How appropriate that our character trait of focus for December is “Caring.”  Two student activities that demonstrated caring for others are the Toy and Clothing Drive and the donation of our Lost and Found clothes.  The Girl Scouts created the posters for our annual Toy and Clothing Drive that were displayed around the school.  All donated goods and toys went to the families and students of Shore Acres Elementary School in Bay Point. Stephanie Balistreri, mom of Ella, spent many hours sorting and driving these donations to personally deliver them to Shore Acres.  Thank you to all who donated.  Thank you all for your care! 

The Student Council sorted and donated the school’s Lost and Found clothing to the fire victims. We appreciate the Student Council’s effort, care, and leadership in taking care of others, and also for cleaning up our Lost and Found bin.  Thanks to Faye Mettler, who is also one of our science teachers, for working with the Student Council. 

Spotlights on Our Learning
One of the most exciting parts of my job is being in the classrooms to experience firsthand when teaching and learning are happening. I love talking to students about what they are learning and doing. These moments are important because they remind me why I’m doing the work I do.  I would like to share some instruction and learning highlights that have been happening at Walnut Acres these past couple of weeks:

TK-K- One important component to reading is learning about letter names, sounds and putting them together to make a word. That is what our TK and K students are learning.  Teachers call this segmenting and blending sounds. Some students do this out loud because they need to hear it, while others can do this silently. 

1stgrade- The first graders are doing a great job using the base 10, subitizing numbers, and explaining their mathematical thinking. It is wonderful to hear students discuss about what they are doing and how they are solving the math with each other. 

2ndgrade – Teachers coordinated a day of fun and learning about various holidays when students from all 4 second grade classrooms were assigned to be with students from other classrooms.  They rotated through all four classrooms playing games, reading, engaging in arts and crafts activities. 

3rdgrade- Can you drop and egg and not break it? Ask the third graders and they will show you how.  Students designed and built an apparatus that could prevent an egg from breaking when dropped from a height of over six feet.  You should have heard all the excitement during the egg drops. 

4thgrade- Students sang beautifully at last Thursday’s grade level performance of “December in Our Town.”  It was wonderful to see families, grandparents, and everyone there.  Our MUR was full.  Thank you to the fourth grade teachers and Judy Ryken. Good job everyone!

5thgrade- I wish I had teachers who could scaffold instruction and show me how to do things as well as the teachers we have. As a part of the writer’s workshop, students learned to do research about their topic, take notes, sort their ideas into categories, write a flash draft, and that is just half way through the writing process.  Students are working on writing an opinion paper.  In pre-algebra, students could concretely see how one side of the equation equals to the other side by using manipulatives. Maneuvering the manipulatives around and balancing the equation helped students solve for the unknown variable.

Hour of Code- Students, TK- 5 grades, were motivated and engaged in exploring ways to create and design with coding.  I’m impressed by their ability to design a scenery with graphics that could move, change background, blink, and make sounds. The best part is they did not need my help.  I was actually learning from them.

Science Fair Kick-Off Assembly: Wow, what an amazing presentation by Michael Meneghetti, a retired science teacher and the husband of our science teacher, Julia Meneghetti. The performance was like a magic show, only we know there is no magic.  It is purely science? 

Early Dismissal for Dec. 16- 20
Please note for Friday, 12/20, TK and K dismissal time is 11:17AM, while 1st,2nd, and 3rdgraders are dismissed at 12:59, and 4thand 5thgraders are dismissed at 1:10.

Warmest Wishes,
Principal Luong


Upcoming Events
12/16- 20 Early Dismissal (See schedule above)
12/18 Sing Out, “Caring,” Wednesday, 8:00- 8:30 (3-5 grades), 8:30- 9:00 (TK- 2 grades)
12/19 TK-Kindergarten Sing-Along, 10:00, MUR
12/23- 1/06 Winter Vacation
1/07 Return to School on a Tuesday
1/09 School Site Council, 3:00- 4:00, Library

Principal's Message - November 21, 2019

posted Nov 21, 2019, 7:19 PM by Vice President Communications

Happy Thanksgiving Walnut Acres Families!

Today, I reflected on the beauty of Autumn, as I stood in front of the School, and watched the yellow and red leaves falling about the picnic tables while the students walked by.  I am so thankful on this Thanksgiving holiday to be your principal.  The Walnut Acres community is truly special. Thank you for everything you do for our school.

Minimum Days Schedule During Parent/Teacher Conferences for Dec. 9- 20:

Parent-Teacher conferences will be held December 9-13 and December 16-20, 2019. We will have early dismissal both weeks. Please see the chart below for each grade level’s dismissal times.

Parent Teacher Conference

The parent teacher conference is an opportunity for you to meet with your child’s teacher and learn about how your child is doing both socially and academically. Ask questions about your child’s strengths as well as areas for growth, and ways you can help your child.  This is also a time to share any pertinent information about your child’s home life with the teacher.  Remember, conference time is limited, so ask the most important questions first.  You can always ask to have another meeting with the teacher if necessary.  It’s important that you have regular communication with the teacher regarding your child’s progress.  Finally, share with your child what was discussed. 

PFC Fundraising

Each year, the PFC fundraises approximately $400,000 to support our school programs.  Much of this money is donated by families like yours.  What is this money used for? More than 80% of the money raised is used to pay for staff salaries, such as our reading and math specialists, the STEM teacher, vocal music and science teachers. All these programs are unique and important to Walnut Acres; they bring rigor, innovation, and extra support for our students. The remaining funds pay for operating expenses, curriculum support, and campus support.  So, please help us meet our goal again this year by donating to the PFC if you have not already done so.  Thank you so much to those who have already donated. 

Important Dates:

11/18- 12/2 Read-A-Thon
11/25- 11/29 Thanksgiving Break
12/2- 12/5 Toy & Clothing Drive
12/12- 4thgrade performance, “December in Our Town,” 7:00pm
12/18- Sing Out, “Caring,” 8:00- 9:00
12/23- 1/6 Winter Recess
1/7- Return to School

Principal's Message - October 14, 2019

posted Oct 14, 2019, 9:39 AM by Vice President Communications   [ updated Oct 14, 2019, 10:18 AM ]

Happy October Walnut Acres Families!
Excitement is in the air! Please join the staff of Walnut Acres for the Halloween Parade on October 31 at 8:15am, on the playground blacktop. All parents are welcome. Please keep costume weapons and sharp objects at home. Costume mask should only be worn during the parade. The kids will be just too cute to talk about. Great photo opportunities! Hope to see you there!

This past weekend we had a wonderful Community Service Day: about forty school members and community partners rejuvenated the outdoor area by staining, cleaning, planting, and weeding among other things. We also centralized the placement of our emergency supplies to the shed marked with a red cross on the playground. We greatly appreciate your help! A special thank you goes to Caroline Clerempuy and Justin Trana for spear heading this important event.

Sing Out
The Sing Out will be on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 8:00- 9:00 (8:00 3rd-5th grades, and 8:30 TK-2nd grades). We will be celebrating the life skill “Responsibility.”

Car Line at Drop Off
As drivers, please respect the car line in the parking lot. It is unacceptable to cut the line. Do not leave your car unattended in the car line. This can cause back ups into the street causing frustration and unsafe driving conditions. Also, do not park in the no parking
zones on the street parallel to the carline. This further backs-up the car line and the entire street. Pedestrians should use the marked crosswalk to avoid potential complications with automobiles.

No Dogs on Campus
This is a reminder to leave your four-legged family member at home.  In addition to allergy concerns, we cannot be certain how a dog would "act out or react" and the situation could spiral quickly out of control. Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated.

CA ShakeOut
Walnut Acres students and staff will participate in this earthquake drill on Friday, October 18 at 10:25am. As a part of our safety plan, we hold monthly safety drills. During this drill, students will practice, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” For Everyone Drop to the ground, take Cover under a table or desk, and Hold On to it.

Parent Advisory Council (PAC)
The Parent Advisory Council to the Superintendent (PAC) is comprised of parent representatives from each school. They meet with the Superintendent and other district staff on a monthly basis during the school year to help implement and monitor the elements of the Local Control Accountability Plan.  In addition, members also work
together to:

  • Identify common needs and goals among the parents/guardians of students enrolled in Mt. Diablo Schools and facilitate strategies to increase efficiency and effectiveness
  • Provide the superintendent with feedback and insight from the parent’s perspective on school process, policies and initiatives to ensure that the needs of parents and their families are included as decisions are made in the district
  • Serve as an advisory group that makes recommendations, encourages brainstorming, and provides opportunities for parent involvement on committees and task forces
  • Facilitate communication between and among the parents and parent organizations from different district schools and serve as a forum for sharing innovations and best practices from around the district

All parents are welcome to attend one or all the PAC meetings, which take place on Oct.17, Nov. 14, Jan. 16, Mar. 19, and May 21, 3:30- 5:00, at the Willow Creek Center on 1026 Mohr Lane in Concord. Childcare and light snacks are provided at all meetings. Please attend a meeting and represent Walnut Acres.

Future Events and Activities
10/15    PFC Meeting, 7pm, library
10/21-10/25 Fifth Grade Camp at Walker Creek
10/18    District English Language Advisory Council (DELAC)- 5:30pm, Willow Creek Center
10/ 24   School Site Council- 3:00- 4:00pm
10/25-26 CUYT 3rd/4th grade show “The Lion King”
10/29    Picture Make Up Day
10/30    Sing-Out 8-9am
10/31    Halloween Costume Parade - 8:15am
11/4- 11/8 Scholastic Book Fair
11/11    Veteran's Day - NO SCHOOL
11/19    PFC Meeting - 7pm, Library
11/18-12/2 Read-a-Thon

Principal's Message - September 17, 2019

posted Sep 17, 2019, 8:30 AM by Vice President Communications

Happy September Parents and Guardians, 

We are off to a good start to the school year. The students have become reacquainted with school routines and procedures. The teachers have worked diligently to build a caring and safe community, establish academic and behavioral expectations, and connect with every student. The newly completed reading and math data from student assessments will assist classroom and support teachers in understanding student abilities, assessing strengths as well as areas for growth. Teachers also use this data to deliver differentiated instruction, and provide extra support for students not yet meeting grade level expectations. 

Every Day Counts 
Help your child receive at least eight hours of sleep, eat a healthy breakfast, and arrive at school on time everyday. When a child is late, s/he may miss many important information, direction, and instruction given by the teacher. This leaves the child not knowing what to do when s/he arrives late. Furthermore, for some classroom, this is the prime time when the teacher works on community building, when students can check in with each other as well as with the teacher to go over the daily schedule, check in how everyone is feeling, and what everyone’s goals are for the day. If this time is lost, it can cause students to feel disconnected to the classroom community and team. 

Please consider planning family trips during school holidays. No independent study assignments can fully replace the true experience of learning like at school. Independent studies are available if the student will be out of school 5 or more consecutive days. Please allow teachers at least 2 weeks notifications to create the work required. If your child is sick, report the absence by calling 925-682-8000, ext. 7242 or report the absence online at 

Keeping our Children Safe 
We need your help and cooperation to keep our students safe. When visiting the school during school hours, please check in and out at the office, obtain and wear a visitor’s sticker. When the school bell rings at 8:00, please make your way off campus. The playground needs to be emptied as PE classes begin. Especially on Wednesday after school, please sit at the tables in the courtyard until dismissal if you arrive early. This routine allows classrooms to have quiet space until class has ended for the day. Furthermore, although primary grades are dismissed at 12:30 on Wednesdays, upper grades are still in school until 12:40. All students need to be supervised by their parents if they play on the playground after school. 

If you and your child walk or bike to school, practice the following safety tips: Make eye contact with drivers, look left-right-left before entering the street, use crosswalks, bike on the right side, with the flow of traffic. 

If you drive to school or/and pick up your child, please slow down, yield to all pedestrian, avoid talking on the cell and making U-turns in the middle of Wiget and Cerezo Drive. The drive-thru is an idle free area for drop offs and pick-ups only, not parking. Idling is harmful to our air quality and our health. The Student Climate and Parent Safety Handbook contains information about the drive-thru procedures. Lastly, reserve handicap parking and blue zones for individuals with disabilities. 

Up Coming Events 

9/17 & 9/18: Picture Day
9/25: 8:00-8:30am Sing Outs Grades 3rd-5th /8:30- 9:00am Grades TK-2nd - “Respect” All are welcome (MUR) 
10/2: International Walk to School Day (Thank you Carolyn Bargagliotti & Meg Gibson Keese for heading this event)
10/12: 8:45-12:00pm Community Service Day (Thank you Caroline Clerempuy & Justin Trana for heading this event) 

Yours truly, 
Lang Luong 

Principal's Message - August 2019

posted Aug 9, 2019, 8:05 AM by Vice President Communications

Dear Families and Students of Walnut Acres,


Welcome back to the 2019-20 school year!  I hope you had a restful summer and are ready to begin another great year. Thank you to the families who attended the Meet and Greet the Principal in July.  It was a pleasure meeting everyone.  


There are changes to the staff. Please welcome Beth Beuchotte (1stgrade), Doug Martila (SDC), Preet Sohdi (psychologist), Deanna Nixon (librarian), and Nicki Clarke (SDC).  Chloe Park (long term sub office manager), and Marika Reisinger (long term sub attendance clerk) have done an amazing job running the office. Amanda Graves switched from fourth to third grade while Mariteresa Arenson moved from second to fourth grade. Heather Garcia Roy will be teaching a TK-K class.  The TK-K team and I have thoughtfully placed students who can work more independently into this class since there will be two grade levels. Our first grade teacher, Melanie McGoldrick, will be out until the end of September due to health reasons.  We already have an excellent long-term sub that has agreed to take the job.  I will announce her name as soon as the paperwork has been completed.  We wish Ms. McGoldrick a speedy recovery.


A few other changes also occurred over the summer to improve our campus.  The district upgraded our Wi-Fi network, providing better access to more computer programs and software.  Thanks to the passage of the measure bond, there is now a new fence along the side of the school parallel to Ebano Dr.  Trees have been trimmed, classrooms cleaned, and floors waxed.  Thanks to your support and donations, we have purchased 8 flat screen monitors and 17 iPads for classroom use.  


We are excited to dive deep into math instruction and learning this year as teachers attended a math training on August 8 and 9 for our newly adopted math curriculum, Bridges.  We thank all of you for supporting us in this new endeavor.


I invite you to attend Jaguar Day, 8/12/19, 3:00- 7:00 PM.  This is a great time to meet other families, sign up to help with the Parent Faculty Committee events and activities, and find out your child’s class assignment.  But first, remember to update your personal information on the district Homelink if you have not already.  You can do this by visiting: You will not receive your child’s classroom assignment until your personal information has been updated.  Assistance with Homelink will also be available on Jaguar Day.  If you are a new family, or have a student who is enrolling at Walnut Acres for the first time, please go to the office through Monday, August 12 to get your verification code to enter your new student in HomeLink. You will need to show a photo ID (such as a driver's license) to receive the letter that contains your verification code.


Below are important dates for the month of August:


8/12       Jaguar Day 3:00-7 PM

8/13       New Student Brown Bag Lunch (Grades TK-5)      

8/15       Back to School Coffee 8:00 AM, First Day of School

8/20       PFC Meeting Library 7 pm                              

8/20       4th Grade Back to School Night 5:45-7 pm

8/21       5th Grade Back to School Night 6-8 pm

8/27       3rd Grade Back to School Night 5:45-7pm

8/28       1st Grade Back to School Night 5:45-7 pm

8/29       2nd Grade Back to School Night 5:45-7 pm


School starts on 8/15. I look forward to seeing everyone on campus!  



Ms. Lang Luong


Principal's Message July 2019

posted Aug 4, 2019, 3:47 PM by PFC President   [ updated Aug 4, 2019, 3:47 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Dear Walnut Acres Community,

Hope your summer is off to a great start.  I am honored and excited to join the Walnut Acres Elementary School team as your Principal.  I have heard of many great things that are happening here and cannot wait to meet all of you. 

Previously, I served as a vice principal and an interim principal for three years in San Leandro.  Before becoming an administrator, I was a Response to Intervention Coordinator, a Math Coach, a science teacher, and a classroom teacher in various grade levels for 20 plus years in Union City, Lafayette, and Berkeley.  Currently, I live in Berkeley with my husband of 21 years. 

The best thing about being a principal is having the opportunities to interact with everybody and seeing our students thrive and enjoy learning. There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing beautiful smiles and witnessing acts of kindness!  In my spare time, I exercise at the gym, watch black and white classic movies, and dine out.  But, the best luxury is sleep. 

As we work together, I hope you will help me maintain our school to be a safe, pleasant, and caring community, where all are valued and provided the opportunity and support to be their best.  My door is always open.  So, please stop by to say hello. My first day on campus will be August 1.  I look forward to working with you and continuing to grow the excellence that is happening at Walnut Acres.  Have a fabulous summer.


Ms. Lang Luong

Principal's Message June 2019

posted Jun 26, 2019, 10:13 AM by Vice President Communications   [ updated Jun 26, 2019, 10:13 AM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Lovely Walnut Acres Families,

I am checking in with you one last time to thank you for your kind and gracious farewells to me and to fill you in on crucial personnel updates. I so appreciate the notes, the hugs, the gifts, the good wishes and May’s memorable sing-out surprises! Please wave when you see me out riding my beautiful Walnut Acres-colored bike and know that while tending my garden I will be thinking of you all! My prayers and best wishes remain with our children, our staff, and our families.  

New Walnut Acres Principal

By now you probably know that Walnut Acres has a new educational leader - Ms. Lang Luong! Ms. Luong has been a vice-principal and interim principal in the San Leandro School District. She is also an experienced teacher; she has a wealth of experience teaching Reading and Writing Workshop. I have no doubt that this teaching practice will guide her facilitation of continually-enhanced Workshop rigor. It is also gratifying to report that Ms. Luong has served as Math Coach in her district. Her conceptual understanding of how to teach math and her experience guiding teachers will powerfully inform her skill at leading the Bridges Math implementation.

There will be a Pot Luck Open House to meet Ms. Lang Luong on Sunday, July 28, 2019starting at 4 p.m. hosted by teacher, Rebecca Cowles, at her home. The address is 5367 Meadow Wood Place, Concord. Bring a favorite treat and drink to share as you join the fun, meet the new principal, and show her Walnut Acres hospitality in action!

I am going to turn this principal message over to Ms. Luong, but first there are a few other important personnel updates…

New Walnut Acres 1st grade Teacher

I am happy to inform you that we have a 1st grade teacher joining us named Beth Beuchotte. She comes to us from Strandwood Elementary in Pleasant Hill, where she taught kindergarten. She is delighted to be at Walnut Acres. She is already at work bonding with her new colleagues to create their 1st grade professional learning team. Thanks to our gracious Workshop coach, Nicole Padoan, Mrs. Beuchotte will get introductory trainings to Reading and Writing Workshop in September and October. She will also participate in the August “Getting Started” Bridges training at our site. Beth is married and loves playing and coaching sports with her own 2 children. Prior to becoming a teacher she worked as a sales manager in the fashion industry in New York. We welcome Beth Beuchotte to Walnut Acres!

New Walnut Acres Librarian

We also have an experienced MDUSD librarian joining the Walnut Acres team. Her name is Deanna Nixon and she has served students in the district for over 20 years as librarian, teacher, and administrator. She will be coordinating the libraries at Mountain View and Walnut Acres this year. Mrs. Nixon looks forward to supporting an inviting reading environment at Walnut Acres, enhancing student-owned learning, and supporting Workshop rigor. She has not had previous Workshop collaborative opportunities with colleagues, but her own 2 children benefited from the approach in Orinda and she will participate in the fall training to prepare herself for the work.  

Seeking Noon Supervisors

There is also a Walnut Acres personnel need I would like to pass along to you. Walnut Acres is seeking 3 new noon supervisors for the 2019-20 school year. If you would like a job that allows you to observe your own children at lunch and recess, while supporting safety and problem-solving strategy practice for all our students, please consider this 7 ½ hour-a-week job. You will work from approximately 11:15 a.m.-1:00 p.m. 4 or 5 days a week with some flexibility to your schedule. We also hope to develop a strong noon supervisor substitute list to enhance that flexibility. For more information please follow this link. You can apply on Edjoin.

And here is your new principal…

Dear Walnut Acres Community,

Hope your summer is off to a great start.  I am honored and excited to join the Walnut Acres Elementary School team as your Principal.  I have heard of many great things that are happening here and cannot wait to meet all of you. 

Previously, I served as a vice principal and an interim principal for three years in San Leandro.  Before becoming an administrator, I was a Response to Intervention Coordinator, a Math Coach, a science teacher, and a classroom teacher in various grade levels for 20 plus years in Union City, Lafayette, and Berkeley.  Currently, I live in Berkeley with my husband of 21 years. 

The best thing about being a principal is having the opportunities to interact with everybody and seeing our students thrive and enjoy learning. There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing beautiful smiles and witnessing acts of kindness!  In my spare time, I exercise at the gym, watch black and white classic movies, and dine out.  But, the best luxury is sleep. 

As we work together, I hope you will help me maintain our school to be a safe, pleasant, and caring community, where all are valued and provided the opportunity and support to be their best.  My door is always open.  So, please stop by to say hello. My first day on campus will be August 1.  I look forward to working with you and continuing to grow the excellence that is happening at Walnut Acres.  Have a fabulous summer.


Ms. Lang Luong

May 2019 Principal's Message

posted May 7, 2019, 4:12 PM by PFC Secretary   [ updated May 7, 2019, 4:12 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Welcome to May at Walnut Acres, Parents!

This may be my last message to you, and to say it is bittersweet is a considerable understatement. I will miss our collaboration, our problem-solving, and our dedicated work to transform our school into an ever more student-focused, engaging, and differentiated learning environment. I have no doubt that parents and staff together will continue the work with new leadership, but I will miss being part of the action. Please know that I have treasured our teamwork, and most of all, I have relished the privilege of working with your children. Every one of them is unique and beautiful and full of promise. Though I am leaving our community soon, I will take Walnut Acres with me in spirit, and wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I will pray that each of our children will receive the guidance, the love, and the encouragement they need to become all they can be!  

So onward we go, and here are the updates as we close out 2018-19 and prepare for another year of evolving, rich learning opportunities in a safe and nurturing environment - because our kids deserve no less!


Personnel Updates

Denise Calbeck, our wonderful Walnut Acres Office Manager for the last 17 years, is retiring this June, 2019. Denise has been a welcoming presence at the front office and the holder of all knowledge to support the entire community. She will be missed, but we all wish her well as she turns her attention to grandchildren and new endeavors. Denise wants you to know, “It has been a privilege and honor to serve the Walnut Acres students, parents, and staff for the past 17 years.  During my tenure, I hope everyone has felt the loving and supportive environment we have tried to exude at Walnut Acres.  It is with a heavy heart that I bid farewell.  My best wishes to you all.”

We are also saying a fond farewell to Libby Ritthaler, Walnut Acres librarian for many years.  Actually, Libby has pronounced them to be 15 wonderful years. She adds, “I have read stories and taught library lessons to over 1500 students – WOW that’s a lot of kids. The first year of 5th graders are now in their mid-20’s – where does the time go? I now have a 5-year-old granddaughter and her younger sister. It is time for me to help out in her kindergarten class and her school library in the fall. I will be retiring in June, so I can spend more time with the girls and do some traveling. My husband and I are looking forward to visiting the national parks, starting here in California. You may see me around, subbing in the library in 2020.”

Jean Condon is moving back east and we wish her well. She jumped in halfway through the year when we lost Mrs. David, and we thank her for bringing her skills to the classroom to support our students, while wishing her luck on all her upcoming endeavors.

These positions are not yet filled, but district personnel or I will be back to you with personnel announcements as they become available.


Be a Voice in Developing School Plans

Would you like to help shape the School Site Plan and Safety Plan, discuss the school vision as well as successes and challenges, and brainstorm ideas to enhance growth with the new principal? We need 3 parents to join the School Site Council for school years 2019-2021. School Site Council members meet on the first Thursday of each month from 3:00-4:00 p.m. Email me at or call (925) 939-1333 if you would like to commit for a two-year stint as a SSC parent representative. If I get 3 volunteers within the next 2 weeks, we can vote on membership before summer vacation.  


Recent Events

Thank you to our community for your support of our annual Walk-A-Thon! That wonderful event is a great way to reinforce health concepts to our children, raise funds, and enjoy time together. Our recent fundraiser was another great success in achieving all three goals, and appreciation goes out especially to Brooke Giddings and Tracy Pajer in leading our annual Walk-A-Thon!

Our recent International Festival was solely a community event, and it was a delightfully engaging, purposeful, and fun experience for children and their families. Accolades go to Jenny Kim for her leadership in developing and coordinating the festival. Thanks to Kristin Shopp as well, for supporting our annual event, which celebrates our ethnic and cultural differences while realizing the many commonalities of our human nature!

The MDUSD Educational Foundation sponsored a recent “Drawing on Earth” Day in which artist Mark Wagner led our children in developing their artistic skills through chalk drawing on our blacktop. It was a beautiful day for artistic creativity and self-expression. The students all had a grand time and our playground looks mighty colorful!


Upcoming Events

Summative testing has begun, and 3rd-5th graders are completing CAASPP testing this month. Many K-5th grade students will also be completing the last of the already diagnostic testing for the school year. Please encourage children to “do their best and forget the rest” as they participate in these assessments. You can also support the process by making certain your students have a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast.

On Wednesday, 5/8/19, we will host a “Walk & Bike to School Day” in conjunction with the Contra Costa Street Smarts Campaign. Encourage your children to participate if feasible in order to improve fitness, build community, reduce traffic as well as pollution, and give children a sense of independence and responsibility. Students are reminded to wear helmets when riding, ride on the right side of the road, stop when signs dictate, make eye contact with drivers, use crosswalks when walking, and stop/look/listen when crossing streets. As drivers, please be extra cautious due to increased pedestrian and bike traffic this Wednesday 5/8/19!

The week of 5/6/19-5/10/19 is our last recycle drop-off collection for the year. Please see us out on a high note by bringing your plastic bottles and CRV-labeled aluminum cans and plastic bottles to drop-off for our collection each day this week

Our MDUSD nutrition coordinators are providing a barbecue lunch for purchase on Thursday, 5/9/19. The menu will be hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers with chips and a cookie.    

Please join us on Thursday, 5/23/19, from 5:00-7:15 p.m. to celebrate a successful year of student growth at our Open House Festival! Our event will start with a family dinner option at our picnic tables, along with some entertainment. After you’ve enjoyed a meal with friends and family, visit our specialty rooms such as the STEM Lab, the library, and the reading lab, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and chat with the personnel who coordinate specialty services…many of whom are funded by your donations through the PFC. Classrooms will be open during the last hour of Open House from 6:15-7:15 p.m. so children may proudly share their work spaces and some of their work products. You may also want to take advantage of this opportunity to check out classrooms at your children’s next grade level.   

Our last Sing-out of the year will be Wednesday, 5/29/19, at 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. You are welcome to join us as we celebrate diversity together.

Note that our last day of school is Wednesday, 6/5/19, with dismissal at 12:00 p.m. Only bag brunches will be served on that day, and there is no Second Chance Breakfast. If you would like your child to have a bag brunch on the last day of school, you have until 5/31/19 to place your order by phone (925) 682-8000 ext. 86210 or email

Preparing for 2019-20

If you are moving from our school community, please complete a Moving On form available in the office and on the homepage of our school website (just scroll down to Current News.) We are monitoring our student population to assess class sizes, and your input will assure that our numbers are accurate.  

As we prepare for 2019-20, we are purchasing materials as needed to continue our rigorous, differentiated and engaging Reading and Writing Workshop process. We have confirmed this year that our TK-3rd grade Fundations encoding and decoding program (sometimes referred to as “phonics”) is a valuable and effective support to our Workshop curriculum, so that program will continue as a solid support to our reading and writing work.

We have also turned our attention in 2018-19 to piloting a math curriculum that parallels our Workshop instruction by offering a more student-owned and conceptually-based approach. We implemented Bridges Math in our 4th grade and we intend to introduce the Bridges curriculum to other grade levels as funds will allow. We thank Kathy Vendel, local realtor, for kicking off our community donation fund which supports projects like this. Also, the Walnut Acres Children’s Center Board of Directors has just confirmed that they are sponsoring Bridges in all 4 kindergarten classes, and we are grateful for their support!  

Our science work in 2019-20 will be a continuation of our NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) implementation along with a renewed focus on integrated learning experiences with STEM Lab. You will see more instruction that allows children to develop a culminating project based on learning from both Science Lab and STEM Lab, such as the 3D animal adaptations project and the animal Claymation movie completed this year. Patty Galindo, our Site Tech, who is a technology infusion specialist, also plans to support grade level math and language arts content with STEM Lab activities in order to deepen student thinking and enhance standard mastery by assisting students to make connections across the curriculum.    


Over the Summer

You can assist your children to enjoy summer vacation while maintaining academic skills by encouraging them and spending quality time together. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Have fun exploring, playing and enjoying our amazing world with your children. Discover together, try something new together, fail together, and celebrate your effort. Be silly together, laugh together, and hug each other often!  
  2. Read daily! Children can read aloud, read chorally with you, video themselves reading, read at the library, have a family reading time, read to a stuffed animal, or read a script. There are countless ways to practice reading. There is also an almost endless variety of reading materials, including comics, game directions, graphic novels, close-captioned movies, cereal containers, letters, and texts. We ask only that you encourage your child to read in any form they choose.
  3. Use online programs to support practice and remember that we have some favorites on our school website or click here. Reflex is great for automaticity of math facts, and iReady Math provides differentiated math practice. Starfall is valuable for early phonics work, and iReady reading lessons support adaptive decoding and comprehension skills, as does RazKids. Be certain you have your children’s user names and passwords to access material over the summer.   
  4. Make math meaningful by finding mathematics in your child’s daily life. Young children can count out sets of cutlery for the table, older children can play basketball or darts to practice math facts and add up the bill at a restaurant or assist with frugal shopping decisions. If you have fun with your child around numbers, patterns, and problem-solving, you will go far to encourage your child to enjoy math (and please don’t let on if you don’t enjoy it yourself!)
  5. Find reasons for your child to write! Your children may want to send grandparents a funny family story, write directions to a babysitter about how to make their favorite sandwich, send in an article to a magazine, and/or create a song or play. Figure out what motivates each child and provide your budding author with an audience while verbally rewarding persistence and creativity. 


From My Heart to Yours…

True to form, I have long-windedly shared the news from Walnut Acres. A new leader will carry on this blessed work and continue our collaborative energy and ongoing communication. After 42+ years in education, I am off to new adventures, but I will hold the Walnut Acres community in my heart! I wish for our children that they discover the kind of passion in their professional lives that I have been so blessed to find. I close in agreement with the great philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, who insightfully observed, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”


With great fondness and high hopes,

Colleen Dowd

Lucky Walnut Acres Principal

April 2019 Principal's Message

posted Apr 11, 2019, 4:35 PM by PFC Secretary   [ updated Apr 11, 2019, 5:35 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres Families,

We are busily preparing for our typically packed calendar as we complete our last trimester of the 2019-20 school year. I hope you enjoyed some quality family time over the Spring break and that you and your children are returning refreshed for a variety of activities with us. There are some beloved routines coming up this month with a couple of unique opportunities that I hope will entice you to participate! Here’s the scoop…


Input for 2019-20

Student Information Forms orGreen sheets” (named for the traditional color of the form) are now available on our website under Current News on the homepage and in the office starting 4/10/19. These optional forms are available to parents to share the strengths and educational needs of your child with school staff as we place children in 2019-20 classes. We do not accept specific teacher requests, but we try to honor insights that parents offer regarding a child’s learning style or emotional needs.  ‘Green sheets’ will be accepted through 5/1/19.

We are also posting the “non-return” forms to the Current News on the homepage by 4/15/19. (This form will also be available in the office.) If you will NOT be rejoining us at Walnut Acres for the 2019-20 school year, please let us know by completing and returning the form as soon as possible. Your courtesy will allow us to better predict and accurately plan for attendance needs in the new school year!

Pizza Lunch Winners

Our Second Chance Breakfast Pilot was a big success, so our school breakfasts will continue at all recesses each day except Wednesday. You will recall that in March there was a week-long Second Chance Breakfast Participation Contest. Our 2nd grade students won the prize for the most students participating in the program, so all 2nd graders received a slice of pizza on Thursday, 4/11/19, at lunch!

Supporting Our Young Environmentalists

Our recycle club is helping to sponsor a showing of the documentary “Straws” at Northgate Little Theater on Friday, 4/12/19, at 7:30 p.m. The movie is a call for enhanced environmental efforts, particularly in calling for an end to plastic straw use. I am proud of the students at our school and throughout the Northgate feeder pattern who are working to educate us all as they seek to protect our earth! I hope you see you there if your schedule allows!


PFC Meeting

The Tuesday, 4/16/19, PFC meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the library, is a very important event as the new 2019-20 budget will be presented and the PFC Board Nominations slate will be discussed. Join the PFC Executive Committee as they facilitate a discussion about leadership and funding for the upcoming school year. This is the time to share your voice!


New Principal Input Sought

My supervisor, José Espinoza, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, would like to meet with all community members interested in sharing input pertinent to the selection of a new Walnut Acres principal. I hope that many folks will take advantage of this opportunity when it is scheduled this month. Whether you approved of my leadership or hope for a change in style, format, or vision, this is the time to present your concerns, your hopes, and your insights! Please attend this meeting designed to capture your thinking. Mr. Espinoza will also meet with staff to collect their perspectives on 4/18/19.

Our Last Fundraiser of the Year

Our annual Walk-A-Thon will be held on Friday, 4/19/19. This is always a fun event that promotes health, builds community, and promises smiles for all, while providing the last opportunity to raise funds to cover 2018-19 budget commitments. You are welcome to be with us to enjoy the experience. Be prepared to cheer for our young and eager runners and walkers!


The Walk-A-Thon coordinators are offering a "family fun run" this Friday, 4/12/19, from 7:15-7:45 a.m.  Parents and other family members are invited to join in some preparatory pre-run practice.


State Testing Begins

On 4/22/19 our 3rd-5th grade students will begin taking the CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress) English Language Arts and Math exams. Students in 5th will also take the Science exam. Each grade level team will share with you their specific test dates.


While we do not want the state testing process to be anxiety-provoking for students, we do ask that you encourage students to give their best effort to the state assessments. That means our students will need a good night’s rest, a healthy breakfast, and an encouraging hug before arriving at school on test days—but of course, that’s the morning routine we hope for every day! So, please don’t put any pressure on students at home and we will use the mantra, “Do your best, and forget the rest” at school.


With a common-sense approach to state testing, we will likely get a valuable measure of what children know and how they can apply their learning. As a staff, we will also get further data to analyze what we are teaching well and what we still need to do to support our learners. We realize that CAASPP test data is only one measure of student achievement, so we compile the CAASPP results with Running Records information, iReady data, teacher exams, and daily student oral and written work to get a more comprehensive picture of each child as a learner.


Volunteer Appreciation Event

Each year we take the opportunity to thank all our volunteers for your dedication, tenacity, and diligence in supporting Walnut Acres Elementary School. Our celebration will be part of our Trustworthiness Sing-out on Wednesday, 4/24/19, at 8:00 a.m. and again at 8:30ish a.m. Every parent, grandparent, or friend who has ever volunteered in a classroom, on a field trip, or from home; who worked in some capacity to raise money for school programs or personnel; or who opened car doors at drop-off or student thermoses at lunch: You are invited to be recognized and officially thanked by the staff, teachers, and students of Walnut Acres. We hope you will join us as our community celebrates your spirit of volunteerism!


Celebrating Our Diversity

Our previously postponed, second annual International Festival will be held on Friday, 4/26/19, starting at 5:00 p.m. As you know, this event celebrates our ethnic diversity and serves as a reminder of our common humanity. Our teachers will introduce the Festival during the school day with a culminating cultural activity designed to enhance student participation as well as an understanding of International Festival goals.


Drawing on Earth Day

Thanks to the MDUSD Education Foundation, Mark Wagner, local artist, will be providing a unique assembly and chalk drawing experience for all Walnut Acres students on Monday, 4/29/19, during the school day. Each grade level will attend a 30-minute assembly to prepare them for their artistic endeavor and then take to the asphalt to create. For further information about our upcoming chalk art experience, check out Mr. Wagner’s website here.  


Teach Your Children Well

Thanks for your continued support to our learning community through your leadership and participation in Walnut Acres activities! Thank you especially for working in conjunction with us to help your child feel emotionally safe. As you know, a child’s sense of emotionally safety is depended upon the perception of a strong connection to parents and belief that the child is held in high esteem.  Or as expressed so articulately by author, William Martin, “You do not have to make your children into wonderful people, you just have to remind them that they are wonderful people. If you do this consistently from the day they are born they will believe it easily.”    



Colleen Dowd

Your lucky principal


March 2019 Principal's Message

posted Mar 6, 2019, 9:45 AM by PFC Secretary   [ updated Mar 6, 2019, 9:48 AM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres Parents,

Our children often write about small moments and I had two lovely small moments myself the other day. I was working in my office and a teacher asked to use my table because she could not find a space around campus to complete a running record with a student. I continued working but found myself drawn to the conversation between them. My heart was full as I listened to the earnest young reader and the kind, focused teacher who asked her questions about her text and encouraged her sharing, while noting fluency, decoding and comprehension. It was a simple interaction, but to me it represented the culmination of our years of focused curriculum work.

Just a few minutes after the couple left, another teacher burst enthusiastically into my office to share her students’ writing assignment results. It was a delight to witness her enthusiasm in her students’ progress and a treat to read their information writing products. 

I spent some time quietly celebrating the dedication of our teachers and our PFC that afternoon! Thank you for all you have done to help us develop a language arts process that is built on a foundation of student choice as well as differentiation; that promotes a love of reading and writing; and that honors each learner. Thank you for supporting the coaching process that has enhanced our instructional expertise, thank you for providing powerful and effective Tier 3 intervention, and thank you for your patience as we introduced our Wilson “Fundations” decoding/encoding program to supplement student phonics/spelling skill development. I salute you all Walnut Acres Parents!


Upcoming Auction

With our upcoming Midnight in Paris Auction on Friday, 3/8, we have another opportunity to support our school and build on our good work. Our precious support personnel, including science lab assistants, site technology support, classroom assistants, Math, Reading/ELD intervention teachers, and our choral music teacher, will remain as PFC funds allow. Valuable supplementary services, such as online program sponsorship and device replacement will also remain depending on the success of PFC fundraising. Our Auction is a big part of our annual fundraising effort and I look forward to seeing you at Boundary Oaks to share the lovely experience, have some fun, and support our school!


Second Chance Breakfast Pilot

The district is implementing a pilot program this month that will allow our students to purchase a “second chance breakfast” during their first recess each school day, except Wednesdays. The breakfast/ brunch service will be in the MUR and students can count on receiving juice, milk and a healthy entree. The cost of breakfast is $2.00. (If you qualify for free and reduced price meals, you also qualify for the breakfast program, with no additional paper-work.)  Use your Titan account, or give your child $2 to purchase a meal. I am told we need to sell 75 breakfasts a day across our site to make the Second Chance Breakfast Program sustainable.

Next week (March 4-8) is National School Breakfast Week so the district will host a contest to celebrate the occasion and encourage students to try the Second Chance Breakfast pilot.  The class that has the most breakfast participation wins a pizza lunch for the entire grade at a later date!  

New Website

We have moved our school website platform to School Loop for a variety of reasons, largely related to ongoing issues with the previous platform. Please check out our new home at  We have had difficulty redirecting the old URL to the new site, for which I apologize, and we are continuing to work on that connection. The new site is a work in progress, but we are happy with the switch in platforms and hopeful that the site will more easily promote interactive sharing.

Please share any thoughts you have as you visit our website. If there is a tab you would like to see on the site, let us know. If there are errors, shout out; and if you like something, that would be valuable information, too.

Please note that the link for notifying us about absences is the first blue rectangle under the Quick Links heading on the left side of the home page below the rotating image. On most screens you can see it without scrolling.   

Input Requested on Our 10-year Facility Plan

I thank all of you who attended our Town Hall meeting to hear from the architects focused on 10-year Facility Plans for MDUSD sites. For those of you who missed it, we reviewed the first draft of a proposed plan and looked at ancillary information, before discussing the plan and adding thoughts from the group with post-its on the document. 

Now I invite all of you to share your thoughts on the first phase of the proposed facility plan. You are welcome to come by the office where the plan is mounted on our office bulletin board for all to view.

You are also invited to check out the plan on our school website. (Just scroll down the home page to Current News.) Send your feedback to me via email and I will incorporate your suggestions into my feedback commentary.

In about a month, LPA Architectural group representatives will return to our site and meet with me to collect our input. The plan is to incorporate our ideas into the next draft plan they create.    


MDUSD Requests Input for State Evaluation

The California Department of Education requires that all districts assess school climate and parent engagement. To meet this requirement, the district is again requesting that parents/guardians and community members complete the WestEd’s California Healthy Kids Survey. The direct link is and can be found on the homepage of the district website  under Current News. The survey can be taken in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Korean.  All responses should be submitted online. The survey window is open from 3/1/19 -3/31/19.   


Respectful Request of Parents/Students

I am asking our community to support the work of our night custodian by honoring the practice of picking up forgotten homework, supplies or clothes by 4:00 p.m. each day. Every time we ask our custodian to open a classroom it takes time from completion of her responsibilities. She is not allowed to give keys to others, so she must leave her job and accompany petitioners to whatever rooms they wish to visit.

Our night custodian, Sandra Solis, is doing a great job of making our old facility shine! As you may remember, for the last couple of years we have had a series of temporary night custodians/short-term employees and their noncommittal approach was reflected in the unkempt state of our facility. Ms. Solis came and changed that equation immediately! She works diligently to clean our rooms, and she takes pride in her work. Let’s help her to help us keep our school clean by allowing her to focus on her work. We know there are emergencies and exceptions to every best practice, but let’s be very thoughtful about invoking those exceptions. Many thanks!


March Events

Monday, 3/11, is a Professional Development Day for teachers. Students have the day off. We will attend instructional workshops in the morning, including time focused on analyzing the recently completed MDUSD formative Reading and Math assessments. In the afternoon, we will be back on site to analyze the district writing assignment results and discuss next steps in our Math curriculum and instruction.


Our Annual Walnut Acres Art Show is around the corner on Thursday, 3/14, in the MUR. Classes will tour the Art Show throughout the day. The Artist’s Reception for families is 6:00-8:00 p.m. It’s a lovely, non-fundraising community experience. Check out the event on the PFC website for further details.


The MDUSD Stem Fair/Showcase is Saturday, 3/16, at Willow Creek Center, 1026 Mohr Lane in Concord, from 9:00-11:00 a.m. I again congratulate all Walnut Acres students represented in the Showcase and invite our entire community to attend the event!


The Second trimester ended on 3/1 and you can expect your child to bring home a report card on Friday, 3/15.


On Monday, 3/18, Soul Shoppe will return to our site for a life skill assembly. They will be working with grouped grade levels to present, “Clean It Up: The Sorry Show.” They will remind students to use the “Clean Up Process” to resolve problems at their roots. This workshop addresses social emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills.


Thursday, 3/21, is our second annual Kangaroo Math Contest. The 34 enrolled students have been problem-solving in teams on weekends and after school. They will now take an individual math test after school in competition with other students at their grade level from around the world. All participants will earn prizes, enjoy math fun, and enhance math skills. If you missed the fun, look for the event again next fall.

Friday, 3/22, is our second annual International Festival from 4:00-7:30 p.m. This is a lovely PFC event that focuses on appreciation of our ethnic diversity and celebration of our differences. I hope this multicultural experience also serves as a reminder that what divides us is not nearly as important as the commonalities we share. In order to support this message, teachers will be introducing the event on 3/22 during the school day. Each grade level has selected one continent, and classes will study cultures on that continent. Prior to the International Festival, classes will have a culminating learning experience designed to enhance student participation in and understanding of International Festival goals.  


The next LCAP Series event is Tuesday, 3/26, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at College Park High School (201 Viking Drive, Pleasant Hill.) The topic is “How Parents’ Social Media Use Affects Their Children and School Communities.” Refer to the flyer on the district website for further details.  


Wednesday, 3/27, is our next Sing-out and we will be honoring the life skill of Citizenship at our usual times, 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. in the MUR. You are welcome to join us. The following month, on Wednesday, 4/24, our Sing-out is also our Volunteer Appreciation Event, so please be sure to put that assembly on your calendar!


Heads Up to Our Parents

We have many fun and educational events coming up, but I am closing this message with information about an experience that is advertised as fun, but evolves in an appalling way. The Momo Challenge is a game that begins with a search for a special phone number online to send a text or WhatsApp message to “Momo.” The player enters into a conversation with Momo, who sends distressing images and aims to persuade the player to complete challenges that start simply, such as waking up at certain times, but escalate to dangerous activities that end in self-harm or suicide.

The whole issue may be a high tech-ghost story, but I am sharing this information with you because I am hearing our children talk about Momo. Here is a Denver news story to warn parents about Momo and an article written in Forbes by writer, Andy Robertson, purporting that the game is a hoax. He suggests that the real danger of viral shock fads like Momo is that it keeps parents from focusing on the daily work of teaching kids to be savvy about using the internet. If like me, you hadn’t heard of Momo, please take a moment to do a little research so you can talk to your child about the situation. Real or fad, it’s a learning moment opportunity.  


Today’s readily available technology options have certainly added to the complicated task of parenting. You have a challenging job as parents. As educators, we are your partners in supporting your child, so please let us know how we can help. We’ll do the same! To paraphrase Robert John Meehan, The most valuable resource that all teachers and parents have is each other. Without collaboration our efforts are limited by our own perspectives.”



Colleen Dowd

Lucky Walnut Acres Principal


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